{TRAVEL} 4 Places To Peruse & Play In Penticton

Biking along the Okanagan River Channel in Penticton.

We had been pedalling for almost an hour, our noses red and our breath making small clouds of condensation with every exhale. As we rode our bikes side-by-side in silence, we took in the beauty of the Okanagan River Channel that flowed peacefully beside us. In the Summer months, this is the hub for warm-weather fun in Penticton, where locals and visitors flock to float on tubes down the river that connects one lake to another. But on this day, the river was quiet, with only a gaggle of geese on its cool surface.

Skaha Lake was our destination, and when we arrived, the view was breathtaking. While the day was chilly, the glasslike surface of the lake mirrored the calm sky that skulked above. The view was worth the trek, and we stood together grinning as we took it all in. This was the perfect way to start our mother-daughter trip to Penticton, where we would explore the city by bus, seeking new adventures and bonding over our weekend getaway to The District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

Based on our recent excursion, here are 4 ways you too can peruse and play your way through Penticton – and all of these fun spots are accessible by bus.

We kept dry going from stop to stop by bus!

Bike The River Channel Path To Skaha Lake

Whether you’re a cycling enthusiast or a biking newbie, Freedom Bike Shop is a must-visit spot. Not only can you buy top-of-the-line mountain and street bikes or get a tune up from this great local shop, but they offer biking lessons and round-the-year rentals so you can explore Penticton by bike whenever you feel like going for a ride. Leave your car at home and visit the shop by bus – BC Transit buses are equipped with bike racks so you can hitch a ride to and from your biking destination if the weather takes a turn for the worst or if your legs are too tired to pedal on (the bus definitely saved us when we took a wrong turn and got lost at the other end of town!).

My girl was such a trooper!

A quick water break by the river.

We got a bit lost and ended up on a golf course – oops!

This view of Skaha Lake was totally worth the trek!

Browse The Classics At The Book Shop

This hidden gem is is a book lover’s paradise! With over 5,000 square feet of floor-to-ceiling literature, The Book Shop is one of Canada’s largest used book stores, and a treat for anyone looking to explore their favourite subject matter through the written word. Not a book lover? The Book Shop also offers over 20,000 videos and DVDs for rent! This is a great spot to peruse after a chilly day outdoors, and the perfect place to pick up a gift or keepsake. My daughter and I left with 8 books!

The Book Shop on Main St.

She picked some great classics!

Boulder The Indoor Climbing Wall at Hoodoo Adventures

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or an indoor adventure type, Hoodoo Adventures is your go-to spot in Penticton. We started our visit with a beginner’s lesson in belay-style indoor rock climbing, where Emma nailed the figure 8 knot and scaled the walls like Spiderman’s quicker, more agile younger sister.

Mama Bee, on belay.

Those climbing skills!

We then tried the 15-foot-tall bouldering wall, where we solo-climbed sans ropes.  It was fun to switch back and forth between climbing styles to figure out which worked best for us.

Emma tackling the bouldering wall.

After a quick lunch break, we headed back to Hoodoo for part 2 of our day full of adventure…

Bound Through The Snow At Apex Mountain Resort

Not only does Hoodoo Adventures offer an indoor climbing gym, but they offer a wide range of outdoor activities as well, such as outdoor rock climbing, kayaking, hiking tours, and snowshoeing – which would be our next feat. We geared up into our warmest snow gear and headed up Apex Mountain with our friendly tour guide. Once we reached our starting point, we strapped on our snowshoes and scampered along the snow, stepping swiftly through the powdery surface while catching snowflakes on our tongues. We took a trail that wrapped around the 3 lakes that sit tucked tightly amongst the trees and took in the views as we stopped for hot chocolate. This was definitely Emma’s favourite adventure, and hopefully a new one that we can continue to enjoy together back home.

Bounding through the powder in our snowshoes.

Taking a quick hot chocolate break.

Mother-daughter snowshoe dance!

