Christmas Morning Wife Saver, Classy Chicken and Hamburger Soup, if you’ve lived anywhere in Western Canada over the past few decades, you know these recipes well. They come from The Best of Bridge cookbooks, a mainstay in Canadian kitchens and part of the fabric of countless families’ weeknight meals and special celebrations. But 40 years on, the ladies of The Best of Bridge are winding down and heading towards retirement. That sucks, you think, but wait! Hope is not lost. There is another generation of Best of Bridge ladies waiting in the wings.

They’re back....The Best of Bridge next generation

I sure hope those aprons make a comeback!

New generation

Wanting their legacy to last, the original Bridge ladies reached out to well-known Canadian food writer and cookbook author, Julie Van Rosendaal to carry the torch. That’s right, more Best of Bridge recipes will reach a new generation with a new group of ladies. Since the essence of Bridge is a group of friends cooking together, joining Julie is Sue Duncan, co-author of Spilling the Beans (way better than that Quinoa cookbook) and Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, a feisty rock and roll editor with an enviable Pyrex cookware collection. The three became fast friends and agreed this was a project they were equally passionate about.

The old guard poses with the new at Rouge last week

As the culinary baton (or apron, as the case may be) is passed to three new Bridge friends, fans can expect to see Home Cooking, a new release in fall 2015. I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled at the prospect of seeing a re-tweak of my old favourites (please lighten up Death to Dieters Lasagna) and new, dependable recipes to feed my family and friends.

How do I know?

Last week I was invited to attend The Best of Bridge dinner party. It was a magical evening, held in the garden at Rouge, Calgary. Executive ChefJamie Harling recreated classic Bridge meals and put his own unique spin on them. We started with Christmas Morning Wife Saver before being seduced by an updated Classy Chicken, Schwarties potatoes and massive butter tarts for dessert.

salad and stuffing

It wasn’t the Christmas Morning Wife Saver I remember, but Rouge served up fine dinner party fare nonetheless.

Bridge backstory

In 1975, at a weekend getaway, eight friends had an idea: since a consistent highlight of their decade-old bridge group was the food they prepared and enjoyed together, perhaps they should think about writing a cookbook. This spur-of-the-moment notion was the impetus for The Best of Bridge, which has gone to become one of the most successful brands in Canadian publishing. 

Best of bridge cookbook

My favourite Best of Bridge cookbook.

More than 40 years and 4 million copies later, The Best of Bridge remains a celebration of food and friendship. I’m so stoked the brand lives on and I can look forward to more delicious memories.

Do you have a favourite Best of Bridge recipe? Please share!

Rockies meadow

Photo credit: Leigh McAdam HikeBikeTravel.com

When you’re on the cusp of summer, the great outdoors just begs to be conquered. The trouble is where to begin. When you live in a land as stunning and geographically diverse as Canada, it can be hard to figure out which activities are best suited for your ability level. Fortunately help is at hand with Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures, a handy guide written by Calgary adventurer and outdoors blogger Leigh McAdam.

Book cover

What makes this book unique is that it’s for real folks, like you and me. Though Leigh is a hard core adventurer (cycled through Africa, climbed Kili, trekked through Nepal and sea kayaked in Tahiti), she and her writing style are completely down to earth. Based on experiences from her popular travel blog: HikeBikeTravel.com, Discover Canada is approachable for anyone who’s interested in getting active and exploring our widely diverse country.

winter hiking mountains lake

Photo credit: Leigh McAdam, HikeBikeTravel.com

The book is broken down by province and territory, and within that you’ll find suggestions for each season – particularly helpful in getting us off the couch during those seemingly endless winters of ours. The adventures are further broken down by activity: hike, bike, paddle, ski, backpack, skate, the choice is yours.

coyote in meadow

Photo credit: Leigh McAdam, HikeBikeTravel.com

I’ve always thought of Skoki as a winter destination, but Leigh shows just how accessible the Skoki circuit is for beginner backpackers. If you can get past the slog up the ski road, you’ll traverse through thick forests and subalpine meadows studded with wildflowers and the occasional fox.

woman canoeing

Photo credit: Leigh McAdam, HikeBikeTravel.com

Another enticing summer option is taking to the Churchill River in Northern Saskatchewan via canoe.

hiking Vancouver Island

Photo credit: Leigh McAdam, HikeBikeTravel.com

Many hikers and backpackers consider the West Coast Trail a rite of passage (and Leigh gives the down low on that adventure, too), but the Coast Trail in East Sooke Regional Park is only 45-minutes from Victoria and reveals similar spectacular coastal scenery.

hiking in autumn

Photo credit: Leigh McAdam, HikeBikeTravel.com

For a more remote wilderness experience, consider trekking in Tombstones Territorial Park in the Yukon. To catch this riot of colour, McAdam recommends planning this for late August, “when the boreal forest and alpine meadows deliver a rainbow of fall colours.”

