Monthly Archives: August 2012

Drink of the Week: Shred Daddy

Shred Daddy isn’t the cocktail that comes to mind after canoeing around Island Lake on a hot summer’s day, but when I saw it on the Bear Lodge Patio menu at Island Lake Lodge, I couldn’t resist.

We canoe mamas (and tots) worked up a thirst paddling around Island Lake on a 30C day. The antidote? A Shred Daddy.

First, it contains Knob Creek bourbon and I’ve been having a little love-in with this dark spirit all summer. Second, there are muddled blackberries in it. Yum. Finally, it’s topped with iced tea, rendering it awesomely refreshing. I have no idea how it came by its mid-winter cat-skiing moniker (Island Lake Lodge ditches the canoes and day hikes in favour of cats and deep powder come winter), but I’m not complaining. This mama loved the Shred Daddy.

Muddled blackberries, bourbon and iced tea. Nice!

Shred Daddy

  • Handful fresh blackberries
  • 1 oz Knob Creek bourbon
  • 1/2 oz mint simple syrup
  • Top sweet iced tea
  • Lemon twist and mint leaf garnish

In the base of a rocks glass, muddle the blackberries with the simple syrup. Fill the glass with ice then add the bourbon and top with iced tea (about 3 oz). Stir to lift blackberries from the bottom of the glass, then garnish with a lemon twist and mint leaves.

— Recipe courtesy Island Lake Lodge

No back-to-school shopping for my kids

If I were like nine out of 10 moms, right now I would be elbowing to the front of the queue at The Children’s Place with a haul of kids’ clothes (fall collection) ready to pull out the plastic and charge over $250 augmenting my Grade 2 daughter’s and kindergarten-aged son’s back-to-school wardrobes.

Instead, I am spending the week before school starts in Fernie, B.C. where my kids are hiking, swimming in a lake, digging in a dirty sandbox and otherwise grinding soil into and wearing holes in what remains of their summer clothing.

Grubby clothes: a side-effect of playing outdoors.

I made the mistake of venturing into a Walmart at 2:45 on a Saturday afternoon earlier this month and was dismayed to see the mayhem that constitutes this shopping phenomenon. I’d forgotten that two years ago I wrote a cocktail column on this very subject that recommended toting along a little liquid courage: the Walmart Wallbanger.

At any rate, I just don’t get the need to rush out with all of Calgary to spend a ton of money buying new items for my children when last year’s backpack and lunch box will do. If the jeans and leggings and T-shirts still fit, we can wait until the fall sales to add more. Other bloggers are lamenting how we’re dressing our kids into bankruptcy and how it isn’t right they have newer and cuter clothes than Mom.

I confess: Last year Avery scored a new backpack and vest, but I swear she needed them!

But beyond the financial wrongness of overspending on graphic tees and cargo pants — and beyond the priority wrongness of neglecting yourself by wearing baggy sweatpants with a scraggly hairdo while your daughter looks so darn cute everyone thinks you’re the dayhome lady instead of her mom — it strikes me that we’re sending our kids the wrong message by purchasing everything new all the time. Whatever happened to hand-me-downs and wearing something out? Half the time my daughter eschews the new tunic and skirt I thought were so cute in favour of her worn-in old T-shirt and hole-y leggings.

Bennett rocked his hand-me-down shirt and re-used his stylish and durable Roots backpack.

Our kids certainly don’t need and don’t necessarily want everything new, so maybe we should just stop it and enjoy the last week of summer vacation instead of fighting the back-to-school crowds.

What do you think? Back-to-school shopping — yay or nay?

Hello, Mr. Ice Cream!

Kid: “Do you hear that sound? It’s music … it’s an ice cream truck!”

Parent: “Awww, too bad. That’s the song the ice cream truck plays when it’s all out of ice cream.”

I have to laugh because this is what friends of mine used to tell their kid whenever those familiar strains wafted within earshot on a hot summer’s day. I’m not sure if they then dragged their child indoors so she wouldn’t see everyone else in the neighbourhood lining up for popsicles and ice cream sandwiches, but I get it. Sometimes the truck’s timing is all off. You’ve just had a snack, or you already caved in to one of your kid’s demands. One thing’s for sure though: I pity the parent with an empty wallet when Dickie Dee makes his rounds.

I love that Mr. Ice Cream (a Dickie Dee competitor, no doubt) features a bomb pop on the side of his truck.

