Discovery Files : Willow Park Village

Stampede is in full swing around us... no pun intended. As much as I love it and all of the amazing events and activities that surround it, it's nice to be able to sneak away within the city and not have to worry about parking and hectic traffic.
The last few weeks have been so incredibly busy and I felt like Luke and I were long overdue for a date night. We also needed to pick up veggie burgers, for a bbq Sunday from M&M's meat shops; so I suggested that we go to Willow Park Village and double up enjoying our date and running an errand or two at the same time.
We decided to try The Broken Plate and had an amazing authentic greek dinner.
From there we wandered over to the Starbucks and picked up some iced coffee to sip since it was still 29 degrees out. From there we went to indulge in some of my favourite cupcakes at Crave for dessert and to bring home to LL.
On the way, I was delighted to discover the art installation that I've heard so many people talking about. I had to stop for a picture at the hydrangea wall (image at top) and then we sat for awhile to admire the colourful display of dozens of umbrellas overhead.
I think it's wonderful to have these sorts of art installations at our disposal to pop by and see. They create an interesting experience for children and I can't wait to return with LL sometime before July 28th when they'll be coming down.

We left feeling happy and full and inadvertently had picked up everything we'd need to make our way through the weekend and even a few things we didn't need.  All in all a great night at Willow Park Village.
xo Erica 


National Iced Tea Day with teapigs

Today's post is all about tea. Iced tea to be specific. After all, it is National Iced Tea Day.

The weather is gradually getting warmer and as I had mentioned in a previous post (here), my covered back deck is almost finished and set up after flooding and repairs. I'm so excited that we'll be able to use it rain or shine all summer long, and extend our living area outdoors. In honour of its completion, I plan to throw a garden party, and I was inspired to make up my own signature iced tea cocktail ahead of time.

I've partnered with my favourite tea company, teapigs, to create an Iced Tea Sangria. It turned out delicious and I can't wait to share it with my guests. In the meantime, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to enjoy it too.

teapigs super fruit Iced Tea Sangria

4-5 super fruit tea temples steeped in 4 cups water
1 Bottle Verdejo Wine (or white wine of choice)
2 ounces Apricot Brandy
Sliced peaches, raspberries, blueberries

  1. Steep super fruit tea temples in boiled water for at least 3 minutes. Set aside in fridge to cool.
  2. In a pitcher mix chilled wine with brandy.
  3. Gradually add tea to taste.
  4. Reserve some fruit to add to the pitcher whole and muddle the remaining fruit. Add all to pitcher.
  5. Stir, garnish and serve.

*You can make this drink the evening before and store it covered in the fridge. This will actually make it even more flavourful.

This post was sponsored by teapigs. Recipe, styling and opinions my own.


Outdoor Lifestyle : How To Set Up The Perfect Deck

Summer is on it's way. My build project with the covered deck outside ( posted here ) is still being finished but that hasn't stopped me from organizing and pulling together all the bits and pieces I'll need to set it all up. In the meantime I thought I'd share my favourite tips and tricks for you to set up your own outdoor space and get outside!

1. The right outdoor candles with citronella not only set the mood with a soft glow, but also serve as a mosquito repellent when you light them. I love this arrangement of clear glass candles nestled in moss on a golden tray. So pretty.
2. Make yourself a lidded jar to keep your outdoor matches safe and dry with this 5 min DIY. You'll never have to fumble around or look for a lighter. Simply cut a piece of fine grit sandpaper and glue to the inside top of a mason jar. Voila. Dry Matches. Or save yourself a trip to the hardware store and order a pre-made bottle (here)

3. Keep a basket in a safe place with extra blankets for chilly evenings. Having throws designated for outside means you won't have to raid your linen closet and if the outdoor ones get a dead bug or dried leaf stuck to them you're not bringing it back inside. I love falsa blankets, like the one below. They're inexpensive and oh so soft so I ordered several that I keep tucked away for evening guests. There are plenty of soft options without a pattern as well.

4. The perfect serving tray will be an indispensable key to your entertaining and daily living outside. It makes transporting multiple things so much easier. It also serves as a base for candles, matches, a lantern, succulents, etc... (here)
5. Succulents are such a nice touch. I'm not the best at keeping them alive so I've resorted to faux this year... and bonus, they don't need any sun OR water. Win/Win. (here)
I've put these essentials on my list. I'll be giving away a pale green falsa blanket to one of my readers. All you have to do is leave a comment about your favourite tip or the one outdoor accessory you can't live without. Thanks as always for joining me! 

