With every changing season comes the urge to fill our closets with shiny, new things – perhaps a new pair of jeans or ankle boots are on your wish list right now as you read this. But before you get credit-card happy and spiral into unnecessary debt, we've got some expert tips to keep your shopping habits in check.
David Clemmer, a Toronto-based stylist and CEO of artist management agency Judy Inc., makes a living helping people shop smarter. "Shopping should always be a fun experience and never a cause of stress or despair," he says. "Guilt-free shopping is the only shopping one should indulge in." With the right planning, you can feel satisfied and not stretched beyond your means. Here's how.
1. Stick to your budget Budget slipups are the number 1 cause of feeling guilty after a shopping spree. To avoid this, only bring cash with you to the mall – leave your credit cards at home, says Clemmer. That way, the temptation to buy big-ticket items on a whim is minimized. People are a lot less inclined to part with their money if it's cash.
2. Practise patience If you must have that pair of designer shoes, keep your eye on them and buy them at an end of season sale.
The savviest shoppers know that stores have to unload their inventory to make room for the next season's supply, notes Clemmer. You'll see slashed prices on winter clothes at the end of January, and the end of June is the best time to shop for summer wares. And if you do buy something, check back with the store to see if they've marked the item down. Many stores offer price adjustments within 14 days of purchase. 3. Get familiar with retail return policies Double-check a store's return policy before you impulsively buy something. "When you get home, you might realize it's not right for you and you need to have the flexibility to return it," says Clemmer. If you've got buyer's remorse and know deep down that what you bought isn't your style, Clemmer maintains that it's time to head back to the shop.
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover more great tips, including how to invest in your wardrobe, on page 2
4. Make wardrobe investments Clemmer urges clients to invest in pieces that last – not ones bought last minute out of convenience.
"(Investment pieces) are items that you need, such as blazers or black trouser pants. These purchases should be well thought out and bought without the least bit of remorse," he says. And don't get caught up in the hype of a one-season-wonder, warns Clemmer. "The ‘it' bag today is definitely not the ‘it' bag of tomorrow." 5. Unsubscribe from tempting retail newsletters These days, it's not uncommon to be asked for your email address at the checkout counter. Retailers know that the lure of online shopping is very tempting, especially for busy people.
Whenever possible, do not give out your email address – and if you do, unsubscribe from these retail newsletters. After all, who can resist an email subject line that says: "Flash Sale! 3 Hours Only!" These are just clever marketing ploys to catch you off-guard.
Chances are the promotions they're offering aren't that much of a steal, anyway.
Rediscover Ottawa, which walks the line between charming town and cosmopolitan city, with first-class cultural and historic experiences.
Modern digs: Alt Hotel Ottawa Rest your head at the Canadian-owned Alt Hotel in downtown Ottawa, where you can grab snacks (or full meals) in the lobby and keep up your yoga practice with the hotel's new Nama-Stay yoga videos. Bonus: The Alt is eco-friendly, with geothermal energy used for heating and cooling, plus energy-efficient lighting.
Historic haven: The Century House Bed and Breakfast Ottawa With just four rooms, The Century House offers a quaint stay without skimping on modern amenities such as free parking and Wi-Fi. It's known for its gourmet breakfasts (think indulgent waffles or a hearty frittata), served up family-style in the dining room.
Morning munch: Benny's Bistro Hidden behind The French Baker in the ByWard Market, this is a tiny gem that serves some of our all-time favourite brekkies. Order the buckwheat crêpe, which is stuffed with ham and Gruyère and topped with an egg.
Dinner hour: Absinthe Café Stop by this Wellington West hot spot for French-inspired cuisine and a taste of its namesake drink. On Monday nights, there's a special fondue menu; go with friends and order cheese and meat varieties to share, then finish with the Valrhona chocolate fondue for dessert.
Sweet treat: Moo Shu Ice Cream & Kitchen Try small-batch ice creams and ice cream truffles made with Ontario dairy and fresh, sometimes surprising, ingredients, like craft beer or lime leaves.
