Food: Cowbell Brewing Co. in Blyth, Ontario

A few weeks ago, on our way to the lake, we stopped at Cowbell Brewing Co. in Blyth, Ontario for a meal. Blyth, for those of you (like me) who have never heard of it is about 80km west of Waterloo and 85km north of London. It’s only about 25km inland from Lake Huron. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely convinced a purposeful trip to a brewery was for me. I don’t drink beer, you see. I was told, however, that I would love Cowbell on account of the architecture of the main building…and the food. In fact, this turned out to be true. I was impressed!

Cowbell’s main building is enormous. It sort of reminded me of the main building at the St. Jacob’s farmers market. Think wood, massive ceilings, and impressive stonework.

On this trip, we ate outside because we didn’t have a reservation and there was a bit of a wait for inside seating. Outdoor dining is currently my preferred option anyway, so it worked out well. I opted for the classic burger and a sangria. Both were delicious. The (branded) burger was oh so good!

Beyond a trip to the country for an excellent meal, a visit to Cowbell is worthwhile if you have any interest in learning about branding (and brand compliance). Everything (everything) is branded at Cowbell. The Cowbell store is stocked with products that are made in partnership with local merchants and creators. I was fascinated by Cowbell’s branding approach.

On our visit, we chatted with the friendly staff who told us about Cowbell’s start just a few years ago (in 2016) and its future plans of a fruit and vegetable garden and barn. I am already looking forward to my next visit when I also aim to go on a Cowbell tour (yes, even though I don’t drink beer).

Travel: A Return to The Ritz Carlton Sarasota

I have been spending summers (or part of summers) in Florida since I was 7 years old. Most of this time has been lounging around the beach and pool in Madeira Beach, but in recent years, I’ve enjoyed a vacation-in-a-vacation at The Ritz Carlton Sarasota. In brief, it’s pure luxury. Not only is every detail of the hotel and its offerings well-considered, but the staff at this hotel are so kind and welcoming. The people are definitely what have helped me enjoy my stay each year.

I was in Florida once again with my friend Shannon, and while we love living a retiree-way-of-life in Madeira Beach, we love to get pampered at the Ritz Sarasota, too. We began this visit with a visit to the spa, which was a special treat from the Ritz. Shannon opted for a facial where her skin was treated with the best of the best serums and creams.

I was treated to the Sarasota Touch of Honey. During this 80-minute treatment, after an initial exfoliation of my feet, the massage therapist did reflexology whereby she applied pressure to specific points on my feet to heal aches and pains. In reflexology, pressure points on the feet correspond to organs and areas of the entire body. How did this turn out? Well, I was skeptical at first, if I’m being honest. But then when I could feel tension in my feet and the therapist trying to work out the pains, other areas of my body then acted up. I’m not making this up! At one point, my stomach was making all sorts of gurgling, digestive sounds. At another point, my mind seemed to just open up and become free and clear. If you’ve never had reflexology, I know this sounds kooky, but I’m sharing the truth about these reactions.

I’m all set for my 9am spa call!

After the reflexology, the therapist moved to my upper body and gave me a head, neck, and shoulder massage. It felt amazing!

Post-treatment, the therapist showed me the reflexology map, and gave me some feedback about what she experienced while she was working on my feet. She confirmed that the areas that were tight were also the areas where I was feeling reactions (e.g., gut, mind). Overall, I was glad to learn, my body is pretty balanced. Phew. Let’s hope it continues to be!

digestion, mental tension, and sinuses were on my reflexology menu

After the spa, we enjoyed lazy hours on end at the hotel’s beach club and at the main hotel pool.

I know there’s not much white in this photo, but the shades of blue are hard to resist!

there aren’t many outfit changes on my Florida vacations

The beach club restaurant – Ridley’s Porch – was recently renovated, and since it is filled with white, I had to share it here.

Beyond the outdoors, our hotel room was as it has been in the past – spacious and with the most glorious beds! We spoiled ourselves with room service breakfast on our balcony, too. In our Ritz Carlton robes, of course.

It was easy to fall asleep in this luxurious bed.

Thanks for the sweet white treats, Ritz Sarasota!

Breakfast on the balcony…don’t mind if I do!

light and bright in the room

I don’t usually meet brand partners while I’m wearing a bathing suit, but I also don’t bring many outfit options to Florida!

Because I’ve made repeat visits to The Ritz Carlton Sarasota, you probably already know that I enjoy it, I recommend it, and I will return.

