Monthly Archives: December 2011

New Year’s Eve cocktail: a Goodnight Kiss

Let’s ring in the new year with a bubbly cocktail, shall we? I love the Goodnight Kiss recipe from Drinks Mixer, except I make it with Prosecco, Italy’s more affordable answer to Champagne. Besides, the cocktail calls for a splash of Campari — an Italian bitter liqueur — so it seems another reason to use Prosecco. The best part of this drink is the sugar cube, though. Not only does it add a sweet kiss to the otherwise dry and slightly bitter sparkling sipper, it doubles as a garnish. Happy New Year!


Go easy on the bitters or this kiss will leave you with an unpleasant pucker.


Goodnight Kiss

4 oz Prosecco

Splash Campari

1 sugar cube

1 drop Angostura bitters

Place a drop of Angostura bitters on a sugar cube and drop into a champagne flute. Add Prosecco and a splash of Campari.

— Recipe adapted from Drinks Mixer

Piggy bank availability could solve the debt crisis

Bennett recently broke Avery’s big piggy bank, a pre-Christmas catastrophe that provoked tears, wailing on her baby brother, and last-minute pleas for Santa to bring her a new one. Since Santa didn’t deliver, Blake went to Walmart looking for one today. No luck. 

Maybe if Walmart sold piggy banks there'd be no debt crisis.

“They were sold out of piggy banks?” I asked, rather incredulous this simple money-saving device could cause a run at Christmas. “I don’t think they carry them,” Blake answered. “Well, maybe they should. It could solve the debt crisis,” I said, to which Blake countered: “You know, Walmart wants you to spend your money on plastic crap, not save it for a rainy day.” How true. It must be a conspiracy amongst retailers: remove piggy banks from circulation so another generation can grow up without any money sense.
We are trying to instill basic economic principles into our daughter, like how you need money to buy things like food and clothes and books and toys. After reading several stories about kids and money we started giving Avery an allowance. Problem is, she wants to spend it as soon as she gets it. She wants things like plastic animals, knock-off mermaid “Barbies” or jewelry from Dollarama — ugly cheap stuff that either breaks promptly or will give her lead poisoning if she puts it in her mouth. Now that her money rests in plain view, without a piggy home, it constantly tempts her to spend it. But, as another article counsels, parents are supposed to let their kids practice spending their money on whatever they want, so they can (hopefully) learn that cheap toys from Dollarama are not good value.
This explains how Avery came home with a set of kids’ makeup from the farmers’ market last week. It’s tacky and totally inappropriate for Grade 1. I won’t allow her to leave the house in it, lest she be mistaken for a child prostitute.
So I guess it’s not just Greece. Our six-year-old is having her own mini debt crisis. That’s the real reason she cried when Bennett broke her piggy bank — it revealed she was out of toonies, loonies, quarters, dimes and nickels. But not pennies. She’s donating those to charity.

Mommy w(h)ining: Is drinking while parenting OK?

In a recent story in the Washington Post, writer Janice D’Arcy asks if drinking while parenting is a good time or a problem. It’s an interesting question to ask, especially in light of recent books such as The Three-Martini Playdate by Christie Mellor and Naptime is the New Happy Hour by Stefanie Wilder Taylor, which imply that rearing children is such a buzz-kill, it’s easier (and more fun) to parent while buzzed. Incidentally, Wilder Taylor has now admitted publicly to an alcohol addiction, which was the basis for the story in the Washington Post. The message seems to be: if motherhood is driving you to drink, well, maybe you shouldn’t.


Author Christie Mellor has fun -- and a cocktail -- while parenting.


While I’m the first to admit that I like a good cocktail, especially a Perfect Margarita, I also usually consume just one. When the kids were younger (read: needier, more taxing) there were times we mommies would get together and have a couple glasses of wine while we bemoaned our new lives of diapers, night wakings and dislike for playing Sir Topham Hatt (of Thomas the Tank Engine fame) with our toddlers ad nauseam. I’m sure for most of us the need for group w(h)ining has waned as the children have gotten older (read: are potty trained, sleeping through the night and attending school full days). (Note: we never hit the bottle alone in the closet, a la Sue Ellen of Dallas — that seems to be some kind of line you really don’t want to cross.)

