Monthly Archives: April 2012

Drink of the Week: Income Tax cocktail

If you’re like me and your taxes are filed, you’re doing the happy dance tonight. I realize the deadline is Monday, but do you really want that hanging over your head all weekend? No, better to “get ‘er done” today and toast your effort with an Income Tax cocktail.

Here's a cocktail you'll want to spend your return on.

Yes, such a drink really exists. I drank one last weekend at Crowbar, Calgary’s pop-up cocktail lounge (more on that in an upcoming Calgary Herald column). What’s even more intriguing? This isn’t a drink that was created just for the event; it’s a cocktail that’s been around for a century. I can see why: it’s basically a martini sweetened by a bit of orange juice, and spiced with a couple dashes of Angostura bitters. It’s strong, yes, but that’s a good thing whether you’re celebrating a big return, or drowning your sorrows over all the money you owe the Feds. So drink up!

Income Tax Cocktail

  • 1-1/2 oz Beefeater gin
  • 3/4 oz dry vermouth
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 3/4 oz orange juice
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Orange curl garnish

Shake ingredients with ice then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with an orange curl.

— Recipe courtesy Wade Sirois, Crowbar

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Hunger Games baby names and other trends

I’m thinking of changing Avery’s name to Katniss and making Bennett hunt for his own food in the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary to toughen him up. Sound radical? I’m just cottoning on to two of the latest trends: Hunger Games baby names and Hunger Games parenting. If you, like me, can’t get enough of the bestselling book and hit movie, there are ways to incorporate the phenomenon into all aspects of your life, from parenting to travel! Read on.

There's nothing like a bestseller to spark some new trends.

1. ‘Hunger Games’ parenting. Forget the Tiger Mom and that Bringing up Bebe lady, Vanity Fair writer and editor Bruce Handy champions the cause of the Hunger Games mommy in a hilarious send-up in The New York Times Sunday Review. In a nutshell, the strict parenting philosophy advocates motivating children with the threat of their imminent death. That’s right kiddo, you’d better get an ‘A’ on that exam or mommy’s going to sic the pit bulls on you!

2. Hunger Games baby names. Not long ago I wrote a blog about people naming their babies after college football stars, but that’s so 2011. This year, your baby’s only cool if it’s named after a tribute. According to Nameberry, the most popular picks are Rue for girls and Cato for boys (I know his character is unlikeable, but the guy who plays Cato in the movie kinda looks like Prince Harry! Hot!) Not surprisingly, every blockbuster franchise has some name duds, too (um, remember Hermione?), so it’s little wonder the District 12 mentor’s moniker didn’t make the cut — you’ll want to think twice about adding Haymitch to the short-list unless your babe is a disheveled Scotch drinker (and I’m not talking about your boyfriend).

Awwww, isn't my little Haymitch precious?

3. Hunger Games travel. OK, so you’ll probably never find yourself in a situation where you need to saw a hornet nest onto your sleeping enemies, but it couldn’t hurt to brush up on your survival skills, could it? GoVoluntouring offers survival training adventure trips such as a 15-day Papua New Guinea expedition that includes jungle training, hazardous flora and fauna lessons (no Nightlock, thanks!), river and ravine crossing techniques and setting up natural shelters — all while watching out for crocodiles!

Earth Day at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

I didn’t realize yesterday was Earth Day until we had completed our walk around the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and one of the sanctuary volunteers delivered the news. It suddenly made sense why the trails were busy with families, couples and birders enjoying the sunny 23C weather and hoping to catch a glimpse of a gosling, robin or ruby-breasted whatchamazoo.

With the knowledge it was save-the-planet day (and not just the first nice day of spring), I felt kind of bad that we’d gone on a walk instead of planting trees or building a composter or converting our home to wind power. A bunch of moms in Canmore even changed their cloth diapers simultaneously! As it stood, Blake and I had endured a struggle getting the children out of the house for a walk:

It's too bright! It's too hot! Please don't make us commune with nature on Earth Day!

At least we spent a good chunk of the day outdoors, forcibly enjoying nature. I think our outing was environmentally-friendly too.

