Dee BrunAward Winning Author, Libations of Life, A Girls Guide to Life One Cocktail at a Time.
Resident Cocktail’ista on The Steven and Chris show on CBC. Home entertaining columnist Toronto Star & Yourhome.ca.
Cocktail Chef & Stylist, Menu Development, Home Entertaining Guru, writer, humorist, wife, mother of 4, TV Junkie, shoe-aholic, boarder line George Clooney stalker..hmm what else...I am old enough to remember making “Mixed Tapes” from the radio...My fave vacation spot is anywhere with a beach bar...and when I grow up I want to be Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City and marry George Clooney...IT COULD HAPPEN!
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I love all the holidays. I am a sucker for food, family, costumes, decorating: anything that has a party vibe. However, the Christmas holidays are by far my favourite. It may have something to do with growing up with the ‘Griswolds’. My parents would decorate the house from top to bottom, inside and out. There would be an EPIC back yard hockey game. My mother and my grandmother would bake enough Christmas cookies to feed a small city, or two. In all this ‘It’s a Wonderful Life-isms’, by far my favourite is the tradition of my parents hosting the neighbourhood open house every Christmas Eve…I LOVED IT! My parents had the cheesy fake wood veneer bar in the burgundy carpet-adorned basement. My dad would mix drinks and spin the 8 tracks. That was until I became a bartender and the cheesy bar became all mine. All in all, the holidays growing up for me were all about us kids.
It is not surprising that all my family’s traditions are the ones I grew up with.
I love my home and I so look forward to dressing it up for the holidays. I just can’t wait until Halloween and Thanksgiving are over so I can get into the basement and dust off the Christmas decorations. Finding a home for all the sparkle and family treasures, it is like my own special Christmas morning.
The cookie baking tradition is by far my favourite, although it means a lot of mess. As messy as this tradition is, my controlling, neat-freak OCD side goes nuts. Two of my four children have November birthdays so ‘Christmas Cookie Baking Parties’ have always been a staple in our home. Sprinkles, icing and flour OH MY! All worth it to see the sticky finger licking kids, covered in flour and green sprinkles smiling and laughing while learning in the kitchen. This tradition encompasses so many amazing things I would never trade it for a perfectly clean house. And the best part of all is the amazing smell of cookies baking! I love how just the familiar scent of holiday cookies in the oven can instantly make me feel like I’m right back there in my childhood home, helping my mom and grandma bake dozens upon dozens of cookies.
Following in my father’s footsteps, my husband and I have always opened our home every Christmas Eve to our family and neighbours. On a ‘pop-in-if-you-can’ type of invite, it is always an amazing night. I love to have fun with it and do a ‘naughty and nice list’ table cloth; it’s a simple and very inexpensive way of making your guests feel special and adding whimsy to your party. This night is full of joy, sharing, anticipation and the best part – it ends early. People start coming by around 4:00 and all are gone by around 9 to get ready for the big guys’ appearance. I have met so many amazing people because of this tradition. There is something very special about sharing your home with friends and strangers alike.
Finally, the season really is all about the kids. We all know the kids love the ‘Big Guy’ so why not make him the star of your party? Every Christmas Eve my computer transforms into the NORAD Santa Tracker and it is a HUGE hit with the kids. They love to check in and see where he is delivering his toys, watch the videos and see how long before he works his way into our time zone. This way all the kids can scurry home, leave out their cookies and carrots, and make sure all the Elves are nestled in their beds. On Christmas morning my favourite tradition is the single mandarin orange in the toe of each stocking. The smell takes me back to my childhood and brings back so many wonderful holiday memories.
Regardless of how you celebrate the holidays or what holidays you celebrate, the most important thing is to surround yourself with those who matter. That is truly the greatest gift.