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Luxury with Lincoln : My Experience With The New Continental

In a society where everything has become about immediacy, instant gratification and cheap fixes quality and attention to detail seem like attributes that are harder and harder to come by. When one does come across something of value and quality it creates such a striking experience. There's a reason why luxury items are often touted as better... they're made properly with age old traditions and patience.
On the topic of luxury and quality, I was recently invited to experience the new 2017 Lincoln Continental. In all honesty and full disclosure I didn't know much about the brand other than it conjured up images of pillowy leather seats and a comfortable ride, (Oh and Matthew McConaughey of course). I was interested to learn that the Continental is Lincoln's flagship vehicle and it had been newly redesigned and re-released to the public after a 15 year hiatus. I was delighted to discover that no detail was overlooked. In this redesign they've considered every possible amenity that one would desire, and several that you didn't even know you wanted.

It just so happened that I picked the Continental up on a Friday. When at the dealership I had a thorough demonstration of all of the car's capabilities. When I walked out to the lot and up to the Continental for the first time my initial impression was obviously based on the car's exterior. I had been told of the redesigned front grill and how it was a blend of modern elegance. I was pleasantly surprised with how sleek and refined the Continental looked. This may sound strange but it's pretty yet handsome all at once.
I was told about the state of the art sound system boasting 19 speakers that made every song feel like you were at a live concert. It certainly did not disappoint. The Revel speaker grill itself is a work of art. It was designed with the best possible sound and aesthetics in mind. With more than 200 prototypes considered to maximize sound quality, the clarity is unmatched. Why am I mentioning speakers and sound first? Well the truth is that this is my favourite thing to do when driving... listen to whatever music I'm in the mood for.
So, I drove around that day running my typical Friday errands and listening to my favourite beats, making all of my usual stops in preparation for the weekend. It was also my boyfriend, Luke's birthday. I had lots of fun plans up my sleeve and I was grateful to have this amazing vehicle to usher us to all of our date spots.
The first thing I had done before I headed out that day was to take advantage of the phone pair technology called SYNC®3 which enables you to upload contacts, music, etc all to the main console so that you can access your phone's features; all hands free, while driving. I noticed almost immediately that the navigation system pops up with GPS coordinated prompts that relay the speed limit beside your speedometer so you have it as a guideline if you're going too fast in a school zone or over the speed limit. Amazing. I also loved the drive assist feature. Of course we all need to be defensive drivers but it helps to know that 360 degree cameras and sensors are keeping track of anyone else crossing into your lane and therefore having an extra set of eyes on the road. Too good to be true!
A trip to the mountains the next day, to celebrate a lovely weekend in Banff revealed just how equally amazing the Continental handles on the highway as it does in the city. The Continental made the highway drive feel like a pillow-top mattress on wheels. In Alberta our highways get a lot of wear and tear from the temperature variations, so this was a welcome change. 
My little guy, LL loved how comfortable the seat was. I however was impressed and comforted by the inflatable airbags in the back passenger seat belts. In the event of an accident, typically back seat passengers suffer the worst injury from the belt, rather than the actual impact. I really liked knowing that LL was that much safer on the highway.
When it comes to kids and car doors I also appreciated the soft latch closure. If the door isn't completely closed it latches shut on it's own. It only takes having your car door swing open in traffic once to value the importance of this feature. 
The Continental is almost exclusively chauffeur driven in Asia. It comes loaded with incredible executive features in the back seat. Given the availability of these amenities, it only made sense to try the vehicle out on my own and with a driver so that I could experience all of the continental's capabilities. I managed meetings in the morning all from the luxury of the back seat.  
Later on, I headed out to an evening event. The level of comfort in the back seat was certainly a new experience for me from the private music and climate controls to the massage seats, and oversized skylight roof, no comfort was overlooked. To say the least, it was a perk I definitely could have gotten used to. 
As a blogger I'm often offered experiences or the ability to try things and report back on them. I only ever agree to review things that I know I would authentically like. This is one of those times that I really truly wish I could arrange to buy this vehicle. I loved it much more than what I'm currently driving. It made me so happy every day to go get Lolly and pop out to meetings. 
I could go on and on about all the features of this car, but then my post would be a couple pages long and instead of explaining all of them, if you're in the market for a new vehicle, I highly recommend test driving one of these so that you too can experience all the features for yourself. More information on all of the luxury packages and to build your own Continental visit (here).

This post was sponsored by Lincoln. All genuinely delighted opinions are my own.


Getting Personal : Update 3.0

It's funny, I'm such a private person... but I blog, so I feel compelled to share. I often dread writing personal posts, and then once they're live I feel the most cathartic freedom. It's almost as if you set the burdens free and they drift away creating a lightness on your shoulders.

People assume when you're a designer and blogger that your home must be like a magazine. After all what's shown in instagram is controlled and perfect. We selectively take pictures of the rooms that are put together and (in my case) ignore the four that aren't. Because realistically, who wants to see them?

