Seriously, Get Out More (Ottawa Bucket List); Attempting Ottawa’s Escape Rooms (Part One)

I’m fairly sure that many of you probably at least know what an Escape Room is by now – but what you might not know is that there is some serious competition between them. Since they’ve grown in trend and popularity, they keep popping up around our city! It’s such a weird mixture of excitement and fear right? But apparently we’re into that. However, if you do need a brief explanation here goes; you’re “locked” in a room (with a way out – you can remove yourself always) with your group and it’s all up to you guys to use the clues, riddles, and elements in the room to solve a series of puzzles – one will lead to another which will lead to another which will finally have you escape! There are some small differences between the varying companies and even the rooms themselves. But obviously I just had to add trying the Escape Rooms to my Ottawa Bucket List because it wouldn’t be complete without them. They stimulate your brain, promote working as team, and are becoming a “must-do” activity here in Ottawa, and around Canada.

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The Canadian Museum of Nature Turned Into An Escape Manor

It’s already a treat when you get the chance to wander this brilliantly lovely building throughout the day, but it’s a whole other story if you happen to find yourself there after dark. For a limited time, the museum extended the opportunity to partake in two 60-minute escape scenarios. The first involved a heist, where you plot to steal gems from the museum and flee to your escape. The second, which is where we ended up, had us role-playing as museum guards in the mammal exhibit where we were framed for and had to prove our innocence. It was fairly intricate, with a lot of different stuff going on, so a big group was required. But, breaking news: we escaped in time – probably because we were grouped with strangers. It’s certainly a way to figure out how to argue the RIGHT way with your loved one.

The Museum of Nature is no longer available, however there are many different rooms to choose from including the Diefenbunker. Check it out here

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Serial Killer Charade at Room Escape Ottawa

Although they have the Boom Room and Stranded, we opted to stick to the sadistic side and give the Serial Killer a go. One concept that I didn’t get from the museum was that haunted house vibe, but this room sure gave it to me – eerie music, macabre props, a real out of the movies experience. It was like being in something from the SAW franchise. However, never was I sincerely AFRAID because you know it isn’t real – It is a delicious mixture of totally creepy, with the opportunity to screw on your heads and work together for the night. I’d have to say this was my absolute favorite escape room so far!

RESULT: DID NOT ESCAPE

Located at 1860 Bank St. Unit B3

 Click here for descriptions of the three different rooms, pricing, availability and all you need to know.

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The Visitors at Lockdown Ottawa 

This room offered a welcoming twist to the usual codes and puzzles. And, it was one of the few times that it was four of us friends. We worked easily together as we flowed from clue to clue. The idea behind The Visitors is great because it’s about a unique topic I hadn’t thought of as being used as an escape room – aliens. Space is a pretty hot topic these days, what with the first ever recruitment for Mars settlement, Chris Hadfield’s entertainment and all of the varying films out there (watch Passengers stat!). It might just be your turn to interact with the fear of this unknown. “Searching for help in the darkness you come across a mysterious building. At first it seems like a safe haven, but something isn’t right Coming here might have been the worst mistake of our lives…”

RESULT: ALMOST ESCAPED, BUT ULTIMATELY DID NOT 

Located at 1080 Ogilvie Rd.

Click here for all of the info you might need.

The Escape Manor is fabulous, but I’m really happy that Ottawa has branched out and now offers a variety of these mystery solvers. Because everyone loves mystery. Why would Disovery ID even be it’s own CHANNEL? And admit it, you watch Dateline. Now you can be the hero in these adrenaline based mystery solving scenarios, but of course with no actual potential of harm. Try having your fav horror movie played out with YOU being the main character. Good luck!

***I encourage all feedback – positive, constructive criticism, and I’d love to hear your escape room experience!***

Seriously, Get Out More: The Coolest Cafes in the C-I-T-Y (Giveaway)

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Cafes are seriously some of the coolest places to hang out. They’re wistfully reminiscent of leisurely days in Europe, sipping that triple soy latte…or something like that. But, no need to panic non coffee lovers, there are many different kinds of cafes right under your nose! Pick your poison: romantic gelato cafes, cafes that offer amazing brunches, cafes that are great for studying, Hong-Kong style dessert cafes, cafes with amazing classic chocolatiers, specialty tea rooms, spots with unbelievable latte art, and a few more very interesting places to explore.

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Siberian Cat Cafe 

Living in Ottawa certainly has its perks, since it’s pretty easy to escape the city. Just 10 minutes from the downtown core is Chelsea (Quebec), bringing an old world charm to the quaint countryside. There are tons of things to do on a day-trip here, like wandering around the main street, enjoying some fine dining and drinks in old log cabins, or hiking along one of the many beautiful trails in Gatineau Park, However, you cannot leave without visiting the Siberian Cat Cafe (you’ll need your caffeine fix at some point, am I right or am I right?). This is easily one of the coolest cafes around the Ottawa area. I just never thought something like this would ever exist – it’s so fascinating, and is guaranteed to lift your mood. The only breed they have here is Siberians, which are hypoallergenic, so no need to worry about that. They serve delicious coffee everyday to tantalize your taste buds – it’s the only place around I’ve been able to order a Viennesse coffee (let me know if any other places do so!). There’s tons of info about Siberian cats on their helpful website, but I don’t need to say too much except “cuteness overload”. Check it out and head out there as soon as you can – especially if you win the giveaway coming up.:)

