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    Family, Travel

    Oh Canada!!! (we love you.)

    Location: CANADA

    OH CANADA! How we have come to love you. I cannot believe I have gone 28 years of my life without seeing the Canadian Rockies. My heavens. So beautiful. That road trip from Banff to Victoria was amazing. NOW… I am thinking how incredible it would be to rent a convertible and take that same trip during the summer?! Those mountains are like skyscrapers reaching up to the sky right next to the road, waterfalls everywhere… it would be crazy cool.

    SO. Since this was really the trip of a lifetime… and one we may be doing every couple of years because it was THAT good, I decided to share our itinerary and places you should see when you go. ūüôā So many asked about where we stayed, and I got SO MANY great recommendations of things to do/places to see, I decided to put it all here in one place!

    I am splitting it up between three places; Banff, Lake Louise and Victoria, the three places we traveled to. Here we go!

    BANFF, CANADA:

    We flew into Calgary Intl. Airport and drove to Banff from there… (about 1.5 hours)

    Checked into the Banff Springs Fairmont Hotel: aka: The Castle in the Rockies. 

    This place is like a castle. And I could not get over the service! Holy smokes! Everything was just so… the breakfast lounge, the rooms, the view, pool… everything was perfect. They even had a little kiddie pool with toys that Ezra loved and a huge outdoor pool heated to over 100¬į F. (PS. I got REALLY great at converting Fahrenheit to Celsius… double and add 30.) ūüėú

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    Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain:

    We took the gondola ride first thing on day one. Banff was sooo incredibly beautiful I couldn’t wait to see it from the top. The ride was short and sweet, we grabbed Starbucks in the gift shop and sipped hot chocolate on the way up.

    The views were insane. 360 from the top. But it was FREEEEZING and soon windy the day we were there. There are trails you can walk around at the top of the mountain which were beautiful and there WERE people out there walking about, but we opted for the warm indoor museum and lunch on the top floor. : )

    Lake Louise:

    Ahhh the bluest emerald water I have ever seen. It rivals the gulf coast Mexico water but for different reasons. Teeny microscopic particles called rock flour that is found in glaciers, carried to the water via glacier melt, and into the lake. Sunlight reflects off the rock flour, giving it the robins egg color.

    Keep that in your knowledge bank just incase that is the million dollar question one day. : )

    Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise:

    If you want the best views, hikes, and the whole Lake Louise experience, this is the place to stay! The picture below is the view from our room! Waking up to that view… sheesh. It was amazing.

    We had a little bonfire, roasted mallows and built snowmen with some of the amazing Fairmont staff that were THE SWEETEST with Ezra. One man asked if he wanted to come choose a toy from the toy chest, another shoveled snow with him and made snow balls, I mean… seriously?! The service at these Fairmont Hotels is unmatched. (I wish I had gotten the names of the kindest people… I would send them a fruit basket. ha! He and I loved them.)

    We had room service almost every morning… the Spa Breakfast I think its called? Was soo good. Learned a lot about bennies (eggs benedict) while I was there. HA! Couldn’t get enough!

    There are soo many different hikes you can do around Lake Louise. Hiking to the tea house is something that was on my list but it was closed for the winter. If you are adventurous, there are several hikes you can do with spikes on your shoes. You can rent them nearby for not too much. Winter activities include dog sledding, sleigh rides, s’mores by the fire next to the lake… and so many beautiful winterscapes to feast your eyes on. Morraine and Peyto Lake are also definitely worth seeing!

    Summer and Spring are also great times to visit. Canoeing, hiking, paddle boarding are all available and I can only imagine how amazing it would be in the summer. They say the water is even bluer because of the additional rock flour that is in the water. A MUST SEE!

