Monthly Archives: June 2012

We bought a trampoline

Last summer we visited relatives in Vancouver who are proud owners of a trampoline and two dogs. After watching our kids spend hours jumping on the tramp, and walking and petting the pups — and thus rarely bugging us for anything — I had an epiphany. I said to Blake: “If we buy a trampoline and a dog, we’ll never have to parent again!”

It was all hugs and cuddles until Bennett started trying to bounce on Avery.

Fast forward to 10 days ago and the Canadian Tire flyer advertising Springfree trampolines on sale. I am not one to be sucked in by flyers, but it’s almost summer and the children are about to be unleashed upon me for nine weeks. When I yell at them to, “Go outside and play!” I want them to skedaddle, and quick.

Still, I have mixed feelings about trampolines — I worry a neighbour’s child will  do a flip on it and break her neck; that kind of thing. A Springfree tramp is supposed to be the safest kind since it lacks both a metal frame and springs, which together account for 70 percent of trampoline injuries. We watched the Springfree video and decided it was probably worth the extra money. (Yes, even on sale they’re expensive, more than a dog probably, but once my husband set it up it would be way less work than a puppy, I figured.)

The apparatus barely fits between our fence and garage, in a spot formerly reserved for weeds.

It’s been assembled for a day now and the kids love it. A net encloses the entire thing and even zippers shut so Bennett can’t accidentally bounce out. I had a tramp as a kid and am astonished my parents let me jump on it unsupervised. No net. Metal frame covered by thin pads. Springs on all sides waiting to pinch and maim. It was a death trap and I’m lucky to still be here.

I jumped on this old-school tramp and so did my friends and miraculously no one ever got hurt. Circa 1986.

Now, in spite of all the advances in trampoline safety and technology, some parents still hate them and think they are dangerous. To prevent injuries you’re supposed to follow certain rules like:

  • No bouncing the dog (WTF?)
  • No flipping unless you know how
  • Only one boucer at a time

This final rule will be a problem in our house. Both kids want to jump at the same time. All. The. Time. Bennett even snuck out of the house after dinner — naked! — to bounce. Blake: “Where’s Bennett?” Me: “I don’t know, isn’t he with you?” Blake: “Um…nooo…” I looked out Avery’s window and there he was, jumping all free and unemcumbered.

Yes, there’s freedom in a trampoline, for the kids and for us. We can sit at our patio table, sip mojitos, enjoy adult conversation and occasionally glance up to make sure the kids aren’t bouncing the neighbour’s black lab puppy while attempting flips.

We have a direct sightline to the tramp from cocktail central.

Drink of the Week: Strawberry Collins

It’s been a tough week between potty training trials and tribulations (look for a blog on that soon), crazy thunderstorms and night waking on top of the usual deadlines. Add in a craftastrophe and I’m looking forward to my weekly dose of medication in a hurricane glass.

Enter the Stawberry Collins from the Sandstone Lounge at the Hyatt Calgary’s summer cocktail menu. I am new to gin cocktails and this drink hits all the right notes. You can taste the gin and lime juice right away, but plunge deeper with the straw and you’ll come away with sweet strawberry puree. It’s very refreshing — just what mommy needs before she picks the children up from school!

It’s sweet and tart plus — bonus! — there’s gin.

Strawberry Collins

  • 1-1/2 oz No. 3 gin
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. simple syrup
  • Soda water
  • 2 tbsp. strawberry puree

Build the drink over ice in a hurricane glass. Add the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup, top with soda water, then dollop on the strawberry puree. Stir. Yum.

–Recipe courtesy Tracy Burton, Sandstone Lounge

Calaway Park: Just for the Bumper Boats

I have a confession. Prior to this past weekend, I had always harboured a somewhat snobbish and superior attitude toward Calaway Park. For those readers not from Calgary, Calaway Park is an amusement park on the city’s outskirts that operates in the summer. It has a roller coaster, log ride, bumper cars and carousel, plus all manner of midway snacks, and games to play to try and win those giant stuffed animals popular among children and the white-trash set. You know the ones I’m talking about.

Snack break by The Vortex. Blake says I should’ve dressed him in a ‘beater to complete the look.