Your weekend of memory making will include 2 nights in the Kissing Bridge suite. A fabulous 2 room suite with king size bed , full kitchen and living room. A Cozy fireplace and your very own private porch over looking the Grand River and so close to the Kissing Bridge you can almost touch it. Also included is a delicious farm style breakfast for both mornings that you prepare at you leisure in your suite.
*Giveaway does not include travel. Not valid on long weekend or holidays. This prize is valued at $370 and has no expiry.
This post is sponsored by Pine-Sol. With a strong heritage and long legacy, Pine-Sol is a long-standing tradition in many Canadian homes. Apart from the classic pine scent, Pine-Sol is also available in a variety of long-lasting scents – mandarin sunrise, lavender, lemon and sparkling wave. The smell of pine and mandarin always remind me of the holidays! So, you can use different scents throughout your home to change the mood too.
Comments Off on Great American Whiskey Trail…WASHINGTON Edition
I don’t often write about Whiskey. Not sure why, possibly because it is something I have not developed an appreciation for. I do however write about travel so when I had the opportunity with the American Distilled Spirits Council to learn more about American Whiskey and visit the places where it is made…How could I say no!
The new hot travel trend right now is Distillery Travel …Wineries have long been hot travel destinations, but with the rise of the cocktail culture people are flocking to see where there favorite spirits and beers are made. Just ask Forbes who posted this great article on “The top 10 American Whiskey Distilleries to Tour Now…”
Over time this distillery fell into disrepair and was closed. That is until 2005, with a two year rebuild. Including an archaeological dig to uncover actual artifacts and the historic placement of the distillery back in 1797, it once again open it’s doors in 2007. Walking through the buildings and the grounds you would think this place has been standing and untouched since 1797. The rebuild is AMAZING and the fact they still make the whiskey the same way they did in 1797 is more so.
I even got to mash up some mash myself, not an easy job.
Mount Vernon’s master miller, Steve Bashore, describes the 18th century milling process used by Washington in his gristmill on his plantation.
There is something very different about doing a spirits tasting when you are in the place where they make it. All your senses are alert, you now know the process, the ingredients, the history. It is unlike any other tasting you will experience guaranteed.
Every few months Mount Vernon produces a small batch of whiskey from this historic one of a kind distillery. Needless to say it is in very high demand. So much so they have created a “Whiskey Notification List”…So if you are interested in tasting some of that history you need to sign up!
I have never been a history buff, hell I am not even American. However, there is always something very special special going on at this place that is sure to fascinate anyone no matter your interest. Not to mention the killer views off the back lawn.
When your tours are done and your head is about to explode with all the amazing sights and learning it is time to EAT!
Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant is the perfect end to the perfect day. The menu us vast, well priced and appointed and offers everything from braised lamb, roast duck to shrimp and grits.
And my favorite part…I got to wash it all down with Mount Vernon’s own beer!
The only thing wrong with this visit to Mount Vernon, was that I wanted more time to explore it! I can not wait to plan a Washing trip with my family and go back and spend more time in this amazing space.
If you are a spirits enthusiast like me, shake on over to the Distilled Spirits Council of Americas website and check the amazing things they are doing to preserve the history of spirit making in the United States and the American Whiskey trail.
When planning your next vacation be sure to do some research and see what is made in the area you are visiting. You will me amazed and the unique tours you will find. It is always a good thing to think outside the bottle.
Cheers happy travels.
On a Whiskey side note. After all that is the main reason I was there. I happen to find a whiskey I really enjoyed during our tastings.
Wigle Craft Whiskey is an American whiskey that was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. However it has a great Canadian connection as the idea for it came about during a family visit to the Shaw festival in Niagara on the Lake back in 2010.
This grain to bottle distillery produces amazing flavored whiskeys using organic grains and also a selection of deevine organic bitters perfect for any cocktail. They also get my vote for the prettiest labels.
Over the past 8 years I have had the pleasure of working on some amazingly cool and fun projects. I have worked with incredible brands, celebrities and in many different places all over the world…As many people tell me… I have a pretty cool gig…
This past spring I received a call from an unlikely source. A couple of engineers from the University of Waterloo wanted to talk to me.
