Monthly Archives: January 2014

Drink of the Week: Stoli Sticki Sweet & Tart Spritz

Over the past couple of years honey has come into its own. I’ve used it to sweeten tea, salad dressings and now cocktails by making a honey syrup. But why stop there? Spirits makers have started using it to flavour booze. First there was Jack Daniels with Tennessee Honey, then came honey-flavoured beer and Bols Honey Liqueur. Finally vodka — not wanting to miss a single opportunity to try on a new flavour (pickle-flavoured vodka, anyone?) — has raided the hive.

Stolichnaya recently unveiled its Stoli Sticki honey vodka and sent me a bottle so I could sample it. As you may recall, I am not a fan of flavoured vodkas. I do, however, absolutely  love Dawa cocktails, a Kenyan refreshment made with vodka, limes and honey, so I figured at the very least a bottle of Stoli Sticki would come in handy with the Dawa.

Stoli Sticki Sweet & Tart Spritz

Stoli Sticki + Cointreau + lime juice + soda water = a refreshing Stoli Sticki Sweet & Tart Spritz.

But I also like to try new recipes, so I set about looking for something that would mix well with honey vodka. First I made the Stoli Sticki Sweet & Tart (honey vodka, Cointreau, lime juice), but even with this drink’s 1:1:1: ratio I found the Stoli Sticki’s honey taste too overpowering and a tad artificial. So I remedied the recipe by adding soda water to create a spritz and a more palatable cocktail. Behold: the Stoli Sticki Sweet & Tart Spritz! Best for: long summer afternoons on a hot patio (or failing that, long winter evenings stuck inside with the children). Enjoy!

Stoli Sticki Sweet & Tart Spritz

Much better with soda water. Tart, fizzy and goes down a tad too quickly.

Stoli Sticki Sweet & Tart Spritz

  • 1 oz Stoli Sticky
  • 1 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • Top soda water
  • Orange wheel garnish

Add Stoli Sticki, Cointreau and lime juice to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake, then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and top with soda water. Garnish with an orange wheel.

— Recipe adapted from the Stoli Sticki Sweet & Tart

Happy birthday to Blue

Four years ago we bought a betta fish for Avery as a reward for giving up her soother. Since her soother’s name was Blue-blue, she named her betta fish after it, naturally.

Blue-blue in his prime near his third birthday.

Blue-blue in his prime near his third birthday.

Blue-blue is now four years old and when we tell other parents how long we’ve had the fish their first question is, “Is it the original fish?” Yes. A quick Google search reveals that the average life span of a betta is between two and six years, in fact. Still, it’s pretty much a miracle Blue-blue’s still with us. Sometimes we forget to feed him. We often go three weeks between bowl cleanings. He was even uprooted from his home during the Calgary flood.

But Blue-blue keeps on swimming twice a day to retrieve his little food pellets from the top of the bowl. Between meals he kind of lays on his side at the bottom. He’s also changing colours; from a lustrous purple-blue to a mottled purple-grey. He looks like he’s dying, a fact that is not lost on Avery.

betta fish

Blue-blue on the bottom of the bowl, next to this ominous note written by Avery about a week ago.

They say the death of a pet is one way to teach kids about the cycle of life. I wonder, will Avery mourn Blue-blue like she did the soother he replaced? Or will her first question be, “Now can I get an eel?” I have a feeling that when our geriatric betta fish finally passes on and is flushed into the dark reaches of the Calgary sewer system, we as a family will have only learned one lesson:

Dogs are way better pets than fish. (And no, you can’t have an eel.)

Drink of the Week: Pisco Sour

Sours are my favourite category of drinks because they’re tart, frothy and pack a memorable punch in a short glass. They’re also easy to make because they follow a standard formula: spirit + citrus + simple syrup + egg white = sour. I’ve written about the whiskey sour, tequila sour, vodka sour, apricot lady sour and Cointreau sour, and now I bring you Peru’s and Chile’s national cocktail: the Pisco Sour.

El Gobernador means the governor in Spanish. Yep, this pisco is boss.

El Gobernador means the governor in Spanish. Yep, this pisco is boss.

Pisco is South America’s version of brandy. It’s made from distilling fermented grape juice from grapes grown in specific regions of Chile and Peru. I’m writing all about the spirit, and its cocktail muse, the Pisco Sour, in an upcoming Calgary Herald column, but here’s a sneak preview. I love this version from El Gobernador,  a premium Chilean pisco new to the Canadian market.

Super frothy and delicious. Omyomyom.

Super frothy and delicious. Omyomyom.

