Monthly Archives: May 2013

Drink of the Week: Live Basil Gimlet

The heat is on to complete the fundraising for the new playground at my daughter’s school, which means I’ve returned to my one constant companion through the madness: gin. Our playground committee communed over G&Ts this week, but I kicked it up a notch last night with this tangy, savoury number, a Live Basil Gimlet.

A garden fresh drink to celebrate spring (and to help forget about playground fundraising).

A garden fresh drink, with basil, to celebrate spring (and to help forget about playground fundraising).

I came across the recipe on NYTimes.com after Googling “cocktails with basil, lime and gin.” Traditional gimlets call for sweetened lime juice (e.g. Rose’s Lime = yuck) and a copious amount of gin. In contrast, this lovely recipe shakes a more modest bit of gin with fresh lime juice, muddled basil and simple syrup. I decided to use honey syrup, with great success. It’s a softer, more natural-tasting syrup, that works well with the other ingredients, like the deliciously fresh basil we are growing in our little herb container this year (pictured above).

The Live Basil Gimlet would be a nice drink to headline the 5th annual Inglewood Kitchen Party fundraiser, taking place June 8th at the Inglewood Community Hall to raise money for the aforementioned playground, given that the theme is patio lanterns. Unfortunately, the signature cocktail I made for last year’s party got everyone hammered, so we’re sticking to beer (so people will remember to spend money to support the playground). But do try one of these at home!

Tart and herbaceous, thanks to the gin and basil.

Tart and herbaceous, thanks to the gin and basil.

Live Basil Gimlet

  • 5 large basil leaves, including one for garnish
  • 1-1/2 oz gin (I used Bombay Sapphire)
  • 3/4 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz honey syrup (in a mason jar, combine equal parts honey and hot water; screw on lid and shake until honey is completely dissolved and then cool)

Gently muddle four basil leaves in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the gin, lime juice and honey syrup. Fill with ice, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with the remaining basil leaf and a lime wheel, if desired.

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The road ahead

As I sat in one of the Adirondack chairs at  Nellie Breen Park this past weekend, cold beer in hand (civilized, right? And thanks again fellow Inglewoodian who shall remain nameless), watching my children play completely unassisted while I chatted with neighbourhood moms and dads, a thought occurred to me: I have arrived!

It was the first time I was able to actually relax at the park, without worrying about Bennett falling from the top of the slide platform, or him needing my help navigating across the boulders by the gazebo or balancing on the spinning ring apparatus. Meanwhile, Avery played with a gaggle of her girlfriends; occasionally Bennett would chase them down and they would run off screaming. For two hours this went on and I think I stirred from my chair maybe four times. It was liberating.

I love this adapted bike from Renfrew -- makes it a lot easier to learn to ride. At Nellie Breen park in Inglewood.

Gotta love this adapted bike from Renfrew — makes it a lot easier to learn to ride. At Nellie Breen Park in Inglewood.

Bennett and I returned to Nellie Breen on Tuesday morning with his physical therapist, who brought along an adapted bicycle for Bennett to ride. Apart from his habit of looking in every direction except straight ahead (and thus veering off-road), he did great. She’s thrilled with his progress this year and can’t believe all the things he can do by himself (I’m a proud mama). The fact that he’s five and just learning how to ride a bike is a non-issue — I’m happy he’ll even try. And I’m ecstatic that he wants to climb on everything. Hooray!

After my story in Swerve came out last week I was inundated with supportive e-mails from family, friends and strangers. Some people shared their own stories and struggles with me; everyone wrote words of encouragement. My sister-in-law, a social worker, wrote this:

“I ran a support group for a couple of years for parents dealing with “ambiguous loss” (as I called it); mostly those who adopted children and later found out they had FASD and were mourning the “loss” of their dreams/expectations of that child’s future. Very hard. We talked a lot about how the child may be completely happy in their future world they and their parents created for them, but it was the parents who had to change their expectations of what the child’s future “should” look like, as “normal” may not be the reality for them or make them happy. However, “normal” is different for everyone (and usually only an illusion anyways)… Whatever works the best for the child to reach his full  potential in life is all we can hope for. They are all  so different, and I’ve heard of so many “hopeless” cases that have turned out fabulously with futures with jobs, great homes, even marriages and children. So never lose hope.”

I love her perspective, and found it fitting that one of my mom friends whose daughter also has autism, chose to share this inspirational e-card yesterday:

We're travelling a different path, adapted bicycles and all, and I'm choosing to embrace it.

We’re travelling a different path, adapted bicycles and all, and I’m choosing to embrace it.

