Consider this our family Christmas card 6

The Kadane-Ford family Christmas card: 2017

Family photo on Coronado Beach during a spring break trip to San Diego.

It’s been a year of change for the Fordanes, as we uprooted from the Wood of Ingle and moved west to Kelowna, land of lakes, wine and labradoodles. Prior to the move we said goodbye to Fernie, and enjoyed a family vacation to California in March and then a couples trip to Croatia in May to celebrate 20 years of marriage.

Since relocating mid-July we have spent a lot of time swimming, hiking, mountain biking (Blake), cherry eating, killing black widows and learning the difference between un-oaked Chardonnay and Viognier (which is pronounced the French way, not Vogue-ner. Duh!). We are acclimatizing to green grass in December, a dearth of snow and the quiet solitude of no trains, planes or Deerfoot Trail truckers laying on the jake brake at 3 a.m. When people ask us what we like best about Kelowna, we always say, “No wind.” But enough about how Kelowna kicks on Calgary — here’s what each member of our crazy quintet got up to in 2017.

Blake got his big acting break when he landed the recurring role of “office worker” on season three of Fargo. This involved sitting around for hours hoping to get called for a scene, or to bump into Ewan McGregor in the makeup trailer. His over-100 set hours culminated in about three seconds of screen time and rumour has it he’ll get a nod for Best Extra at the Oscars Lisa’s Choice Awards.

That’s Blake walking by the office door in a Fargo episode!

Taking a break on the mountain bike trail. It’s hard to know which trail as there have been so very many trails ridden. Possibly Superflow.

Since moving west Blake has upped his mountain biking game and recently beat that showoff Ben Smit’s Superflow time of 1:18 on Strava. He’s also practically fluent in Spanish at 55 per cent, according to Duolingo, but I think it’s from watching Family Guy‘s Best of Consuela compilations on YouTube. When not tending our bonsais or brainstorming hilarious jokes (“What was the three donkeys’ favourite geological period?” … “TriASSic!”), Blake spends his time at Okanagan College hanging out on the quad studying horticulture and landscape design, and thinking of new ways to embarrass Avery on the way to the bus stop (talking loudly in a Scottish accent seems to work best).

Speaking of Avery, she nurtured her love of living things by raising 30 frog eggs into lots of tadpoles, which turned into fewer froglets and then a final four frogs before they eventually all died. It was a very sad circle-of-life experience, but the tragedy only renewed her resolve to pester us relentlessly lobby us for MORE amphibians and reptiles. She created a PowerPoint presentation extolling the many virtues and selling points things that make ball pythons not totally despicable, including the fact they only eat one mouse a week (um, yay?!). In the end she inherited an Australian tree frog named Yoda from a new friend and is now busy farming crickets and meal worms to feed it so it doesn’t croak all night long.

Avery cuddles a joey during a visit to Kangaroo Creek Farm in Lake Country last summer.

She has begun volunteering with the local SPCA to pad her resume for vet school applications and started at a new karate dojo. Avery also enjoyed her first overnight summer camp near Peachland and completed her first adventure obstacle race, the Freak’n Farmer, in bare feet while suffering from hypothermia, thus proving that she’s a toughie who can accomplish pretty much anything she puts her mind to. She’s making lots of friends at her new school and loving grade 7!

Bennett struggled with the move and the break from his routine. Whenever he wasn’t smooshing black widow spiders with his bare hands (yes this actually happened!), or swimming in the pool until algae began to grow between his toes, we had to listen to him talk about the Calgary Zoo, Bow building, Calgary Tower, Children’s Hospital and Calaway Park for, like, ever.

Since moving to Kelowna Bennett has learned to tell the difference between wine grapes, apple trees, corn fields and pear trees.

He seemed to finally accept his new life once the big yellow school bus showed up to cart him off to public school. He has an amazing, kind and patient aide whom he keeps on her toes by picking up mini iogo yogurt containers and random cigarette butts from the schoolyard and then running away with them held up over his head like a prize. Accomplishments this past year included learning to hold his breath underwater while swimming, attending his first Easter Seals overnight camp, and riding the Mighty Moose poma lift at Fernie by himself — we have him signed up for adaptive ski lessons at Big White this winter.

Piper is wowing K-towners with her new muscular physique, achieved from regularly running 15+ km with Blake on mountain bike trails and hunting deer when we have her off leash in nature parks. She loves her new giant yard and immediately chased off a wolverine marmot that had been living under the shed. With fewer ugly black squirrels roaming our new neighbourhood, she has developed an unhealthy Chuckit! ball obsession and will stand over the ball like a dingo till someone throws it for her.

Another 2017 highlight for Piper was gnawing on her Donald Trump chew toy till his stuffing brains came out.

We went all B.C.-boho and experimented with a raw food diet for her this summer, but decided it was unsanitary when Bennett started hand-feeding her the uncooked morsels. The biggest Piper news is we have reached the limits of being able to tolerate her raunchy rot breach and have scheduled her for a dental cleaning for Christmas. Yeah, we really know how to say I love you!