Many thanks to Matthew and Kristine for arranging our visit.

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. Read about my 2017 visit and my 2016 visit to The Ritz Carlton Sarasota.

Personal: 5 Things on My Mind

Here’s a bit of what has been on my mind – and in my life – lately.

1. Plants. I am so pleased with how two of my plants are currently growing. The first is my avocado plant that I started to grow from seed way back in the fall. The second is my fiddle leaf fig that I had cut back a long while ago, and it’s only now sprouting new leaves. So exciting!

2. Kingston. I took a trip to Kingston a couple of weeks ago, and it made me so happy to go back. I lived there for two years, and every time I visit, happy memories trickle back into my brain. I’m thankful that I’m able to continue making memories there even during very short visits.

view of my old waterfront apartment and balcony

3. Heated floor. The One Room Challenge is over, and my bathroom/laundry combo room is done. But when I saw this photo from the team at Warmup, it brought back memories of planning. I like the layout plan of my heated floor (photo source).

4. Art. When I was at Ines‘s house a couple of weeks ago for an essential oils party (with Christine and Hollie), I was impressed by all the art she has around her home. This sweet little piece by Frances Hilary Hahn really made me smile.

5. Elora. I drive over to Elora several times each year. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Waterloo, and it’s such a pretty town for a day trip. It was nice to see the progress of the Elora Mill, too. I’m thinking that the place will be pretty great once it’s all done. I look forward to taking a tour – and hopefully planning a longer stay, too!

That’s all for now. What have you had on the go lately? What’s been on your mind?

Design: La Divine Comédie Hotel

I recently learned about La Divine Comédie boutique hotel in Avignon, France, and I just have to share it because it’s so beautiful. The hotel has five stunning suites and several well-appointed common spaces. The hotel also has a gorgeous garden area. The hotel is classic French in design, but if you look closely, there are a number of quirky elements, too.

La Divine Comédie

via La Divine Comédie Instagram

The Friday Five: 5 Things on my Mind

These things have been on my mind recently.

1. Travel. Do you travel a lot? When? Why? For pleasure? For work? I have loved to travel since I was little (my parents put the bug in me since they were quite the adventurers when we were a young family). I really enjoyed my solo trip to Nashville in December, and I’m looking forward to another short getaway to Grey County (Collingwood area) here in Ontario soon.

2. The holidays. I had a great time celebrating the holidays with family and friends throughout the month of December. And while I had a wonderful time and felt (and feel) very grateful, I was also thinking about loved ones who couldn’t join in on the fun or those who are no longer with us. The holidays are great, but they can also be tough for a lot of people for so many reasons. It’s easy to get wrapped up in gorgeous Christmas decor and beautiful Pinterest DIYs, but at the same time, all of these happy images don’t share the whole story.

3. Outlander. One of a friend’s recent Netflix suggestions included Outlander, so I gave it a try over the holidays. And then I got hooked. I’m just about finished season one. Have you seen it? What do you think?

4. 2018 Home Reno Plans. I had a fight with one of my bifold doors on the weekend. It got so bad that I had to leave the house (dramatic, I know). When I got back and had another fight with it, I ended up breaking the handle and the track gadgets. Oh my goodness. Annoying. I have hated my bifold doors since I moved in almost 5 years ago, so I am making #byebyebifold a priority. I’ll be checking out some places in Kitchener-Waterloo, but if you have any recommendations, let me know. If all works out, I’ll replace 15 interior doors in the months ahead.

In addition, I will be starting renos on my bathroom-laundry room. I have been wanting to rip this room apart for as long as I’ve been in my house, too, but other tasks have been higher on the to do list. I’ll share my design ideas soon.

5. Italian New Year’s Traditions. New Year’s Day always means a massive feast at my parents’ house with our extended family. Beginning the year with family and food and sharing well wishes for the year ahead has been a wonderful tradition (even though everyone is tired from the previous evening’s late-night celebrations). This year, I opted to add in another Italian tradition – a dinner called Cotechino con Lenticchie (translation: large pork sausage with lentils. I used a combination of this recipe and this recipe. The Italian custom is that the coin-shaped lentils bring prosperity and the cotechino brings abundance for the year ahead.

And another New Year’s Eve/Day tradition is to wear red undergarments to bring in good luck for the year. My Nonno was always talking about this tradition at our New Year’s Day gatherings when he was alive.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Stay warm!

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