Spring: C'est Bon Gourmet Food Tours Take a guided walking and tasting tour of one of Ottawa's famed foodie neighbourhoods: the ByWard Market, Wellington Street, Preston Street (Little Italy), the Glebe or Chinatown.
Summer: Yowttawa This outdoor music fest will celebrate the country's 150th anniversary with performances by Canadian artists, plus contributions by other international artists.
Fall: The Canada Science and Technology Museum After $80.5 million in renos, the museum will reopen in November, just in time for its 50th anniversary of celebrating Canadian innovations, such as a prototype of the world's first pacemaker and a cobalt-60 therapy machine from the '50s—at the time, a revolutionary new way to deliver radiation to cancer patients.
Winter:Nordik Spa-Nature Spend a day rotating between the spa's seven outdoor baths and eight saunas. Book a massage for ultimate R&R.
WHAT'S CLOSE BY? If you have the time to range farther afield, here are three other spots to see in Ontario.
2 1/2 hours away: Thousand Islands A pretty archipelago with ton of history (it was once pirate territory!), this region is now an ideal spot to go boating, hiking and exploring historic castles.
3 hours away: Prince Edward County Visit a few of the dozens of artist studios and galleries in the region, where you can even take an art class—in between wine tastings, of course.
OTTAWA THE GREAT To celebrate Canada's sesquicentennial—the 150th anniversary of Confederation—Ottawa is leading the charge with a full year of awe-inspiring events. Here's a small sampling of what's on in our nation's capital.
March 3 and 4: Red Bull Crashed Ice Watch downhill skaters race to the finish line on a huge track that runs along the locks of the Rideau Canal— which will be the final leg of the 2016–17 ice cross downhill championship.
May 20 to Sept. 4: Inspiration Village Located in the historic ByWard Market, Inspiration Village will pay tribute to our provinces and territories, while also showcasing special exhibits and performing-arts events.
All summer long: Kontinuum, an "underground multimedia experience" Though the Confederation Line of Ottawa's Light Rail Transit won't open until 2018, one underground station will be transformed into a futuristic world by a 10-weeklong multimedia presentation.
Nov. 26: The 105th Grey Cup This year, Canada's capital will host the CFL's annual championship game.
Ignite 150: In a series of 17 stunts spaced throughout the year—from yoga on a barge accompanied by a live orchestra to gourmet dining at a table suspended nearly 50 metres in the air—Ottawa will delight visitors and residents with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Ottawa Welcomes the world: Ottawa's many embassies and high commissions will be given the opportunity to take over Aberdeen Pavilion and the Horticulture Building with multicultural celebrations including food, art and music.
Agri 150: More than 20 unique one-day outdoor events in 2017 will showcase Ottawa's food and drink, such as the Wine and Words Tour, which will take participants to local wineries to sample wine and cheese, with a local author to tell stories at each stop.
With our country's 150th birthday around the corner, Ottawa will be pulling out all the stops when it comes to entertaining, enlightening and engaging Canadians. We can’t wait to take part in all the amazing events scheduled throughout the year.
"I've seen more changes this year than in the past three years," says Lisa Gittens, a tax expert at H&R Block.
Here are eight things families will want to be aware of when filling out their 2016 return.
1. Last chance on certain tax credits
The government is phasing out a handful of tax credits and focusing on larger benefits. The children's arts and fitness tax credits will be halved for the 2016 tax year, and cut completely next year, meaning families will no longer be able to defray costs for things like swimming lessons, ballet and tutoring. For post-secondary students, the education and textbook credits are being eliminated in 2017, although education amounts carried forward from previous years will still be claimable.
2. No more income splitting
Also gone is the Family Tax Cut, which lets the higher-earning spouse transfer up to $50,000 of income to the lower-earner. During the 2015 election, the Liberals promised to cut it, calling it a "tax break for the wealthy."
With the benefit gone, Gittens recommends a spousal RRSP, which allows the higher-earner to contribute to the lower-earning spouse's RRSP and claim the tax benefit. "You may have an RRSP set up, but you haven't thought about setting it up for your spouse. This is an ideal time to use that strategy," she says.
