Lake Life in Whistler

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the….

I find myself humming this song every time I visit this picturesque little town surrounded by unbelievable natural beauty.

A day trip to Lost Lake instantly turns me into a carefree soul, happy to laze the day away beside the water while my little dog swims and fetches until he curls up, exhausted, on the beach blanket beside me.

A day spent here also takes me back to the best memories of my teenage years, growing up in lake country in Ontario. A sunny summer day meant putting your bikini on, getting on a rickety old bike, throwing the beach towel and PB and J sandwich in the basket and pedaling down a gravel road to the lake to meet up with friends. Our beach back in the day was a grassy patch beside a dirt road but it was sublime. Days were spent swimming, sun bathing, sometimes canoeing through the thick, beautiful lily pads and always relaxing. No smart phone or internet required.

It was simple and easy and fun and Lost Lake takes me right to that place.

After an afternoon of lazing in the grass and dips in the lake, it’s cocktail hour.

This one is courtesy of Milestones Restaurant:

Ruby Red Mimosa

  • Half glass sparkling wine
  • Ruby red grapefruit juice
  • splash elderberry liqueur

A sweet ending to a summer day.

*To make this drink sugar-free, just skip the elderberry liqueur.

Beware the barrenness of a busy life. – Socrates

Sooke Harbour House

With all of the political unrest south of the border dominating the news this week, I can’t think of a more soothing place to write about than Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island.

I was lucky enough to spend three nights there a few weeks ago and the whole experience was a blissful, back to nature retreat.

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Let me start with the view. Our room faced the ocean and we saw breathtaking vistas like this every day from our balcony.

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The hotel is quaint and luxurious at the same time, making a visit there feel like entering a warm haven from yesteryear. If I had to describe the visit in a metaphor, staying at Sooke Harbour House is like wrapping yourself in a fuzzy blanket with a good book beside you and a cup of delicious hot chocolate cupped in your hands. And, speaking of good books, the hallways of Harbour House are lined with shelves and shelves of books. There are also super comfy love seats nestled in the hallway, waiting for someone to sink into them and dive into one of those good books.

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sooke harbour house

Leave your room for an afternoon and you’ll see that the grounds around the Inn are filled with an edible garden. Herbs, lettuces, root vegetables, fruit trees and lots of beautiful edible flowers make the garden a delight to walk through. And later at dinner, the unbelievable freshness of your meal is a foodie’s dream. This is due to so many food items being picked from their very own garden but also because they source almost all of the menu items from the Island. Sooke Harbour House is an example of the 100 Mile Diet at its best.

Then there’s room service. Here we have garden pomme frites, a chanterelle soup and garden salad topped with pretty edible flowers.

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Everything tasted amazingly delicious, as did every other meal eaten in the two restaurants, The Copper Room and The Restaurant. If you’d like to make this rich and creamy soup at home, so you can cuddle up in a fuzzy blanket and forget about all of the worries of the world for a while, let me help you out…

Sooke Harbour House’s Chanterelle Walnut Soup

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 cups wild chanterelle mushrooms, brushed and chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, shelled
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup carrot, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
20 fennel seeds
10 coriander seeds
10 cumin seeds
2 Tbsp garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups vegetable stock
1 cup whipping cream (or whole milk for a lighter version)
2 fresh or dried bay leaves

Place butter in large, stainless steel pot over medium heat. Once butter has melted, add mushrooms, walnuts, onion, carrot, celery, fennel, coriander, and cumin seeds, and saute until onions are translucent and carrots begin to soften (about 10 to 13 minutes). Add garlic and ginger, and saute for 5 minutes. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Add white wine and increase heat to high. Reduce wine until approximately 1/4 cup remains. Add stock, cream, and bay leaves, and bring to boil. Then, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat; remove and discard bay leaves. While soup cools, prepare garnish. Place whipping cream in medium-sized bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Once soup has cooled for 30 minutes, puree in blender at high speed in small batches for 2 minutes each, or until very smooth. Return puree’d soup to pot. Bring to boil and serve. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish each with a dollop of whipped nasturtium cream. Serves Six.

 

Tofino Trails & Buffalo Cauliflower

What can I say about Tofino, BC? It’s a very special place nestled in a lush forest at the end of the earth. The setting for this beautiful playground is the most western point of Canada, where an unspoiled landscape meets the endless ocean.

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tofino

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Wild and rugged, its forests are lush and green with moss covered leaves and cavernous old growth trees. Trees that spark the imagination and look like they may have tiny fairies living inside of them.

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old growth tree

If you’re lucky you can see a pack of wolves walking along the mud flats early in the morning or a humpback whale jumping out of the stormy ocean in the afternoon. Stay here for a while and you can’t help but feel how connected to the earth we are.

Walk barefoot along Chesterman Beach on soft, white, powdery sand. Then stop to gaze at a sparkly ocean that is part of Tofino’s magic. I’ve never seen the ocean look so filled with diamonds as it does here.

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chesterman beach

And what should you eat to warm you up after you’re finished exploring this supernatural corner of the earth?

This:

Buffalo Cauliflower

Adapted from Thug Kitchen

  • 2 medium heads cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup water

Hot sauce:

  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup Sriracha or similar-style hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce or tamari

Heat your oven to 450F. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet. Chop up your cauliflower into little pieces no bigger than your thumb.

Whisk together the flour and water in a big bowl until a batter forms with no chunks. Toss in the cauliflower and mix it around until all the pieces look a little coated. Spread the cauliflower out on the baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Mix the pieces around halfway through roasting so all the sides are covered.

Make the hot sauce. In a small saucepan, mix the oil, Sriracha, vinegar and soy sauce. Heat over a low heat until the sauce is warm but not bubbling. Turn off the heat and let it sit.

After 15 minutes in the oven, put the cauliflower back in a big bowl and toss it with the hot sauce mixture from the stove-top. Make sure everything is coated. Drop the cauliflower pieces back on the baking sheet, leaving the extra sauce in the bowl, and roast for another 3 minutes so everything is warm and delicious.

Serve hot.

Hiking the Hoodoos

I visited the province of Alberta for the first time about a year and a half ago. Before that, I have to admit, I had very little knowledge about the place. I knew that Banff was beautiful, that Calgary was the largest city (with an annual out-of-control party called The Stampede) and that it was our oil province. That was the full extent of my knowledge. Since that initial visit I’ve been back about a half a dozen times and each time I get to see a bit more of Alberta’s natural beauty and fall a bit more in love with it.

Banff, Kananaskis, Lake Louise, Jasper, to name a few places, are all  stunning. But this time I visited a spot that was quite different and breathtakingly beautiful in an unusual way.

The Alberta I’d seen so far consisted of pristine glacier lakes, incredible forests and wildlife and rugged mountains, not the unique rock formations of the Hoodoos (aka. earth pyramids) just outside of Drumheller.

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The Hoodoos caught me by surprise and made me feel like I had been instantly transported to some mystical place far, far away. “Is this still Canada?” I thought as I looked at the strange beauty of the rock formations surrounding me.

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The Hoodoos give you a great hiking workout but, even more importantly, they are still and silent and offer you a special place to rest for awhile. So, after exploring, accept their invitation to sit quietly and take in the awe inspiring beauty of nature.

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Hiking the Hoodoos

Where the Wild Things Are

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

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Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

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The mountains are calling and I must go.

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We are reminded that everything is flowing – going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches; the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, with streams of music and fragrance.

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All quotes by John Muir

All photos taken on a road trip between Banff & Jasper, Alberta