Monthly Archives: February 2013

Date night fails

The last two times my husband and I have tried to go out as a couple have ended in failure. A week ago we booked a sitter so we could go see The Hobbit while it’s still in theatres, but an hour before she arrived our daughter whacked her head on the bed frame necessitating a trip to the emergency room and three stitches.

Bandaged in triage, my daughter's head injury killed what might have been a romantic night out. Nevermind, hobbits  kinda kill romance too.

Bandaged in triage, my daughter’s head injury killed what might have been a romantic night out. Nevermind, hairy-footed hobbits kill romance too.

Then, on Saturday, our son spiked a fever five hours before the babysitter showed up. We cancelled. The really annoying part of this particular date foiling was that I’d spent three hours at the salon that morning going back to blonde. My new lustrous locks and subsequent blow out was wasted on a sick five-year-old.

My new hair. Well, not exactly. Dare to dream!

My new hair! Well, not exactly. Dare to dream…

It’s all very deflating and makes you wonder — what’s the point of date night? Should we make an effort to get gussied up to go out on the town (and spend a bunch of money) when we might have to cancel at the last minute? Or, should we just lounge around in our P.J.s and watch Breaking Bad together after the kids are in bed and call it a date? Romantic, I know.

A recent story in the Globe and Mail lambasted the concept of date night, calling it a forced domestic chore that puts added pressure on couples. After our last two sad attempts, I can relate. In the run up to date night, you invest a lot of energy into looking forward to it, relishing (and idealizing) the idea of time away from the kids. But sometimes the movie sucks, or dinner is just okay, or you have to cancel and then imagine that you are missing out on the best night of your life.

On the other hand, there are times when date night works and you return home feeling reconnected with your partner after talking about things other than the kids and schedules. I wrote about date night’s benefits in a Calgary Herald story awhile ago.

Personally, I’d skip the date nights altogether if Blake and I could have regular date weekends. You know, dump the kids off at Grandma’s house and hop a flight to San Francisco or Montreal for a blissful escape exploring a new city. After all, the Globe’s argument wasn’t that couple time isn’t important, but that it’s better spent discovering something new together, or being spontaneous.

Enjoying a weekend in Montreal sans kiddos.

Enjoying a weekend in Montreal sans kiddos.

What about you? Date night — yay or nay?

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Drink of the Week: St-Germojito

Please excuse this cocktail’s  ridiculous name. It’s just that I didn’t know what else to call the “mojito” made with St-Germain, that I created earlier this week.

You can almost imagine spring is coming while sipping this St-Germain mojito.

Imagine spring is coming while sipping this St-Germain mojito.

It was happy hour and we were faced with a dire scenario: no gin, no limes and only one lemon. We did have a bunch of leftover mint and some rum, however, so I decided to get experimental. Instead of using lime in my “mojito” I used half a lemon, as I prefer lime cocktails when they’re “cut” with lemon juice. Then, rather than adding sugar or making a simple syrup I added St-Germain, an elderflower liqueur from France, as the drink’s sweetening agent. This worked wonderfully as it’s not too sweet and pairs well with mint.

I actually like my tart and refreshing St-Germojito more than a traditional mojito, which I often find too sweet and/or not strong enough. I could taste both the rum (just slightly) and the St-Germain. In a word: yum.

It's tart and refreshing, thanks to the lemon juice, mint and soda.

It’s tart and refreshing, thanks to the lemon juice, mint and soda.

St-Germojito

  • 1 oz Mount Gay Silver
  • 1/2 oz St-Germain
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • Top soda

In the base of a cocktail shaker, gently muddle the mint with the lemon juice and St-Germain. Add the rum and ice and shake. Pour contents of the shaker into a rocks glass, then add more ice if necessary and top with soda (about 1-2 oz). Stir to lift the mint to the top of the glass.

Snow plow parenting? Seriously?

While skiing in Fernie this past weekend my Google alerts brought me news of the very latest trend in parenting: snow plowing. Yes, this dreaded manoeuvre from the bunny hill has become a technique that some parents are using to help their children succeed — they simply sweep all obstacles out of their kids’ way like a snow plow.

The snow plow is painful enough with skis -- let's please not do it while parenting.

The snow plow is painful enough with skis — let’s please not do it while parenting.

For example, parents might bribe a coach with cupcakes to ensure their son gets a spot on the baseball team, or poison the competition so their daughter is chosen for head cheerleader. Really, there’s no telling the lengths modern snow plow parents will go to to clear the path of least resistance for their progeny.  As one blogger lamented, “Snow plow parenting will ruin the world.”