Now that Avery and Bennett are older (read: can eat ice cream without wearing half the cone) I actually welcome visits from the truck. It reminds me of when I was a kid and we’d hear that music coming up our street. Every child in the nighbourhood would sprint from their yard for a treat. My favourite was a bomb pop popsicle, which I’m happy to see is still in rotation.

Heeding the urgent call of Mr. Ice Cream, our neighbour greets the truck in his pull-up.

So, we were delighted when a truck drove down our cul-de-sac street earlier this summer. It was a 1976 flashback, with kids, parents and adults running from all directions. We queued up, ordered, paid and then got down to sweet, drippy business.

The original “food” truck.

Awesome! Now, here’s my advice for the last week of summer vacation: When you hear those musical notes go find Dickie Dee — he still has lots of ice cream left.

Drink of the Week: Sangria (large batch)

If you’re hosting a summer barbecue and want to serve a signature cocktail that pairs well with burgers but won’t get your friends stinking drunk, opt for sangria.

I learned my lesson after mixing up a truly lethal (however delicious) rum punch for a fundraiser last spring. I decided since I was hosting this party at my house (instead of the community hall) and I was parenting-while-entertaining, it served my interests (and those of my friends, neighbours and of course, the children) to scale back on the booze. The result: a delicious red wine sangria.

Does the dispenser look familiar? In a former life it served rum punch.

This sangria is refreshing and fruity, but not too sweet. The brandy adds oomph and the juices just the right combo of tart (cranberry and lemon) and sweet (pineapple). The great thing about sangria is you can play around with it to your liking and add fruit chunks that fit your fancy. If you’re brave you can even enjoy the fruit the following day as a sort of “hair of the dog” yukaflux fruit salad.

I am happy to report the sangria went over swimmingly. The only “sangricident” happened when a nine-year-old neighbour poured himself a nice big cup of the concoction (he thought it was punch). Thank goodness it wasn’t rum punch!

Sangria (to mix in an 11-litre dispenser or extra-large punch bowl)

  • 4 bottles (750 mL x 4) red or white wine (always use a wine that you would drink on your own — we used a Peter Lehmann Layers blend, red, 2009)
  • 1 bottle (750 mL) St. Remy VSOP brandy
  • 16 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 12 cups chopped fresh fruit, divided (see cook’s note)
  • 64 oz fruit juice: cranberry and pineapple for red sangria; pineapple and grapefruit for white sangria
  • Soda water topper

Set aside 2 cups of the chopped fresh fruit to add to cups as a garnish. Mix all remaining ingredients in the dispenser and top with soda water to add a light spritz. Pour over ice in a cup then dollop in some of the reserved chopped fruit.

Cook’s note: Use fruit that will absorb and impart flavours, such as apples, oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries and even cucumbers.

— Recipe adapted from a Vin Room Sangria recipe

Extreme parenting: mosquito-hiking edition

Now that it’s mid-August, Blake and I naively thought that Calgary’s mosquito population had been quietly killed off by the summer heat. So we took the children for a six-kilometre “hike” in the Weaselhead Flats natural environment area, a wetland delta where the Elbow River empties into Glenmore Reservoir.

Yeah, I know — what were we thinking?! I assure you it was not: “Let’s do a Burmese March through a mosquito-infested wetland when it’s 30C outside!” It was more like: “Hey, this sounds like a nice, shady interpretive trail by the Elbow River. Maybe we’ll see a weasel or a black bear!”

A misleading sign lured us into the swamp with talk of birds and bears.

Oddly, the interpretive sign was lacking a picture of the most prevalent Weaselhead inhabitant:

Dear hikers, this is the only “wildlife” you will see. Suckers!

In real life they look like this:

Now, multiply this by 200. I think that’s how many bites we received as a family of four.

The hike began ominously, when we opted to bushwack our way down a lesser-used path, thus alerting the mosquitoes to our presence. Once the swarm knew we were in the vicinity they followed us to the bridge:

And down to the riverbank:

I assure you as soon as Avery and I completed our “royalty waves” we used those hands to kill mosquitoes.

Then, sensing we were easy prey (no insect repellent) they tormented our family for the next 90 minutes as we sprinted, swatted and swore our way out of the swamp. We were so busy trying to kill them that we probably marched right past a weasel. Really, we just wanted it to end.