Ummm…do they know that I don’t do MATH?
Turns out this odd voicemail has turned into one of the funnest (it’s a word)…Most creative projects I have every had the opportunity to work on.
Co- Founders Bryan and Jason were a world away in China with an idea, an ugly prototype and the dream of creating a single serve cocktail machine… There was only one problem…
They had no idea how to create a delicious cocktail…
I don’t do Math and they didn’t do Cocktails…
After many 4 am texting, email and skype sessions…At this time we had never actually met and they were a ‘day away’ in China with sketchy internet so it made for some fun brainstorming sessions…..Along with the lovely Nadia our flavor development guru…we have created something FABOOSH and unique.
Combining the world of technology (the ‘Math’ doers) with the world of Mixology we created Bartesian… The Ultimate Cocktail Machine…
Bartesian is a single serve cocktail machine that makes a fresh, FABOOSH tasting cocktail every time…
For the record..I did A LOT of MATH…
Nadia and myself worked in the Lab for weeks, measuring, mixing, tasting, tweaking, perfecting the flavor profiles for these cocktails…
It was a tough job but somebody had to do it. Let’s just say that we were very popular with her co-workers …It was not hard to find tasting volunteers…
In the end…We created 6 FABOOSH Bartesiancocktails…all of which I am proud to put my name on and would serve to any of my guests. If you know anything about me or what I do…If they tasted like ASS..I would have no part of it.
It was really important that each cocktail tasted fresh and “REAL” every time. We used all fresh juices, the capsules are NOT powder. We sourced all natural flavors and premium bitters. Don’t believe me? Come on over and we can do a blind taste test…We may have to do it several times to make sure we get it right and it’s always more accurate with Disco music playing in the background…
Just ask Amy one of our many taste testers…
If you want to know more about this FABOOSH new project I am a part of..feel free to email me or comment below. Check out Bartesian on Kickstarter !! You will find all the information there along with some more really cool videos and how to become a backer…
HUGE CONGRATS to the amazing Bartesian Team… Everyone , math doers and cocktail doers alike are so very excited and proud of everyone for all their hard work..
When it comes to eating out, who makes the decisions in your family?
In my family, it is all me…the less choices my husband has to make the better he likes it.
It is very rare now days that I eat at a chain restaurant, for many different reasons. I managed one for way too long, so many times all their food tastes the same and they always lack originality.
However, every now and then, out of desperation and convenience, I dine at a “Big Box” restaurant. Another rarity is getting to have a meal alone with my husband, so I wasn’t about to be picky. We headed to Moxie’s Bar and Grill. It was not my first time at a Moxie’s, however the last time I visited one there was nothing that made me want to rush back. On my first visit I had sat in the lounge and was served by a highly over exposed cocktail server. You could of parked a bike in the amount of cleavage she was showing and her mini skirt (which for the record I thought was just a wide belt). Forced her to transform from cocktail server to Cirque du Soleil performer when she dropped my menu and had to contort herself in such a way to pick it up. Gives a whole new meaning to “Big Box” restaurant.
Now to be fair the lounge is 18+, no kids are allowed in there. I am also not a prude and have worn my share of flesh money outfits when I bartended at nightclubs back in the day. I am going somewhere with this …
This time my husband and I sat in the restaurant portion of Moxie’s. Where we were served by a lovely young girl with long flowing hair, cute pants and a lovely blouse. At first glance, a lovely ensemble, I even commented on her pretty necklace. As the lunch went on I started to really look around the restaurant, and then it hit me…Every woman working here is wearing HEELS…HIGH HEELS..the servers, the hostesses, the cocktail servers from the lounge. WHO by the way, run food to the dining room with their bicycle cleavage and wide belts…So even though there is a kids menu available, I think I will keep mine away from the “Big Box” restaurant. The only people on the floor NOT wearing high heels where the male servers…With their snappy black chinos they were gliding comfortably across the floor in plain black loafers. That seems hardly fair.