Hoodoo adventures I’m adding to my bucket list for next time: The Kayak Kelowna Wine & Cheese Tour, and The 3-Course Fireside Dinner & Snowshoeing Tour – how amazing do these sound!?

We had such an amazing time bonding while exploring a new spot in BC, and can’t wait to see what else our beautiful province has to over. To learn more about how you can #ExploreBCByBus, check out these great destinations and pre-built itineraries designed with families in mind.

The giant peach on Okanagan Lake.

{RECIPE} Mouth-Watering Chicken Marbella

I first tried this delicious dish at a dinner party a few years ago, and it was absolutely mouth-watering (hence the name of this recipe). I had asked for the recipe, eager to duplicate it, but ended up tucking it away in a kitchen cupboard – out of sight, and out of mind.

The other day I came across the recipe card, and while the memory of the dish had my taste buds screaming for an encore, I was intimidated by the long list of ingredients. I assumed it would be tricky to make, and didn’t feel up to dragging my feet down the aisles at the grocery store to pick up the ingredients that I didn’t have at home.

Thanks to Save-on-Foods Online, I was able to order the exact items I needed (including the correct quantities of each specialty item thanks to bulk food options). The food was delivered right to my door. Easy peasy.

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Mouth-Watering Chicken Marbella

*Note: for best results, marinate the chicken in the fridge overnight.

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • coarse salt
  • freshly-ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup dried, pitted prunes
  • 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
  • 1/4 cup capers (1 tbsp juice)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

chicken-marbella-4

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine chicken, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers, juice, bay leaves. Cover & marinate, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. Arrange chicken in casserole dish. Spoon marinade over top evenly. Sprinkle chicken with brown sugar and pour white wine around it.
  4. Bake for 50-60 minutes. basting frequently with pan juices.
  5. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with fork at thickest, yields yellow (not pink) juice.
  6. With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and mixture to serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices, and sprinkle generously with cilantro.
  7. Serve with rice or pasta.

chicken-marbella-3

Bee’s Take:

  • This was a great mid-week meal. I prepped the marinade and had it all ready in the fridge, so on the day the meal was served, all I had to do was make the rice (set rice cooker and wait), and cook the dish. My kids loved it (minus the olives, which I was more than happy to eat on my own).
  • It keeps well in the fridge, so make a little extra and serve it again for leftovers night, or pack it up for a delicious lunch on the go!

Pay it forward and add this meal to your regular recipe rotation. Your family will love it.

Don’t forget to make your life a little easier by ordering online – the perfect solution for school nights, last-minute dinner parties, or just those nights when you don’t feel like going out but have empty cupboards. I use Save-On-Foods online ordering to simplify my life during overwhelming school weeks, and you should too.

chicken marbella recipe

Disclaimer: I’ve partnered with Save-On-Foods to help spread the word about their fantastic online ordering options. While this is a sponsored post, the thoughts and ideas are honest and completely my own.

{RECIPE} Roasted Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

While I cook all the meals in my home, I’ve become a lackadaisical chef.

There was a time when I enjoyed cooking. When my relationship was new and I cooked to impress. When I didn’t have fussy little mouths to feed. When new meals weren’t met with dry heaves and gasps of disgust.

Now, I cook to survive. To keep my family alive. My enthusiasm has dwindled, replaced with disdain. If I could hire a full-time chef – someone to nourish my family for me, I’d be in heaven. But at this time, I just can’t afford to make that dream come true. So I I cook away at my monotonous menu – 5, maybe 10 meals that I make in rotation. Meat. Veggies. Starch. Repeat.

The other day I was surprised with a package in the mail. A wooden box emblazoned with #CatelliFamilies. I knew the Catelli name well (homemade macaroni and cheese using Smart Catelli pasta is one of my trusty standbys), and couldn’t wait to see what was inside.

When I opened the box, I found 2 boxes of Ancient Grains pasta, a bottle of white wine vinegar, 2 yellow zucchinis, and a lemon.

Pasta Salad Recipe

What am I supposed to do with this? I thought to myself.

