Visiting Ottawa Canada (aka Myth Busting)

 Debunking Five Myths about Candians by Visiting Ottawa, CanadaAh, stereotypes. Every country and culture seems to have at least a few. Visiting Ottawa, Canada helped me bust a few myths. Travel gives us the ability to be myth busters of a short… only without the walrus mustaches and exploding crash-test dummies. 

Myth 1: It’s Winter 11 Months of the Year

Visiting Ottawa in summer is blissfully balmy. In fact an average summer day comes in at around 78°,  almost San Diego-esque, eh? A warm, breezy summer day in the Canadian capital city is perfect for wandering. So much of the sites are within easy walking distance of each other. 

Rideau Canal Ottawa Canada UNESCO World Heritage SiteA stroll along the Rideau Canal is a must. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a marvel of 19th century engineering.  One of the first canals to be designed specifically for steam-powered vessels, the system of locks now conveys mostly leisure craft along the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers. In fact it’s the only canal of the “Great North American Canal Building Era,” to still operate along it’s original route. If you enjoy history, a tour of the canal system is a must, since many of the original structures remain intact today.

MYTH BUSTED

Myth 2: Canadians Only Drink Beer

Sparks Street is a bit like the a low-key version of Time Square. Closed to all but pedestrian traffic these few blocks near Parliament Hill feature kitschy souvenir shops, eateries, bars, and a few upscale shopping areas. Here we did stop by a place called Bier Markt that featured 150 beers from 30 countries. Could there be something to this beer thing?

I like a nice hoppy beer and will try an IPA any day.  I fully expected Ottawa to be a beer city, and I’d have been okay with that. Turns out Canadians dig their craft cocktails too. LIFT Bar, the cocktail lounge inside the Delta Ottawa City Centre (now a part of the Marriott hotel family, yeah!) where we were hosted guests during our stay, makes a mean Mule and even some truly creative cocktails featuring locally produced spirits – and yes, some great craft brews too.

Ottawa Mule Craft CocktailClearing away any doubt that this myth is exactly that, I present you with the following evidence…. Wayne Gretzky Estates.  We picked up a 2011 Merlot made with grapes hand harvested in Okanagan Valley, British Colombia and it was actually quite good!

MYTH BUSTED

Myth 3: Canada is ALL about the Hockey, eh!

We witnessed a man dressed in full hockey gear, including skates, balance on top of a goal while juggling flaming hockey sticks. While you’d think that would have proved the myth, this guy {Paz} happened to hail from LA… eh.  <— which I think I said more than any Canadian we met.

Juggling Flaming Hockey Sticks. Visiting Ottawa, Canada

MYTH BUSTED

Myth 4: Canadians Live on Maple Syrup and (Back) Bacon

Admittedly there is plenty of maple and Back Bacon {known to we Americans as Canadian bacon} to be found. Even in the Eggs Benedict at LIFT restaurant – not sure I was so much into that. Ottawa is a very metropolitan city boasting a vibrant food scene with plenty of influence coming from the French. Hello poutine and pastries. The farm-to-table options come in a dizzying array from a rainbow of produce and artisanal cheeses at the famed ByWard Market to scratch-made Italian staples at several area eateries.

ByWard Market Ottawa Canada

You can NOT leave Ottawa without eating BeaverTails. I know what you’re thinking, I thought it too. Eew gross, Canada! Wrong. SO wrong. BeaverTails are oddly-named, flaky, rich, light and airy pillows of crispy pastry topped with awesome. Start with the maple butter {obviously} and work your way through the menu. You’ll thank me, even if your waistline won’t.

MYTH BUSTED

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Myth 5: Canadians Are SO Polite

I was pretty sure the minute we drove into the parking garage at the Delta – which is shared with the public – and were greeted by a smiling hotel employee {obviously on his break} who was all to happy to show us the best spot to park in, give tips for cutting down on the cost of parking, and welcome us to his city, that this is a myth that could not be busted. Once at the front desk, the busting prospects looked even more bleak.

Usually when you check-in at any hotel, the front desk staff is cordial. Even at the most luxurious of properties the script is pretty much the same. “Can we help you with anything while you’re staying with us?”, “How was your trip?”, “Would you like help with your bags.” All perfectly polite – and expected– inquires.  Then there is Alex.

Spires of the East Block Building of Canadian Parliment Ottawa
Weathered spires and French architectural influences abound on Canada’s Parliament Hill.