What’s on your bucket list for this summer?

Want to learn more about McAdam’s adventures? Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

What the average Canadian family looks like

I’m always curious to know about other families. I wonder how others manage their time, why certain families live where they do and what life is like for them. One of my editors has launched TheNewFamily.com, a website that offers modern views on family life and celebrates family diversity. It’s best known for a series called  “I bet we can find 1,000 ways to be a family,” and its #1000families project.

I recently participated in the 1000 families project. It’s a reader-generated series of first-person stories that offer a unique view into the lives of individual families—no matter what they look like. Check out my story here.

The voyeur in me is obsessed with this site. It’s fascinating to see how the other participants make their family life, be it with a partner, extended family members, friends they can’t live without or on their own. This site reminded me, you don’t need to have children to have a family and there is no typical family anymore. Being unique and different is the new normal.

Would you be interested in sharing your family story? They’re looking for contributors. If interested, simply send your story (about 500-words) and at least one family photo to the site’s editor, Brandie Weikle, at bweikle@gmail.com. Photos must be about 1,000 pixels wide or more, and they also hope for a headshot (Face Book profile pic will do) and a one to two-sentence bio. And the guideline of 500 words is just that; longer (or slightly shorter) submissions are also welcome. 

Do you think you’re part of an average family?

Can our marriage survive this reno?

Believe it or not, we’ve never gone through a major reno. We’ve painted, swapped out flooring and replaced backsplash, but never at the same time. Now we’re in the throes of a full scale kitchen reno, I totally understand why somebody coined the term divorce dust.

Many general contractors claim they’re part construction part design firm and part marriage counsellor. Making our kitchen more functional is making me less grumpy, but the jury’s out on how long I’ll be to survive without a sink. One surprising bonus is I’ve been a offered several writing assignments delving into the world of renovations. I’m certainly no expert, but I get to interview those who are. Here’s a breakdown of their best advice.

tips for surviving a reno

The calm before the storm. P.S. my kitchen has never looked so clean.

Is it worth it?

Yes, we’re the renovation generation, but that doesn’t mean it’s a smart decision to break out the wrecking ball. “Reno only if you plan on living in the house for five years or more. If you’re not planning on staying, do cosmetic changes only and keep your costs down,” recommends John McCoy, General Manager of Ultimate Renovations.

If you’re looking for quick resale, cosmetic fixes and upgrading appliances are often all that’s needed. According to the experts, the only time you throw money into a house prior to sale, is to clean it up or update the style.

Be sure to weigh the cost of home improvement against the market value. Typically kitchens and bathrooms garner the most return on investment, but you’ll still need to be cautious and choose appropriate upgrades for your neighbourhood. The biggest mistake home owners make is misjudging the need with market conditions. Realize you may have bought at a point in the market when it doesn’t make sense to throw an additional $100,000 into your home.

kitchen torn apart

This is what almost finished (and the next week) looks like.

The time factor

No surprise here, everyone should anticipate your reno will take longer than expected. The way the first contractor laid it out for me, our kitchen could go from gutted to glam in 10 days. Reality is, when multiple people are involved in a project things can easily get backed up. Expect products to be out of stock, contractors to not return your calls and those fancy countertops to take forever. Here’s a realistic schedule based on our kitchen reno:

Day 1: Demolition

Day 2: Electrician in to move and add outlets

Day 3: Buffer day in case electrical or demo takes longer

Day 4: Drywall patching

Day 5: Cupboard installation

Weekend

Day 8: Final cupboard install

Day 9: Countertop guy could come in, but they’re booked up

Day 10: Countertop templating AKA measuring

Wait 7 business days for countertops to be cut

Weekend

Day 18: Countertop install

Day 19: Plumber hooks up sink and dishwasher

Day 20: Repaint

Day 21: Backsplash applied

That my friends is what three weeks of hell looks like. Fortunately, some renovation companies own furnished rental properties families can move into, taking one less hassle out of the equation. Quite obviously, we did not go that route.