The note attached challenged me to come up with a recipe, create and share it, using the provided ingredients and anything else I’d like to add to make it my own. My initial instinct was to make my usual mac n’ cheese, and toss the rest of the stuff into the cupboard (aka let it expire and toss it out), but then I thought to myself: here’s my chance to make cooking fun again.

Challenge accepted.

With a little help from Chef Google, I came across a do-able recipe and went straight to work. Here’s what I came up with:

Roasted Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 340g box of Catelli Ancient Grains Fusilli pasta
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 2 medium yellow zucchinis
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 medium sweet red peppers, cut in half and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 can sliced ripe black olives, drained
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

PARMESAN VINAIGRETTE:

  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

 

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. Place in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and onion lengthwise into 3/4-in.-thick slices. Brush with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill vegetables, covered, over medium heat for 4-6 minutes on each side or until crisp-tender. When cool enough to handle, cut into cubes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, parsley and grilled vegetables to the pasta. In a small bowl, whisk the vinaigrette ingredients. Pour over salad; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Pasta Salad Recipe

Bee’s Take:

  • I thought it was so delicious, perfect as a light, vegetarian meal on its own, or as a great compliment to a BBQ’d meat (I served it with ribs and crusty french bread)
  • My kids didn’t like the roasted vegetables or feta (because THEY DON’T LIKE ANYTHING), but they loved the noodles! (thankfully they were healthy)

I’m looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch. Healthy, filling and totally delicious. Adding this to my Summer list for sure.

Pasta Salad Recipe

{FOOD} The Art House Supper Club

I don’t think I’m the only one who wishes I could host intimate dinner parties with friends in my home, but the daunting task of creating a mouthwatering menu and a complimentary chic-yet-laid-back ambiance, keeps me from sending out the invites.

I had heard about underground supper clubs, and had been intrigued by the idea of dining in a secret location with unfamiliar faces and undiscovered dinner dishes, but I didn’t know that I had access to this unique dining experience in my own city.

When I received an invite to try out the new Art House Supper Club, I was excited. The idea of attending an intimate dinner party without the prep or cleanup sounded like the perfect way to spend an evening catching up with friends (and connecting with new ones).

The secret dinner location is set in a serene multi-level backyard garden, tucked under a canopy of lush trees and filled with flowers. The house itself is cozy and quaint, its walls filled with colourful paintings by the talented owner/artist. The hosts, a lovely family with a shared passion for food and the arts, are warm, welcoming, and attentive.

Yard

Art House Supper Club Gardens

Dining Room

Art House Supper Club Indoor Dining Room

The unique dining experience is a perfect fit for social foodies. As you mingle and sip, the lovely Chef Rose cooks up a decadent 4-course menu filled with dishes that perfectly balance sophistication, skill and culinary passion. Each menu has a different theme – ours was French cuisine, which I was excited to try.

1st Course: French Onion Soup

Our meal began with a healthy serving of French Onion soup – steaming hot, cheesy, and perfectly baked. It was the best I had tried and I couldn’t wait to see what else was in store for us.

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

2nd Course: Galette de Pomme de Terre with Smoked Salmon

The 2nd course and main entree was the most delicious French dish – a surprise to the palate. I hadn’t heard of this dish before, and was pleasantly surprised as I bit into the cool, light, flavourful dish. I could taste the capers which perfectly complemented the freshly smoked salmon and fluffy pomme de terre base. Magnifique!

Galette de Pomme de Terre with Smoked Salmon

Galette de Pomme de Terre with Smoked Salmon

3rd Course: Floating Islands

The 3rd course was the most delicious sweet treat – Floating Islands. Fluffy clouds of meringue propped on top of a rich and creamy pool of caramel, and sprinkled with finely diced almonds. I moaned with delight as I savoured every bite.

Floating Islands

Floating Islands

4th Course: Cheese Board

The 4th and final course was a carefully-curated cheese board. The hearty selection of cheeses perfectly complemented the French menu, including 3 cheese options of various textures and tastes. I couldn’t stop sampling each variety and continued to nibble until the plate was empty!