Alex took the time not only to ask those questions, but to find out what we liked, what we might want to discover about his city, and even give us tips about things we’d never have known about without him. He took out a map and walked us through the best things to see, when to go where, and gave as an impromptu history lesson. It was like having our own personal guide to Ottawa. Then there was Eric.

Eric turned out to be the name of the friendly staffer from the car park, as well as a stellar Bellman.  Gift bags to keep the kids entertained. Cold drinks to refresh weary parents who got stuck a Canadian Customs {that’s a story for another post, oi!} and even setting up late evening reservations for the whole crew on the pub side of LIFT. Then there was Annie.

Things were looking pretty damn polite at this point!

In the interest of full-disclosure, we are Elite level Marriott rewards members and make it a point to snag club level rooms anytime they are available. Tip: DO THIS! If you’ve got more than one kid it pays for itself. Marriott Clubs often offer free breakfast, snacks, and enough refreshments and libations to cover the additional cost several times over.  Also, as I mentioned before this was a hosted visit. Annie had no way of knowing that though. Each morning she greeted us as though we were long-lost pals returning to visit her! Any question we had, any little thing the kids asked for, she made sure it was taken care of. You just can’t put a price on service like that. Though this Delta property hasn’t quite gotten to the level of offerings that you typically see in Marriott Clubs, Annie’s shining smile made it feel as top-notch as any other. Then their was Parliament.

Living in the Washington D.C. area, we’re used to dower-faced officials. Hey, things are rough these days and their job is to watch out for bad guys, not make kids giggle. The Canadians seem to have been able to balance the need to keep a wary eye out, with their penchant for polite. 

Are All Canadians Freindly or What
Polite, and hilariously cool.. the Guards of Parliament Hill. I can’t be the only one thinking “Benny Hill” here, can I?

That feeling of warm welcome extends from the folk watching over the buildings of Parliament, to the locals who gather to share a spot on the lawn any given summer evening to watch the story of Canada – from the First Peoples to modern Canadians– unfold in multi-media magnificence; Northern Lights.  Hundreds of people gathered for a free show and not one tussle, no salty stares, not even an frenzied rush to get the best spot. Then there was the cab driver.

Rude. Angry. Took the long way around to get a higher fare. Though he did mention that was from Indonesia.

MYTH CONFIRMED (so far)

Visiting Ottawa, Canada was such a blast we’ll be back to bust a few more myths during Winterlude. Plus.. um.. MORE Poutine!

Stay tuned for more on Canada’s Delta Hotels joining the Marriott brand and a full review of our stay at Delta Ottawa City Center.

Poutine Canada's Gift to the WORLD
Poutine from a Food Truck. Or as the teen calls it… “Deep fried bliss smothered in happiness gravy dotted with cheesy nuggets of awesome.” Yeah, pretty close.
 Field Notes On Visiting Ottawa, Canada:

The trip to Ottawa, Canada was amazing everyone was so nice we stayed at a beautiful hotel called Delta. Alex, at the front desk was so amazing he suggested a lot of fun activities to do.One of the doormen even gave me and my brother gift bags. My mom gave me a tip to give him. He was very happy, and said thanks.

Next we went for a walk. There were little shops outside, and I got some new jewelry, a ring from a very nice lady and a name bracelet form a funny guy who showed us where to get poutine. Then we went to dinner. I had ribs on a plate so huge that it took up the whole table!  

So we went to a pastry shop and a tasted sweets. The wifi at the hotel was was very good. Housekeeping left chocolates on the pillow and my favorite robe. The pool was amazing and the outdoor lounge was relaxing.

The next day we went to a war museum it was very interesting and sad too. After that we went down to the gift shop, it was a little overpriced but I got a owl necklace. I had my very first  beavertail, they are so yum! Goodbye Ottawa, until we meet again.  

Emily – Field Reporter {age 9}

Delta Hotel Ottawa City Centre.png
Chic updated suite at the Delta Ottawa City Centre. Can’t wait to introduce you to the Smart Desk!

Disclosure: As you know, from time to time I’m asked to visit places, attractions, and hotels as a hosted guest. That said, my thoughts and opinions are always my own. Honesty, you deserve nothing less.

Giving Back: Verizon Military Mom

Giving back is something most of us can agree is an important part of living a fulfilling life. From the simplest gestures of kindness to monumental acts of gratitude our shared humanity grows richer and more meaningful. That meaning is why I’m proudly partnering with Verizon for the third year to show thanks through their Verizon Military Mom program.

