Monthly Archives: September 2012

Drink of the Week: Fruit Forward

One of my favourite things about the end of summer is the fresh fruit. Peaches, nectarines, raspberries and blueberries are spilling over the B.C.-Alberta border in great quantity and my appetite for them knows no limit. I’m eating them plain, with yogurt, in cereal, in salads and now, thanks to Absolut Grapevine, I’m drinking them too.

It’s easy to drink fresh raspberries and blueberries: add booze and muddle.

Thirsty Traveler and mixologist Kevin Brauch created some summer cocktail recipes incorporating several different spirits, from Absolut vodka to Malibu rum. The folks at LexPR (bless them!) then shipped me a bottle of Absolut Grapevine (smells and tastes like white grapes, with alcohol) and a recipe list with simple instructions: Enjoy.

They somehow knew that my son would clog the upstairs toilet with a pair of Sesame Street gonch, and my daughter would accidentally knock over a house plant onto the area rug … leading poor Mommy to opine: “Oh, Absolut Grapevine, where have you been all my summer?” Sadly, unopened, in my liquor cabinet. Until now.

As soon as the kids were in bed I mixed up a Fruit Forward cocktail because we had fresh blueberries and raspberries on hand, plus half a bottle of white wine. This drink is a “MacGyver recipe” born out of a “memorable camping trip,” says Brauch. Remind me to go camping with Brauch, who evidently packs in vodka, fresh berries, simple syrup and white wine.

Pretty, and pretty tasty.

The cocktail is like a boozy sangria (note: 2 parts vodka, 1 part wine), with the bonus of  extra fruit as you sip your way down the glass. It’s especially enjoyed during late summer weekends, or on school nights when your kids have trashed the house. Drink, mix another, repeat. And remember: Enjoy!

Grapevine vodka meets wine and berries. A good thing.

Fruit Forward

  • 2 oz Absolut vodka (I used Grapevine, with dazzling results)
  • Handful of fresh seasonal fruit of your choice (I used raspberries and blueberries)
  • 1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • Jacob’s Creek Moscato white wine (I used Summerhill organic Chardonnay, 2009)

In a cocktail shaker glass, muddle fruit with lemon juice and simple syrup. Add vodka, pour all over ice, shake vigorously, strain into a chilled Collins glass filled with ice, and top with the wine. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig.

–Recipe by Kevin Brauch

The best back-to-school goody bag ever

Part of the excitement about going back to school is finding out who the teacher is going to be. Sure, kids want to see their friends again, but they wonder if they’ll like the person charged with teaching them how to spell and do subtraction. After all, by the time they’re in Grade 2 they can choose their friends, but not the teacher.

As a parent this relationship is fraught with even more tension. I hope my child’s teacher will be kind and fair, and inspire my daughter to meet her potential. On top of all that, I hope she loves her job; that she thrives on being in a nosiy classroom with my kid every day. A tall order, I know. So I was pretty excited when I met Avery’s teacher. Not only is she young and pretty (traits that will take you far with seven-year-olds), she’s nice. And she loves field trips. And art! It’s a good start.

But what really impressed me was the little cellophane baggie she sent home yesterday with each student. Onto the living room floor Avery dumped out nine stars, one penny, two paper clips, a sticker, an eraser, a pencil, one gold ribbon, a rubber band, a pipe cleaner and a Band-Aid:

These items, along with the note, delivered a great welcome message.

This first-day-of-school goody bag didn’t make sense until we read the note:

I loved this note from Mrs. Pomerleau. I think it’s goint to be a great year!

I love that Avery’s teacher took the time to assemble this welcome bag that packed some important messages to impart to little kids, like remember to do your best, and every child has worth. It gave me a huge warm fuzzy.

I also love that Avery could read the entire note and that she immediately zeroed in on her favourite messages. “I like the gold ribbon, the stars, the eraser and the sticker, Mommy.” For a kid who often strives for perfection, I think Avery was relieved to learn that her new teacher thinks it’s okay to make mistakes as part of learning. Hooray!

I’m sure Avery will periodically forget that hurt feelings go hand in hand with school (and that Band-Aids help all kinds of boo-boos), and she might “stick” better with some classmates than with others, but no matter. I could have sat her down and tried explaining all these points to my seven-year-old. Sometimes though, it’s better to show than tell. Mrs. Pomerleau gets that — she illustrated her points beautifully, in a way that was easy for a Grade 2 student to grasp. I think it’s going to be a great year.

Hiking in Fernie with “Nature Bob”

My husband and I love hiking with our kids and we usually strike out on the trails solo as a family of four. But on Saturday we bumped into Fernie nature guide Bob Livsey — a.k.a. “Nature Bob” — at the top of the Timber Chair at Fernie Alpine Resort. With no hikes booked for the afternoon he asked if he could tag along as a guide while we hiked the Lost Boys loop, a 1.7-kilometre trail that descends to the Mammoth Droppings (giant boulders below Mammoth Peak) before climbing 100 metres to the Lost Boys Pass lookout. We said, “Sure!”

The best way to access alpine hikes at Fernie is to ride the Timber Chair. Sadly, summer operations ended this weekend.

Friends of ours and their two boys had come along for the fun, so our party of eight, plus Nature Bob, began the hike, curious what a hiking guide could add to the experience. A lot, it turns out.

Walking through dense forest before we reached the impressive Mammoth Droppings boulders, Bob pointed out ripe huckleberries that the kids immediately gobbled down. He also showed us the delicious-looking yet poisonous twisted stalk red berries, and explained that purple elderberries are only edible when cooked. Good to know.

Nature Bob points to the top of Mammoth Peak, from which large boulders have fallen to form the “Mammoth Droppings” in the background.

Nature Bob has been leading hikes at Fernie Alpine Resort for 12 years, and he teaches skiing there in the winter, so he knows the mountain extremely well. He explained the rock formations and helped us find crinoid fossils in slabs of limestone. We also spotted a distant critter that looked like either a coyote or a fox; Bob used his binoculars to determine it was a coyote.

One in our party holds up two limestone slabs to show off the crinoid fossils.

Bob loved that our kids and our friend’s boys delighted in finding caterpillars, catching grasshoppers, watching chipmunks and jumping over rocks at the Mammoth Droppings. He also liked that we asked lots of questions and seemed prepared for the unpredictable late-summer weather (it was 20C at the bottom of Timber Chair and probably 10C at the top, some 700 metres higher). “Some people show up for alpine hikes wearing flip-flops,” he lamented. “And some folks just go, go, go, without taking in what they’re seeing. It’s like they’re running a race.” Yep, with four kids aged four to 11 in tow, that was not us. We were all about sloooow hiking.

The children loved jumping over rocks at the Mammoth Droppings, the hike highlight.

We never made it to the Lost Boys Pass lookout (the downside of slow hiking) but that’s OK. It was fun to explore part of the mountain with someone in the know. And that way, contrary to the name of the trail, it ensured we didn’t get lost.

Nature Bob runs guided hikes throughout the summer at Fernie Alpine Resort. The season is now over, but you can e-mail him next summer at, or call the resort’s guest services at 250-423-2435 to enquire about guided hikes.