Surely, not every mommy who develops a fondness for Shiraz when the children are young turns into a raging alcoholic. And yet, as with so many motherhood issues, it’s a subject that draws an all-or-nothing debate, with people advocating abstention lest you dive headfirst into another bottle to self-medicate. It leaves us cocktail-friendly moms wondering: whatever happened to moderation?

In the January issue of Today’s Parent in a story called Confessions of a Merlot-loving mom, writer Lisa van de Geyn argues for just that. Relax, mommies, she writes. It’s OK to indulge from time to time, or even to have one drink a day.

So with New Year’s Eve approaching — and the prospect of two more weeks of non-stop parenting while the children are out of school — let go of any guilt you may have about drinking on the  parenting job. As long as you don’t overdo it regularly, don’t stress about it. Moms already have enough things to angst over on a daily basis; it’s no use beating ourselves up over the occasional journey to Margaritaville. Hiccup!

Drink of the Week: Hot Toddy

If you have children, brace yourself for two weeks of sugared-up hyperactivity, toy mahem and general upheaval. To get your zen on in a hurry amid the chaos, try a Hot Toddy on an empty stomach. The nearly 3 0z of booze will immediately go to your head, and you won’t care that your kid is trying out his new Christmas gift marker set on the wall.

 The Hot Toddy recipe I like is from Mount Gay Rum. It’s an undeniably festive holiday cocktail that tastes rather like a hot Sidecar, with just a subtle hit of Earl Grey tea. The cinnamon stick garnish is a nice touch. I guarantee that drinking one will bring your back to your Christmas happy place, where sugar plum fairies cavort with magical snowmen. If the holiday hijinks continue, sip another. You deserve it Mrs. Claus (you too, Santa)!

Christmas stressing you out? Bliss out with a Hot Toddy.

Hot Toddy 

1 oz Cointreau

1-3/4 oz Mount Gay Rum

1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Blue agave nectar to taste

4 oz hot Earl Grey tea

Cinnamon stick garnish

Combine all ingredients in an Irish coffee glass, stirring briefly.

Cheap & cheerful Christmas gift idea for the kids’ teachers

If you’re like me, you pat yourself on the back in early December because the Christmas shopping is done. But wait! If you’re like me you also forget about the service people until the 11th hour — in my case, the day before the last day of school. By “service people” I mean the wonderful bus drivers, teachers, aids and babysitters who look after my kids while I’m eating bonbons, watching Days of our Lives and otherwise having fun.
Now you’ve remembered them, the big question is, what to get them? I used to go for gift cards until I received a Starbucks card as a thank you and realized what a pain it is to go there and actually use it. So this year I got the kids involved and we baked a lot of cookies.

Cookie presents: simply bake, pack and deliver.

First we made my oatmeal craisin white chocolate chip cookies (very festive). The next day we baked traditional gingersnaps (see recipe, below). Avery did the mixing and Bennett dumped in the ingredients after I measured. When they cooled we packed them into some holiday tins I picked up at Dollarama.

Buy $1 festive tins at Dollarama and voila! Done.

Just make sure you bake enough cookies so there are some left over for the little helpers.

Bake extras so the kids can indulge too. And don't forget about Santa!

Here’s the gingersnaps recipe I used from Betty Crocker. Enjoy! 
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup shortening (or substitute butter)
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour*
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
Granulated sugar
Mix brown sugar, shortening, molasses and egg. Stir in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375F. Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls. Dip tops in granulated sugar. Place balls, sugared side up, about 3 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake cookies until just set, about 10 to 12 minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Yield: about 4 dozen cookies; 85 calories per cookie.
*If using self-rising flour, decrease baking soda to 1 tsp. and omit salt.