I can still remember stepping off the CatB flight and onto the tarmac in Rota, Spain. I was 19. It was hot and humid even though the sun was near setting.

This was the first time I’d been so far from home and there wasn’t exactly a welcoming party waiting as I walked into the nearly empty terminal. All I wanted to do was turn tail and head home to my mom. I’d never doubted my choice to join the Navy… until that moment. What I wouldn’t have given to be able to pull out a cell phone and call my mommy. But, it was the early 90’s and cell phones were still just a Star Trek fantasy.

Over the course of my time in the Navy letters and rare phone calls, care packages and VHS tapes from home got me through. Most days we were too busy to think too much about home, but home was always there thinking about us. What military moms do is truly a special thing. It ripples through the relationships of those we hold dear and those who serve beside us.

Flash forward a few decades and my eldest son would be the one to serve on foreign soil. He’d get there not by plane but onboard a ship as a member of a Marine Corps wing unit. I was a wreck even though – or maybe because I knew- what he’d be doing. Six months or more at sea and in other countries was almost more than this momma’s heart could take… but I’m a Military Mom. I am part of a long line of strong women who support those who serve. Plus I technology has my six.

While he was deployed our Verizon connection paired with our smartphones (I’ve bought the man-child no less than four phones since he joined the corps) kept us connected in a way my mother never had. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her!

We texted photos and pictures using the Whats App. He recorded videos for me and I’d get huge “dumps” of them when he’d get somewhere that had wifi. I’d even follow along using news alerts setup to see where his carrier group was. The highlight of his tour for me was “going” to Sydney, Australia with him. I got to see so much of the world because we were connected. I also got to see gorgeous views of Sydney harbor from the hotel room he got just so he could sleep in a normal bed on shore leave!

On that deployment, he also went through one of the hardest things those who serve face. He lost Marines from his unit. It was heart-wrenching as a mom to know he was going through this. As a veteran I felt it even deeper as those men were my shipmates too – we may have served in different eras but we are all part of the same family. To be able to be there for him, on a call, via text, in a video I could record and send him, was priceless.

This month Verizon is saluting and giving back to moms like me, moms who do so much more than I do, for our service to those who serve. They recently honored 15 military moms with $1,000 shopping sprees to get technology that will help keep them connected to their loved ones and their extended military families.

One truth I left my military service knowing was that not one single person, in any branch of the military, serves alone. Our loved ones, friends, families and our military moms serve along side us. A huge thank you goes out to every single mom out there that gives so much so that we may all have what we do. And to the team at Verizon, thank you for recognizing the service and strength of these women!

Cocktail Time: Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz

A new twist on a old classic, with no actual gin in it.

A well-crafted cocktail can turn any evening into an event. Sometimes afternoons too. Lately, I’ve been getting creative with mixology as part of a creative process. The results of which have been, well… mixed. One of the more successful results (per my official taste-tester – the hubby) came in the form of a Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz. Which oddly enough, contains no gin at all.

What?!

As it turns out Sloe Gin is neither “slow” nor Gin. This liqueur is actually flavored with a relative of the plum, the Sloe. It garnered it’s false moniker due to the fact that the Sloe was often soaked in gin, it’s juices infusing into the juniper berry flavors of the gin. These days cheaper spirits are often used, but the name stuck.

Okay, History of Hooch 101 is over. Let’s get to the mixing. For this cocktail I chose to take full advantage of sweet, in-season, scrumptious black cherries found at the local Farmer’s Market. After pitting, they went for a spin in my juicer. 

Hey, juicing… that’s healthy, right?!

A traditional Sloe Gin Fizz uses a simple syrup, I’ve replaced that with the cherry juice. If you’re into very sweet drinks feel free to add it back in (4 jiggers for the yield in this recipe.)

Cheers!

Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz
Serves 4
A sweet, summery twist on the classic Sloe Gin Fizz.
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Prep Time
4 min
Total Time
4 min
Prep Time
4 min
Total Time
4 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 Jiggers (1.5 fl oz) Sloe Gin
  2. 4 Jiggers Lemon Flavored Vodka
  3. 4 Jiggers Black Cherry Juice
  4. Soda Water
  5. Ice
  6. Cocktail Shaker with Strainer
Instructions
  1. Fill Cocktail Shaker with ice. Add juice and spirits. Shake well. Strain out into your class of choice. Top with Soda Water. Garnish with a sprig of mint or slice of lemon
Notes
  1. A traditional Sloe Gin Fizz calls for a simple syrup, lemon juice, and gin. This version replaces the syrup with cherry juice, the lemon and gin with lemon-flavored vodka.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom https://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/
 

Road Trips

“The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream.”
– Jack Kerouac

Ah, road trips. Growing up, my parents were keen to hit the road with the three of us in tow. They were then and still are adventurers, wandering souls, Flower Children in search of that bit of zen that growing up in the 60s had promised them.

