Monthly Archives: June 2012

Drink of the Week: Innis & Gunn Canada Day 2012 beer

Happy Canada Day this weekend! No cocktail today for the DOTW. Canada Day weekend calls for a nice cold beer, don’t you think? And while this one isn’t made in the country, there are evidently enough Canuck-loving-Scots around to make a limited edition oak-aged brew possible. One like the Innis & Gunn Canada Day 2012 beer.

Toast all-things-Canadian with a delish brew that comes in a special package with Canadian art.

At any rate, it’s yummy — malty and sweet, with hints of vanilla and toffee. It has a rich complexity suited for celebrating a diverse country’s birthday. And if you’re into carton artwork (I mean, who isn’t?), you’ll love the sugar maple saplings design by B.C.-based artist Gary Whitley.

Sure, you could toast July 1 with a made-in-Canada microbrew, but repeat after me: Barrrel. Aged. Beer. Mmmm…

Climbing Kili for a cause

By now many of you know Blake and I are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro for our 15th anniversary and also in support of Bennett’s special needs preschool, Renfrew Educational Services. Read my blog page all about The Climb and The Cause.

We hiked the Inca Trail in 1999. Success! We’ll gain another mile in elevation getting to the top of Kili.

As you probably also know, Kili is a tough climb. It’s not technical so much as really, really high, so it’s the altitude that poses the biggest risk of one (or both) of us not making it to the top.

We’ve both hiked a lot in the Canadian Rockies, but not as much at high altitude. To prepare for the climb we are doing lots of day hikes and trying to walk at least 10,000 steps a day, including tons of stairs. From what I’ve heard about Kili though, no matter how much you prepare, a lot of the climb is mental — believing you can do it and pushing through the hard bits.

If you’ve done the climb or other high altitude treks and have any tips we’d love to hear them. We’d also love your support! We are trying to raise $5,895 to go toward our son’s school — I think knowing we’d reached our fundraising goal would help inspire us on the summit push. Onward and upward!

When I say my kid is special, I mean “special” special

On the outside, my son Bennett looks like any typical four-year-old boy. He’s cute, has a naughty streak, loves to jump on the trampoline and relishes tormenting his big sister. But all is not as it appears in his school picture.

Bennett also has a genetic condition called 18q- . He’s missing a small piece of one of his 18th chromosomes. This means he has been slow to hit milestones like walking and talking; it also means he has a difficult time playing and interacting with peers. On the whole his symptoms looks a lot like global developmental delay or autism (which he has also been diagnosed with).

Only one in 40,000 children in North America are born with a Chromosome 18 abnormality. When my husband and I decided to try for a second child and play what we used to half-jokingly refer to as “genetic roulette” (because we were, at ages 36 and 35 respectively, somewhat “older”), this condition was definitely not on our radar. And anyway, who really thinks they’re going to have a baby that makes them want to stop reading What to Expect the Toddler Years because he can’t stack blocks, or walk, or put two words together? In those early years, it was easier to put down the book and hope Bennett would catch up, than entertain the thought that something was wrong.

Saying it’s hard to parent a child with special needs is an understatement. It’s a slog. It’s tiring, it’s isolating and it’s scary. We worry about Bennett’s future (will he be living in our basement and bagging groceries at age 30?). And sometimes, because that thought is so frightening and depressing, all we can do is joke about it (humour really is the best medicine). Last week I chatted with a neighbourhood friend at the playground about Bennett and shared that he’s recently been potty trained (yay!) and he lost his first tooth. My take: “We’re so glad he was potty trained before he lost the tooth. I would have been beside myself if he was wandering around in diapers with a big gap in his mouth.” There’s a certain order to milestones, after all.

But joking aside, what happens when you have a child with special needs is this: your illusion of the perfect life with perfect children is shattered. There won’t be skiing at age four and hockey at six and lots of friends. There may not be university or marriage or future grandkids. The not knowing is scary, and sad. So I mourn the experiences I thought I’d share with my son. But I also work hard to celebrate his little milestones, like learning to dress himself, because for Bennett, that’s huge — it’s one small step on his slower, windier road to independence (and one step away from my basement). I also embrace and enjoy the awesome things we do together, like riding the Lake Louise gondola or playing on the beach in Mexico.