Pisco Sour

  • 2 oz El Gobernador pisco
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • 1 egg white

Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker and dry shake to emulsify egg. Add ice and shake again. Fine strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass.

— Recipe courtesy El Gobernador

Meanwhile, in Calgary…

It’s been seven months since the Bow River flooded our basement and eroded the road in front of our home. But — yay! — our basement renovation is finally complete. We chose new carpets for the rooms, new tiles for the tub surround and walled in the TV room, but for the most part it’s just how it was — down to the paint colours. We’ve even hung our travel photos in all the same spots. We have, however, acquired a permanent artistic reminder of the YYCFLOOD: the Meanwhile in Calgary poster by KeliGirl that circulated on social media during the crisis.

Our new framed print will  remind to man the sump pump during future flood events.

Our new framed print will remind us to man the sump pump during future flood events, lest a hippo pay us a visit.

For all those long months of summer and fall we were without a TV and made due less a guest bedroom,  guest bath, entryway and storage room. We parked one car down the block (half of the garage was filled with refugee furniture and toys) and the kids got by with half of their toys boxed up.

We walled in the TV room and added this art-glass door. The return of our entry lockers = bliss!

We walled in the TV room and added this art-glass door. The return of our entry lockers = bliss!

But the thing is, we adapted. We watched Netflix on the laptop, turned Avery’s room into a welcoming suite when guests were in town (she bunked with us), and got accustomed to entering the house through the side door into the kitchen. Those refugee toys? The kids forgot all about them. The basement became a mysterious, plastic-sheeted-off reno zone that we rarely entered. We realized that we don’t need as much living space as we thought we did.

The kids LOVE having the basement back. Avery is enthralled with the new TV.

The kids LOVE having the basement back. Avery is enthralled with the new TV.

Having said all that though, it’s sure nice to have our basement back. I’ll take the space and learn to spread out again. Plus, there’s more than enough room for our new generator, which will power the sump pump and keep the water at bay should there be a “next time.” Take that, Bow River!

“Shotgunning a Beer” and other 2014 parenting trends

I am long past reading parenting books or searching out the latest and greatest parenting advice. But once a year I delight in digging up what forecasters predict will be the parenting trends of the year. In 2013 I wrote about neon strollers and apocalypse parenting, two trends I am happy to say did not arrive in Calgary. This year I bring you baby-teeth jewelry, the end of the playdate, and shotgunning-a-beer parenting, among other gems. Let’s explore five.

1. Baby Teeth Jewelry 

These "gems" are not pearls. They are baby teeth. Great idea, or gross?

These “gems” are not pearls. They are baby teeth. Great idea, or gross?

Four years ago the big thing was having your kid’s fingerprint turned into a necklace pendant (guilty!). In 2014 you’re supposed to have her baby teeth turned into stud earrings, “gems” in a ring, a bracelet or a pendant. I admit I’m guilty of stockpiling both my children’s baby teeth (yep, the Tooth Fairy drops them into a little baggie inside one of the drawers of my bedside table instead of flying them to Tooth Land), but turning them into jewelry seems kinda weird. And, well, ick. Much like my extracted wisdom teeth, their baby chompers will remain hidden from sight, possibly forever.

2. Virtue Names… for Boys

Evidently we’re craving the Honor, Chastity and Hope name equivalents for boys, because the moniker-watchers at are predicting a rise in boy names that reflect a good and True character (yes, True is a boy name). You can pick from Noble, Valour, Justice and — wait for it — Loyal. But why stop there? Name him Dedicated, Strong, Sensitive or heck, why not Endurance? That has a nice ring to it.

3. Shotgunning-A-Beer Parenting

When faced with a potential confrontation with your child, simply shotgun a beer.

When faced with a potential confrontation with your child, simply shotgun a beer.

Here’s a trend that’s a backlash against helicopter parenting, the parenting style where well-meaning moms and dads do for their kids what the kids should be doing themselves. It’s for parents who are tired of being on call and are desparate to establish more boundaries between themselves and their bubble-wrapped progeny.

If this is you, here’s what to do: the next time your kid wants you to pack his school lunch, iron his karate outfit, spellcheck his book report (or, um, read the book in the first place) or drive him to the school that’s three blocks away, just shotgun a beer. This is the best way to show your child he is not in fact the centre of the universe, and to let him know that it’s important to look after your own needs. As child psychiatrist  Jasper Lambsharkssen told The New Yorker: “Shotgunning-a-beer parenting is going to explode as parents discover that it’s the simplest way to take care of a complicated problem.” Bring it!