My brothers and I were the beneficiaries of this wanderlust.  By the time I’d turned ten I had stood in awe of mysteries of The Thing, met many a stoic carved Chief at the entrance to endless “trading” posts, and ate more than my fair share of car-snacks and roadside taffy.  If it was the World’s Biggest ______,  a ghost town or even a dinosaur, we detoured to check it out. 

Getting up in the wee hours, watching as dad loaded the family wagon with that Coleman cooler and more bags than people was somehow magical. Hitting the road was a sort of alchemy that changed the very atmosphere. The air smelled different on those early mornings. Light filtered through the car windows making the ordinary seem more like a kaleidoscope   

All the things that drove mom nuts on a daily basis at home somehow had diminished impact when we were on the road. Even my younger brothers transformed, no longer annoying little ogres. Jam-sodden bread became a delicacy worthy of at least one Michelin star.

The destination didn’t really matter all that much, it was the getting there that got to me. Deep in the very fabric of a growing young traveler the seeds of wanderlust took hold. 

Traveling back then was certainly different from what it is these days. Many of those roadside wonders have faded into the background, sun faded and abandoned. My kids don’t know the simple joy of singing 100 Bottles of Beer on The Wall to the point of exhaustion. It might be a good thing that their devices keep them from playing Punch Buggy. But I’m left to wonder if, even though they are far more traveled than I was at their ages if they’ve missed out on something magical about childhood. 

Do you have memories of special childhood road trips? What there a roadside attraction that amazed (or disappointed) you?  I’d love to hear all about them. Shared stories are better than any souvenir – well except for that magnet I got at the Grand Canyon circa 1970something.  

 

 

how to make a starburst candy cocktail

Remember those cheesy 80’s ads for Reece’s peanut butter cups, “You got your peanut butter all over my chocolate!” Yuck, just nope. I may be alone in my loathing of that combination but I can certainly get behind the tagline for those ads, “Two great things that go great together,” if we’re talking vodka and starburst candies.  So the question now is, how to make a Starburst candy cocktail.

Time for a confession, the Starburst candy cocktail was an original idea of mine.  Oh sure, I’d love to take full credit for it but that rests with the little BBQ joint in suburban Maryland where my team, The Little Urban Achievers play (and by that I mean own) Pub Trivia.

While The Hideaway cocktail was tasty, it was just a tad too sour for me so I thought I’d take inspiration from their unique libation and give it my own twist. Of course, it will still be garnished with starburst – duh.

Starburst Candy Cocktail
Serves 1
Sweet, a little sour and perfect for happy hour!
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1.5 oz Limoncello
  2. 1.5 oz Stolichnaya Wild Cherry Vodka
  3. 1 oz Tart Cherry Grenadine by Quince & Apple
  4. San Pellegrino Aranciata
  5. Starburst Candy
  6. Cocktail Skewers
  7. Ice
  8. Cocktail Shaker
Instructions
  1. Place ice, limoncello, vodka and grenadine in cocktail shaker. Shake well. Strain into glass of your choice. Top with chilled Aranciata. Place several candies onto skewer and garnish.
Notes
  1. If using standard grenadine, add in some fresh squeezed lemon juice to balance the sweet and sour.
Adapted from The Hideway
Adapted from The Hideway
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom https://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Using that craft grenadine may be the key to the success of this cocktail. Quince & Apple really let the cherry shine in this simple syrup. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but it doesn’t take much of it to impart that deep cherry flavor. Plus it doesn’t go bad. I may even give it a try as a flavoring for ice cream or pancake topping.

Though not YET tested, I suspect this would be great in the summer over crushed ice! Do you have a favorite candy? Think it might make for a tasty cocktail? Let me know. I’m always looking for new ways to mix things up. Mixology.. mix.. get it. Okay, maybe I’d better lay off the taste-testing for a bit.

Travel. Eat. Drink. Write. REPEAT