I also try and accept Bennett for who he is, and appreciate what he has brought to our life. More patience. More love. Way more hugs and kisses. He may not be skiing next winter, but you can bet he’ll be riding the magic carpet.

We love you B!

Bennett is currently attending preschool at Renfrew Educational Services where he works with therapists on his speech, fine motor and gross motor skills. He has made huge strides over the last two years and he will be attending kindergarten there in the fall. To say thanks and give back, Blake and I are raising money for Renfrew. Read more in Wednesday’s blog.

Drink of the Week: Port cocktails

Since you can make cocktails with beer, wine and even sake, I suppose it’s not much of a stretch to create mixed drinks using port. Not that heavy, after-dinner winter port, mind you. I’m talking about cocktails made with pink port.

The Paloma Rosa is like a grapefruit margarita with rose port in place of Cointreau.

Pacific Wine & Spirits sent me over a bottle of Croft Pink, a rose style of port made by extracting fresh fruity flavours and a lovely pink colour from limited contact with the skins of classic port grapes. The result is a refreshing, light port; one that’s sweet like a rose but also heavy like a port. It’s great to sip chilled on its own but it also makes a unique ingredient in summer patio cocktails.

The bottle came with a little booklet filled with Croft Pink cocktail recipes, and I sampled a couple on the first day of summer.

The Paloma Rosa (pictured above) was my favourite because I am a tequila girl. It’s not unlike a grapefruit margarita, with Croft Pink taking the place of Cointreau.

Paloma Rosa

  • 1 oz Croft Pink Porto
  • 1-1/2 oz white tequila
  • 2 oz grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz soda water
  • Dash of simple syrup as needed (I used 1/2 oz as our grapefruit juice was unsweetened)
  • Lime wedge garnish

Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass, stir, and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

I didn’t love the Sunset at first, but it grew on me as the ice melted and diluted the mix of port, gin and ginger beer. The gin’s botanicals highlight the port’s fruitiness and the ginger beer adds a nice kick of spice. It’s kind of like a hybrid Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, and makes another great patio drink.

It’s fruity, refreshing and grows on you as it goes down.


  • 2 oz Croft Pink Porto
  • 1 oz gin (I used Bombay Sapphire)
  • 2 dashes orange bitters (I used Twisted & Bitter)
  • 3 oz ginger beer
  • 1 mint sprig, for garnish
  • Seasonal fruit, as garnish

Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled highball glass, stir, and add the garnishes.

— Recipes courtesy Croft Pink

Dinosaur discoveries: the Alberta badlands with kids

It’s funny how many times Curious George has served as the impetus for my son to try new things. If Curious George goes camping, Bennett wants to go. Ditto the little monkey riding a train, learning the alphabet or buying ice cream from an ice cream truck. So imagine Bennett’s delight when he found out we were going to a dinosaur museum this past weekend, just like Curious George!

Since life doesn’t always imitate art, we did not join a dino dig nor did Bennett get to climb to the top of a dinosaur skeleton. While in the Drumheller area, however, we hiked among hoodoos, ogled skeletons at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and made some exciting discoveries including a blooming prickly pear cactus and dinosaur bones (but not a complete specimen). Here are our top picks for passing the time in dino-land with kids.

Since our daughter will no longer pose for inane pictures like this, it’s up to me to be dorky.

1. Hike in Horseshoe Canyon. Located just off Hwy. 9 on the way to Drumheller from Calgary, this canyon will be your first glimpse into Alberta’s badlands, a stunning geography of domed sandstone formations created by water erosion over millions of years. It’s easy to hike down into the canyon along one of the paths and then explore the formations. Just don’t get lost.

Hiking through the badlands.

2. Visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Otherwise known as the “Dinosaur Museum” this amazing facility boasts one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur remains in Dinosaur Hall, plus an Ice Age exhibit (hello woolly mammoth) and a display featuring weird-looking and now extinct huge mammals that used to roam the plains of Europe and North America.

Avery restrains Bennett from climbing onto a skeleton inside Dinosaur Hall.

3. Take a stroll outside of the museum. If your kids have any energy left after the first two activities, I highly recommend striking out for the interpretive trail just outside the museum’s doors. The 1.5-km gravel trail winds past more iconic badlands formations and it’s here we found a blooming prickly pear cactus and what we think might have been a couple of fossilized dinosaur bones (it had rained recently, which exposes new fossils). The kids loved it!