The move nearly cost Lisa (that’s me!) her sanity as our moving company — Premier Van Lines, don’t hire them — turned out to suck balls. Needless to say, I have vowed to never move again. And anyway, I can’t go through the neurosis that has overtaken me since moving into a new house. I am forever tidying and cleaning, much to everyone’s annoyance. I also became hyper-vigilant with the swimming pool, which evidently you need a chemistry degree to keep clear. By the end of the summer it looked like a duck pond and the pool guy was dumping chemicals into it daily in exchange for beer. At least there’s lots of wine in the valley to help me cope stay hydrated and the Feds can’t legalize pot fast enough!

Walking the walls in Dubrovnik, a.k.a. King’s Landing.

Speaking of booze, I was really planning to give my liver a break until I landed the spirits column in Just for Canadian Dentists/Doctors magazines for 2018. Other writing opportunities have taken me to Croatia to sit on the Iron Throne and have my picture taken with Jon Snow’s mannequin likeness for a Game of Thrones story, and I even won an award for my Globe and Mail piece about travelling with Bennett

We’re looking forward to a busy winter break that includes skiing and a holiday to Cuba with friends, and more travel and adventures in 2018!

Looking forward to some beach time to ring in 2018!

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Drink of the Week: Pineapple Penicillin

Ever since I travelled to the Scottish island of Islay — home to the Bowmore, Laphroaig and Ardbeg distilleries, to name a few — I’ve been a sucker for peated whiskies. So I was super excited to receive a bottle of the new Ardbeg Kelpie, which was recently crowned Whisky of the Year at the 2017 International Whisky Competition in Las Vegas.

As its name implies, Kelpie pays homage to the sea that surrounds Islay. With its seaweed nose and smoky, spicy taste, it’s just the type of whisky you can imagine Euron Greyjoy drinking as he sails his squid-sigiled ships around the waters of Westeros.

I think Euron would like Ardbeg Kelpie.

It’s lovely on its own, but also acts as a commanding accompaniment to a cocktail. I used it to float some smoke on a Pineapple Penicillin, with fantastic results. Do be sure and grill your pineapple before juicing — the tropical campfire flavour compliments the Kelpie and adds a bright mellowness that’s perfect for summer sipping.

This delicious summer sipper floats Ardbeg Kelpie atop spicy rye and grilled pineapple juice.

Pineapple Penicillin

  • 2 oz Alberta Premium Rye
  • 1/4 oz Ardbeg Kelpie
  • 1 oz grilled pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz honey simple syrup (1:1 honey-to-water ratio)

Method: Grill several pineapple rounds, then juice. Combine all ingredients except Ardbeg Kelpie in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake to chill. Strain into a rocks glass over one large ice cube. Float Ardbeg Kelpie on top and garnish with a skewer of grilled pineapple cubes.

Drink of the Week: Aperol Spritz (à la Adriatic)

When I first wrote about this drink back in 2012 it wasn’t yet a thing. Now, the Aperol Spritz is having a moment, both here in Canada and across the pond in Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.

Cheers to Europe! Who knew the Aperol Spritz was so popular across the pond? I’m sipping this one outside the walls of Dubrovnik at cliffside bar Buza 1.

My husband and I have just returned from a trip to Europe, where we drank beer, wine and our share of Aperol Spritzes. I first spotted the gorgeous, topaz-hued drink in Venice, where happy-hour tipplers were getting their aperitif on at outdoor cafe-style bars (not that surprising, since Aperol, a bitter orange and herbal spirit, is made in Italy).

Just a couple glasses of Aperol awesomeness in Venice.

We travelled on to Slovenia, where prices on the cocktail dropped from 4 euros to 2.5 euros (woot!) at trendy patios along the Ljubljanica River in Ljubljana (try saying that fast five times in a row). Farther south in Croatia, in both Split and Dubrovnik, the drink was as hot as ever.

Nectar of the emperors? An Aperol Spritz inside Roman emperor Diocletian’s palace in Split, Croatia.

If you haven’t had one yet, you’ve got to try this drink. It’s so simple — really nothing more than sparkling white wine or Prosecco bitter oranged-up with Aperol, and diluted with a splash of sparkling water. It’s also refreshing, delicious and beautiful to behold. Drinking one on a Calgary patio — or next to the walls of Dubrovnik — will make you feel très chic all summer long.

Aperol Spritz (à la Adriatic)

  • 1.5 oz Aperol
  • 3-4 oz sparkling white wine or Prosecco
  • Splash sparkling water (not soda water!)
  • Garnish: half an orange wheel

Method: Build over ice in a wine glass and garnish with an orange wedge.

— Recipe courtesy the nice bartender at Buza 1 Bar, Dubrovnik

Drink of the Week: Cinnamon Smoke

Sometimes you just want the taste of breakfast in your cocktail: cinnamon, vanilla, OJ, a squeeze of lemon, and the smoky essence of the griddle. I got to thinking about the amazing oatmeal I ate for breakfast on Islay — giant bowls of creamy cinnamon goodness that the innkeeper offered to fortify with a tot of whisky — and decided to deconstruct it into a cocktail. I took the island’s smoky whisky (Laphroaig) and combined it with spicy rye, citrus, cinnamon and vanilla. (If you wanted it a bit frothy, you could shake in an egg white.) It’s pretty delicious, but I wouldn’t necessarily drink it before noon!

