Monthly Archives: November 2011

These baby names need a rethink

Parents, please stop it. Stop naming your babies after actresses you’re hot for, luxury cars you hope to one day drive, or athletes no one has heard of outside of your town. As reported by the Huffington Post, some folks in Nebraska have started naming babies after college football stars. There’s little Taylor (Martinez) and baby Rex (Burkhead). By themselves the names aren’t bad; it’s the fact the inspiration was college football. Really? Does no one stop to consider that when these babies grow into adults, their namesakes will have long since retired into chip-eating obscurity or been publicly shamed (ahem, Tiger).

When I was pregnant with my son, now four, I had a thing for the Sawyer character from Lost. I started thinking what a cool name Sawyer is, how maybe Sawyer could be our little boy’s middle name. I needed a good slap, and it came from my husband. “Sure, honey, let’s name our son after a character played by some actor you think is good looking, on a show that won’t be on the air in four years.” Reality check. We named him Bennett instead, because we like the name.

His name is Bennett but it could have been Sawyer if common sense hadn't prevailed.

 Choosing a baby name is difficult. If you’re still stuck, Today’s Parent just posted a good do’s and don’ts story on baby naming. I’ll embellish and add to the list of don’ts:

1. On spelling: Make it easy. Lisa is Lisa, not Leesa, Leighsa or Lyesah. Please stop butchering perfectly good spellings in an attempt to be unique, or your child will spend a lifetime correcting teachers, employers, everyone.

2. If you’re naming your child after someone, make it a person with a meaningful connection to your family. I’ve heard tell of a Dad who named his daughters Angelina and Demi, and I’m pretty sure those weren’t the names of the grandmothers.

3. It may be trendy to pick brand names as names, but I wish this trend would go away. Mercedes was a legit name before the car and Portia (not Porsche) is OK, but I will never embrace Del Monte, Canon, Armani or even Apple (sorry, Gwyneth).

In the end, the best baby name is one you both like. Excuse me, I have to go check on Saw, I mean Bennett.

Some tree-trimming cheer: Hot Buttered Rum


The tree is decorated, the kids are in bed, so it’s time to kick back and enjoy some holiday cheer: a Hot Buttered Rum. I like this one from Appleton Estate. It’s strong in a good, I’m-so-done-with-Christmas-decorating kind of way. It takes a bit of time to prepare the cocktail base, but it’s worth the effort.

Appleton Estate makes a mean Hot Buttered Rum. Photo courtesy Appleton Estate Reserve.


Reserve Jamaican Hot Buttered Rum

Large batch recipe for cocktail base:

2-1/2 cups brown sugar

1/4 lb. butter

Pinch of Salt

4 oz fresh apple cider

1/2 oz fresh extracted ginger juice

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. allspice

In a sauce pan over low heat, blend the above ingredients and bring to a boil before removing from the heat. Let cool and store in refrigerator. The base will last four days in the fridge or one month in the freezer.

Individual cocktail recipe:
Using this above prepared cocktail base, select an appropriate mug. Then add:

2 heaping tbsp. of the cocktail base

2 oz AppletonEstate Reserve rum

Approximately 6 oz hot water, stir

Garnish: Cinnamon Stick

Mmmmm … I toast you, fake tree.

A break from tradition: The benefits of an artificial Christmas tree

Growing up we always had a real Christmas tree. Some years it was small, sparse and Charlie Brown-ish. Other years it stood tall and full, reaching toward the vaulted pine ceiling inside my childhood home. One year my parents brought home a “tumbleweed” tree they had bid on at a holiday charity fundraiser. Basically, it was a huge tumbleweed spray-painted white and decorated with silver balls and red bows. My sister and I hated it, but at least it was real, if a weed.

Fast forward a decade to university. I remember the first year I returned from school for Christmas to discover my parents had sold out: they’d bought an artificial tree. “You don’t have to water it,” my dad said. “It’s so easy to assemble,” my mom added. “But it’s fake,” I replied, aghast. What would they spring on me next? An inflatable lawn Santa?