3. Changes to child benefits
The Canada Child Benefit was a signature feature of the 2016 budget, replacing the old Universal Child Care Benefit and the Canada Child Tax Benefit. It's non-taxable, so you don't have to claim it. However, in order to continue to receive the benefit, both parents must file a return, even if one doesn't generate any income, says Gittens.
Also keep in mind that the benefit started in July, so you still have to claim the taxable UCC for the first six months of the year.
4. New tax rates
New tax rates mean you may or may not be pleasantly surprised by the size of your tax bill this year. If you're in the meaty middle that earns between $45,000 and $90,000, your rate will come down to 20.5 percent from 22 percent.
"Most Canadians will be receiving more money at the end of the day than they were under the old system," says Jamie Golombek, managing director of tax and estate planning at CIBC Wealth Strategies Group.
However, high-income earners will be paying more due to a new 33 percent bracket for people earnings more than $200,000.
5. Child care expenses
Childcare costs are usually the biggest deduction available for families, says Golombek. But what many people don't realize is that it goes beyond simply daycare. If you have a nanny, you can claim that expense, but also babysitting, if it's during the day, and summer or day camp.
6. Disability tax credit and family caregiver amount
If you have family members with a disability there are certain credits that may be available to you. The Disability Tax Credit is available to people with disabilities to reduce their taxes. For children under age 18, a parent or caregiver may be able to claim the unused amount.
If you're a caregiver to a family member with physical or mental impairments, you may also be able to claim an additional $2,121, according to the Canada Revenue Agency.
7. Selling your principal residence
Selling your home has typically not been something you've had to report on your taxes, because usually Canadians don't get taxed for capital gains on their principle residence. But starting with the 2016 tax year, individuals who sold their principal residence during the year must report the sale. The government is ostensibly doing this to crack down on people who try to pass off income-generating homes as their principal residence.
8. eFile early, get your refund early
Tax deadline is April 30, but if you want to get ahead of the game, file early, before the government is inundated with last-minute returns. You can still file the old paper return, but Gittens says you'll be looking at a turnaround time of anywhere up to eight weeks, versus 10-14 days for a return filed early and electronically.
Antibiotic resistant superbugs are a public health crisis with potentially devastating effects. Here's what researchers are doing to solve this problem—and what you need to know about protecting yourself.
When Teresa Zurberg fell on a nail while building a new fence four years ago, she worried about tetanus, and maybe scarring. She went to the hospital, where doctors gave her oral antibiotics. But when sepsis (also referred to as blood poisoning, an extreme—and rare—reaction to an infection) set in and she was prescribed more medication, the incident led to one of the most harrowing experiences of her life.
"I lost 20 pounds in five days," says Teresa, now 45. "It was terrible; I couldn't eat, and I had to go to the bathroom every 20 minutes. On top of everything, I had a bad reaction to one of the drugs—it felt like my head was being attacked by fire ants."
While she didn't know it at the time, the Maple Ridge, B.C., native was in the throes of a C. difficile infection. Clostridium difficile is a nasty bacterium that can damage the colon and cause severe diarrhea; in some cases, the reaction is fatal. These bacteria can live on surfaces contaminated by feces, where they may be picked up and enter the body through hand-to-mouth contact. (The bugs are also found naturally in the digestive system of a small percentage of adults, where they're usually harmless.) C. difficile bacteria are increasingly resistant to some antibiotics; when they're allowed to multiply—usually after a high dose of drugs is administered—they can cause a severe infection. That's what happened to Teresa.
"I was on so many antibiotics, they killed off the good bacteria in my gut and let the bad bacteria take over," she explains. "In my case, [that bacteria] was C. difficile."
Some strains of bacteria (like C. difficile or E. coli) can develop genetic mutations that allow them to survive an antibiotic. Others start out as naturally occurring bacteria in the environment—in soil or water—and in our bodies; these bacteria don't wreak havoc until something alters them. In both cases, antibiotics play a big role: They may disrupt bacteria cells, causing mutations. The drugs don't just target the bugs that are making you ill; they also get rid of healthy, normal bacteria in the body, which creates an opportunity for troublemakers to take roost. With time, these tough bugs may dodge various treatments. In other words, they become superbugs.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise around the world. And, while some people are more at risk (babies and the elderly, for example), no one is immune. Before becoming ill, Teresa was a fit, healthy 42-year-old who worked as a canine handler and a cardiology technologist after years spent as an army medic. If it can happen to her, it can happen to you.