Located at 205 Chemin Old Chelsea 

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Aquatopia Conservatory 

Oh thank the Good Lord Narcity Ottawa (shout out!) had this on their website. I think I can safely say that most of us Ottawans have been craving some sort of greenery or lovely flowers or a garden after this super long long winter. It’s getting lovelier outdoors now, but FYI for next winter or if it’s a rainy, windy, all-time shitty day, I have THE place for you: Aquatopia Conservatory. Located in Carp, it’s well within driving distance from downtown, but if you’re like my family and complain about anything out of your own neighbourhood being too far, your mind will quickly change when you arrive – I promise. Aquatopia Conservatory is an indoor water garden, a wedding venue, and a cafe. It’s rocking an eco-system pond, a rambling stream and a pondless waterfall. There’s even more good news other than the coffee: you can shop here! They sell plants, flowers, fish, and goodies like hand cream, sea salt body spray, and ultra-hydrating body butter. This dramatic destination is enclosed in a glass conservatory, so it’s open all-year round. Make the drive for sure and enjoy a gourmet coffee and pastry while relaxing inside this botanical delight.

Located at 2710 March Road

The cafe is open Tuesday-Saturday 9:00AM-2:30PM

They serve breakfast up until 11:30AM 

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Ward 14

One of a kind. Awe-inspiring. The trendiest thing around. All of these words certainly accurately describe this new addition to the local scene. If we must get into labels, they describe themselves as a consignment bar – and that’s exactly what they are. You can sit down in the booth or one of the few tables (it’s smallish, but what hip spot isn’t?) while you order food (CornDogs FOR SURE). While you wait, or after you’re meal/drinks, you can shop the bar – meaning you have the liberty to basically root through the hidden gems that grace the space around. They sell vintage decor which is used as decoration in their bar until its bought – so if you want it, it’s yours! There is literally nowhere like this in Ottawa…and for once, I don’t think I know of this anywhere else either (Bravo Otts!). BONUS: they have pub trivia nights, which is definitely a ton of fun AND on my Canada 150 Ottawa Bucket List, so I know I’ll be back!

Located at 139 Preston St.

Open from 5pm-2am every day of the week

So there you have it – three of the coolest cafes around. I’m sure that I’ll stumble across more since our city is just getting better and better, but in the mean time, try checking them out! Feedback is always appreciated.:) Tell me about your experience, likes, dislikes, weird shit that happens, etc. Now for the giveaway…

GIVEAWAY

These spots are just way too wicked not to be able to share something with you, SO my dear friends, I’ve managed to score a $25 gift card to the Siberian Cafe along with a reusable cup with their logo value at $40. What a sweet little package!

HOW TO ENTER (EACH INCLUDES ONE ENTRY)

1. Post a comment below about anything interesting relating to cafes – I’d love to hear your stories.:)

2. Follow @holliegracejames on Instagram (if you have it) and tag a friend (or two or three) on my latest selfie that promotes this giveaway.

3. Retweet me @holliegracej.

4. Share this blog post on Facebook.

Contest closes Friday June 2 2017 at 4:00pm EST.

Seriously, Get Out More: Ottawa Bucket List

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Mostly, I like to think of myself as wild, adventurous, and a big dreamer. I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, race in the Iditarod, and do whatever else my unrestricted imagination comes up with. However, I’m going to give things a go by starting out a little more slowly, and locally. Maybe I should learn to walk before I run right? So, I’ve come up with my Ottawa Bucket List, and I have the serious intent of checking everything off. I’m sharing this list with you because that is more powerful. Going public holds me accountable and connects me with networks of serendipitous support. I’m challenging myself to get out and explore – I hope I can inspire others to do the same.

#1 Visit This Indoor Water Garden/Cafe in Ottawa ✔️

#2 Play mini golf and race at Karter’s Korner

#3 Learn to horseback ride at Captiva Farms

#4 Search for the best beauty spots

#5 Play in a golf tournament ‘

#6 Bond with cats over coffee at the Siberian Cat Cafe ✔️

#7 Explore the ruins of former Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s private estate

#8 Get a manicure (and a cocktail) at J’adore Beauty Bar & Lounge

#9 Feel like kids again at The Loft Board Game Lounge

#10 Gossip over a brunch board at NeXT

#11 Visit Luskville Falls

#12 Try out couples yoga at Pure Yoga Ottawa

#13 Work out together at OCR Academy

#14 Take a hike around Pink Lake

#15 Try the Cops and Robbers escape room at Unlocked Ottawa

#16 Feel fancy AF with wine tasting at Vineyards Wine Bar Bistro

#17 Try all the food trucks this summer

#18 Enjoy free admission to the National Art Gallery on Thursdays

#19 Share feelings over chocolate fondue at Cacao 70

#20 Go record shopping at Vertigo Records

#21 Bike to the Champlain Lookout via the Champlain Parkway

#22 Have a great relaxation experience at Moksha Yoga

#23 Have the most thrilling jump of my life at Great Canadian Bungee

#24 Go zip-lining at Camp Fortune

#25 Satisfy my inner foodie and eat the craziest, most unique foods during a 12 course meal at Atelier