Penicillin (the cocktail) had a rendezvous with orange liqueur and the spice rack and created Cinnamon Smoke.

Cinnamon Smoke

  • 1.25 oz Sonoma County Rye
  • 0.25 oz Laphroaig 15
  • 0.5 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz cinnamon-vanilla simple syrup*
  • Garnish: cinnamon stick

Method: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

*Cinnamon-Vanilla Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 vanilla bean

Method: Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Add cinnamon and vanilla bean and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Let cool. Remove cinnamon stick and vanilla bean and store the syrup in the fridge.

Drink of the Week: Zakko Churro

The best twist on a mezcalgarita I’ve had in awhile is the Zakko Churro cocktail. I discovered it at Model Milk during their weekly Sunday Supper. It was created to reflect last week’s theme: Mexican food.

Model Milk hosts a Sunday Supper with a different theme every week. It costs $40 per person and includes starters, main and dessert.

Model Milk hosts a Sunday Supper with a different theme each week. It costs $40 per person and includes starters, main and dessert.

Imagine combining a margarita with the sweet cinnamon goodness of a churro, then adding a smoky hit, and you’ve got the Zakko Churro, so named for its inventor, Zakk MacDonald, and its muse, a churro. It features mezcal instead of tequila (hence the smoky flavour), pear liqueur rather than triple sec for a fruity taste of winter, lime juice and just a dollop of cinnamon syrup. Delicious!

Smoky mezcal, lime juice and cinnamon syrup turn into a liquid churro at Model Milk.

Smoky mezcal, lime juice, pear liqueur and cinnamon syrup turn into a liquid churro at Model Milk.

Zakko Churro

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.5 oz pear liqueur
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 0.5 oz cinnamon syrup*

Method: Rim a rocks glass with cinnamon-sugar, set aside. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain over fresh ice into the rocks glass.

— Recipe courtesy Zakk MacDonald, Model Milk

*Cinnamon Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Method: Combine sugar and water in a sauce pan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Add cinnamon stick and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove cinnamon stick and store syrup in the fridge.

Ode to Bennett on Rare Disease Day 2017

The last day of February every year is Rare Disease Day. Though technically Bennett doesn’t have a “disease,” his genetic condition, Chromosome 18 Deletion Syndrome, is very rare and impacts him and our family like a chronic disease, one we will live with forever that can’t ever be cured, only managed.

The Boy Band called -- they want Bennett to join.

The Boy Band called — they want Bennett to join.

We’re fortunate he doesn’t have any of the health complications that are associated with the condition, from congenital heart disease to growth hormone deficiency. But he does have delayed development and cognitive impairment along with an autism diagnosis.

Still, in spite of these challenges, this is a kid who loves life when things are going his way. He’ll hike up a mountain without complaint, swim till he’s water-logged and delight in travels that take him to jungles, desserts and world-famous zoos.

Bennett has taught us so much about what it means to love unconditionally, and to see the ability in disability. We’re proud of his many accomplishments over the years, and we know he’ll continue to surprise us and make us laugh along the way. They say the struggle ends when gratitude begins. So, instead of getting bogged down in the challenges involved in raising a child with special needs, I try and see Bennett’s differences in a positive way. This poem is a good start:

Here’s to the the kids who are different,

The kids who don’t always get A’s,

The kids who have ears twice the size of their peers,

And noses that go on for days …

Here’s to the kids who are different,

The kids they call crazy or dumb,

The kids who don’t fit, with the guts and the grit,

Who dance to a different drum …

Here’s to the kids who are different,

The kids with the mischievous streak,

For when they have grown, as history’s shown,

It’s their difference that makes them unique.

— Digby Chelsea Wolfe

Here’s to you, Bennett. You’re a rare kid who dances to a different beat. And we’re happy to keep dancing with you. xoxo

With Bennett, the journey is as exciting as the destination.

With Bennett, the journey is as exciting as the destination.

Drink of the Week: Elle

Every Oscars party needs a little bubbly to help ease the way through the many boring parts of the awards show. This drink, created to toast French actress Isabelle Huppert — who’s nominated for best actress for her role in Elle — is just the thing: it’s light, audacious and leads to fun.

And, apropos of Huppert, it features French spirits. There’s the sweet orange kiss of Cointreau, plus some fizz from the Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage (rosé Champagne = genius!). Piper-Heidsieck happens to be the official champagne of the Academy Awards, so there’s no better time to pop the cork on a bottle. And the winner is…

The Elle: a classy, bubbly drink for your Oscars party.

Elle: a classy, bubbly drink for your Oscars party.

Elle

  • Plain ice cubes
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 0.5 oz Cointreau
  • 3.5-4 oz Piper Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage
  • Zest of pomelo or blood orange
  • Garnish: 2-3 blackberries

Method: Build the drink in a rocks glass over ice and garnish with blackberries.

— Recipe courtesy Piper Heidsieck