What strikes me as funny about this parenting label is the name. Have you ever watched a little kid learn how to ski (see photo, above)? It’s painful. The snow plow (or “pizza” as it is now called to get kids excited about doing it) takes a lot of muscle co-ordination and is fairly exhausting for little legs to execute down the mountain. It’s why tiny tots take innumerable breaks mid-run and can only ski for a half day tops, or risk putting their legs into the “French fry” (parallel) position to rest their screaming quads, at which point they get out of control and crash.

Sometimes I am forced to snow plow when my daughter takes me on tree trails through the woods. I do this only to check my speed so I won’t end up wrapped around a giant cedar tree with damage to my internal organs. Let’s call the snow plow an emergency position — it’s  not a move I want to transfer onto a groomed run, ever. Or do day after day (I wouldn’t have the energy for it).

As another blogger pointed out, perhaps there’s a little tiger mom, helicopter, free range or snow plow parent in all of us. The trick is knowing which parenting hat to wear, when — and only becoming a “snow plow parent” to keep your kid from crashing into a tree, chair lift tower or other life-threatening obstacle.

What are your thoughts on the latest parenting “trend”?

Family fun at Panorama Mountain Resort

With peaks in every direction, Panorama's scenery is stunning.

With peaks in every direction, Panorama’s scenery is stunning.

A couple weeks ago we spent the weekend at Panorama Mountain Resort in B.C.’s Purcell Mountains. The ski hill was developed largely by Intrawest in the 1990s and is designed with families in mind: ski-in/ski-out accommodations around a central village. You can walk, ski or ride the village tram just about everywhere. I’m writing all about our weekend for Snowseekers and the stories will be up in the coming weeks. In the meantime, just in time for Family Day, here are some highlights from our family-friendly ski trip.

EuroBungy

Yes, winter bungy is possible. Dress in layers.

Yes, winter bungy is possible. Dress in layers.

Not sure why Europe gets credit for the reverse-bungy contraption, but these harnessed bouncing devices are all the rage at gymnastics places, summer fairs and now, ski resorts. Panorama’s EuroBungy is new this season.

Apres-ski fondue

A post-fondue photo. I'll blame the wine for my silliness (not sure what Bennett's excuse is).

A post-fondue photo. I’ll blame the wine for my silliness (not sure what Bennett’s excuse is).

The cheesy stuff at Panorama’s Mile One Hut (at the top of the Mile One chairlift) is delish. Did I mention the dessert? It’s chocolate fondue. Plus there’s wine, so it’s just as fun for adults as kids.

Night skiing

Avery races her night shadow down Showoff.

Avery races her night shadow down Showoff.

It’s cold and the visibility is extremely poor, but when was the last time you ski-raced your night shadow? That’s what I thought.

The peaky views

Sunset from the Mile One Hut.

Sunset from the Mile One Hut.

The scenery around Panorama is gorgeous; it’s one reason people who come to the resort end up staying on season after season. That, and the skiing.

Thanks for a great family weekend, Panorama!

Drink of the Week: Dan Aykroyd

Dive right in to this margarita with a twist.

Dive right in to this margarita with a twist.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Aykroyd at the Oak Room bar inside the Fairmont Palliser hotel a couple of years ago when he was in town promoting Crystal Head vodka, which I wrote about in a column for the Calgary Herald. Interestingly, Aykroyd spent part of the interview telling me all about Patron tequila (which he also promotes) and his return to the made-in-Mexico spirit even though he’d sworn it off as a teenager after a wild night in Tijuana.

So I suppose it’s fitting that the Oak Room has named one of its tequila cocktails after the Canadian actor and comedian. The Dan Aykroyd is like a margarita, but with orange juice in addition to lime juice. This both sweetens the drink and softens the lime’s tartness. It’s very smooth. Add in a sugar-cinnamon rim in place of a salty one and you’ve got a very approachable cocktail. Incidentally, Aykroyd was very pleased when he learned the bar had named a drink after him.

It's like a margarita with orange juice. I like it.

It’s like a margarita with orange juice. I like it.

Dan Aykroyd

  • 1 oz Patron Silver
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz fresh orange juice
  • Sugar/cinnamon mix to rim glass

Rim a martini glass with a sugar/cinnamon mixture, then fill the glass with ice. In a cocktail shaker combine the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and orange juice and shake. Strain into the martini glass and garnish with an orange slice.

— Recipe courtesy Patrick Appave, bartender, Oak Room at the Fairmont Palliser

Save the Earth! Be my (giant) valentine…

Cards like these made up the bulk of my Feb. 14 haul back in '79.

Cards like these made up the bulk of my Feb. 14 haul back in ’79.

Remember valentines? They were little cards you gave to your friends on Valentine’s Day back in elementary school. A valentine exchange took place during class and afterwards you would sort through the little cards, counting them and setting aside the ones from your best friends. Next to Halloween, Valentine’s Day was one of the most looked-forward-to school days of the year.

