i’m not really sure i need to say anything else in this blog post.

but i will!

in may, Panda Passage opened at the Calgary Zoo, and i was lucky enough to get a pre-opening meet & greet with the guests of honour.

a family of giant pandas: Er Shun, Da Mao and cubs Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, are settling into their brand new home at the Calgary Zoo. panda passage is a cozy, state of the art habitat built just for pandas.

even though their stomachs are designed for meat, pandas are picky eaters and have decided on a diet of primarily bamboo; they eat over 40 kilograms of bamboo every day! to keep up with this demand, the Calgary Zoo, in partnership with Hainan Airlines, ships in approximately 1,100 kilograms of bamboo twice a week and stores it in a special temperature controlled room.

all this eating leads to an active digestive system. pandas can poop up to 40 times a day – sometimes even while they are eating or sleeping.

their cuteness is reason enough to see the loveable pandas, but each visit to the Zoo also supports conservation efforts, with funds going towards supporting giant panda research projects. this helps further the conservation and recovery of giant pandas in the wild.

the Calgary Zoo is a leader in wildlife conservations here in Canada and around the world. for decades, giant pandas were on the endangered species list, but recently their fortunes have changed for the better thanks to extensive recovery efforts.

the Calgary Zoo set an all-time attendance record in May 2018, welcoming 190,067 visitors during the month. that means lines! if you’re an early bird, you can get beat the rush and get an early start with the Calgary Zoo’s Panda Breakfast. you’ll get to visit the pandas before the Zoo is officially open to the public, plus enjoy a delicious breakfast and learn why giant pandas are so important, why they sleep so much, and what specialized care is required to protect this majestic endangered animal.

the pandas are in Calgary for five years, so get your visits in now! while you’re there, don’t forget to say hello all of your other favourite animals. i’d definitely suggest a visit over to the land of lemurs.

have you visited the pandas yet?

i love flowers.

calling a florist and ordering a hand-tied bouquet to celebrate the special people in my life, is one of my favourite gifts to give. my tip: call and talk to the florist and get them to design something when ordering. and ditch the vase; most people have them, and it’s just an extra cost that takes away from the arrangement.

if i could afford it i would have a fresh bouquet in my condo at all times.

if you like pretty things and are on instagram in calgary, there is no doubt that you’ve seen the stunning designs of amborella floral studio.

i’ve always wanted to learn what to do to create a gorgeous floral arrangement of my own, so when i was invited to a workshop at amborella, i replied “YES!” as soon as the email came in.

a group of us gathered around as amborella’s owner, Misha, introduced us to the flowers we were going to use. after Misha shared a few tricks of the trade, and tips on how we want to arrange, it’s was our turn to get to work.

for some reason, i thought that it would be an easier task than it was to make a stunning arrangement.

armed with the tools, flowers and instructions, i was still a bit lost when it came to putting it all together. perhaps we can blame it on my perfectionist tendencies? no matter what i did, it just didn’t look right. more eucalyptus? less? taller? shorter stems? i was left fiddling and moving things around.

here are our final products. what do you think? sister’s (on the right) is much cuter – she has a great eye for design things – but mine isn’t so bad.

it helps to make a beautiful final product when you start with such incredible individual flowers.

not only are they into pretty things, amborella is also concerned about their environmental impact. 95% of the flowers they source are canadian-grown, with the vast majority coming from burnaby, bc.  that allows them to support local while minimizing their carbon footprint. also, all bouquets are wrapped to take home in recycled burlap from calgary-based coffee roasters, Cafe Rosso. rustic-chic with a conscious.

workshops are currently on hold for wedding season but will resume again in the fall. make sure to keep an eye on their website to find out when you can try your hand at it.

if you’re on a budget, like me, but would still like to add flowers to your home, amborella has a flower happy hour on fridays from 3-6 p.m. where older flowers are put on sale for 50% off. it’s a win-win!

have you every tried flower arranging? 

happy stampede! is it something you “celebrate”? i go to maybe one thing a year, if that, but do wish i had a better view of the nightly fireworks from my balcony. i’m still in search of a semi-private place with a great view.

it’s usually a time i like to leave the city for less crowded spaces. the mountains are always my number one, but places like lake lousie and banff will be busy no matter what. instead, i take the dusty road – literally.

tucked away on the smith dorrien trail is Mount Engadine Lodge. it’s located conveniently close to canmore, but you won’t believe it when you reach the untouched wilderness that surrounds the beautiful Lodge.

i took sister for afternoon tea at Mount Engadine Lodge when she was here in late may. we hiked Ha Ling in canmore before taking the short drive over to the Lodge.

we felt proud and accomplished from our climb, but also sweaty and dirty. a quick road-side change in the back of our Ford Escape was in order. i’m not sure a wet wipe “shower” has ever felt so good. i was semi-clean, in an adorable dress, and my top knot hid any evidence of my hiking hair.

we later found out that casual is a more than fine way to arrive for tea. i stand behind the old adage that you can never be overdressed. plus, my off the shoulder, full-skirted, black dress always makes me feel cute.

meals are complimentary to guests of the Lodge, but non-guests can make a reservation (not always required, but better safe than sorry) and join for tea or dinner. afternoon tea is served every day from 2-5 p.m. for only $17.50 per person. so affordable!

once you check-in, find a seat out on the patio or inside the cozy Lodge. we picked two large, red muskoka chairs with an incredible view of the mountains, but i’m calling dibs on the overstuffed club chairs by the fire in the winter.

tea and coffee are self-serve; pick from a variety of Canadian tea blends from Banff Tea Co. or freshly brewed coffee from Canmore’s Mountain Blends Coffee Roasters. i made myself a pot of the cream early grey, and sister decided on a cup of coffee – she’s not much of a tea person.

our delicious nibbles were brought out to us in two stages.

first, savoury: an assortment of fresh fruit, local meats and refined cheeses. while i don’t eat pickles or olives, sister was happy to have them all and i was the most delighted by the homemade jam.

sweet came next. the freshly baked goodies on the day were lemon squares and pumpkin loaf. sister and i are both little old ladies at heart, so lemon squares are on the top of the dessert list for both of us. on the flip side, neither of us is too crazy about the everything-pumpkin-spice craze. but the loaf smelled incredible, so we took a nibble. “i hate pumpkin, but this is really good,” sister exclaimed to one of the staff members – it was even better topped with the delicious homemade jam.

while we enjoyed our tea, we got to chat with Mount Engadine Lodge’s GM, Simon. he told us a bit about the Lodge’s recent full redesign as the initial property of Castleavery Hospitality Ventures. the Lodge represents the company’s bold concept of bringing the resort experience into the wild, beautiful settings of Canada. he also gave us a little sneak peek at a design for Mount Engadine Lodge’s five upcoming glamping tents – complete with indoor bathroom. those are of particular interest to me, as i think i like camping until i realize i’ve never really gone and glamping sounds much more enjoyable. (#citygirl)

after you’ve finished your snacks, you can play a game in the lounge, walk around the grounds and try to find the elusive moose, or just bask in the sun on the patio and take in the stunning views.

time really does slow down out there. i’m looking forward to my next relaxed, casual mountain visit. maybe in a glmaping tent!

thank you, Mount Engadine Lodge, for hosting the two of us for tea.