#26 Release my anger at BATL

#27 Meet up at the old-school arcade Level One

#28 Catch up over coffee at Quitter’s Coffee

#29 Climb walls at Altitude Gym

#30 Paddle boat the afternoon away at Dow’s Lake

#31 Spend the night in a haunted jail cell

#32 Spend a day at the beach at La Peche Lake

#33 Finally try Chipotle

#34 Discover all of Ottawa’s festivals

#35 Visit the adorable animals at the Ottawa Humane Society

#36 Go on a ride with the Ottawa Bicycle Club

#37 Get sweaty at Wheelhouse Cycle

#38 Learn how to make pottery at LOAM

#39 Become a bird whisperer at Jack Pine Trail ✔️

#40 Spend the day at Mont Cascades

#41 Find out my future

#42 Treat ourselves to a spa date at The Brook Street Hotel

#43 Get an amazing manicure/pedicure at Crazy Nails

#44 Eat an unreal healthy meal, along with a yoga class after at Pure Kitchen/Pure Yoga

#45 Channel that inner little girl at The Tea Party Cafe

#46 Camp at an adorable 4-Season Tent near Lack Phillipe

#47 Play board games and indulge in yummy treats at Hangout

#48 Go on an old-school date at Port Elmsley Drive-In Theatre

#49 Go to the beaches in Gatineau Park

#50 Have a low key glamorous night out at Mezzanotte Bistro Italiano

#51 Hike to the Carbide Wilson Ruins and its waterfall

#52 Have fun at Commando Paintball

#53 Feel like I’m in France at Cafe Cristal

#54 Meet some travellers through Ottawa’s Couchsurfing scene

#55 Become holy with the Beer Bible at Pub Italia

#56 Feel fancy with high tea at The Chateau Laurier

#57 Shop for vintage items at the Stittsville Flea Market

#58 Try out a unique activity at Flo’s Glassblowing

#59 Bounce around at Sky Zone

#60 Have dinner and a movie at Cineplex VIP Cinemas

#61 Take a cooking class at The Urban Element

#62 Have picnics in the park

#63 Have some unreal sangria at Ace Mercado

#64 Take advantage of that extra daylight though

#65 Participate in Parliament Hill Yoga

#66 Treat myself to the Ultimate Seafood Platter at The Shore Club

#67 Hold a snake at Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo

#68 Compete against each other at Putting Edge

#69 Have the thrill of a lifetime at Parachute GO Skydive

#70 Hang at Ottawa’s own “Central Park”, The Arboretum

#71 Check out Ottawa’s first Dog Cafe…and Cat Cafe

#72 Enjoy the weather in general

#73 Get my hike on at Gatineau Park

#74 Enjoy the sunshine and patio season

#75 Meet film buffs at The Mayfair Theatre

#76 Eat ice cream every weekend

#77 Feel like we’re in Europe without breaking the bank at the Moscow Tea Room

#78 Spend the day and our paycheques at Calypso

#79 Buy a bike

#80 Take a helicopter ride over Ottawa

#81 Battle my bae at Laser Quest

#82 Go swimming at Morrison’s Quarry

#83 Pull myself out of my comfort zone with improve classes at The Improv Embassy

#84 Take a free tour of Parliament

#85 Be brought back to the ’90s at House of Targ

#86 Embrace the longer spring days by taking a walk through Mer Bleue Bog

#87 Try and beat the best Escape Rooms in Ottawa

#88 Discover my fav wine at Ottawa Tasting Tours

#89 Learn a new language with Ottawa Babel

#90 Treat ourselves to a NYC style pizza at Tennessy Willems

#91 Hang out with animals while in our car at Omega Park

#92 Have a thermal experience at Le Nordik ✔️

#93 Try the infrared sauna at York Street Spa

#94 Invent our own doughnuts at Maverick’s

#95 Spend a Friday night at Fun Haven

#96 Scare ourselves silly with The Haunted Walk

#97 Explore the Lusk Caves

#98 Go kayaking on Dow’s Lake

#99 Escape the Diefenbunker

#100 Get a tattoo

#101 Visit Karsh-Masson Art Gallery

#102 Trust each other at an Aerial Skills class

#103 Climb to the top of King Mountain for some unreal views

#104 Listen to live music at LIVE! On Elgin

#105 Get badass at Archery Games

#106 Go Bowling

#107 Treat ourselves to a mani-pedi at Lashes + Nails

#108 Learn some moves at Dance With Us

#109 Visit Ottawa museums for free

#110 Go on a date at the NAC

#111 Try different sports at the Ottawa Sport & Social Club

#112 Try a pole-dancing class at Iron X Fitness

#113 Go to a pub trivia night

#114 Check out the new unique Consignment Shop + Bar ✔️

#115 Get a blowout at Society Salon + Blow Dry

#116 Experience a colourful block party like no other at Glowfair

#117 Work on our arms at Dingerz Batting & Pitching Centre

#118 Pretend we’re not over the Rideau River while SUPing

#119 Become a kid again at the Capital Fair

#120 Laugh our asses off at Absolute Comedy

#121 Experience the ultimate cheat day at DessertFest

#122 Go Glamping at this unreal luxury campsite 1 hour from Ottawa

#123 Enjoy free concerts and races at the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival

#124 Watch a movie on a patio with my date at Aux 4 Jeudis

#125 Get some on trend nails at La Crystal

#126 Check out the Farmers’ Markets in and around Ottawa

#127 Check out the best neighborhoods because they are different in so many ways

#128 Go swimming at a beautiful swimming hole in Elora

#129 Try this cafe that makes over 1000 different of amazing poutine in Peterborough

#130 Check out these gorgeous rediscovered Badlands in Caledon

#131 Have an excuse to be lazy at this lazy river in Hanover

#132 Try this super Canadian Caeser drink that is rimmed with ketchup chips in Ottawa

#133 Look out for Ontario Place to reopen for Canada 150 festivities!

#134 Bring out my inner Tarzan at this crazy treetop park

#135 Try this super popular Filipino restaurant Jollibee that just opened its first restaurant in Toronto

#136 Dine at 150 ft in the air at this restaurant in Ottawa

#137 Check out this top ranked national park where the water is crystal blue

#138 Visit these huge Ottawa letters in the Byward Markets Inspiration Village for Canada 150

#139 Take a tour around Kingston and find all of these hidden gems

#140 Treat ourselves to a spa day at an upscale spa

#141 Go camping with my squad near Ottawa

#142 Go discover this creepy tunnel that’s one of Ontarios most haunted places

#143 Take a scavenger hunt around Ottawa to find the coolest spots in the city

#144 Travel to Toronto and do the same thing there!

#145 Check out the views at Ontario’s own Grand Canyon in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

#146 Check out this new food and music festival, The Big Feastival in Oro Station which is Jamie Olivers creation

#147 Turn your dreams into a reality and play Mario Kart in real life at this incredible racetrack in Bowmanville

#148 Get a taste of this unique cherry blossom lager at High Park Brewery in Toronto

#149 Check out the new adorbs Sundae Shop that just opened up

#150 This unreal beach in Ontario is a dupe for the beaches in Miami

#151 Best of both worlds! Big Mac Pizza at Big House Pizza in Toronto

#152 Stay at the cutest, best waterfront cottages in the 1000 Islands

#153 Stay in this adorable treehouse tucked away in Durham

#154 Dine in this amazing underground cave in Eganville

#155 Check out these free national parks in Ontario that will absolutely take your breath away

#156 Be a kid again and spend a day at one (or all) of these waterparks in Ontario

#157 Explore this creepy abandoned theme park on Bois Blanc Island

#158 Take an Ottawa Biplane Adventure

#159 Spend time with Wilderness Tours

#160 Zipline, do an aerial course, or explore caves at Arbraska Lafleche

#161 Rent a kayak for a peaceful adventure with Perth Outfitters

#162 Spend the day in nature at Eco-Odyssee

#163 Hit some REAL waves with Owl Rafting

#164 Test out the newest trampoline park in Ottawa, Flying Squirrel

#165 Climb the Princess Louise Falls in Orleans

#166 Watch the sun set and have some cocktails on the Andaz rooftop

#167 Go swimming

#168 Take a stroll at Andrew Haydon Park

#169 Canada Day Fireworks

#170 Watch a bomb sunset with Capital Cruises

#171 Pick some fresh strawberries at Shouldice Strawberry Farms

#172 Take a long bike ride or a lovely jog at Lac Leamy Park

#173 Bluesfest…obviously

#174 Ride the ferris wheel at The Carp Fair

#175 Watch a concert at The Canadian Tire Centre

#176 Sing with bae at VIP Karaoke Bar & Lounge

#177 Learn Salsa at Azucar! Latin Dance Company

#178 Try out Ottawa’s best Food Festivals

#179 More Road Trips!

#180 Explore Inspiration Village in the Byward Market (and take an iconic pic at the the huge OTTAWA letters).

#181 Check out some of Ottawa’s most beautiful cars at the Ferrari Festival

#182 Get cultured at Ottawa Welcomes the World

#183 Check out the insane Mosaic Canada 150 horticultural sculptures

#184 Canada Day Performances

#185 Learn calligraphy

#186 Learn to weave fabric

#187 Learn to silk screen like Andy Warhol

#188 Learn to sew with a sewing machine

 

h***Sending thanks to NarCity Ottawa for some of thse ideas! Now it’s my promise to check them off. Wish me luck!***

I’ll Try Anything Once: Three Ways To Survive Your First CrossFit Class

At least I didn’t throw up.

When it comes to fitness, I always have the best of intentions. I know that it’s crucial in maintaining a healthy lifestyle; physically, mentally/emotionally, and spiritually. But, whenever I start a with a new trainer or a new gym or a new class, I don’t last all that long – I’m out before I’m even in! It makes me wonder if there’s something wrong with me, but I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who experiences this. So this time around, I decided not to commit to any one sport or workout regimen, but rather test out some different ways in order to figure out what best suits me and my goals. My current goal being simply to build both endurance and muscle – nothing too crazy. Rideau CrossFit seemed like it was definitely going to be the perfect place to conquer both of these.

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RULE #1 HAVE FUN

Before even walking into the box (what CrossFitters call their gym) I was nervous. I had never done CrossFit before, I didn’t really know what it was, and I haven’t exercised regularly for so long it’s embarrassing, so it’s fair to say that I was pretty intimidated. While some people like to ease themselves into and out of things, I’d rather go to the extreme and throw myself in the deep end on a regular basis. At least I was able to drag my sidekick along with me, because the box is no health club facility; it’s a completely open and primal room with barbells, medicine balls, pull-up racks, and jump ropes. This is because your typical CrossFitter wants to zap their fitness tank down to zero by the end of a workout. Firefighters, police, and military personnel are especially drawn to the program because of all the functional movements – a whole-body approach to the real world. After chatting with owner Mark and trainer Joyce, we had a little more knowledge than before we came in and were warmly welcomed into the group.

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Photo Courtesy of Rideau CrossFit

RULE #2 IT WILL NOT BE EASY AND YOU WOULDN’T WANT IT TO BE

CrossFit is very much unlike any workout I have ever done before. It throws out what one thinks of as the traditional workout, like running on a treadmill and doing bicep curls, and replaces this with an approach rooted in the real world. Calisthenics, Olympic lifting, and gymnastics combine to form a workout that emphasizes ten basic physical skills: cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, flexibility, stamina, strength, speed, coordination, power, accuracy, balance, and agility. Every day, a new workout (called the Workout of The Day or WOD) is written on a whiteboard, and everyone in a class completes the same workout, no matter the fitness level you’re at.

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Photo Courtesy of Rideau CrossFit

RULE #3 EFFORT EARNS RESPECT

CrossFit is small and inclusive. You’re a part of something and you all push each other to work harder and faster and better. The trainers (or coaches) can almost give you a one-on-one experience and aren’t going to let you quit. We sure as hell didn’t. Our night sounds easy when I say that the workout was 12 minutes. But, it was the complete opposite. The WOD consisted of 5 pull-ups, 10 push ups, 15 air squats, and jumping over wooden boxes, as many times as we could in the 12-minute time period. Right away I knew I was in for it – I couldn’t even do a pull-up, but the exercise was simply revised so that I could actually complete it. At the end of the 12 minutes, I surprisingly completed at least 3 rounds, although my push ups (with my knees on the ground) were pretty pathetic. Even so, afterwards the endorphins were flowing and it was pretty exhilarating. Until the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness began, and got worse within the next 48 hours. But no worries, it did eventually evaporate.

The soreness would never stop me from going back – I know that there is an acclimation period. For myself, if I made this my fitness routine, being able to actually complete a pull up would be a good first goal, and I know I could reach it in time. It’s all about self accomplishment in a culture that drives you to go as fast and hard as possible. It’s become super popular, so it’s up to you whether or not to get caught up in the hype. But remember, your only competition is yourself.

Ottawa Influencers: Style With Chantsy

I’m very obviously and completely not a fashion writer. Although I do like the idea that I’ve got a little bit of sense in that area. Mainly, I just want my spirit to be seen through my fashion choices. I’m a free spirit -“the soul of a gypsy, the heart of a hippie, the spirit of a fairy”. That’s essentially the message I’d like to send. There are just so many overpriced dresses and shoes and cocktails and meals to buy – I like to live a more bohemian lifestyle. So, although I feel like I’ve got some street style, I definitely don’t compare to the handful of style influencers and fashion bloggers we have here in the 613. So, I figured, why not get some friendly advice? And which fashion buster should I call? I reached out to my new friend Chantsy, and we planned to meet up at The Rideau Centre to check out Anthropologie. I never just browse at the mall, or else I’d end up with everything, so I often only go shopping with a goal in mind. This time, it was a few outfits for an upcoming bucket list travel destination – sailing the Caribbean Islands. Yes, Anthropologie is on the pricier side, but it’s all relevant – the new stores gracing the Rideau Centre, like Kate Spade, Nordstrom, and Tiffany’s are definitely upping the average price of a shopping spree. So, with some cash in hand, check out what we found.

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Saunter Tie-Waist Jumpsuit

Considering I have to pack lightly because there’s some sort of weight limit on this boat, this Saunter Tie-Waist Jumpsuit is going to be key. I’ve always loved a good romper. And this is something casual and chic, comfy and flattering that I can wear in the evenings around the boat or when we get off and go for dinner on whichever island we happen to be on. You need to be comfortable when you’re on vacation and this is the definition of living comfortably.

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SCILLA OPEN-SHOULDER TOP

I’m so happy that I had Chantsy there for an opinion, because I never would have picked this one out myself. I simply wasn’t drawn to it, but once I tried it on, everything changed and I immediately knew that I had to snatch this one up. Its a sailing themed piece and it will look great with a pair of jean shorts when we hop of the boat for a wander and some lunch.

After finding the perfect pieces to finish up my vacation packing, we sat down for a chat at Bazille – the restaurant in Nordstrom. Of course I had some pressing questions for this fashionista.

FASHION INSPO?

Chantsy is a total fashion chameleon – she loves to change up her style. But, like everyone, she does have some insta inspiration, including @AniaB for her cool editorial style and @Lapizofluxury for not seeing size as a limitation.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO START BLOGGING?

Like many, it started as a creative outlet a few years ago. Starting as a way to share her experience as a new mom, it morphed into fashion, which she’s amalgamated with beauty, food, etc. to bring about her current Lifestyle blog, www.ModeXLusive.com

FASHION OBSESSIONS?

Currently: Frills and bell sleeves – a more feminine look.

MARILYN MUNROE OR AUDREY HEPBURN?

Marilyn Munroe

ONE THING YOUR READERS WOULD BE SURPRISED TO HEAR?

Everyone has a story to tell and Chantsy is no different. She suffers from Endometriosis, an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines your uterus grows outside your uterus. When this involves the ovaries, cysts may form. And this makes it harder to conceive. Chantsy is currently blessed with one son, but this condition affects her everyday life greatly.

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Image courtesy of http://www.modexlusive.com

Lifestyle blogging is a tough gig. You have to come up with consistent work, and continue gaining followers. We also aren’t working for a media brand like Cosmopolitan – it isn’t super lucrative. Chantsy is here to inspire her followers by what she posts and the outfits that she wears. And she’s certainly living up to her goal. Be sure to check her out!

Seriously, Get Out More (Unique Places To Go On A Valentine’s Weekend Date)

Ahhhhh love is in the air. It’s that time of year again, and no matter who you are, you should celebrate your relationship by treating yourselves a little at the very least. It’s the one day a year where you have an excuse to be elaborate, or ridiculous, or totally cheesy. Why not take advantage? It’s a time where you can show your SO just how special they are to you. Head over to one of these places and share some quality time together.

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SPEND A DAY AT THE BEST SPA AROUND

It’s a mere 20 minutes along Highway 5 from downtown Ottawa to Chelsea (Quebec), where only the best spa in Ottawa is located. If you’ve never heard of Le Nordik then you must be hiding under a rock somewhere, but that’s okay – I’m here to introduce it to you. Arriving, you’re immediately transported to a purely natural world. To experience the authentic form of relaxation, you first warm up in the sauna or steam bath for 10 or 15 minutes. After this, you take a much needed pass under the Nordic waterfall which is quite the opposite of the heated steam room – it’s freezing! Finally, you rest for another 15 minutes in one of the relaxation areas, available outside or inside, seated in front of a warm fire, wrapped in a hammock, or simply lounging on one of the many poolside chairs. This most recent trip out to Le Nordik has to be my fav though, because we got to experience the much talked about Kalla Treatment. Kalla is a large saltwater pool dug 5 meters deep into the rock. Filled with water saturated with 12% of Epsom salt, Kalla invites you to the extraordinary experience of weightlessness. It’s self-proclaimed “better than the Dead Sea” and is only the second of its kind in the world (the other being in Switzerland). You can add Kalla to your Bath and Sauna package for only $40.00 more. I absolutely loved the experience – it was so so relaxing. If you choose to spend Valentine’s weekend here, I would definitely recommend adding the Kalla before anything else. Those who float together, forge ahead together!

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HAVE A LAUGH AT A VERY DIRTY VALENTINE

I think there are really only two comedy clubs here in Ottawa – Absolute Comedy and YukYuk’s. I’ve been to Absolute a bunch of times, but surprisingly I had never ever been to YukYuk’s. So, since me and my bae are always laughing together, I figured this would be a fun night out, since we hadn’t really planned anything anyways. It was hands down the funniest show I’ve seen in Ottawa. The host, Graham Kay has got a couple credentials behind him –  he was nominated in 2013 for the Canadian Comedy Award for Best Breakout Artist and was runner-up at the 2013 Seattle International Comedy Competition. He brought his A-game and is a definite Canadian (Ottawan) transplant to LA to look out for. The headliner, Aaron Berg, was prefaced by his equally hilarious wife, Christine. I really wish I could be that funny – look out Amy Schumer! I’ve never heard of a husband and wife comedian team – that’s amazing! I can’t stop thinking about what it would be like in that tiny apartment in Manhattan. Aaron was seamlessly funny. There was tons of interaction with the audience, so if you don’t want to be picked on, sit in the back and in the dark. But, it’s all in good fun. He made his Comedy Central debut on THIS IS NOT HAPPENING in 2016, and is doing a whole bunch of other stuff. He’s Dirty. He’s Raunchy. But he’s super funny. P.S. If you’re a visible minority, I would stay out of direct sight. My try at being funny, not so much.

GIVEAWAY

Need a laugh this Valentine’s weekened? Win two tickets to A Very Dirty Valentine Saturday Feb. 18th at 7pm. Simply comment below and tell me who you your date is for a chance to score tickets to tomorrow night’s show.

Happy Valentine’s Day Darlings!

 

 

Seriously, Get Out More: Happy Galentine’s (Three Activities That Are Actually Fun To Do For This Consumer Holiday)

Valentine’s Day is so overrated right? With all of the product pushing, I’m always hearing every year how many billions of dollars are spent on greeting cards and chocolates and flowers and heart-shaped balloons. BORING. Valentine’s Day is really all about love, and you should share in that with your best girlfriends as well as your bae. Especially if you’re single – don’t sit at home and drown in your disparity while you drink way too much wine by yourself. Grab your gal pals, embrace the holiday, celebrate your friendship, share some memories, and get out there and live life! Here’s a few ideas of some unique activities you can do for the special day.

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POLE DANCING AT IRON X FITNESS

There are just some things you’d rather do with a friend, while you leave your bae at home (and they’re thankful you aren’t dragging them to this too). Although Full Disclaimer: Pole Fitness can be for anybody, regardless of your gender, body shape & size, fitness level – there’s a class for you! I had the opportunity to drop in on an intro session with a friend and we had a blast. Having fun is the most important thing obviously, but there is so much more to Pole and Iron X Fitness. They have levels Intro all the way through to Expert, where you navigate advanced tricks, spins, tumbles, drops, and learn to present a “stunningly beautiful routine”. Iron X Fitness isn’t just about Pole Fitness though – Karolyne LaFortune wants to “provide the community with a modern approach to fitness and wellness that prepares our bodies to overcome life’s challenges”. So, personal training is offered, as well as Group Fitness, Yoga, and even classes for Kids & Youth. But I totally recommend a Pole class for you and your girls for Galentine’s. You might even leave with some new moves for your next romp in the bedroom.

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BOARD GAMES AT THE LOFT

What board games did you love playing as a kid? I remember my absolute favs were Trouble and Uno. I have such fond memories of playing games with family and friends. But they aren’t just for kids anymore! Board Game Lounges are popping up in all of the hippest places, and they’re a surefire way to amp up the competitive vibes between you and your girls. At The Loft you can drink and play board games, and they have SO many to choose from – family games, card games, party games, strategy games, war games. Located at 14 Waller Street, near The University of Ottawa, The Rideau Centre and the Byward Market, it sounded pretty cool. So I just had to check it out. With only a $5.50 Stay and Play charge, it’s a definite inexpensive activity. Take a break from doing grown up things and become that seven year old again…but with cocktails.

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JACK PINE TRAIL 

If you’re into the outdoorsy scene, The Jack Pine Trail is a super selection for a winter hike/walk/snowshoe/ski. And it’s another prime opportunity for a photoshoot to up your Insta Game (aren’t we all secretly always thinking about this?). The nicely groomed trail comes to a point where there are tons of birds. You can take some of the birdseed and hold it in your hands, and they’ll fly to you, for just a miniscule moment in time. It’s pretty magical – all of your stresses will float away as you wait for those adorable fluttering creatures to land on your hand.

Close friends give us great comfort. So, there isn’t much more to do other than to grab your Galentine(s) and check out one of these super awesome activities that I found in our lil ole city. Have Fun!

 

Seriously, Get Out More: Ottawa Tasting Tours

Do you ever find yourself looking for something different to do when you have a free night out with your bae/bestie/sister/mom? Sign yourself out of Netflix and walk out that front door. “Experiencing Ottawa’s dining scene has never been so easy” says Corey Henry, the entrepreneur behind Ottawa Tasting Tours. Beginning at the J’eanne D’Arc Courtyard, where we met up with our awesome guide, this foodie adventure moves between four undisclosed locations, but not to worry, all are the Byward Markets’ top restaurants. This tour allows them to showcase their atmosphere and award winning cuisine. You’ll enjoy one different course at each resto, where wines are hand selected and paired accordingly. Spend an evening relaxing into the social fabric of the superb food & drink scene here in Ottawa. I promise you’ll have a blast, and you’ll leave with bragging rights about the interesting and unique foods that you got to sample over the weekend.

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FIRST STOP PLAY FOOD & WINE

Play Food & Wine began as a “Beckta/Moffat-ioso” (the owners), and continues to be a great success since opening in 2009. While it specializes in exceptional wines by the glass and small plates, the menu changes constantly. We began the night with something savoury; fresh fig/orange/walnut/blue cheese/prosciutto/chive paired with the Pinot Gris of the HaHa Winery in New Zealand. The small plates format is a definite winner, because it allows you to try out a few different dishes without having to commit to simply one main course as you would in a traditional restaurant. Their wine director, Connor Gallagher, suggests wine pairings under each menu item, so don’t be intimidated by the plethora of choices. Another reason to eat here? Their lunch deal, “2 plates for $22” remains a popular offering.

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SECOND STOP MUST KITCHEN & WINE BAR

With our palettes warmed up and ready to go, we made our way over to Must Kitchen & Wine Bar at 41 William Street. Rustic and expensive, I had the chance to knock something off the food bucket list – Beef Tartare. Accompanied by pickled radish, shallot, dijonnaise, cilantro and sweet thai basil pesto, along with a shaved cured egg yolk I probably would have never ordered it of my own accord. However, in my experience, some of the best tasting dishes sound all but delightful. “Must” is in a changeling phase, moving toward a more casual, chic, and current atmosphere. It totally delivers though, with some rad art pieces hanging on the wall and an extremely accommodating kitchen (especially if you have any food allergies/sensitivities).

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THIRD STOP BROTHER’S BEER BISTRO

Obviously a little brew is seriously necessary to balance out all of that fancy wine, so this next stop was a welcome one. Don’t think for a minute that it’s simply greasy nachos and wings – there is an excellent burger and fries but Brothers Beer Bistro emphasizes a way more sophisticated menu, including charcuterie boards and our third course of the night, steak frites. Pairing beer with food is their thing, which is probably why beer is actually incorporated into nearly all the food – as either the braising or brining liquid or in complementary items such as vinegar, mayo, salad dressings and bread. It’s working out well – they’ve been open and in business for 5 years now and are going strong.

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LAST STOP THE BRIG PUB

It was at The Brig Pub, our final stop, where I volunteered to try something new, and that I had only ever seen on The Real Housewives of Orange County. I was really stoked to be the one to try sabering – which is basically opening a bottle of sparkling wine (don’t call it Champagne unless it’s from well…Champagne, France) with a sword. Real Housewives meet Game of Thrones. Anyways,  along with the bubbly, we had just enough room for dessert; bread pudding made from cinnamon-raisin bread, studded with dried cranberries, sauced with salted caramel and topped off with house-made vanilla ice cream. So. So. Heavenly.

This food excursion around the Byward Market with Ottawa Tasting Tours was definitely the highlight of my weekend. They have ten restaurant partners right now that can be used in rotation on the tour, but they’re still expanding, and plan on beginning a Preston Street Tour (Hello, Little Italy!). In the meantime, sampling four various courses at four very different restaurant locations, with all the planning and reservations made on your behalf is really an ideal night out on the town. As someone with a lengthy list of resto’s that I would like to try, this was a really fantastic way to knock four of the classiest restaurants off. Throw all your cares away, and follow along on a fun food-filled adventure right here in your own city.

Ottawa Tasting Tours is currently offering the Contemporary Food & Wine Tour (which we did) for $110.00, and also offers a more inexpensive version called The Casual Craft Lunch Tour with the option of adding the sampling of craft beer for $55.00. And then, of course, there are custom tours for bachelorette parties, anniversaries, corporate events, etc. Click here for all of the info.

I’ll Try Anything Once: Salt Therapy (Giveaway)

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Holistic approaches to everyyyyything are popping up just about everywhere these days, and they especially intrigue me because I’m so used to old habits of simply popping a pill (or five or ten) until the ailment vanishes. As I’ve learned the long and hard way though, this is a short-term fix, and only leads to much darker results as time goes on. That’s exactly why I’ve vowed, in the New Year, to start paying way more healthy attention to my nutrition, my fitness, and looking, but most importantly feeling fabulous. With that pill, all of my stresses used to float away in a matter of minutes, so my new approach won’t be easy – but it will be worth it. It will become less and less difficult as time goes on, and there are so many rewards to reap. I can attest to often being stressed AF due to some mental health issues, so when I can get through a day and feel accomplished, or get a good night’s sleep, or even 40 minutes of solid relaxation, I’m thankful because it makes me feel so much better. We’re all in the realm of stress or anxiety at some point, but even if you want to be proactive in making your healthy choices, I’ve found a new way that promises to help.

Halotherapy (or Salt Therapy)

Although new to Canada, Salt Therapy has been around since the 1800s. Miners who had frequent exposure to the salt mines began to notice a healing of their respiratory and skin ailments. This lead to Speleotherapy; spending 2-3 hours per day in an underground salt mine for a total duration of 2-3 months. Considering this isn’t very accessible, doctors and scientists came up with an alternative solution. Halotherapy, located in a specially designed chamber, mimics the natural microclimate of the salt mine so you can obtain the benefits of three hours in only forty minutes. Basically, the halogenerator crushes pharmaceutical grade salt into micronized particles that are then dispersed throughout the air in the salt room. Studies have shown that when inhaled it can help to stimulate the natural ability of the respiratory system to reduce inflammation, fight infection, clear blockages, and reduce discomfort.

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How Exactly This All Works 

Owners Hazel Gazzetto and her hubby Nicola have opened The Salt Wave Spa in the WestGate Mall (currently), so now we can experience the relaxation and health benefits of salt. The reception area is a small space, but the owners are quick on their feet, accommodating all clients into the salt room (where there are 10 chairs) and they ensure that you are super comfortable with the ability to recline your chair and a blanket so you can get cozy. The particles of salt that are dispersed into the room during the 40-minute treatment session measure less than 5 micrometers in diameter, penetrate deep into the lungs, bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli. The inhaled salt helps kill bacteria, as well as break down mucous and pollutants lodged in the respiratory tract. These are then either coughed up or eliminated through the bloodstream. The treatment reduces hypersensitivity and inflammation in the lungs, thins out mucous build-up, eliminates allergens, improves lung function, and open up breathing passages. And if that isn’t enough to draw you in, it also has positive benefits for your skin.

There Are TONS of Health Benefits

  • Relief from chronic pulmonary diseases (asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, cystic fibrosis)
  • Improved synthesis of enzymes
  • Decrease in fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression
  • Elimination of snoring and better sleep overall
  • Enhanced concentration capacity and improvement in the condition of ADHD
  • Improvement in skin diseases such as psoriasis, eczema, hives, and rashes
  • Increased immunity against the cold and common flu
  • Increased activity of metabolic processes. Feeling of freshness, relaxation, and satisfaction
  • Improvement in skin oil secretion and skin inflammation (acne and rosacea)
  • Relief of allergies to household and industrial pollutants

Coming from a person with a very anxious personality who’s tested many different natural methods, I can tell you that the Salt Wave Spa has me really hopeful. I took advantage of the current promotion, $65.00 for one month of unlimited usage, and whenever I leave the treatment, I feel all of the positive things I’m supposed to, and most importantly I get a great night’s sleep. Step into another world – one where salt covers the floors and the walls with sounds of ocean waves crashing in the background. How can you resist signing up?

Click here for prices.

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Courtesy of Hazel Gazzetto (Facebook)

The Gazzettos are planning on moving from the WestGate location to The Carlingwood Mall and expanding at the end of the year if everything goes as planned. There will be an additional eight chairs and a much bigger reception area.

GIVEAWAY

Want to win some time relaxing at this local hot spot? Of course you do! The generous Gazzettos have donated two prizes for me to give away; One Unlimited Monthly Membership and One Package of 10 Individual Sessions. Here’s how to get in on it:

REQUIRED ENTRIES:

1. Follow @holliegracejames on Instagram.

2. Post a blog comment below telling my why you want to try Salt Wave Spa.

OPTIONAL ADDITIONAL ENTRIES:

3. “Like” the Salt Wave Spa post on my Instagram Account and tag a friend. You can tag a friend once per day for the duration of the contest.

4. For another extra entry, tweet me (@holliegracej) about why you want to try Salt Wave Spa. You can tweet once per day for the duration of the contest.

5. Share this link on Facebook and tag the Hollie Grace James page in your post.

Contest closes Friday February 10, 2017 at 4:00pm EST.

UPDATE 

A big congratulations to winner #1 Renee, who has won a 10 session package worth $270.00 and winner #2 Rosa, who has won the monthly unlimited worth $65.00. I’ll shoot you guys an e-mail and let you know how to claim your prize!