This year at my daughter’s school there wasn’t a valentine exchange. Instead of bringing in hand-made (or at least store-bought, hand-signed ) valentines from home, students were encouraged to wear red or pink and then participate in a school-wide valentine activity — each kid made and designed a giant paper heart, then went around the school and had their friends and other kids sign it. They got to bring the big valentine home.

Avery's giant heart, signed by friends and other students at her school.

Avery’s giant heart, signed by friends and other students at her school.

My daughter really likes her big heart. It’s hand-made and personalized, with printed messages like, “You are nice,” and “Friends forever.” I like it too. What I don’t like, however, is the rationale her school used for switching valentine tacks (just last year they were allowed to bring cards from home, so long as they were inclusive and brought one for everyone in their class). The school blamed it on the environment:

“We calculated that if every child at school buys a typical sized box of 30 valentine’s cards, it adds up to 3000 cards! Imagine the trees we are saving by not exchanging cards in our school.”

Really? I’m sorry, but in the context of a school, where paper is basically the currency, this strikes me as a really lame excuse. I can only speculate, but I imagine there are other reasons the school changed its Valentine’s Day celebration. Did some students feel left out last year and complain? Are teachers tired of managing the card exchange and subsequent tears and/or hurt feelings? Were some parents annoyed by the commercialization of the holiday (mass produced Dora and Care Bears cards, etc.) and pushed for a from-hand, crafty alternative? Who knows. But maybe it would be better to have a conversation about the real issues (or maybe I’m way off base) than to use Mother Nature as a scapegoat.

What do you think? Did your school allow a valentine exchange this year?

Arizona trip highlights

As you may have guessed from recent blog posts, our family just spent a week touring around Arizona. We explored the state from Flagstaff south to Nogales, soaking up the history, scenery, hospitality and southwestern cuisine. I’ll be writing about our wild (west) times in an upcoming travel story for the Calgary Herald. In the meantime, here’s a quick round-up of some of our trip highlights.

1. Sedona

The jeep tour highlight was the sort hike we took to this viewpoint.

The highlight of the jeep tour was the short hike we took to this viewpoint.

The red rock scenery around Sedona surely inspired those coyote and roadrunner cartoons of yore. It’s breathtaking. Jeep tours are a great way to explore those formations off-road, and our two-hour excursion along Mogollon Rim with A Day in the West did not disappoint. The kids loved bumping around in the jeep; we loved the views.

2. Jerome

I loved the painted cow skull decor and also the guacamole with corn and pomegranates!

I loved the painted cow skull decor at Quince and also the guacamole with corn and pomegranates. The ground elk tacos were delicious too.

To think we almost didn’t visit this ghost town that’s perched vertically on a mountainside just 30 minutes from Sedona. Once a bustling frontier city thanks to a copper mine, Jerome’s population plummeted from 15,000 in the 1920s to about 500 today. It’s got character to spare  — stores include a head shop, tattoo parlour, and adult boutique located inside a former brothel — and it was also the site of our best Mexican food meal of the trip at a little gem called Quince.

3. Saguaro cacti

A saguaro cactus towers over Avery and Bennett. A saguaro grows its first arm between 50 and 75 years of age. This plant is well over 100.

A saguaro cactus towers over Bennett and Avery. A saguaro grows its first arm between 50 and 75 years of age. This plant is well over 100.

Cactuses, cacti… no matter. It’s not a trip to Arizona unless you walk among the stately plants. They were especially prolific at Tanque Verde Ranch, a dude ranch that’s adjacent to Saguaro National Park. There we hiked past them and rode horses around them. They are awesome!

4. Prickly Pear Margaritas

A Prickly Pear Margarita from Tanque Verde Ranch. Ole!

A Prickly Pear Margarita from the Dog House Saloon at Tanque Verde Ranch. Ole!

Leave it to Arizonans to learn how to harvest fruit from a cactus and then turn it into a sweet — if blinding-coloured — syrup used to sweeten margaritas. Thanks, Grand Canyon State, I owe you a debt of gratitude for introducing me to this interesting twist on my favourite cocktail.

5. Hacienda Corona

The rambling hacienda includes a huge courtyard, gorgeous tastefully-themed rooms and even some chickens wandering around.

The rambling hacienda includes a huge courtyard, gorgeous tastefully-themed rooms and even some chickens wandering around.

One of our favourite accommodations was Hacienda Corona, a restored hacienda near Nogales that served as the administration building for the first cattle ranch in Arizona. Famous muralist and bullfighter Salvador Corona painted the courtyard walls with scenes of Mexican peasants going about daily life. It’s charming and I wish we could have stayed longer.