Monthly Archives: December 2013

Drink of the Week: Kahlua Gingerbread Woman

Yes, “Kahlua Gingerbread Woman” really is the name of a cocktail. It is not a great name, and for some reason when I say it the song American Woman by The Guess Who starts playing in my head, especially the part about how she’s “gonna mess your mind.” I suppose, after drinking several at a Christmas party, that would actually happen.

This Kahula Gingerbread drink tastes like a spiced Kahlua milkshake.

This Kahula Gingerbread drink tastes like a spiced Kahlua milkshake.

I would not normally blend up this milk-based drink, seeing as I’m lactose-intolerant (apologies in advance, honey!), but when a limited edition bottle of Kahlua Gingerbread (so limited in fact, it’s not even listed as a flavour on the website) showed up in a thoughtful Kahlua-themed care package, complete with Kahlua bottle-shaped gingerbread cookies, I set about looking for a suitable recipe in which to try it.

I’ve always found Kahlua to be a bit of a conundrum. What exactly are you supposed to mix it with? Coffee? Coke? Or do you break out the Kahlua shooters at a party? Someone please explain. I had a vague recollection that it goes well with milk (remember paralyzers?!), so the Kahlua Gingerbread Woman resonated with me — it sounded like a spiced Kahlua milkshake. Yummy. And so it is, but it’s awfully sweet — if you’re feeling lazy at your next dinner party, blend this up for a liquid dessert. Feel free to play around with the proportions, though. I’d add less Kahlua and more milk. Oh wait nevermind. I mean Lactaid.

Kahlua Gingerbread Woman

Kahlua Gingerbread Woman

  • 1-1/2 oz Kahlua Gingerbread
  • 1-1/2 oz milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/2 cup ice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 drops vanilla
  • Nutmeg sprinkle garnish

Blend all ingredients except nutmeg for about 30 seconds. Pour into a rocks glass, dust with nutmeg and serve.

— Recipe adapted from a recipe found on

Drink of the Week: Pomegranate Gin Martini

I love pomegranates. I always buy a couple in the fall, take them apart and use the pretty and tart fuchsia-hued seeds in salads throughout the winter and spring (I freeze the lot in a ziplock). I also like pomegranate juice, but rarely buy it because it’s so expensive. I picked up a bottle of Pom juice this past weekend though because I had a cocktail in mind: something tart and tasty with pomegranate and gin and lemon juice. I dubbed my creation a Pomegranate Gin Martini.

Tart and festive, this seasonal sip makes a lovely after-work unwinder.

Tart and festive, this seasonal sip makes a lovely after-work unwinder.

The key to this drink is achieving the right balance between the pom juice and lemon juice. Too much lemon and it renders the pom impotent; not enough and it takes away the drink’s tart factor. The gin, fortunately, plays nice with both juices and its amount can be raised or lowered depending on how strong you want your drink to be. I think 1-1/2 oz is enough so you’ll taste the gin, but not so much to make you fuzzy. I also love the drink’s colour — it’s beautiful and festive and works very well this time of year.

The pomegranate seeds make a lovely, edible garnish.

The pomegranate seeds make a pretty and edible garnish. I didn’t have a sprig of holly so I improvised with sage.

Pomegranate Gin Martini

  • 1-1/2 oz gin
  • 1 oz pomegranate juice
  • Juice of half a lemon, or less, to taste
  • 1/2 to 3/4 oz simple syrup, to taste
  • Pomegranate seeds for garnish

Combine gin, pomegranate juice, lemon juice and simple syrup with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake, then fine-strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Down and out in Disneyland

Disneyland promotes itself as the “Happiest Place on Earth” and under normal circumstances — my belly stuffed full of churros after riding Space Mountain, or breezing through no line-up at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride — I’d have to agree. It’s a park built on the idea of family togetherness through shared experiences, whether marvelling at different cultures inside It’s a Small World (the characters all dressed up for Christmas this time of year), or being wowed by the nightly parade (complete with Santa and his elves).

One of many Disney characters who wandered over during breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen.

Alice in Wonderland at Goofy’s Kitchen.

But bringing a child with autism to Disneyland is a game-changer. Suddenly, the crowds, lights and chaotic rides that make Disneyland well, Disneyland, can become obstacles to enjoyment. But, I reckoned, with fast passes, gluten-free options at all Disney eateries, and the resort’s commitment to accommodating people with disabilities, we’d have a relatively smooth trip. Right?

I pitched the idea of “Inclusive Disney” to up! magazine (watch for my story in the spring) and soon the whole family was booked for the Disneyland World of Colour press event. We’d get to see Disneyland all decked out for the holidays and take in the World of Color — Winter Dreams water spectacular at Disney California Adventure Park. What we didn’t count on was Bennett contracting a nasty stomach bug en route to LAX.

Here’s how it all went down (or, more accurately, came back up) in Disneyland:

1 p.m. Nov. 13, Air Canada flight 860 from Calgary to Los Angeles, Row 26. Bennett says his tummy hurts, makes a retching motion, then vomits into the airplane barf bag (good news: they actually work). Thinking it’s a one-puke kind of airplane ride, I am unprepared for round two and must “catch” it in my hands (bad news: this is not an effective containment method). “Clean-up in aisle 26,” Blake tells the perky flight attendant as we disembark the aircraft.