What's to blame? The development of antibiotics nearly a century ago was revolutionary. Finally, harmful, even deadly, bacteria could be controlled and destroyed. But instead of seeing antibiotics as a precious resource, we've taken their effectiveness for granted—and that's what's getting us into trouble.
Today, when people get a bacterial infection, it's assumed they can be cured with a brief course of antibiotics. The expectation of a quick fix for even mild infections has led to overprescribing, one of the contributing factors of antibiotic resistance. So has the demand for drugs when the cause is not bacterial—we've all been told the flu virus doesn't respond to antibiotics, which is also true for many ear and sinus infections—but this is something patients don't always want to hear.
The misuse of antibiotics in hospitals is another major issue. "The problem is that we often start patients on antibiotics when we don't need to. We use drugs that are broad-spectrum—they cover more germs than they need to—and we continue therapy for too long," says Dr. Andrew Morris, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and medical director of the antimicrobial stewardship program at the Sinai Health System-University Health Network in Toronto.
And there's also the livestock issue. "Antibiotics are used to treat infections in animals, just like they are in humans, and that's extremely important," explains Dr. Michael Mulvey, chief of antimicrobial resistance and nosocomial infections at the Public Health Agency of Canada's national microbiology laboratory in Winnipeg. "But some farming practices [also] use antibiotics in very low doses in the feed or water to promote the growth of animals and fatten them up. [Doing this] leads to antibiotic resistance in bacteria, and that's potentially where some of the problems emerge." Indeed, in a recent report for the World Health Organization, researchers at the University of Calgary concluded that there's a direct link between use of antibiotics in animals and drug resistance. That doesn't mean superbugs are in your food supply; according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, antibiotic levels in meat are rarely found to be above the maximum levels set by Health Canada. And antibiotic-resistant bacteria aren't passed on to humans through cooked or pasteurized animal products, such as meat and milk, since those processes kill bacteria. Instead, it's more about overuse. The more bacteria are exposed to an antibiotic, the more likely they are to develop resistance. Then, when humans are subjected to those bacteria—sometimes through animal waste contaminating lakes and rivers where we get drinking water or as a result of safety failures in our food supply—we don't have any weapons to fight them.
Why panic now? The World Health Organization recently called the rise of superbugs a "global emergency"; in September 2016, the United Nations held a General Assembly devoted to the "fundamental long-term threat" of drug-resistant bacteria. (This is especially telling, considering it's only the fourth time in UN history that it has held a high-level meeting for a health issue.)
But we've known about antibiotic resistance for decades. Take penicillin, for instance: Discovered in 1928, it was being used to treat serious infections by the 1940s. By the '50s, there was such widespread resistance that "many of the advances of the prior decade were threatened," according to an article published in 2015 in Pharmacy and Therapeutics. Other hostile bacteria quickly emerged—the first cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcusaureus, a bacterium that's a common cause of infections in some hospitals, began to pop up in the 1960s.
So why the renewed worry? It all comes down to our tools. We're running out of antibiotics, and as our arsenal becomes depleted, the germs are becoming more and more resistant. Last year, news broke that MCR-1, a newly discovered gene that makes bacteria immune to colistin—one of our last-resort antibiotics—has been found in humans and beef in Canada. And the family of bacteria called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) is increasingly troubling experts. Germs in this group, like E. coli and Klebsiella, are normal residents of our gut flora—but they have a genetic mutation that predisposes them to antibiotic resistance. Earlier this year, a Nevada woman died of an infection caused by a CRE strain that couldn't be treated with any of the 26 antibiotics currently available in the U.S. These bugs have also been found in Europe, China and, yes, Canada.