The road ahead looks clear — if different than I dreamed it would be — and, hopefully, easier to navigate than it’s ever been.

When I say my kid is special, I mean “special” special

My story in today’s Swerve magazine was inspired by this blog post I wrote last June. I thought I’d share it again.

Drink - Play - Love

On the outside, my son Bennett looks like any typical four-year-old boy. He’s cute, has a naughty streak, loves to jump on the trampoline and relishes tormenting his big sister. But all is not as it appears in his school picture.

Bennett also has a genetic condition called 18q- . He’s missing a small piece of one of his 18th chromosomes. This means he has been slow to hit milestones like walking and talking; it also means he has a difficult time playing and interacting with peers. On the whole his symptoms looks a lot like global developmental delay or autism (which he has also been diagnosed with).

Only one in 40,000 children in North America are born with a Chromosome 18 abnormality. When my husband and I decided to try for a second child and play what we used to half-jokingly refer to as “genetic roulette” (because we were, at…

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Drink of the Week: Cherrykran Pom Pom

This gloomy weather makes me thirsty for something bright and pink, like spring should be. Good thing a bottle of Absolut Cherrykran just arrived on my doorstep, along with the recipe for a Cherrykran Pom Pom, a drink that packs way more of a punch than its name implies.

So pretty. Just pretend pomegranates are in season.

The Cherrykran Pom Pom cocktail is so pretty. Just pretend pomegranates are in season. Photo courtesy Absolut Vodka.

You may recall from earlier posts that I am not a fan of flavoured vodkas. I tend to think they taste rather chemically, as was the case with the UV Cake vodka. Since I am not a universal vodka-hater, and I have an open mind, I quickly unscrewed the top on the Cherrykran bottle in the name of research.

While I probably wouldn’t sip it on its own, I like that the Cherrykran has been infused with real fruit; in this case, cherries, white cranberries and plums. When mixed with lemon juice, pomegranate juice and just a touch of simple syrup, as the recipe calls for, you’ve got a slightly sweet, very tart and extremely pretty cocktail. And, just like a spring shower, it will sneak up on you without warning (read: it’s strong but you can’t taste the alcohol, so beware). I would normally tell you to stay dry, but hey, you’re drinking, so go ahead and get wet.

Absolut Cherrykran Pom Pom

  • 2 oz Absolut Cherrykran
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 oz pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup* (or to taste — you may find the pom juice is sweet enough)
  • Pomegranate seed garnish (I de-seed 3-4 pomegranates every fall, then freeze the seeds so I always have some on hand)

Shake all the ingredients and strain over ice into a lowball glass. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

*To make simple syrup mix equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Cool and refrigerate.

— Recipe courtesy Absolut Vodka

Hooray for hiking season!

We have been cooped up indoors for too long. But not anymore. This weekend we embarked on our first hike of the season — and our first hike ever with a dog — in Fernie. What’s more, we managed to complete the four-kilometre, two-hour hike without carrying the puppy, or either child, and before it started raining (a small miracle).

Posing with Piper in front of Fairy Creek Falls.

Posing with Piper in front of Fairy Creek Falls.

Our destination: Fairy Creek Falls, a thundering (well, this time of year, anyway) waterfall that mists you on a warm spring day. Serious hikers might pooh-pooh this trail, but except for the hills, it is kid-friendly — we saw a garter snake and a bunch of snails. It also appeals to dogs: streams for drinking water, sticks to carry. And I have to say, with its 120 metre elevation gain, it’s a good hiking reintroduction for  adults.

Fairy Creek Tral is one of Fernie's many family-friendly hikes.

Fairy Creek Trail is one of Fernie’s many family-friendly hikes.

Four clicks doesn’t sound like a great distance, but for two children and a 12-week-old puppy it is an epic journey. Piper spent the first kilometre pulling at her leash and panting maniacally; I thought she was going to keel over until we came across a small stream. Avery grumbled at the first sight of a hill (Memo: “I like hiking downhill and on flats best.”), while Bennett ambled along in the rear singing to himself and completely unfocused on the task at hand (e.g. reaching the waterfall sometime before dark).

Me: “One of us should stay back there with Bennett.”

Blake: “He’s fine.”

Me: “But what if a cougar snatches him?”

Blake: “A single older woman can have him if she wants him.”