Avery: “I’m itchy! Why did we do this hike? I hate it!”

Me: “Just keep walking — it’s harder for them to land on you that way.”

Bennett: “Look! A mosquito’s biting me, Mommy.”

Blake (swatting Bennett’s back): “Got it!”

Avery (crying): “I’m itchy! I want to die!”

Me: “Well, if you lie down on the ground they’ll just land on you all at once. So keep moving!”

Avery: “You don’t have to yell at me! I wish I was in Jell-O!” (Yes, so irritating and menacing were the blood suckers, my daughted wanted to be encased in Jell-O, out of harm’s way.)

Now, reread the above dialogue 20 times to get a sense of the final 20 minutes of our hike. When we finally climbed the hill out of the marsh back to the parking lot, the sky had clouded over and you could actually see the mosquitoes thick in the air. I imagine my back looked something like this hat:

Thankfully, I’ll never know. And I’ll never again go hiking in Weaselhead Flats without a full bottle of bug spray.

Drink of the Week: Aviation

I first heard of an Aviation cocktail in Victoria last October. I was in town for the Art of the Cocktail festival where I toured Victoria Spirits (makers of Victoria Gin) on the Saanich Peninsula. I asked gin distiller Peter Hunt what his favourite gin cocktail was. His answer: “An Aviation.”

Upon returning to Calgary I wrote a Spirited Calgary cocktail column called Tempting gin cocktails. I wanted to include an Aviation but didn’t want to purchase its obscure ingredients. So imagine my delight to discover an Aviation on the menu at Milk Tiger Lounge last week.

The pre-prohibition Aviation recipe calls for Creme de Violette.

The pre-prohibition recipe favoured by Milk Tiger bartender Nathan Head includes Creme de Violette, which adds the lovely lavender hue pictured above.

I already love gin with lemon juice (hello, Tom Collins), and the floral and sweet notes of the Creme de Violette offset the tart lemon and enhance the gin. You just need a little Creme de Violette, ditto the sweet maraschino liqueur. In a word — love — and I’m glad I finally understand why gin-lovers adore this drink.

Aviation

  • 1-1/2 oz gin
  • 1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino
  • 1/4 oz Creme de Violette (Giffard brand)
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a brandied or maraschino cherry (a good homemade one, or a brand like Luxardo, not the scary red ones).

— Recipe courtesy Nathan Head, Milk Tiger Lounge

Top 5 lame Sky Mall items

The only joy I get from flying United Airlines can be found in the seat pocket in front of me. No, it’s not the barf bag; it’s the tattered, well-loved copy of Sky Mall. For those not in the know, Sky Mall is a catalogue that contains some of the strangest inventions known to humankind. Have you been looking for arthritis pain relieving gloves? A self-cleaning kitty litter box? A zombie statue for the front yard? Me too!

For every bizarro need you never knew you had until flipping through its pages, Sky Mall delivers. Now, some of the items look innovative and useful and are even travel-related, such as the Rolling Carry On And Laptop Bag, made from real leather — stylish and practical. And what wouldn’t I pay for a pair of Military Zoom Binoculars that can spot “the color of an Eagle’s eye … from a mile away!”

But others? Let the images and my commentary speak to their inanity.

1. SkyRest Travel Pillow

Yes, Buddy is bringing his giant “between-airline-seats”-shaped pillow all the way to Australia so he has something comfortable to drool on during the 12-hour flight. This is, evidently, a “Top Seller.” Um, where does he stow it when the food arrives? (Oh wait, nevermind. He’s flying United.)

2. NFL Forest Face

I will start off by saying I’m not a big sports fan. I don’t really get the whole American NFL mania that seizes die-hards (and I grew up in Denver, home to rabid John Elway-Broncos lovers). Having said that, I understand the desire to wear your team’s jersey to a game, or even to paint your face during the playoffs. But now you want to subject nature to your weird fetish? Really? Just sayin’.

3. Remote-Control Beverage Cooler

“Just point your remote, and get your drink delivered, no cabana boy required.” Subtext: Because you’re too lazy to get off your fat ass and walk five feet to grab a cold one.

4. Easter Island Monolith Statue

The only place this would look good in a yard is on Easter Island. Really.

5. “Tex the Armadillo” Beverage Holder

I don’t get it. But if you’re from Texas, please explain this to me.