    Road tripping:fullsizerender-111First let me say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to Avis Car Rental for leasing us a car for the 11 days we were there! It made our whole road trip possible! The trip wouldn’t have been the same without being able to drive around at our leisure.The road trip from was one of my favorite parts. We were in awe the whole way. It was GORGEOUS. Walls of mountain on either side… it was incredible. The whole drive from Lake Louise to Vancouver is about 8 hours. We decided to stop a night in Kamloops, about a halfway point, because the drive gets a little long for littles. Our final destination was Victoria so we then took a ferry ride on BC Ferries with our car in tow. Ez LOVED the ferry ride… there was a little playground on the ferry that he played on almost the whole time. (clip in video) We went at night so not much to see… but if I could go back and do it again, I would go during the day. I can only imagine the views of the islands. I am sure it is spectacular.

    Victoria, BC: (The video above is from our time in Victoria! To see the video of our time in Alberta, see it on our IG page @marylauren)

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    There is something so special and quaint about this island. It is a little gem that is a must see. With gorgeous gardens, parks, boutique shopping, outdoor activities and some amazing restaurants, you will not be disappointed! Clay and I started talking about how we can move there… after all, there is surf in some areas, and no snow. Which cross off two of the most important bullets on our list. HA!

    Parkside Hotel:

    We stayed at the Parkside Hotel while in Victoria… it is in the perfect location, very close to their “downtown” area, near shopping and restaurants. Nothing is far drive in Victoria, so you can see it all! It is always so nice to have a little space when traveling with littles. The Parkside Hotel is beautiful and offers just that. Our room had a full kitchen, full bedroom, two fireplaces, living room and two bathrooms… it was great! The lobby was gorgeous with an open Koi Pond. They booked an eminence facial treatment at The Parkside Spa while I was there and I seriously have never been so relaxed. It was such an amazing treatment, almost an hour long, I seriously fell asleep for a minute or two. HA!
    I also have to mention or I wouldn’t be feeling 100% honest… Ezra fell into this koi pond minutes after this picture. Parenting fail to the MAX. OH BOY was that embarrassing. Luckily it was only about 2 ft. deep and Clay was standing right next to him to pull him out. He didn’t even cry, but carrying him back up to our room in soaking wet clothing was less than awesome. ūüôĀ

    Charlotte and the Quail:

    GO HERE. If nothing else. GO HERE. This place was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Joint together with the Horticulture Center of the Pacific, Charlotte and the Quail sits on ten acres of beautifully curated gardens. Have brunch here and then wander the property to gain a little bit inspiration. The owner is such a sweetheart and the love they have for this little place radiates. “Our lives have forever changed with the time spent here. ¬†The gardens have given us perspective, peace & patience. ¬†The seasons have offered us repetition, reminders &¬†reassurance. ¬†The animals have granted us understanding, unity,¬†& universal language. ¬†We see things not differently, but more clearly. ¬†It is now, where our experiences have intertwined with our surroundings and the lessons learned here have created our next adventure.” – taken from their¬†website. ¬†Just with that little snippet, you can understand what kind of place this is. The yummiest food with such great care and attention paid to every detail. It really is, like they call it, a special little place. And please. Order the Oatmeal pancake or the benny with veggies. I don’t see it on the menu, but ask. She may know what I am talking about. HA!

    Also, visit their sister store, Nourish Kitchen & Cafe. We didn’t have a chance to visit, but hear it is just as amazing.

    Butchart Gardens:

    This place is incredible. A must. Oh my goodness, these gardens took my breath away. Around every corner there is something new. Ezra loved the carousel and we loved… well, everything else. We went a day in November and it was rainy. Everyone told us it wasn’t in full bloom and that it wasn’t the best time, but I loved it just the same. Christmas time there is magical I hear, and I can’t imagine what spring time there would be like. UNBELIEVABLE I’m sure.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetShaw Centre for the Sailish Sea Aquarium:

    This place was perfect for kids. It isn’t really an all day activity, which I kind of loved. The aquarium is filled with all the fish that surround the Island of Victoria. It was so interesting to see… especially the giant skeleton of a killer whale. WOW! Ezra loved the touch and learn experience at the end. The staff was so friendly and talked to Ezra about all the different fish and sea creatures in the “touch pools”. Highly recommended for kiddos! (Clips in the video)

    Steamship Grill:

    The aren’t lying when they say they have the best patio in Victoria. Not only was the food delicious, the service impeccable, but we sat out on the patio in November with the cozy heaters and blankets they provide and were perfectly warm. We were able to enjoy the nightly views… so beautiful. You must visit this place! It is also right across the street from the Victoria Capitol Building… take a little evening stroll around the grounds and then cross the street for dinner. You won’t be disappointed! (Clip in video!)