The truth is I had a flood here not once, not twice, but three or even four times. I'm not sure anymore. One of those times was due to a water heater tank blowing. However the other times were from excessive rain water seeping down a lower level staircase (outside) and making it's way under the basement door.
The last time was quite a shock. I thought it had all been fixed. I'd had the outside basement stairs replaced and a deep hole dug out with drainage under the bottom landing.
I went ahead and made the lower level beautiful. Had hardwood installed, bought area rugs and furniture. We gathered and celebrated an amazing family christmas down there and a few short months later in the spring it happened again.
When we discovered the flooding everyone ran to get the furniture and other goods out of the space as fast as we could. There was no where to put them so things got thrown into the guest bedroom down there. When it was full everyone started to make their way upstairs and piled everything in my home office. Before I knew it this room that represents my creativity was waist high in bits and pieces and they had no where to go. You literally could not see the floor.
The mess has remained as such for over a year as I've been waiting to remedy the leak issue outside.
Fast forward to now and I've been having a roof structure built over my back deck that will effectively cover the staircase that enabled the flooding. As an extra precaution a waterproof membrane has been installed under the staircase as well and the hole at the bottom landing re dug and refilled with gravel. This should remedy the issue once and for all. I'm thrilled! AND I'll get a covered deck out of the ordeal too, which I had always wanted.

I thought I'd share because sometimes I think the social media that we all measure ourselves by and compare ourselves to can be unhealthy. I almost felt like if I shared the messes, and real life, people would think less of the perfect picture I had worked so hard to portray. But the reality is we all have messes and things happen in our homes and lives that are out of our control. I've kept quiet about this disaster of a basement, that spilled over and created a disaster of an office.
On the bright side, I can plan flooring for the lower level and start putting things back together down there soon. I have an amazing new covered outdoor living room to decorate as well ( garden party!!) AND I'm currently planning a mini office overhaul now that everything stored there will move down to the lower level.
I'll be posting about those spaces too, but I felt it was important for you all to understand the back story. That I wasn't just randomly buying new things for fun but rather that life is messy even when we don't show it.
Thanks as always to all of you who choose to join me. Your support and encouragement mean more than I can say. I can't wait to share these finished spaces and the garden party to celebrate too. xoxo 


Weekend Edition : The Best Carrot Cake

I try to only post recipes that I think are truly amazing because really, pinterest is the best resource for a billion cooking ideas. I'm sharing this one because it's so delicious, easy to make from scratch, easy to make vegan, and gluten free if you choose. Today I'm sharing my mom's recipe with you guys. It's perfect if you enjoy a cake that's not overly sweet, and still manages to stay light and easy on the stomach. She made this cake when I was little, and I have since then revised it a tad to make it my own (healthier). I will include any vegan/gluten free substitutions beneath the recipe below. Enjoy!
I've successfully substituted rice flour for regular flour to make this cake gluten free. I've also substituted applesauce and bananas for the oil and eggs. We recently tried the icing with vegan margarine and vegan cream cheese with great results!


Design Staples : 6 Things To Update Your Home

There's no better feeling than investing in something for your home, and feeling like you're going to love it for a long time. Let's face it, many of the things we want and/or need for our homes aren't inexpensive, and we've all had times that we look back and regret the sweeping trend that we hopped on... only to have to part with the purchase we no longer like. It's nice to think some things are here to stay. I've made up a list of the staples that don't seem to be going anywhere (I've roughly based it on the photo below) and I've included some great sources to find them.

1. The Moroccan Pouf These are just practical, can be moved around the house and typically look great anywhere. I've moved mine from my little guy's nursery to the front door, and now it's in the living room.
I'm slightly obsessed with this blush one (here) and there are even faux options for vegan homes (here and here)

2. Antique Bench Weathered and worn, if you're lucky enough to find one of these vintage Chinese alter styles they're a good investment (here). For a larger entrance or dining area this one (here) is great too.

3. Juju Hat A tribal headdress made of feathers. They are the most versatile art piece. I love them just about anywhere. I have a white one (below) and the prettiest cherry pink red shade. Order one here, here or here.

4. The Beni Ourain These simply styled wool shag rugs (here and here) are soft under foot and work well with any decor style.

5. The Potted Cactus If someone had said to me at one point that plant trends would stick I'd have been surprised. We've seen the fiddle leaf fig take off and show up in homes everywhere inspiring posts about how to keep them alive, and even spin off production of amazing faux figs. I think we all still love a fig, but the ease of cactus care and their variety of shapes and sizes has made them a hit too.

6. Diptyque Baies This candle (here) shows up in just about every editorial and post of a curated space. Why? Simply put... people love the label and know the brand is synonymous with quality, plus they just smell fantastic. Baies, the brands best seller world wide smells fresh of blackberry and quince and will gently scent any space and impart it with a feeling that is fresh, invigorated and clean.  (here)

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