Secrets to tackling winter in Banff

Well, I definitely didn’t mentally prepare for winter in Banff. This place blew my mind and froze my face off! If you haven’t heard of it, you have to go there.

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Banff was way colder I realized it would be and far more beautiful than I could actually pictured in my head. A few friends warned me about the temperatures, but you have to feel -10 degrees Fahrenheit to actually understand what that means. I’m not a pansy in weather either! So in order for you to rightfully prep yourself and have the most incredible experience possible, here are some travel tips:

1. Rent a car

There are shuttles that take you from Calgary International Airport to Banff, but if you want to capture the most beautiful photography at Lake Louise, Abraham Lake or in Jasper, you’ll need a car with all wheel drive. I can’t tell you how many front wheel drive cars we saw on the side of the road, stuck deep in about 5 feet of snow and ice. Make sure you get insurance for your vehicle to avoid that mess. I think its about $30 a day (Canadian). The best rental service as far as speed, affordability and availability was Alamo, located right in the Calgary Airport. We went to all the services trying to get the best rate and they beat out all the other companies. You can’t really walk very far in the winter, as it’s way too cold, so a car is definitely a must.

2. Clothing

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You can’t mess around when packing for Banff. Pack a ton of layers, long johns, hand
warmers, hats, high quality gloves/mittens, face mask for skiing, a fleece, snow jacket, multiple thick winter ski socks, Sorel boots (or similar), waterproof snow pants, all camera equipment (including a tripod), hats, long insulated snow jacket and a GPS. There’s spotty service in the mountains!

3. Skiing/snowboarding

The first thing the locals told us was, “Make sure you have a face mask and goggles.” We didn’t prepare for it to be -15F at the peak of the slopes, so we had to buy those when we got there. My hands were throbbing and completely red with two layers of gloves on, so hand-warmers were completely necessary. You have to cover every tiny area of skin on your body with layers of clothing in order to feel comfortable in that kind of weather. Pack snacks and make sure you get to the slopes in the morning if you want to be on the mountain all day. For instance, Sunshine Village closed at 4:30pm, which felt somewhat early.

Rankings for ski resorts: 

1st Sunshine Village – best variety of blues, greens and blacks, 25 minutes from the town of Banff

2nd Lake Louise – great option if you’re staying close to Lake Louise

3rd Mount Norquay – mostly blacks

4. Find the good food

If you’re going to stay in the town of Banff, make sure you take a walk through the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It was built in the early 1900s, is definitely haunted, has a secret Gold Floor, boasts a beautiful outdoor heated pool in the snow and has some of the best restaurants in the area. Samurai, located on the first floor, has really great sushi. It’s not super cheap but worth it! (And I’m a sushi snob.) The town of Banff has mostly pubs and your average Canadian comfort food so we kept choosing the Fairmont restaurants time and time again. There are 12 dining options to choose from there!

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5. Be adventurous

Make sure you don’t simply go wherever the top spots to visit are. Lake Louise, of course isn’t something you want to miss, but get out there and drive a ways out of town to find remote places that you can make your own. We took a long walk into the woods, not knowing where we were going and it was a blast. There was a wolf warning (a first for us) at the time, so we were careful, but other than that it was perfectly peaceful.

Spots not to miss:

Lake Louise

Johnson Canyon (there are two waterfall locations, both beautifully frozen in winter. Prepare for a 30-minute hike to the lowest point and a bit longer if heading to the upper waterfall. Can be icy, be careful!

Jasper

Lake Minnewanka 

Banff Upper Hot Springs

Fairmont Banff Springs

Finally,

Leaving Banff can be hectic during the wintertime because airports and flights often get cancelled due to weather conditions. Our flight was cancelled and rescheduled for the next day. It might be safe to save a day after your trip for potential flight issues!

T.

 

5 steps to boosting creativity

img_4337Have you ever been caught in a creative lull? Perhaps you’ve been sucked into a negative spiral and can’t seem find your inspiration. Or – maybe you’re usually bustling with creative energy, yet it’s been weeks and you can’t seem to hold onto a good idea? We’ve all been there.

Some days are going to be better than others and we all get that. So how to you jump back on track? Well, it’s certainly different for everyone, but here’s a list to help you find your spark again.

1. Find your spot
I know when I need something to get my mind going, I search tirelessly for the most creative space I can find. Sometimes it’s a park, a library or a wine bar. Most of the time though, it’s a coffee shop with really, really good coffee. Sorry, no Starbucks for me. Getting myself out of my house or office, where I can people watch, daydream, sketch, and simply watch the world from a different perspective, helps fuel my artistic side. It’s the honest truth that I never blog while sitting on my couch; it just doesn’t happen. So find that place in your city or town that exudes good energy, often all you need is just some new vibes.

