Monthly Archives: October 2012

Beware the Flu Pumpkin

Pumpkin carving at our house is an event to be put off until the last possible moment, like the night before Halloween. Carve them even a week too early in this cold weather and their tops will have caved into their heads in a gruesome sort of way by Oct. 31, perhaps a desirable look when trying to create a creepy masterpiece.

Designing jack-o-lanterns with the kids (we vetoed any designs that were too fancy: “Google’s broken”).

Usually our jack-0-lantern designs are boring and benign, generic even. But this year I recalled Extreme Pumpkins, a pumpkin carving book that I wrote a blurb about back in my Calgary Herald brief-writing days.

Beware extreme pumpkins — they sometimes cannibalize one another.

We let our daughter design her own pumpkin, which we’ll call “Happy Pumpkin” because, compared to the other two, that’s what he is:

Meet Happy, Avery’s creation.

I was trying to carve a “catumpkin,” but the ears ended up looking like horns. Then Bennett declared, “He’s mad, Mommy!” and so I dubbed him “Angry Pumpkin:”

Meet one pissed off, anguish-ridden gourd.

Blake spent many more minutes on his creation, channelling a “drunkumpkin” at times. I thought the orange globe looked sick more than intoxicated and, thanks to the discarded seeds and pumpkin innards (mixed with coffee grounds), we came up with “Flu Pumpkin:”

Not sure why he threw up on the Globe and Mail? Must’ve been the headline about the Monster (storm).

We can only hope our children will not mimic his performance after eating too much candy.

What about you? Do you carve traditional pumpkins or pull out all the stops?

Trick or treat? Our Climbing Kili for a Cause campaign wraps up on Oct. 31st

Before Blake and I went to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro I was invited to appear on Global TV in Calgary to talk about our trip and the reason we were doing it. I re-appeared on Global last weekend as a follow-up to the first interview, to talk about the actual climb (the highlights, the hardest part) and how much money we have raised for Renfrew Educational Services.

Mt. Kilimanjaro looks very far away on Day 2. When the clouds cleared we snapped this picture, our first good view of Kili’s iconic domed summit.

When you appear on TV (totally nervous, especially the first time), you wonder if anyone will watch and, if they do, whether you’ll get your message across successfully (e.g. will every person in Calgary donate money to Renfrew Educational Services?). There’s really no way to know, which is why it’s always nice to get viewer feedback. This e-mail (edited and excerpted, below) arrived in my in-box shortly after my appearance and made me feel like it’s all been worthwhile:

“I just saw your Global TV story, and was promted to write to you to say congratulations to both you and your husband for your efforts to help Renfrew Educational Services.

My daughter attended the main campus of Renfrew in the N.E. for two years, she too was special needs.  She suffered from a very rare neurological condition, which left her wheelchair bound and although she struggled with fine motor and gross motor skills she LOVED going to school on the bus everyday.  I agree with all you said, about the teachers, the aides and the support teams there for speech and other therapies…simply incredible people who helped her in so many ways. I will never forget all they did for her and for our family.

Sadly, she passed when she was just four and a half, but not many days go by where I don’t see a school bus and think of her joy and excitement of going to school each day.  I commend you for your efforts and just wanted to let you know how grateful many will be for your efforts which will be helpful to so many other families.”

Of course I know our fundraising campaign has been worthwhile and successful — we’ve raised $7,470, passing our goal! — but this e-mail still made me cry. I know it can be hard for parents of “typical” kids to understand how great a school like Renfrew is for “special” kids like my Bennett. So to hear it from someone who has been there, literally, really hit home.

Renfrew recently asked me to write a story for their semi-annual magazine about our Kili climb and fundraising campaign. I wrote:

“I think the short-term challenge of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro was small compared to the life-long mountain of challenges and obstacles that face parents raising children with special needs.

Making it to the top of Kili filled me with a feeling of, “I did it!” It was inspiring — it made me wonder what else I’m capable of doing. Raising Bennett? I now know, thanks in part to Renfrew, I can do this.”

My hope is that other families with children at Renfrew will feel like they can do it, that they’re not alone in a world that becomes harder to navigate when your child has special needs. And of course my other hope is that Renfrew will continue doing what it does best — helping kids soar — thanks to donations like those we received during our four-month-long campaign.

Our Climbing Kili for a Cause fundraising campaign officially wraps up on Oct. 31st, so if you’re feeling generous…

Thank you! Asante sana!

Drink of the Week: Elderflower G&T

Ever since returning from Africa I have been loving gin and tonics. The sundowner drink of choice (read more about sundowner cocktails in my next Calgary Herald column on Nov. 10), I became quite accustomed to my daily G&T whilst watching the sun set over Tanzania.

I didn’t always love them, however. Both tonic and gin are an acquired taste, I find, so adding a little something to soften the duo can help. A lot. Enter elderflower cordial to make an Elderflower G&T.

The elderflower cordial tones down the tonic and brings out the gin’s floral notes.

My friend Liz Tompkins introduced me to this lovely libation last week. She was camping this past summer with gal-pal Laura Jackson, who supplied the ingredients, and they enjoyed this civilized twist on a classic. I think you will, too.

Elderflower G&T

  • 1 oz Hendrick’s gin
  • 1/2 oz elderflower cordial
  • Top tonic (2-3 oz, to taste)
  • Squeeze lime
  • Ice

Build the drink in a rocks glass, stir, then add enough ice to fill the glass and chill the drink.

–Recipe courtesy Laura Jackson