Cheese plate

Cheese Board

Each dinner includes sparkling water, coffee & tea, but due to licensing restrictions, guests are invited to bring their own alcoholic beverages. Not sure which wine to pair with the menu? Their sommelier includes a list of suggested pairings with each menu. Each seating includes 10 spots. Bring a friend, book a group, or go solo and meet some new friends with a shared love for fine dining.

For around only $50 per person, this 4-course dining experience is a steal. Interested in trying out this unique “underground” dining experience? Book your spot here.

{FAMILY} When It Comes To Active Play, Technology Isn’t The Bad Guy

When I first heard about the launch of Tgoma – an integrated, interactive, digital gaming system for trampolines, I confess, I was skeptical. I thought: Why would I want to add technology to an outdoor activity that my kids already enjoy?

My kids and I were invited to try out the new Tgoma for Springfree gaming system in person, and after trying it out and talking to the Springfree team about their new partnership with Tgoma, my skepticism was replaced by support.

I quickly realized the motive behind the development of Tgoma – that it wasn’t designed to replace active play time with screen time. Instead of fighting technology, Tgoma was about leveraging technology to transform “screen time” from an isolating, sedentary activity, to a healthy, engaging experience.

Essentially, they were adding the trampoline to the technology, not the other way around. 

 

Tgoma 2

My family is generally an active family. We enjoy spending time outside, and are fortunate to have nature’s playground steps from our door. We can play by the river, hike beautiful trails, and visit local parks and beaches – all only minutes from our house.

But according to the ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Youth and Children, while children aged 5-17 should be engaging in at least 60 minutes a day of outdoor active play, only 9% of the children in Canada within this age range are meeting this target.

This was a shocking discovery for me as a born-and-raised Canadian.

The truth is, screen time has become an ongoing battle for most parents. Many struggle on a daily basis with monitoring screen time, and encouraging outdoor play in the face of tech-addicted children and teens. Instead of turning that love for technology in a negative experience, why not redirect that screen time to an engaging, interactive outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family?

I don’t see anything wrong with spending the designated allowance of screen time jumping on a trampoline outside instead of slumped solo on the sofa.

Some parents think tech-integrated trampolines are a bad idea. Here are 5 reasons why I beg to differ:

1) It’s optional.

Parents don’t have to purchase the system, and those who do can easily monitor its use.

2) It’s interactive.

The Tgoma system comes with 7 games (including some educational games and games geared towards getting adults active through fitness games – which I love).

3) It provides a new way to play.

How many families do you know who have an unused trampoline in their backyard. The novelty of bouncing can wear off over time, with kids redirecting their time to indoor play. This new system provides something new to get them excited about their trampolines again.

4) It encourages healthy competition.

I’ve recently started wearing a Fitbit, and what drives me to move more is the “challenge” function. Seeing that my friends are clocking more steps than I am fuels my competitive side and encourages me to move more often. Playing an interactive game on the trampoline can provide that same motivation for kids who like to compete. And there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition.

5) It gets kids moving – outside.

Kids love trying to stomp out mutant melons, use their imaginations, and even enjoy educational games while bouncing.

Tgoma stands for “Take Gaming Outside And Make it Active.” For many parents, it’s an innovative solution to an unavoidable problem.

I’ll be sharing more thoughts on how to balance play and technology with an expert on educational gaming for kids on Roundhouse Radio tomorrow morning at 10am (PST). Turn your dial to 98.3 FM and follow the conversation.

Related Posts:

Why It Took Me So Long To Get A Trampoline

This Is How We Do Spring In Vancouver

Spring Came Early Thanks To Peekaboo Beans

Tgoma

To learn more about Tgoma, watch this short video:

Disclosure: I was not paid to promote Tgoma, nor do I own the gaming system. I am however an ambassador for Springfree Trampoline and a big supporter of play. The thoughts and ideas in this post are my own.