2. Break the routine

You have a specific routine. Everyone does. So when you desperately need to shift your stale mind, you must think differently and DO something different. What I mean by this is, when you have a go-to for inspiring yourself or a particular thought like,

“Oh, I’ll go read this one book and I know I’ll be inspired.”

Change it up. Rather than doing the expected, go ahead and have a glass of wine and relax. It takes opening our minds to get ideas flowing. You won’t get new ideas by doing the same thing over and over again. So go someplace new, text an old friend and meet up just to talk, or go to an art gallery and observe someone else’s creativity. Trust me, the next time you sit down to start working, you’ll have new images in your mind to work with.

3. Get away from your phone

Our phones are fun and all but our creativity shuts down when we mindlessly flip through other people’s amazing pictures. Not only that, but we tend to feel less confident afterward. You have to get outside and put your phone away to see color again. What I mean by color is the trees, landscape and beauty around you. I know vast landscapes always make me feel unstoppable. That, and a spontaneous road trip.

4. Use your contacts

TALK TO PEOPLE. Don’t be afraid to ask others to bounce ideas around with you. Even if you don’t tell them you’re seeking inspiration, just chat with someone who makes you happy. Matter of fact, find your most hilarious friend. When you laugh, you tend to be the most creative, unless you’re one of those genius melancholy artists who can always bust out something amazing.

5. Music choices

Music is everything for me when I’m working. Whether it be jazz, rap, acoustic, country or something else, each genre creates a different emotion within me, thus inducing completely varying reactions. Sometimes I throw on the Beatles in the car and I’ll have such a strong reaction that I’ll find myself daydreaming about traveling abroad and how I can get there. Then I’ll end up going. When it’s jazz, I feel more mellow and romantic. So think about it next time you throw on some tunes. Be intentional!

I hope this helps you brainstorm a few ways you can bring that fire back into your creative space. If you’re still struggling, this quote always helps me:

“All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning.” — Albert Camus

T.

 

 

 

Top 5 ways to feed your soul (and jump start your metabolism)

Do you ever experience that ridiculously full feeling after a meal? We’ve been told so many things about our diet and how it relates directly to digestion. Drink more water, eat more fiber, eat more of that, eat less of that, bla bla bla. It’s all so confusing and seems to change every five minutes. So rather than changing anything that we eat, here are 5 tips to boost your metabolism and make you feel better after a meal:

1. Eat slowly

This is my #1 rule. Eating slowly is so hard to do sometimes. Unless, you’re one of those people with the magic ability to NOT stuff your face. (That’s not me.) Eating slowly allows you time to enjoy your food. Our bodies digest food slower than we eat it and you’d be shocked how much less you eat when you take the time to put the fork down in between bites. Plus, the meal lasts so much longer, so the bliss continues!

2. Savor your food – feed your soul

One of the hardest parts of being a hard worker is that we tend to eat on the move. While eating in between meetings is alright once in awhile, try to remember to stop, sit and enjoy your meal. Don’t eat food that you don’t thoroughly enjoy, because sometimes you’ll forget how amazing flavor and texture can truly be. Take one bite, chew it slowly and think about what flavors stick out to you. Think about what you love about each ingredient. Maybe next time you’ll realize how good that sandwich was rather than cringe at how full you feel.

3. Invite friends to join you

Most of us eat alone these days. Especially in America, we work ourselves into the ground and end up eating alone on our couch with a glass of wine while watching our favorite show. Eating is a cultural, physiological practice, which is meant to be enjoyed with others. When you eat with a group of friends or your family, you tend to find more joy and comfort from your meal. So next time you’re driving home thinking of ordering Grubhub or Postmates alone, call up your mom or your best friend and invite them over. Have a party!

4. Carry around healthy snacks  – so you don’t go into starvation mode

I know for me, whenever I don’t bring snacks with me to work, I get hangry and rush off to the closest taco stand. Instead of ordering 2 tacos, I order 4 and I eat them as if I’ve never eaten in my entire life. I let myself get far too hungry which simply becomes a stomach ache and instant regret. Yes those tacos were great, but I could barely taste them since it was apparently a race to inhale as much shrimp, salsa and guacamole as humanly possible. So don’t be me at lunch next time. Bring nuts, peanut butter, apples and maybe a raw protein bar to hold you over. We aren’t neanderthals!

5. Cook…all the time.

Cooking is not only one of the most enjoyable pastimes for many, but it is a way to understand what goes in to creating the meals we love so much. Humans began their existence by hunting, gathering, preparing and sharing their food in a slow, drawn out manner. Some cultures understand the social connection we are meant to have with food, but for some reason Americans tend to purchase and stuff, rather than cook every meal. When we cook, we have more control over the calories we consume, we can reduce stress and perhaps build relationships if we cook with friends. So pop open that recipe book!

Special thanks to Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.