So…because I am me and just HAVE to know…I ask our server..
Me- “Do they MAKE you wear those shoes?”
Her- “Yes, we all have to wear heels, 2 1/2 inches or higher.”
…………………………………………(insert the sound of my jaw hitting the table)…………………………………..
Her- “Yes, their dress code policy is super strict here. All the girls have to wear their hair, down, heels, a necklace and a watch.”
………………………….(again Gobsmaked silence)……………………….
Ok..let’s just take a health and safety break here..
ALL GIRLS HAVE TO WEAR THEIR HAIR DOWN……….
Now that I am passed the ICK factor..
The lovely server can see the look of “Are you F%$#ing kidding me?” that is not so well hidden on my face and quickly tries to back peddle.
Her- ” Oh it was painful the first few weeks but now I don’t even notice the heels or the uniform policy. Can I get you another beer?”
Nice trying to distract me with booze…cus it normally works…that and shiny objects. But my experience is now totally ruined. By this time my husband was called away and my meal was about as interesting as math class…I have now Googled Moxie’s Uniform Policy…and to my lunch time delight I found this little gem of an article from the Toronto Sun…I know I know, using the Toronto Sun as a reference point is like fact checking on TMZ..but it is worth the read none the less.
I think I have lost my point and turned this into a hap hearted restaurant review slash What do you think?
Are restaurants STILL getting away with sexism, ageism, racism? Doubt Moxie’s would hire you if you could not show your long flowing hair…
Do you pay attention to this when choosing a restaurant for you and your family?
For the record I have not dined at a Boston Pizza in years because the “Family Restaurant” has girls my daughters age working in what I would call “Wide Belts”. The last time we were there my then 4 year old daughter commented…
“Mom I saw that worker girls underwear and these crayons are crappy…”
The Boston Pizza uniform is not surprising when you see the way the owner Jim Treliving ogles and drools when women come on the Dragon’s Den.
So concludes my rant…Was it a rant? I have no clue… What I do know is that I have added yet another sad “Big Box” restaurant to my list of places NOT to eat…
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A couple years ago I tweeted a pic of my wine with a bowl of chips and stated it was my perfect wine pairing…The response I received from people, telling me their favorite Wine & Chip combo was CRAZY! Who knew so many people loved to drink wine with their chips…? Turns put about 50% of them…MY PEOPLE !!!
This delicious full bodied wine…coupled with the simple flavor and unique crunch of Original Recipe …Is the perfect pairing for a night of ACTION…movies that is. Weather your Mission is Impossible or you are ready to be Bourne again…This will be the perfect match for an evening of excitement on the couch….
Sauvignon Blanc + Lime and Black Pepper
This white has crisp tropical notes…So fly to a beach IMMEDIATELY!! Or..Pair it up with an evening in and a good drama…Then you can be The Judge on whether or not this is the pairing for you…
Merlot + Balsamic Vinegar Sweet Onion
This wine is bright and fruity…So they are perfect to be paired with the tangy sweetness of these chips. The fun vibe of this pairing is perfect for a night of laughter. So call all your Bridesmaids over for a girls night in and figure out exactly when Harry did meet Sally.
Pinot Grigio + Seal Salt and Malt Vinegar
There is a crisp nectarine and peach flavor to this wine which pairs so well with the acidic tang from the salt and malt vinegar. This yin and yang is the best companion for a night of reality television. So you can bet that Big Brother is watching your Amazing Race to the bottle of the bottle and the bag.
Whatever your taste have fun with these pairings, mix and match and let me know your favorite pairings. If you are on Twitter or Instagram be sure to snap a shot of your pairings and hash tag them #UnwindTogether ..Would love to see what you are enjoying, also what you are watching these days, I am always looking for new TV show to obsess over.