Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The meaning of "Happy Hour"

School is out, the kids are home, and we are all set to enjoy the summer holidays. Our days are soon to be filled with favourite summer rituals.  In summers past, our family spent some vacation time at a cottage in Renfrew, Ontario. It was a cottage that had been in my husband's family for years. We all loved going and it became a summer tradition that we looked forward to every year. Grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins all spent time together playing cards, talking, laughing and having great fun at the red cottage by the lake. It was the perfect location to relax, unwind and reconnect.

While at the cottage, we developed the habit of over indulging in both food and libations. Not a hard thing to do when you are on vacation! Each day, our family looked forward to our favourite meal of the day...Happy Hour! Seeing as this was always a family vacation, the young and old alike participated in our cottage version of Happy Hour. While the adults imbibed liquids that came from the LCBO or The Beer Store, the under 19 set were treated to the sugary, caffeinated beverages that would be deemed off limits in regular life.

What made our cottage Happy Hour unique was the fact that it was not all about the drinking. Much thought was put into our daily theme. Should we go Mexican? We could have nachos, salsa, guacamole and margaritas (virgin ones for the kids of course!). Perhaps we should go all out sodium with a variety of chips, pretzels, nuts and beer. My theme of choice was Italian. We'd have bruschetta, assorted cheeses and crackers and of course, wine. Music often accompanied our Happy Hour as well. It was not unknown to have entire play lists devoted to our chosen theme. Spontaneous dancing often occurred when Louis Prima’s Angelina was played; it was a crowd favourite to be sure.

Each day, everyone would participate in the preparation of Happy Hour. It became an all out festival of food and drinks. Our crowd didn’t wait for it to be 5:00 somewhere; come 2:00pm, we'd sit on the deck and enjoy our afternoon. Soon we’d all get caught up in card playing, stories and fish tales, sometimes forgetting that it would soon be time for supper. The kids, as well as most of the adults, would be too full of snacks to even think about eating a full meal!

When my kids were much younger, a funny story came about from our cottage Happy Hour ritual. We had just returned home from one of our trips and I had to return to work. My mother was minding our children and she took them to the park for the afternoon. Once there,  our oldest son began asking, "Granny, what time is it?" She politely replied, "It's 1:00pm." She smiled at the man next to her who was pushing his child on the swing, thinking, my grandson is learning to tell time! Shortly thereafter he'd ask again "Granny, what time is it?" She grinned and then replied, “It’s 1:10pm." A few trips down the slide later, my son would ask "Granny, what time is it now?" Seeing as less than 15 minutes had past and my son had asked this same question multiple times, my mother told him more bluntly, "1:15pm. Now go and enjoy the swings!" Her pride of his eagerness to learn time telling skills was wearing thin.

At this point I must mention that my mother is very Scottish (heavy on the accent) and at the time, was in her late 70's (heavy on the hard of hearing). When asked the same, repetitive question once again, my mother finally gave in to her impatience. Curiosity, however, had gotten the better of her so she took a sidelong glance at the man next to her and said "Why on earth are you so concerned about what time it is?!" Well, I'll tell you...if my mother could have anticipated the answer she never, in a million years, would have asked the question. Much to my mother's chagrin, my son quite loudly replied, "We don't want to be late for Happy Hour!"

The man pushing his child on the swing did a double take while my poor mother tried to regain her footing. What could her precious grandchild know about Happy Hour? My mother made an attempt to regain a semblance of dignity, thinking that surely there must be some sort of childish definition of Happy Hour. Hopefully it was one other than what she, along with the man next to her was thinking. To ward off the intervention of child protective services (which my mother was sure the man would soon be speed dialing on his phone) she asked, "Happy Hour? What do you do at Happy Hour?" Very loudly, albeit innocently, my son replied "Granny, at Happy Hour we all get junk!" I’m sure you can see where this is going... my elderly Scottish mother hears this as “We all get drunk!” I can almost picture how quickly she then packed up our three kids, stroller, diaper bag, sand buckets and all.

When I returned home from work later that day, I was not at all expecting a lecture about my poor parenting skills and my bad influence on my impressionable young children. When my mother gave me her account of the afternoon I couldn't help but laugh hysterically. "No Mum" I said through my tears of laughter, "he did not say 'We all get drunk!' he said 'junk, not drunk!' At Happy Hour they are allowed to have treats...junk food and pop! At Happy Hour we all get junk!"

It took me a while to convince my mother that I was telling her the truth. I think her relief became evident by the time I laid out a Happy Hour spread on our back deck and she saw my children giddy with sugar, fingers covered in orange cheesy dust. It may have helped that I also gave her a more traditional Happy Hour fare - a stiff drink to calm her frazzled nerves. This seemed to do the trick and I was able to assure her that child protective services had surely not been called.

Since that day at the park, the story of Happy Hour has taken root in our family. Happy hour has become more than just a fun tradition, it became a humorous story worthy of telling and re-telling; one that I'm sure will remain in our family for many years to come. My oldest son, the one who was once obsessed with the time, will soon be turning 15. I still smile when I think of him repetitively asking my unsuspecting mother for the time. If only I could freeze the passage of time so that he remains delighted at the fact that at Happy Hour we all get junk. Cheers to that!

At Happy Hour We All Get Junk Cupcakes

1 pkg. (2-layer size) white cake mix
2-1/4 cups thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping, divided
6 drops blue food colouring
1/2 cupHoney Maid Graham Crumbs
Teddy Grahams Cookie
24 Cocktail umbrellas      

PREPARE cake batter and bake as directed on package for 24 cupcakes. Cool in pans 15 min. Remove from pans to wire racks; cool completely. 
REMOVE 1-1/4 cups Cool Whip; set aside. Tint remaining Cool Whip blue with food colouring. Spread top of each cupcake with some of each colour Cool Whip to resemble the ocean and its beach. Sprinkle 1 tsp. graham crumbs over white Cool Whip on each cupcake for sand. 
INSERT 1 small cocktail umbrella into beach area on each cupcake for the beach umbrella. Decorate cupcakes with remaining ingredients as shown in photo. Keep refrigerated until ready to enjoy.
Shortcut tip:
Spoon each colour of Cool Whip into separate resealable plastic bag; cut small corner off bottom of each bag. Use to squeeze Cool Whip from bag to frost cupcakes.
Special Extras:
Cut wide, soft candy ribbon or fruit roll ups into pieces to resemble beach towels and use Swedish Fish in the ocean!

Happy Hour Cupcakes!

1 comment:

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