Running out of options It's tempting to think of these superbug infections as rare and the stuff of science-fiction movies. However, there's a genuine concern for the future availability of remedies for everyday illnesses. "There is a real risk that there could be no antibiotics left to treat some common infections," warns Dr. Mulvey. Certain strains of gonorrhea, tuberculosis, pneumonia and urinary tract infections (80 percent of which are caused by E. coli) have already become immune to the drugs that worked years ago.
In the past, when bacteria became resistant to antibiotics, there was an easy fix: Scientists would develop new drugs. But we can no longer rely on this strategy—since 2010, only three new antimicrobials have been approved for use in Canada. Why so few? The reasons are multifold: First, there are regulatory challenges, as government agencies require complex clinical trials involving hundreds and even thousands of patients. But that's not the only challenge. "At the end of the day, the science is really hard," says Dr. Gerard Wright, a professor of biochemistry and director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University in Hamilton. "We've picked all the low-hanging fruit—the easy-to-find antibiotics."
In fact, that's part of the explanation for the last piece of the puzzle: There are fewer pharmaceutical companies actively developing new drugs. "There's no cogent business case for manufacturing antibiotics," explains Dr. Morris. "They're relatively cheap, used for a very short period of time and there's the risk of resistance. A drug company will not want to make a drug that becomes obsolete before the patent even expires."
Looking for solutions Searching out new antibiotics isn't the only way scientists are working to combat superbugs. Researchers worldwide, including Dr. Wright, are working on a promising new area of discovery: understanding resistance itself. "We've done a lot of work to figure out where resistance comes from and how it evolves," he says. If researchers can learn how to stop bacteria from becoming immune to the effects of antibiotics, our arsenal of infection-fighting drugs is suddenly not so depleted, after all. But you can't beat evolution, so you need to find a compound that blocks resistance and use it in combination with antibiotics, Dr. Wright explains. "The idea is that if we get rid of resistance, the drugs will work."
Dr. Wright and other scientists have shown that it's possible to keep antibiotic resistance at bay by using cocktails of drugs—combinations of old antibiotics with new resistance inhibitors. To find these inhibitors, as well as any potential new antibiotics, Dr. Wright and his team are screening hundreds of thousands of bacteria and fungi samples taken from soil across Canada. (Bacteria from soil are the source of most existing antibiotics.) "We've collected dirt from every province and territory, from the tip of southern Ontario to Nunavut," he says. "I've even collected soil samples from my own backyard."
Though it may sound like a science-fair experiment, Dr. Wright's lab has had some real breakthroughs. For example, some superbugs have mutated to produce an enzyme called NDM-1, which makes them resistant to almost all antibiotics—even the last-resort ones. But one of Dr. Wright's soil samples, taken from Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia, yielded Aspergillus fungus, which produces a chemical compound that disarms NDM-1, blocking resistance. The lab is now studying how this compound works in animals, with the hope that it will have the same type of superbug-inhibiting effect.
Dr. Wright, who currently holds a Canada Research Chair in molecular studies of antibiotics, credits support at the federal and provincial levels, as well as from private donors. Other government agencies are also stepping up to address the issue. "The Public Health Agency of Canada [PHAC] has a fairly comprehensive surveillance program in over 60 hospitals across Canada, where we're specifically monitoring the superbugs," says Dr. Mulvey. The agency runs programs that look for antibiotic resistance throughout the food chain, collecting data on farms, at abbatoirs and at the grocery store in several Canadian regions. It also keeps watch on what's happening in other countries, in order to be able to rapidly detect emerging types of resistance if they arrive in Canada.
A hopeful future There have been some advances: Rates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection, for example, have decreased in Canada by 25 percent since 2008. But experts believe much more needs to be done, and they're pushing for the government to invest in research and infrastructure—like the PHAC's surveillance systems or stronger regulations for the use of medicated animal feed and veterinary drugs. Dr. Morris also sees another issue: a gap in the public's knowledge and awareness of the threat of superbugs. "There are no ribbon campaigns, walkathons or bike rides for antimicrobial resistance or stewardship or anything like that, even though we rely on antibiotics for every aspect of health care," he says.
So, where will we be a decade or two from now? Dr. Wright believes we don't have a choice but to keep looking for solutions: "We simply cannot put ourselves in a situation where we're in a post-antibiotic era," he says. "Imagine how terrifyingly dangerous it would be to have open-heart surgery or a hip replacement without the ability to control infection. Antibiotics underpin almost all of modern medicine."