At any rate, Disneyland it ain’t. But here’s where it helps to see a place through the eyes of your child, as if for the first time. Our kids have never been to Disney or Magic Mountain or even Elitch Gardens. They have only been to the Calgary Stampede midway, and compared to those rides (and the accompanying lines), Calaway Park is “super awesome.” I am now in agreement with this sentiment.

Bennett knows he’s on the lamest ride at Calaway Park — it’s not even listed among rides on the website!

We scored tickets through Renfrew Educational Services where my son attends preschool, as part of the Light Up a Child’s Life event sponsored by the Calgary Cerebral Palsy Association and Calaway Park. Though the theme park could use a fresh coat of paint in spots and the rookie teenage workers give the place an Adventureland feel (but not in a bad way), we had a super awesome evening of great weather, no lines, lots of junk food and crazy rides. Here is my Top 5.

1. Shoot the Chutes. Calaway Park’s version of Splash Mountain has all the steep descents without all those annoying singing animals. In fact, at one point when our log floated dangerously close to the log in front of us just prior to the 33-foot drop, I thought we were going to die in a log-jam pile-up. I only wish I’d shelled out the $9 post-ride for a picture of us screaming during the descent.

2. Cotton candy. Sometime between 1979 and now, scientists have experimented on this childhood confection, turning a once humble-if-sugary treat into a diabetic catastrophe of colossal proportions. Could they make the $5 bag any bigger? Sweeter? Pinker? I think not.

It’s three days later and what’s the bigger surprise: that there’s still cotton candy left, or that Avery hasn’t succumbed to a sugar coma?

3. Rides for all ages. While Avery and Blake were off on The Vortex, I took Bennett on the Swirly Twirl. It is way cooler that it looks.

Just chillin’ on the Swirly Twirl.

4. Haunted House. This is quite possibly the lamest haunted house I have ever set foot in. And yet, the children loved it, likely because it’s dark but not at all scary. A giant papier mache spider? That’s all you’ve got? The best part: no nightmares post-house.

5. Bumper Boats. We almost skipped this gem of a ride because it was late in the evening and I was worried we’d get wet and cold. Well, we got wet, but our maniacal laughter as Bennett and I chased down other boats to spray them with the squirter, kept us warm.

Thanks for the fun CalawayPark. We’ll be back!

Drink of the Week: Rum Punch (large batch)

If you want to host a good mixer, serve up a large batch of rum punch. I recently did this for a school fundraiser and the party turned into a “rumaway.”

People drank the punch like water. They got wasted. One gal even puked! No, we aren’t a bunch of university revellers; we’re responsible adults — with kids even! But there’s just something about rum punch. It smells good, for starters, thanks to the nutmeg and Angostura bitters. It tastes good too, just as Mount Gay Eclipse rum mixed with brown sugar syrup and lime juice should. So there’s a danger folks will chug it, even though it’s strong.

Now that it’s garden party season it’s easy to whip up a big punch bowl of it — just make sure there’s a disclaimer next to the bowl. Something like,  “Warning: this punch is really strong — it will get you drunk!”

This punch should only be consumed after reading the disclaimer: It will get you drunk.

Rum Punch (to mix in an 11-litre dispenser or bowl)

  • 2 parts Mount Gay Eclipse rum (I used four 750-mL bottles)
  • 1 part lime juice (I used 1.5 litres of Ready-Set-Serve lime juice by Markon)
  • 1 part simple syrup (I used 1.5 litres I made myself, method below)
  • 1/2 part water (about 750 mL) or to taste
  • 25 heavy dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 tbsp. nutmeg
  • Big ball of ice (method below)

Into a large punch bowl or dispenser gently place a round ball of ice to keep the punch cool without diluting it (fill a balloon with water, tie it off and freeze. Peel the balloon off and voila! Ice ball). Pour in the rum, lime juice, simple syrup, water, bitters and nutmeg. Stir everything together with a big spoon. Serve in a plastic cup — or rocks glass, if you’re fancy — packed with ice.

To make simple syrup, combine equal parts brown sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Cool and refrigerate.