They say you grow up to become your parents. If that’s the case, I have arrived; only, my sell-out date proved a good 15 years before my parents’. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but we are now the proud owners of a Holiday Home Pre-Lit Wentworth Fir Tree. Proud because we actually assembled it properly, first try. Embarrassed because it’s an artificial Christmas tree (and we have little kids, so it feels double bad, like conning them that the bearded man at the mall is really Santa). 

Our fake Christmas tree came in a box with four sections, lettered A, B, C and D. Even our six-year-old figured out which part went where.

Assemble as easy as A, B, C, D.
Hubby quickly assembled it:

As easy as fitting Legos together!

Then we pulled out the branches all around to make it look more real and less fake. Avery, who had wondered aloud why we were getting an artificial tree, was coming around. “I like our fake tree Mommy. Do you like it?” Hmmm. Bennett was less sure of the imposter. “I scared of tree, Mommy.” I get that, son.
Time to decorate. Avery hurried to add the beautiful, if slightly maimed, unicorn ornament. I worried she might end up with blisters or boils on her hands because to “shape” and decorate the tree the instructions read, “We suggest unplugging the tree and wearing protective gloves.”  

Mythical beast meets fake tree.

I was a skeptic this morning but have quickly warmed to the benefits of the fake tree. Low maintenance! No pine needles on the floor! The only drawback is our house doesn’t have that fragrant, fresh-from-the-woods smell. Also, the fact we have a faux Christmas tree makes me feel like a Baby Boomer. But honestly, can you tell this beauty isn’t real?

Is this one real or fake?

Every time I pass by the too-perfect tree I have to remember it could be worse: it could be a tumbleweed.

For the birds: Birdwatching with kids at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

It’s that time of year in Calgary when there’s not a lot to do on the weekend. Fortunately, we’re not yet totally snowed in, so if it’s a nice enough day we like to get outside. We live in Inglewood, an inner city neighbourhood next to the Bow River that happens to be along the migratory path for various species of birds. It’s a short walk to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “What kids in their right mind would want to spend a Saturday afternoon bird watching at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary?” It’s a valid question. My husband and I are hardly “twitchers” (that’s British for “hopelessly dorky birders”), but we like to see bald eagles and Northern flickers during walks around the ‘hood. We’ve also been hissed at by Canada geese when we get too close in the spring so we’re comfortable around feathered creatures. Our kids like to watch the ducks and geese take off and land en masse in the river, but the idea of the children crouching quietly in the bushes, with binoculars, for hours, waiting for a ruby-striped whatchamazoo to alight on a tree branch, is laughable. So to get their buy-in on these little nature outings, we bring bird seed.

Birding with kids: bring seeds.

 My daughter had no problem enticing a chickadee and a nuthatch onto her hand. The bird would only stick around long enough to grab a seed or two, then fly back to a tree. Tip: the birds prefer the hand held highest and filled with the most seeds. Rule sticklers take note: this practice is frowned upon. Serious adult bird watchers armed with telephoto lens cameras and bird books scowled in our direction, so my husband urged Avery to hide the seeds. But the birds were obviously famished and followed us around the lovely trails practically begging for more.

Who could say no to these beady little eyes?
We kept feeding the birds until the seeds made one of them spontaneously combust:
The glory of bird watching revealed.
At which point we high-tailed it home.

Cheers to me! A Tequila Sour to celebrate

And now a toast, because I’m finally blogging. To celebrate, a Tequila Sour. I love tequila and this smooth, tart drink is ideal for a chilly fall night. This recipe is from George Kaplun, bartender at the Banff Park Lodge.

A Tequila Sour is a tart but smooth (thanks to the egg white) alternative to a margarita.

Tequila Sour

2 oz tequila

1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 oz agave syrup

Dash orange bitters

1 egg white

Dry shake ingredients in a shaker. Add ice, shake again, then strain into an old-fashioned glass (or highball glass, as pictured).

It’s a different taste than a margarita, and the egg white smooths everything out. Kaplun says you can shake additional ingredients into the drink, such as basil, mint or rosemary (then double strain so no little bits end up in your glass). But personally, it seems a lot of hassle to procure said herbs for a one-off cocktail. Stick with the basics and you won’t be disappointed.