4. Death of the “Playdate”

When I was a kid you walked next door to your friend’s house, rang the doorbell and asked if she could play. It was spontaneous. It was not planned a month ahead of time and pencilled into a child-activity-tracker calendar. I don’t know when everything became so official, but please make it stop. Though I am guilty of scheduling playdates for my daughter, I’m the first to admit that I don’t like it. I wish she, or her friends, would just call or walk over when they wanted company. You know, organic play. I also really hate the name playdate. It’s not a date! So I really do hope the playdate goes the way of the dinosaur, as predicted.

5. Half Birthdays

A special cake for the kid who's so special he gets a freakin' half birthday party.

A special cake for the kid who’s so special he gets a freakin’ half birthday party.

Somewhere out there, a child is turning 2-1/2, or 5-1/2, or some other age + six months, and the parents want to celebrate this important milestone. WTF? Since when do you celebrate a half birthday? More importantly, why, oh why, would you want to? I personally cringe as my kids’ REAL birthdays approach (the planning, the venue, the cake, the invite, kill me now), so why would I want to go through that hell twice in one year? Plus, no kid deserves a half birthday. If you’re seriously contemplating throwing a half birthday party, please just go shotgun a beer.

Drink of the Week: Billy Dee Williams

Here’s a drink as smooth and charming as Lando Calrissian from The Empire Strikes Back. Naturally, it’s called a Billy Dee Williams — after the actor who played Lando in the movie — and you can order one at Alloy.

A smooth sip from Alloy in Calgary.

A smooth sip from Alloy in Calgary.

This is a great little drink. It tastes somewhat like a bourbon sour, but the subtle almond flavour from the amaretto works wonders to enhance the entire cocktail. You can actually taste a little of each ingredient. I have no idea why it’s called a Billy Dee Williams. Perhaps because, like Lando, it leaves a lasting impression.

Billy Dee Williams

  • 1 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
  • 1 oz amaretto
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz honey syrup (Heat equal parts honey and water until honey is dissolved. Cool and refrigerate.)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into a rocks glass with one or two over-sized ice cubes.

— Recipe courtesy Michael, a server at Alloy

Catskiing at Island Lake Lodge

How’s this for a powder fantasy — two days of catskiing on virgin slopes at one of B.C.’s premier operations: Island Lake Lodge. This dream became my reality for two days in December on assignment for awesome Canadian travel blog Toque and Canoe. My story will be up on the site soon; in the meantime, here’s a sneak preview of what makes Island Lake special.

The Lodge(s)

The snow cats are warm and comfy too: cushy seats, lots of snacks and lively conversation.

The snow cats are cozy too: cushy seats, lots of snacks and lively conversation.

A cluster of timber-frame lodges greets skiers after an evening snow cat ride up a secluded, winding road. The accommodations are anything but rustic —  well-appointed rooms, comfortable beds and gourmet Rocky Mountain cuisine help skiers catch their zzz’s and fuel up for days of shredding the gnar (sorry). The setting is a little slice of Canadiana.

The Views

Spectacular, isn't it? It's like being on top of the world.

Gorgeous, isn’t it? The vistas make you feel like you’re on top of the world.

The Lizard Range of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Fernie, B.C. is spectacular anyway, but Island Lake Lodge boasts a trifecta of limestone peaks that stand out. The Three Bears, pictured above, lord over the range and collect all the white stuff that blows in from the west.

The Pow

Fresh pow: bring it!

Fresh pow! Bring it!!

There’s a reason we’re called powder junkies — ski fresh tracks on a virgin slope like this one and you’ll be hooked too. Bonus: you don’t have to be an expert skier. Island Lake Lodge boasts a range of terrain — from gentler, gladed slopes to open runs with steep pitches — and lots of it: there are a staggering 7,000 acres shared between a maximum of 36 guests. The one thing all the runs have in common is powder.

The Après-ski 

Island Lake Lodge apres-ski

Guided beer drinking is part of the package. And a snow flurry every afternoon. Kidding!

The guides at Island Lake Lodge are fantastic: professional, helpful and attuned to skiers’ needs. For example, they snowmobiled a crate of cold beer up to us so it was waiting at the bottom of our final run on Day 1. Nice!

And to make sure you get a good night’s sleep, there’s a custom skot-ski inside Bear Lodge. The days soon take on an enticing pattern: eat, ski, beer, hot tub, eat, shot ski, sleep. The good news? Being powder junkies, we’ll be back!

Nothing says Canadian pares-ski quite like a Burt Reynolds shot ski!

Nothing says Canadian apres-ski quite like a Burt Reynolds shot ski.