{TRAVEL} Dashing Off To Disneyland

Our family has just returned from a whirlwind adventure to the world’s most magical destination, and I’m still buzzing with excitement about all that we were able to see and do over the 4 days that we were there.

Paradise Pier

Paradise Pier | California Adventure Park

I’m not going to lie, my expectations were moderately mediocre. It had been 30 years since my last visit to Disneyland, so I only had my faint childhood memories to help gage my level of excitement. I had loved every moment spent in Disneyland during my last visit, but I was only 7 years old at the time, and I knew that the experience would be much different as an adult – and especially as a parent.

The topic of travelling to Disneyland had come up off and on between my husband and I over the years, but we had always settled for “later”, justifying the postponement with the costs, timing, and inconvenience of everyday demands associated with taking time off for a family trip abroad.

This year Disneyland is celebrating its 60th Diamond Anniversary – honouring the year that Walt Disney himself opened the doors to his dreamland in July of 1955. To commemorate this momentous occasion, I was included in a group of media guests invited to experience the celebratory offerings of Disneyland Resort and write about my experiences.

This was the push I had needed to turn my “later” into a “right now”, and our trip was booked.

I wanted to wait until the last minute to tell the kids about our exciting excursion, and the anticipation almost killed me. When departure day finally arrived, we had our kids pack up their backpacks, convinced that we were headed for school as usual. Here’s how they reacted when we revealed our real destination…

(click on the image for the video)

The Reveal

It felt so good to let the secret out, and we couldn’t wait to see what Disneyland had in store for our family. Here’s a little snippet of our travels once the kids knew where we were headed…

(click on the image for the video)

The Journey

When we arrived at Disneyland Hotel, we had the kids wait in the hallway while we dimmed the lights, turned on the headboards (adorned with fireworks), and switched on the music which played “A dream is a wish your heart makes…” – a tip I had been given by our gracious host. It was the perfect way to kick off our magical weekend.

After a quick costume change, we hit the parks! The next four days were jam-packed with awe-inspiring shows, riveting rides, fanciful foods and of course, one very magical mouse. Here’s a snippet of all the fun that was had:

(click on the image for the video)

The Rides

While I had left for our trip thinking that Disneyland would be all about the kids, the experience was just as magical (if not more) for us adults. Yes, the experience was very different from my last visit, but it was perhaps filled with more excitement, emotion, and enchantment than during my childhood days, because as a parent, I was able to appreciate all the details and history behind every ride, show, and character that crossed our path.

I’ll be sharing more details about all there is to see and do in Disneyland surrounding the 60th Diamond Anniversary Celebration on BC Living very soon, but here are some highlights to pique your interest until then…

live-at-the-hyperion-00

Frozen – Live At The Hyperion Theater 

I’ve been to my share of Broadway shows, but this one was on a whole new level. The costumes, set design, talented actors and high-tech tidbits had the crowd laughing, crying, and cheering for more – and I’m not just talking about the kids. This epic production is well worth the wait.

 

world-of-color-diamond

World of Color – Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney

I had expected a fabulous fountain show similar to the one at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, but this nighttime spectacular was so much more! Featuring soaring fountains, fire and laser effects, and towering screens  that came to life with Disney imagery and musical performances by the virtual host – Neil Patrick Harris, this amazing experience was a show stopper.

We’ve only been home for 2 days and we’re already dreaming up our next Disney vacation – next time with our youngest who didn’t get to join us this time around. Memories were made as we bonded as a family in the most magical place on Earth, and I can’t wait to go back.

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Have you been to Disneyland yet this year? If so I’d love to hear what you loved most about your visit! Please share your comments below.

 

{FAMILY} Why It Took Me So Long To Get A Trampoline

I grew up in a small apartment in Granville Island. No backyard, and definitely no trampoline to call my own.

I had friends who had trampolines in their backyards, and I did everything I could do to have playdates with those friends, just so I could feel the rush of bouncing high into the air – doing bum drops and summersaults as I reached for the sky on each ascent towards the clouds.