Budget

It’s a major buzz kill determining needs vs. wants, but do it, you must. Trouble is, there’s all these extra expenses nobody tells you about. Be sure to factor in for:

  • Renting a garbage bin
  • Dump fees
  • Jobs (like electrical) billed hourly that take much longer than anticipated
  • When ordering a new sink, you must know they don’t come with faucet, despite the false advertising in the picture!!!
  • Dining out – this will happen more than you expected, as washing dishes in the bathtub gets old fast

Coming to agreement

The bigger issue isn’t the hassle nor the stress of working with multiple contractors. It’s dealing with the other stakeholders. Here’s a scenario I’m sure plays out in more than one households: Person A (for fun, let’s refer to A as “wife”), does all the research, supplemental legwork and presents findings to Person B (for simplicity sake, we’ll refer to B as “husband”). Husband is too busy and important to meet with tradespeople. He agrees with wife on what is to be done and gives his consent after hearing (through wife) of the contractor’s recommendations. When it comes down to the 11th hour, husband changes mind and wants to go in a new direction. Sound familiar?

The take away? Make sure all decision makers meet with the professionals at the same time to avoid conflicting requests. If that’s not possible, nail down that fickle individual and get their commitment that if they make an agreement, they have to go with it, or else step into role of general contractor.

Have you ever gone through a reno? How did you survive? I’d love to hear your tips.

There’s two things I look forward to every May long weekend: wearing white again and Slush Cup at Sunshine Village Ski Resort. What is Slush Cup? It’s when adventurous skiers and snowboarders fly down the Pando Hill in crazy costumes, as they attempt to make it across a pool of freezing slushy water.

Sunshine and champagne: long weekend priorities

If you never participated in Spring Break shenanigans in college, Slush Cup is a good substitute. The weather is typically gorgeous, there’s a Friday afternoon party vibe that lasts all day and most participants are decked out in costumes for the competition. Technically Slush Cup (in its 87th year!) happens on Monday, but I call the whole weekend Slush Cup even though that’s not true.

splat

As awesome as it is to watch all the face plants, belly flops and supreme splashes, I can’t make it on Monday. That’s why I’m heading to Sunshine on Sunday to catch the final acts in the Snowchella Concert Series. Snowchella! What a cute name! And if I’m being totally honest, I suppose I should admit I’m not going only to see the bands. I’m heading up to Sunshine on Sunday because it’s the very last day of the Veuve Clicquot champagne snow bar.

Veuve Clicquot_Sunshine Village Ski Resort 4

You know me, I love my bubbly. I adore champagne in all its forms: champagne truffles, champagne powder and especially, the real deal. I got hooked on the orange label when I lived in Japan over a decade ago. They were crazy for it because Veuve was the champers used in the movie Pretty Woman and if it’s good enough for a well meaning call girl, well….

outdoor champagne bar

So here’s the plan. I’ll do a few runs on Goat’s Eye, and I’ll throw in a couple on Angel for good measure. Then I’ll head over to the patio at Trappers Saloon and sort myself out with a glass of bubbly and a plate of appetizers. Don’t scoff. I read French Women Don’t Get Fat, so I know champagne pairs perfectly with everything except chocolate and asparagus.

women drinking white wine at outdoor patio in winter

(photo credit: Paul Zizka)

Could there be a better way to while away an afternoon than by soaking up the sun on an outdoor patio as live music wafts through the Rocky Mountains? Possibly, I suppose, if you’re a guy. As luck would have it (for Dan), the Bikinis and Board shorts event to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation is also taking place on Sunday. I expect to see heaps of scantily clad ladies swanning about in the name of charity. Bless. So in addition to snowboarding and champagning, we might even get a chance to play beach volleyball, though I will not, I repeat NOT, be sporting anything more revealing than long underwear.

If you want to join me slopeside in a littel apres-ski, you know where to find me. If you want to check out Slush Cup on Monday, make sure you’re in the Village by 1:30 p.m.

I’d love to hear what your plans are for the long weekend. Please let me know in the comment section below.

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