Unlike a regular adult hike, where you settle into a nice pace and enjoy the scenery, Blake and I vied to pawn off the dog on each other, and whoever didn’t have the puppy had to make sure Bennett didn’t fall into Fairy Creek. I shouldn’t grumble, really. The fact that both kids walked the whole way themselves (and that Bennett didn’t want to hold my hand the entire time) bodes well for an active summer. And Piper will have more stamina come July and August. So, thinking positively, I look forward to sharing more hiking adventures as the season unfolds.

Idea of the Week: Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There

I’m not a free-range parent per se, but I like a lot of the ideas put forth by American mom Lenore Skenazy in her book Free-Range Kids. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing her twice — once for a piece I wrote for the Calgary Herald about safe neighbourhoods, and again for a feature I wrote for Avenue magazine about the free-range philosophy, running in an upcoming issue.

Skenazy is a bastion of common sense. And spunk. I like her. So, when she e-mailed me yesterday morning to let me know that Saturday is Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day, I thought, this is a holiday I can get behind.

Playing "Leaf Monster" = fun!

Kids love playing outside, so take them to the park and leave them there.

The premise behind the 4th annual event, spearheaded by Skenazy, is simple: Our children are much more sedentary than generations past and childhood diabetes and obesity are on the rise. The antidote is turning them loose in nature and outdoor play spaces, an idea supported by a whack of studies that show how kids benefit from time outdoors. If you think parks and playgrounds aren’t safe, says Skenazy, think again — evidently, more children go to hospital from falling out of bed than from falling out of a tree.

But Skenazy doesn’t just want you to take your kids to the local playground. If they’re seven or eight or older she wants you to leave them there unsupervised, for a half hour or for the afternoon. Part of the free-range philosophy says that children need time for free play unsupervised by adults. It may sound a little Lord of the Flies, but it’s actually good for them to negotiate games and play activities on their own without adult intervention — this kind of collaborative play with peers hones decision making skills and spurs creativity. If you’re still feeling anxious, remember they won’t be alone — they’ll be with other kids and perhaps even the parents of children too young to be left at the park.

Avery just turned eight and she’s been walking our puppy by herself in the field across from our house. Maybe she’s ready for some play time away from me at the local playground…with some friends, of course. What do you think? Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day — yea or nay? 

Thank goodness for doggy daycare

Want to play?!

Want to play?!?!

As I alluded to in an earlier post, our puppy Piper can be hyper. After she wakes up from a nap she wants to chase toys, pounce on things and generally chew the crap out of whatever’s on the floor. In other words, I need to constantly monitor her so I can correct bad behaviours (growling at her hippo squeak stuffie, digging in houseplants) and take away toys she’s trying to “kill” (by shaking her head spastically with them in her mouth). Plus, she now whines by the door to go out. At first I thought, “Great, she’s housetrained! She must have to go pee!” but now I realize she mostly just wants to go into the yard where she can chase balls, pounce on leaf litter and generally chew the crap out of the cedar chips. My point is: it’s impossible to get any work done with hyper Piper on the prowl.

So I was pretty excited when our neighbours told us about Hounds Lounge, a dog daycare in Inglewood. You can drop off your pooch for the day or half day where she plays hard with other dogs and  comes home completely exhausted. Staff there are also on top of doggy interactions, putting the kibosh on things like barking, growling and other dominant behaviours. The price is right too (way cheaper than human daycare), with a full afternoon (up to six hours) costing just $20.

Since we’d institutionalized our children early on I figured 10 weeks old was a good age to cut the apron strings with the puppy. I sent her into the giant indoor playpen with 12 big dogs and let her run with the pack for an afternoon.

At first I worried the big dogs would bully Piper, but it was actually the other way around.

At first I worried the big dogs would bully Piper, but it was actually the other way around. She’s the one in the middle being held.

When Blake picked her up five hours later the woman in charge had some interesting observations about our confident puppy. Evidently Piper is a very dominant dog and spent the day trying to get on top of all the big dogs. She showed reckless initiative (and no fear at all) when engaging them to play. This is a good thing insofar as it means she’s probably a good dog for Bennett  (she doesn’t cower from him when he tries to pick her up by the neck, or back leg). But it’s also a bad thing because it means more work for the family to make sure her dominant tendencies don’t turn into aggression toward smaller dogs or children when she’s an adult. The whole incident had me wondering what Cesar Milan would make of Piper.

Beyond this strange world of dog socialization, where a butt-sniff equals a handshake and pinning another dog is akin to staring someone down, my main priority with doggy daycare was realized: I got a lot of work done for the first time in three weeks. As a bonus, Piper returned home exhausted and slept for 12 hours straight. Thank goodness for doggy daycare.

A happy dog is a tired dog.

A happy dog is a tired dog.