    Shopping:

    I came across so many cute boutiques while in Victoria but want to share a couple of my MUST VISITS. If you ever visit or if you live in Victoria, visit Picot and also Little Gold. Both are beautiful and are owned by TOTAL sweethearts.

    Picot Collective:

    I was in love with every single thing. Perfectly curated and with original brick walls, this place is everything I want when shopping. Pieces made by local artists, things you can’t find just anywhere and a warm welcome from the gals working there. They also have a loom inside the shop that they both use! They are so talented and have an amazing collection of jewelry, home decor and apothecary!

    I left with the BEST candle and roll on of their signature Picot fragrance. Need a unique Christmas gift? THIS IS IT. SOOO good.  Little Gold: 

    If you know me, you know I have a crazy obsession with tiny gold jewels. You may also know I started a jewelry shop a while ago called Tiny Gold… which then transformed into what is now Sugarhouse Supply. HA! So you can bet how much I loved this store when I walked in. Everything is either gold filled or 14k so it is made to last. The owner chooses small makers, some local, to find the best unique “little gold” pieces. Check her out online… loved everything.¬†¬†This was seriously the trip of a lifetime. I hope this helps for all those who will be traveling! I am so happy to answer any questions you have and if you have any recommendations, please comment! I know others will love to read from people who have also done this excursion! Happy and safe travels all! ūüôāheadedsomewhere signature

    Family, Lifestyle

    Perfectly Imperfect Holidays

    Location: Magical Christmas Night

    Christmas is a time of nostalgia. The perfectly colored lights, the music, christmas tree lightings, the stockings hung in perfect uniform, everyone is dressed in their Christmas pajamas and love each other. That is how we remember Christmas every year. Even though we all know that’s not ALWAYS how things go. Let’s get real… things are never perfect, especially when putting travel, toddlers not sleeping in their own beds, late nights and sugar in the mix. HA! But I, as I am sure many of you do, tend to forget the crazy and remember the magic.

    One Christmas Eve in particular, we were sitting around my Grandparent’s house in a little town in Southern Utah. We were all gathered together,¬†baking our traditional cookies and grazing on my grandma’s holiday spread. It was getting late and the kids were all getting cranky,¬†lots of crying and screaming and arguing… tensions were high. HA! All the adults were about at their wits end. We decided to take a little car ride to try and get everyone out of the house and some fresh air. We told the kids we were “going to look for Santa’s reindeer…” just trying to coax them out of the house and into their winter clothes.

    With this new motivation and purpose, we all jumped in the car and roamed the lazy streets of Parowan waiting for the kids to get tired. We were almost back to the house and and what did we see?! A giant herd of “Santa’s Reindeer”!!! It was too good to be true. They slowly crossed the street in front of us, in no kind of hurry even though it was Christmas Eve! haha… They had large antlers and I swear one of them looked over and winked at me like, “I got you.” HA!!! The kid’s shrieked with excitement, jumping up and down, everyone went home happy and couldn’t stop talking about it. It was pure magic and a Christmas moment I will always remember.

    Going through Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornament catalog this year and seeing the Ring in the Season Santa’s Sleigh Bell Ornament, detailed with beautiful foliage and Santa’s Reindeer leaping around it, I couldn’t help but be taken back to that moment when, in the dark of night, Santa’s Reindeer left right out in front of us. ¬†It is a magical¬†moment I never want to forget. Now, every year, when pulling out the ornament to put on the tree, I’ll remember and retell the story of when we found Santa’s reindeer in Parowan, Utah.

    Christmas time will always be perfect in my mind, even if in the moment things aren’t going as perfectly planned. Among the chaos, there are perfect moments… and those are worth treasuring and remembering!

    I’d love to hear your perfectly imperfect holiday memory on Instagram and tag it #KeepsakeIt Together!

    *This post was sponsored by Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments