Monthly Archives: January 2012

Five magic moments at the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival

I’ve been wanting to check out the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival for years. It’s a celebration of winter whose crowning glory is the display of professionally-carved ice sculptures arrayed on the shore of Lake Louise beside the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. This year the festival was extended because of demand, so we packed up yet again and drove west for the final Little Chippers weekend. 

It was a weekend of snow, ice, cold, smiles, more snow, wine, whine (kids), cold toes, brandy hot chocolate, a 45-minutes wait for a “parrot” balloon animal, more wine, lots of giggles and yet even more snow at Lake Louise Ski Area. Through it all prevailed a kind of ice magic, thanks to the Chateau’s fairy-tale setting and our kids’ awe over ice raptors, ice castles and ice queens. Here are the highlights.

1. Ice skating with the Ice Queen around the Ice Castle. She was carved from a block of ice and came to life … blah, blah, blah. Avery missed the finer points of her story but enjoyed skating with her highness.

Carved from a block of ice and forced to wear Cinderella's cast-offs, it's ... the Ice Queen.

2. The Ice Playground. Located in a corner of the Lake Louise Village parking lot, I didn’t have high hopes for this sad-looking outdoor ice rumpus room at first glance. But as ice makes things cooler and more slippery, the ice tunnel and slides were a hit. So was the Little Chippers ice carving station, where children could don goggles and a pick and attempt ice art. 

Yeah, I know it looks lame but Bennett went down this slide, like, 20 times.

3. Lakeside sleigh ride. Granted, at an hour, it’s about 40 minutes too long for my kids. But the jingle of bells and hypnotic sight of falling snow mesmerized us and prevented a melt-down. Tip: don’t sit near the front: Parks Canada stipulates Brewster (the company that runs the tours) catch the horses’ poop in a manure catcher lest it litter the national park. Hence a ripe smell accompanied the lovely sights and sounds.

Avery's favourite part of the sleigh ride? "Petting the horses."

4. Eating my son’s New York Steak. We ordered Bennett the $11 New York Steak “For the Young Adult” at the Glacier Saloon inside the Chateau. The server even asked us how our four-year-old “would like his steak cooked?” Why, medium rare, thanks. Predictably, Bennett didn’t like the meat, eating only his French fries. OMG it was delish, cooked perfectly for any parent to enjoy. Tip: always order steak off the kid’s menu to save money.

5. Riding the Lake Louise gondola. Ever since the magic carpet (MC) at Fernie last weekend Bennett has been talking about wanting to ride a chairlift. So, after making him take the Lake Louise MC — with skis on — and then “ski” down the bunny hill (with Blake’s help, of course) onto the gondola we walked. He quivered with excitement and said, “We go up mountain, mommy?” Forget the Ice Queen, he was King of the Mountain for 24 minutes.

Warmer than a chairlift, faster than the magic carpet, it's ... the gondola!

Drink of the Week: Vodka Sour

I think I mentioned before I am totally into sours. And so the love affair continues. I’ve blogged about a Tequila Sour and an Apricot Lady Sour. This week: a Vodka Sour.

The bitters make this drink.

I received a bottle of Luksusowa gluten-free potato vodka in the mail recently, which promted me to give this clear spirit another go. Truthfully, I’d been a bit vodka’d out, what with all the flavoured vodka martinis that were hugely popular when I first started writing about cocktails in 2010. But the Luksusowa, though rather flavourless as most vodkas are, is smooth. And it mixes gloriously with the other ingedients in this drink.

This Vodka Sour is all smooth lemony goodness. It would be nice with just the first three ingredients, but the bitters give it an edge and the egg white makes a smooth vodka even smoother.

Vodka Sour

2 oz Luksusowa vodka

1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 oz simple syrup*

3 dashes Angostura bitters

1/2 fresh egg white

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

*Make simple syrup by combining equal parts sugar and water and heating in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. Cool and refrigerate.

— Recipe adapted from Cocktails Made Easy by Simon Difford

Vacation deprived? Book a trip

“Vacation deprivation” is a relatively new phenomenon. I first heard about it from the travel website Expedia, which began doing an annual analysis of vacation habits across multiple countries several years ago. Not surprisingly, Americans scored poorly — regularly letting their holiday days slip away unused — and gained a reputation as some of the most vacation deprived citizens in the world. 

More recently, travel company Monograms warned Americans of the dangers of letting earned vacation days go unused: they’ll miss out on the opportunity to “walk the cobblestone streets of Italy, ride an elephant in Asia and have a pint to celebrate 2012 in a genuine pub in Ireland.”

The story cited not just money, but a lack of planning as reasons Americans are watching their vacation dreams vanish like a properly-poured Guinness. I don’t know about you, but I start planning my next trip right after I return from my last one. And I never, ever sacrifice a vacation day for more time at work. It’s the only way to stay sane in this climate. (To Canadians’ credit, we do pretty well using up our holiday days — acccording to Expedia, anyway — though it sure would be nice to have as many as the Europeans.)

Interesting though these studies and stories are, you have to wonder if they’re simply a clever way for companies to drum up some U.S. business, by mobilizing the masses to get booking lest they waste away in some kind of vacation deprived purgatory. Perhaps we’ll start seeing Expedia-sponsored ads warning of vacation withdrawl, with a voice-over listing possible side effects from spending too many hours in the office and not enough time at a swim-up bar : pasty-white skin, cheerless demeanor, inability to distinguish a mojito from a margarita.

In the meantime I will let the poor over-worked Americans keeps the global economy humming along, while I book my next holiday somewhere warm.

This is me at the beach while millions of Americans let their vacation days go unused.

What about you? Do you use all your vacation days every year? Do you think “vacation deprivation” is a real problem?