When I became a parent, fear and hesitation replaced my enthusiasm for trampolines. Having young children made me privy to the downfalls of trampoline play. Everyone seemed to have a story about a broken leg, an injured knee, a head injury or a chipped tooth that resulted from trampoline falls. I swore I would never get one, no matter how much my children begged and pleaded.

Now that my oldest children are in school, my resistance has started to subside, replaced with curiosity and a whole lot of research.

One night my husband and I were discussing the options, and came across the Springfree Trampoline. We watched their safety video, and this unique story about how a Springfree trampoline saved a family’s house, and thought it sounded like a safe and feasible option for consideration – so we bookmarked their website for future reference.

The next day (no lie), I received an email from my friends at Vancouver Mom. They had partnered with Springfree and were looking for some blog ambassadors to try out the trampolines and share their experiences. I applied and was selected as the North Vancouver ambassador (squee!), and my large oval trampoline was delivered and set up shortly afterwards.

Why did it take me so long to get a trampoline?

After hearing a slew of trampoline horror stories, I was afraid of the possible accidents that could occur. I didn’t want to put my children in harm’s way, and didn’t want to be held liable if their friends were to get hurt on my watch.

I’m still a little nervous about adding a trampoline to my family, but I feel safe knowing that the construction of the Springfree trampoline is far more advanced and safety-tested than the net-free, broken spring bouncers I used to play on when I was a kid.

Are they as safe as they say?

I guess I won’t know until I try it, and today, we tested it out for our very first time.

This afternoon two Springfree employees came to my home, and manually set up our brand new tramp. After each adult bounce-checked and gave it their thumbs-up of approval, I zoomed off to school to pick up my kids – I couldn’t wait to reveal the surprise that waiting for them at home! Here’s how it went:

They jumped on that trampoline until the sun set. Happy kids = happy mom.

Springfree trampoline

Springfree trampoline

Springfree trampoline

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes and will share my honest feedback on our Springfree trampoline along the way. I welcome any questions you may have as we embark on this jumping journey, and look forward to a whole lot of outdoor fun on our new toy this Summer!

{FAMILY} Spring Came Early Thanks To Peekaboo Beans

My family and I recently enjoyed a last-minute getaway to our favourite local destination – Harrison Hot Springs, and on the day before our departure, a colourful little package arrived from our favourite children’s fashion line – Peekaboo Beans.

While we were away, I thought I would snap some photos of my little beans enjoying their stylish new outfits while doing what they love most, exploring the outdoors. And just our luck, amidst a week’s worth of rainy days, the sun came out just for us. Here are some of my top snaps from our little midweek jaunt.

Harrison Hot SpringsHarrison Hot SpringsHarrison Hot SpringsHarrison Hot SpringsPeekaboo BeansHarrison Hot SpringsHarrison Hot Springs

We love it here so much, we’ll be back again during Spring Break! And I’m sure my kids will still be rocking their bright, funky Peekaboo Beans outfits then too.

{FAMILY} The Nutcracker: Always On Pointe

I’ve been going to see The Nutcracker ballet at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver every year since I was 3 years old, and after over 30 years of Sugar Plum Fairy-twirling, soldier sword-yielding, mouse menacing, and ringleted ballerina dreaming, people often wonder what keeps me going back for more – year after year.

Nutcracker

My oldest daughter and I – off to see The Nutcracker

The truth is, each year’s performance is like a brand new experience for me. While the music has remained the same since the first adaptation of the story in 1891, Tchaikovsky’s familiar Nutcracker Suite perfectly compliments the ever-evolving choreography that accompanies the classical Christmas ballet.

I love that Ballet BC brings in guest ballet companies each year to perform their own rendition of The Nutcracker. Last year, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet surprised guests with Canadian-themed twists, and this year, Alberta Ballet returned with some surprises of their own.