6:30 p.m. Nov. 13, Disneyland. Having rallied from his earlier tummy upset, and after some French fries and applesauce at the Rainforest Cafe, Bennett is keen to board the monorail. During the ride into the park he spies the Matterhorn mountain’s iconic peak. “Can we go up the mountain?” he innocently asks. “Sure,” I say, forgetting completely how freakin’ fast and frightening the Matterhorn Bobsleds are. On we go, Bennett in front of me, clutching my hand as we climb up a hill in darkness… only to scream down past a RED-EYED YETI that jumps toward our sled. I’m not sure when Bennett starts whimpering, but by the time we get off this is all he has to say: “And I was scared up there.” Nothing quite like initiating our autistic son to Disneyland by making him go on the scariest ride at the park. #ParentingFail

9 a.m. Nov. 14, Breakfast at Goofy’s Kitchen, Disneyland Hotel. Bennett is not at all hungry for his Mickey Mouse-shaped gluten-free pancakes, but still poses for a picture with Pluto. Thirty minutes later he is in melt-down mode and Blake takes him back to the four-walled hotel prison room.

Forget princesses, says Avery. Pluto is where it's at!

Forget princesses, says Avery. Pluto is where it’s at!

12:30 p.m., Nov. 14, Jingle Cruise, Disneyland. Blake hauls a fussy Bennett into the park and we meet up at the “Jingle Cruise,” a re-imagined holiday version of the old-school classic Jungle Cruise. Bennett is inconsolable so I take him back to the hotel, while Blake* escorts Avery to see Elsa and Anna from Frozen. (*Note: Blake participated in Movember, so he looks like a porn star pervy 80s TV cop in our Disneyland photos.) We are making memories!

Frozen Elsa and Anna are hot for my hubby, natch.

It’s getting hot in here, with Frozen Elsa and Anna and my moustachioed hubby.

6 – 8 p.m., Nov. 14, A Christmas Fantasy Parade and World of Colour Winter Dreams. The kids love the parade and we all enjoy using Bennett’s Disability Access Service Card, which acts like a Fast Pass and enables us to get on Autopia and other rides quickly. Unbeknownst to us, Bennett’s flu bug is staging a last stand and he loses it on the march from Disneyland to Disney California Adventure Park for World of Color. I look like a child abductor dragging a screaming kid all the way back to the hotel.

7 a.m., Nov. 15, Disneyland Hotel. Bennett pukes repeatedly and is unable to keep anything down, including water. Blake takes Avery to Disney California Adventure Park for Extra Magic Hour, a perk of staying at the hotel. I stay inside Cell Block C with a moaning boy.

4 p.m., Nov. 15, Urgent Care. Bennett receives two IVs of fluid for severe dehydration. All topped up and ready for the Matterhorn!

6 a.m., Nov. 16, Disneyland Hotel. More puking, followed by a visit to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Bennett has a miraculous recovery on the taxi ride and proceeds to drink an entire can of Gatorade upon arrival at the hospital  — as if he’s feeling great! — thus revealing to hospital staff that I’m one of those crazy Canadians who runs to the emergency room every time my child has a runny nose. They send us back to Disneyland and charge my credit card $5,000 for the Gatorade.

2:30 p.m., Nov. 16, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. I park myself at the bar and order a margarita. It tastes heavenly — like tequila with a splash of lime. I feel like a Zombie, but not the kind you drink (also on the menu). Blake brings Bennett down from the cell room and orders a Shipwreck on the Rocks, which at that moment describes our holiday. I ask for a to-go cup for my tequila.

I love how squeaky-clean Disneyland has a tiki bar where parents can get blotto.

I love how squeaky-clean Disney has a tiki bar where parents can get blotto.

4 – 7 p.m., Nov. 16, Disneyland. We tear ourselves away from Trader Sam’s and finally return to the park as a family of four, knocking off Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Gadget’s Go Coaster, Splash Mountain and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Bennett is actually smiling, and I realize he much prefers straight-forward outside rides like Dumbo to the “trippy” character-driven rides such as Splash Mountain, where it almost seems like you’re “inside” a TV show or movie (I think Bennett has a hard time separating fantasy from reality on those rides and it freaks him out). Meanwhile, Avery loves all the thrill rides, including California Screamin’ and Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California; this disparity poses another challenge to experiencing the park as a family.

I love my boy's big smile on this ride. It's his second favourite after Autopia.

I love my boy’s big smile on this ride. It’s his second favourite after Autopia.

11 a.m., Nov. 17, Disneyland Hotel. Bennett is back to his teasing self as we board the Disneyland Express back to the airport.

You know the kids feel great when they start fighting again.

You know the kids feel great when they start fighting again.

It would be tempting to label our Disneyland trip a bust, but that wouldn’t be fair. The parks are fantastic and the staff friendly and helpful — for example, I showed up at Goofy’s Kitchen on Saturday morning looking for eggs (Bennett’s first food request in three days); when I explained my son has autism and that he’d been sick, the restaurant manager packed him up a meal-to-go at no charge. Indeed, the Disney complex runs as a customer-driven, well-oiled machine. If you take advantage of perks like Extra Magic Hour and use Fast Passes on popular rides, you’ll have a great time. I truly think Bennett would have enjoyed a lot more of both parks if he hadn’t been sick — and if his first ride had been Autopia instead of the Matterhorn. #WhatWasIThinking?