  • We walked to the bird sanctuary instead of driving;
  • We picked up garbage during our hike (well, my husband picked up two pieces);
  • We didn’t even feed the birds this time;
  • We saw a coyote, two woodpeckers, and a goose nesting in a tree trunk. I suppose we could have gone all Hunger Games and brought the goose home for dinner, but I think that’s frowned upon (even if sustainable);
  • Bennett dressed in camo shorts to blend in with the natural prairie and river surroundings. Avery didn’t get the memo; she rocked a polka dot shirt and heart-patterned skirt, an ensemble so loud I’m sure that’s why we didn’t see any deer.

So, Mother Nature, I’m sorry we didn’t help out more yesterday. But we didn’t do any harm either. I think they call that a net-zero kind of day.

What about you? Did you get outside, hug a tree or otherwise on Earth Day?

Drink of the Week: Mojito

Ever since I wrote a mint cocktails story for Easter, I’ve had the refreshing spring herb on my mind. So, I popped in to Mercato today and grabbed a bunch, then I stopped off at Zyn on my way home for a bottle of Mount Gay Eclipse Silver and voila! I had the makings for a mojito.

Spring, in a glass. I heart mmmminty mojitos.

I tried my first mojito at an all-inclusive resort years ago and got hooked. I love the way mint completes this cocktail. It would be good with just rum, sugar and lime juice, but add mint and enjoy another level of complexity. It’s no wonder Cuba quickly nabbed the mojito as its national cocktail and, incidentally, Ernest Hemingway couldn’t drink enough of them.

The secret to a good mojito is the muddling. Some bartenders will utterly pulverize the mint (I had the misfortune of sampling my first and last blended mojito in Mexico last month. Truly, it was awful), but that’s overkill. Bruise it just enough to release the oils and you’re gold. Enjoy!

Mojito

  • 12 fresh mint leaves
  • 1-1/2 oz light rum
  • 1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup*
  • Top with soda water
  • Mint sprig and lime wedge garnish

Lightly muddle mint in the base of a Collins glass. Add rum, lime juice and simple syrup. Half fill the glass with crushed ice, then stir with a bar spoon to bring up the mint. Add more crushed ice and stir again. Top with soda water, stir again and serve with a straw to avoid mint-tooth.

*To make simple syrup, heat equal parts sugar and water in a sauce pan until sugar is dissolved. Cool and refrigerate.

— Recipe adapted from Cocktails Made Easy by Simon Difford

Five reasons I’d rather have real babies than ducklings

We babysat three baby ducklings from my daughter’s school last night. They were tiny, yellow, unbelievably soft and totally helpless. They chirped in alarm when the kids approached their plastic pen, but then settled down adorably on Avery’s lap to rest.

Awwww! Isn't he cute?

Right after she called me into the kitchen to witness the triple duckling love-in, one of them chose that moment to poop on her leg.

“Ewwwww! Yuck, Mommy! He pooped on my leg!” She looked at the poop in horror and I did what any parent in that situation would do. I burst out laughing. “It’s not funny!” she wailed, summoning tears to match her disgust.

You'll see a lot of this with ducklings. I calculated that they poop 12 times as much as a human infant.

Before you go thinking that’s a one-off occurence, and that maybe ducklings would make a good pet, let me just tell you: they poop A LOT. Like, four or five times an hour. I did the math and figured that’s about 12 times as much as a human baby poops. They also chirp incessantly (their noise caused another mom from Avery’s school to get up in the night to check on them — just like newborns!) and their pen gets so messy from spilled water and poop you need to change the newspaper every couple hours. They’re fairly high maintenance sleepover guests.

Cute? Absolutely, for about an hour. But thinking long term, consider that they grow into large, pecking, not-so-cute-anymore birds. With that in mind, here are five reasons I’d rather have real babies than ducklings:

  1. Human babies poop into a diaper, not on the floor.
  2. Human babies don’t step in their poop and then step into their water and food bowls.
  3. Human babies don’t poop the minute you put them into a nice clean bathtub, unless you’re extremely unlucky.
  4. Human babies eventually learn how to poop in a toilet; again, unless you’re extremely unlucky (confession: my son, age 4, still poops in a diaper. Sigh.).
  5. Human babies will one day fly away, but only when they’re all grown up and you’re ready for them to leave (so I say now).

My babies with the ducklings.