The choreography, led by Edmund Stripe, was sophisticated and stunning, yet it preserved the youthful liveliness of the children’s tale. As in previous years, the performance featured over 80 young dancers from dance schools across the Lower Mainland, but this year the tiny dancers were brought to the forefront of several scenes, performing technically-challenging steps seamlessly and with contagious enthusiasm that lit up the stage.

Alberta Ballet The Nutcracker local students DSC_2193

Local dancers rehearsing for Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker

The sets and costumes, designed by Emmy Award-winning designer Zack Brown, brought an elevated level of drama and realism to the stage this year, featuring lifelike costumes, sparkling snowflakes, and comedic whimsy to characters like the grandfather, who merrily trotted across the stage with a bouncing head of silver locks that had the crowd bellowing with laughter.

Alexandra Gibson played the role of Clara in the opening performance, and her exuberant acting and technically-sharp dancing made her character believable and engaging throughout the performance. I recognized Alex from previous Alberta Ballet performances (along with her identical twin sister Jennifer who shared the stage), yet her performance this year seemed to have an elevated level of energy and maturity.

Company Dancers in Alberta Ballet's The Nutcracker 6893

When the Sugar Plum Fairy glided across the stage, shimmying effortlessly en pointe in her sparkling gown, I immediately recognized the dancer as Christiana Bennett, a prima ballerina who had danced with Ballet West (and starred in a ballet-themed reality show Breaking Pointe in 2012).  Christiana shone brightly, proving to be an asset to the highly-acclaimed Canadian dance company.

This year’s performance of The Nutcracker was astounding, a can’t-miss holiday event for both seasoned ballet enthusiasts and first-timers alike.

Lucky for you, tickets are still available for the remaining dates:

December 30th @ 2pm & 7:30pm

December 31st @ 2pm

BUY TICKETS

 

{FOOD} 5 Problems That Can Be Solved With Soup

I didn’t use to be a “soup person”. The thought of slurping on a brothy bowl of chicken stock and calling it a meal just didn’t fly with me. I’m a big eater. I need substance – preferable involving meat, bread and cheese.

Last week I fell ill (yes, AGAIN) with a bad bout of strep throat, and my friend Gayle of The Soup Solution came to my rescue, surprising me with a special delivery of her delicious and hearty soups. I’m all better now thanks to the steamy bowls of Butter Chicken Soup, Greek Lamb & Spinach Soup and Classic Chicken Noodle Soup that I ingested from my death bed (and perhaps the antibiotics helped too).

soup

Yes, I said Butter Chicken Soup

And as I munched on the meals-in-a-bowl, I thought to myself: The Soup Solution. Hmmm…there are actually problems that I can solve with this soup delivery service…

So here are 5 problems that can be solved with a simple soup solution:

1) Problem: skipping lunch.

The Soup Solution: Hearty, chunky bowls of soup filled with freshly-cut vegetables and tastefully-seasoned meats make it easy to quickly prepare and eat a healthy and filling lunch.

soup

Moroccan Yam Soup

2) Problem: gift ideas for new parents.

The Soup Solution: Pre-order an array of soups and sauces and fill that new mama’s fridge with easy meal solutions for those crazy first months at home with baby.

3) Problem: dinner ideas for picky eaters.

The Soup Solution: Browse through a wide variety of meal ideas, created, curated and family-tested by The Soup Solution owner Gayle (mother of two). Check out her menu of recipe ideas and make something new for dinner that the whole family will love.

 

4) Problem: feeding unexpected pop-in guests.

The Soup Solution: No need to rush out to the store! Pull out some  Greek lamb & spinach soup from the freezer and serve it up for a warm and welcome meal.

5) Problem: healthy food is inaccessible to many families in need.

The Soup Solution: For the month of December, The Soup Solution will be working in partnership with the Quest Food Exchange program to provide healthy soups for families in need. For every 5L of soup purchased, 1L will be donated to this important cause. Learn more about how The Soup Solution is giving back through the Giving Tuesday campaign.

I can honestly say that I’ve been turned from a soup snub to a soup snob. And the butter chicken soup definitely had something to do with it.