Once Upon a Christmas at Heritage Park

Yesterday the temperature in Calgary climbed to a balmy 11C. Since we had free tickets to Once Upon a Christmas at Heritage Park, we headed there along with every other family in the city. Heritage Park is a replica of an “Olden Days” town, where all the workers dress like Little House on the Prairie. Other attractions include a train, a paddle-wheeler boat, farm animals, historic homes, a Main Street, and an amusement park area with old-time rides like a ferris wheel.

See the shadows? That's half of Calgary waiting in line.

 The park closes for the winter but re-opens the month before the holidays for Once Upon a Christmas. The event attempts to re-create Christmases of yore: no rides, no train, no boat, no toys, but a huge line-up to get inside the bakery for a gingerbread man cookie. That is to say, none of the fun summer stuff is going on, but they bring in Santa, some reindeer and a couple of Belgian horses to pull the wagon.

We knew we were in trouble when the parking lot was completely full upon arrival. “I didn’t realize everyone in Calgary knew about this,” my husband remarked. “I’m glad we have free tickets,” I said.  This meant we could skip the 45-minute line-up to buy tickets to get inside (those suckers didn’t know what awaited them: more line-ups!). The whole event had a sort of Soviet Union-era feel about it: large crowds of people milling around and standing in long lines for something (a loaf of bread? a pair of shoes?).

Once through the gates we immediately ran into some friends we never see — further proof that everyone in the city was at Heritage Park for Once Upon a Christmas. We trekked through the countryside down to the town (with the train not running it’s a good 20-minute walk with little kids), over to the red barn for our first line-up: to see Santa.

The only time in life when children don't have to heed the "Don't Sit on Strange Men's Laps or Take Candy Canes from Strangers" Rule.

 The line moved quickly and the kids were rewarded with candy canes. “This isn’t so bad!” I thought. So we walked over to the corral to see the reindeer. Now, reindeer are definitely more of a novelty than Santa (you never see them at the mall), so this line-up was really long. We decided to skip it and simply view the small ungulates through the wooden fence as opposed to waiting in line to pet them. This was not acceptable to Bennett, who started crying and sat down in the snow. I looked around, embarrassed, and pretended he wasn’t my son. Thankfully, Avery didn’t mind Plan B.

Avery liked watching the reindeer but wondered, "Where's Rudolph?"

Bennett then started going on about wanting to go home, but damned if we were leaving without standing in one final line-up. After a hasty snack of leftover bread crusts on an old-time porch, we made our way over to the town square, where the horse-drawn wagon ride line-up snaked through the square all the way to the amusement park. You’d think people had never ridden in a wagon before, the way they lined up for 45 minutes for a 10-minute ride around a village they’d already walked around. But with kids in tow, you do all manner of painful waiting for small pleasures. And it was worth it — just look how excited we all are.

The best 10-minute wagon ride ever!

I almost wish we’d waited in the bakery line-up for those cookies. Almost.

Drink of the Week: Apricot Lady Sour

Sours have been on my radar lately. Whiskey, tequila, and now this delish apricot sour using rum as its base. I love sours because they’re tart and because I love the way the egg white renders them foamy and smooth.

This sophisticated cocktail shakes rum with lemon juice and apricot liqueur.

 I came across the recipe for this Apricot Lady Sour while paging through Cocktails Made Easy by Simon Difford. The ingredients looked like they would shake up nicely and they did. Difford uses Bacardi Superior rum, but since my husband just came back from Cuba I subbed in Havana Club rum. I also used North American-style simple syrup (1:1 ratio sugar to water) instead of the sweeter U.K. style.

This drink’s subtle apricot flavour is complemented by the rum, and the lemon’s pucker is lessened by the simple syrup. It’s nicely balanced, and light, but substantial enough — thanks to the egg white and apricot brandy — to drink on a December night close to Christmas. Enjoy.
Apricot Lady Sour
1-1/2 oz Havana Club light rum
1 oz Bols apricot brandy liqueur
1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup (1 sugar to 1 water)
1 fresh egg white
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.
— Recipe modified from Cocktails Made Easy

Grab some rum, apricot liqueur and lemon juice and get ready to pucker those lips.