Avery’s first discovery — a blooming prickly pear cactus.

It’s a dinosaur fossil! We think, anyway. I like to think it’s part of an Albertosaurus’s arm.

In all, the day was a hit, even though we didn’t have time to visit Reptile World or climb to the top of the World’s Largest Dinosaur. Next time. Bennett’s one disappointment? Since we didn’t discover a new species of dinosaur, the Tyrrell Museum will not be naming a dinosaur after him (Bennettosaurus has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?).

Drink of the Week: Cuba Libre

My husband spent a week in Cuba with his dad and brother last November on a trip I like to call “Father’s Week.” What happened was this: they bonded over rum. Sipping rum, shooting rum, rum in mojitos and rum in that most manly of Caribbean cocktails, the Cuba Libre. A distant cousin to a Rum & Coke, just add lime juice and you’ve got yourself a more cultured quaff.

I serve the drink, which translates as “Free Cuba,” in a Collins glass from Vietnam (hence the Communist star and gun-toting peasant).

I like to think that the three men — all fathers — toasted fatherhood with rum while relishing their freedom from it on the sandy beaches of Cuba. They were libre, man! Libre to drink a lot of rum, shop for guayaberra shirts and ogle the 1950s-era cars crusing the streets of Havana.

So, in honour of Father’s Day, pour Dad a Cuba Libre and may he drink enough of them to wax nostalgic about the highs of fatherhood, while simultaneously forgetting all about the lows. As they say in Cuba, “Salud!”

Cuba Libre

  • 1-1/2 to 2 oz dark rum (Appleton Estate Reserve is nice)
  • 1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • Top with Coke
  • Lime wedges garnish

Add ingredients into an ice-filled Collins glass, stir. Squeeze in a couple lime wedges for a nonchalant Cuban garnish. Enjoy in adult company on Father’s Day.

Flying the un-family-friendly skies

If families aren’t being kicked off airplanes because of unruly toddlers, they’re being seated separately from their kids unless they pay extra. Many U.S. airlines have adopted seating policies whereby choice aisle and window seats are sold for an extra fee, forcing parents to cough up or risk having their kid seated between two strangers. It’s making people wonder whether airlines are anti-family, or simply using this strategy as a money-grab (probably the latter).

She’s cute, but would you want to sit next to her on a three-hour flight?

I found myself in this scenario in February when I flew from Calgary to Phoenix with my daughter on U.S. Airways. I went online to check us in and select our seats the day before we flew out (a practice I thought was free), only to find there weren’t any “free” seats left together. Available seats had little price tags on them — $25 or $35, depending on the seat. There were some middle seats available for free, but that wasn’t going to help me sit with my daughter on the airplane. Annoyed, I decided to sort it out at the airport — surely the flight attendants wouldn’t make a six-year-old girl sit between random strangers on a three-hour flight?

Yes, they would. The ladies at bag check, and then the gal at the gate, did a polite check, but the plane was full and there wasn’t any wiggle room. “You’ll just have to ask a passenger seated next to you if they’ll switch their seat with your daughter’s seat,” she said. Me, thinking the heartless airline should be the one to ask: “Can’t you do it?” Gate gal: “Wish I could, sweetheart. But trust me, you’ll have better luck if you ask yourself.” Evidently, other passengers already hated her.

“Mommy, do I have to sit by myself?” Avery asked, all big eyes and trembling lips. “Maybe. But probably some nice traveller will let us have their seat so we can sit together,” I replied. Well, the lady I asked to switch with Avery was nice … enough. I mean, she couldn’t really say no without looking like a big beyotch in front of the airplane audience. She gathered her things — I’m sure rolling her eyes and cursing her bad luck — and squeezed herself into the middle seat meant for Avery a couple rows back, probably between two obese travellers with B.O. So much for karma.

Or perhaps she sat between two Harlem Globetrotters — the team was on our flight — and was secretly glad to have a bit of leg room. That was our silver lining, anyway. When the plane landed, little Avery got to have her picture taken between two giant Globetrotters.

What about you? Have you experienced the frustration of not being able to sit together as a family without paying for the privilege? (Seems to me someone should pay for the privilege of sitting far, far from my children.)