But for all their noise (and the rolls of paper towel we went through cleaning up poop), it was neat to see my babies play with their duckling babies. How about you? Have you taken ducklings home to babysit? Don’t they poop A LOT??

The trials and tribulations of pint-sized philanthropy

My daughter has graduated from Treehouse to YTV. Along with shows like Kung Fu Panda and Kid vs. Kat come advertisements. But instead of trying to get your kid to go Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, today’s ads tell your kid to visit new websites.

So one day last week Avery says, “Mommy, I want to go online and check out EarthRangers.com. I can sponsor an animal and help save its habitat and play games.”

Me: “Hmmmm.” This is something I say when I really do not feel like doing whatever potentially time-consuming activity my child has in mind. It gives me time to think and plan a strategy for saying no without actually saying no. “Where did you hear about this?”

Avery: “On YTV.” Well, at that point I should have said, “Oh, my gosh! I forgot there’s chocolate in the pantry!” But instead I sighed and said, “OK.”

Sucked in by an ad on YTV, my daughter insisted we check out EarthRangers.com

We found EarthRangers.com and before I new what was happening we’d signed up and Avery had created her own avatar. Then I did a little more reading about it.

Earth Rangers is a kid-driven conservation company that raises money to help some of Canada’s endangered species. Each child chooses an animal to protect — Avery picked the spotted turtle from Ontario — and then pledges to raise a certain amount of money. Avery was feeling generous and pledged $50. She then ran upstairs and grabbed her piggy bank.

Where's the hammer? There's $50 in toonies and loonies in here that could save a spotted turtle!

Avery: “Mommy, I have $50 in allowance money. I’m ready to donate!”

Me: “So you want me to make a $50 donation with my credit card and then you’ll give me all the money you’ve been saving since Christmas?”

Avery: “Yes. When will I get my prize?” I think she thought they’d ship her a spotted turtle or even just a cute animal stuffie, for her conservation efforts.

Me: “Hmmmm.” Pause. “You know, I don’t think you get anything. But you’ll have the knowledge you’re helping save the spotted turtles. Won’t that make you feel good?”

Avery: “No!” Cue tears. “What does that even mean?”

Me: “Well, donating money to a cause they believe in makes people feel good.”

Avery: “You mean they want all my allowance money and I don’t even get ANYTHING? That’s not fair! WAAAAHHHH!”

I explained that she didn’t have to spend all her own money to raise $50. She could ask grandparents and aunties to make donations on her behalf. This helped her feel somewhat better, but in her world, she felt a bit stung by false advertising. Helping those poor turtles for nothing! As if!

In my world, I couldn’t help but think how times have changed. Back in the day, $50 would have gotten me a year’s supply of Cocoa Puffs.

Drink of the Week: Pimm’s & Ginger

I have a confession. I never knew of the existence of the amber-hued and delicious elixer known as Pimm’s No. 1 until Mike Burns of The Ranche Restaurant in Calgary made a Pimm’s No. 1 Cup cocktail for a Spirited Calgary wedding cocktail column that I wrote last year. The drink is basically a Pimm’s mojito, where you muddle fruit and mint with Pimm’s — a spiced, gin-based liqueur — then top with ginger ale and 7-Up. I fell in love with the drink and bought a bottle of Pimm’s.

Coincidentally, my husband had travelled to Africa shortly before my Pimm’s cocktail discovery and he drank quite a lots of Pimm’s mixed with ginger ale while there (Pimm’s is kind of a big deal anywhere the Brits have left their mark; except for Canada, evidently). Since it’s a bit of work to chop and muddle fruit, and to always have soft drinks and mint on hand to make a Pimm’s cup, we decided a Pimm’s & Ginger is an almost-equally-as-refreshing, and tasty, spring sip. It’s also a lot easier to whip together for happy hour, or anytime — the Pimm’s motto is ‘It’s Pimm’s O’Clock!’. I like it.

Let's make Pimm's No. 1 popular in Canada, people! Try it. You'll love.

Pimm’s & Ginger

  • 1-1/2 oz Pimm’s No. 1
  • 4-1/2 oz ginger ale (or ginger beer)
  • Wedge of lemon
  • Slice of cucumber

Build the drink over ice in a Collins glass and garnish with a lemon wedge and cucumber slice.

— Recipe adapted from Spittoon.biz