Teresa Zurberg would agree. To this day, the effects of her encounter with C. difficile still linger. She takes high-dose probiotics every day to try to undo the damage to her gut and is vigilant about the type of drugs she can use. (Any antibiotic that disrupts the balance of bacteria in her digestive system could lead to a relapse by killing off harmless bacteria, which would allow C. difficile bacteria to thrive.)
But her story has a silver lining. A year after her own brush with the superbug, she read about a beagle in Amsterdam who was trained to sniff out C. difficile in hospital patients. As a canine handler of drug- and bomb-detecting dogs, Teresa had just the right kind of animal expertise. So, she set about training her newest springer spaniel, Angus, to do the same.
Today, Angus is the only certified C. difficile–sniffing dog in North America, and has been on the prowl at Vancouver Coastal Health since last July. "It's an out-of-the-box approach, for sure, but the hospital has been supportive of the idea from the very beginning," says Teresa.
Angus's talent is just one of the many innovative solutions being implemented in Canada. "In this country, we have the tools and the brains," says Dr. Wright. "There are some outstanding Canadian groups with international profile working in this area, and I know that, with the right support, we can contribute to this global health problem. It's a tough row to hoe, but I'm optimistic.
How to protect yourself While you can't completely shield yourself from drug-resistant infections, there are four simple steps you can take to lower your risk.
1. Wash your hands They have their uses, but alcohol-based hand sanitizers can't replace good old hand washing. They don't kill C. difficile, for example, but soap and water will.
2. Get the flu vaccine The influenza virus weakens the immune system, which has the side-effect of making you more vulnerable to other bugs. Getting the vaccine every year is your best shot at preventing the flu.
3. Be careful when handling raw meat Though the risk of contracting superbugs from food is extremely low, make sure to wash countertops, hands and utensils with soap and water after contact with raw meat.
4. Take antibiotics only when absolutely necessary We don't think of these drugs as precious resources, but they are.
The new antibiotics rules Bombarding bugs with prescription drugs used to be the preferred method of dealing with bacterial infections, but new research says that should change. Here's the latest approach.
If you've taken a course of antibiotics recently, you've likely been told to finish all your pills—even if you start to feel better. Conventional medical wisdom says this approach helps prevent antibiotic resistance: If you don't take the full amount, there's a risk that some of the bacteria making you sick will survive and mutate into a resistant form.
However, this theory on antibiotic use is being re-evaluated. It turns out that shorter courses can sometimes be just as effective as longer ones. (There are exceptions: Those with tuberculosis or HIV, for example, need the full course.) But for infections such as sinusitis, middle-ear infections and pneumonia, your doctor may recommend a shorter course. "This is one of the greatest myths of medicine," says Dr. Andrew Morris, a University of Toronto professor and medical director of the antimicrobial stewardship program at the Sinai Health System-University Health Network in Toronto. "For 99.9 percent of the infections treated in Canada," he says, "there's no reason to believe that stopping early is harmful, and it's almost certainly beneficial."
But some of the old rules pertaining to antibiotics still hold true: Don't assume you need a prescription simply because you're sick—they won't cure viral infections like colds. Some doctors may feel pressured to prescribe an antibiotic, or they may not be sure whether you have a bacterial or viral infection, so they write out a prescription to be on the safe side. You should always ask your health-care provider whether or not you truly need an antibiotic. In many cases, a wait-and-see approach is recommended: Tell your doctor you'll fill the prescription if you don't feel better in a few days. "This has been shown repeatedly to be a beneficial way to avoid, or at least minimize, the use of antibiotics," confirms Dr. Morris.
Canadian Living editor-in-chief Jes Watson shares how the food always comes first when her family reunites.
Our crew is like most Canadian families. We're tight-knit, but sprinkled across a wide expanse of geography, scattered through cities, towns, provinces and a few distant countries. We're lucky to live in the time we do, when communication has never been easier, and we stay in touch with regular phone or FaceTime calls, emails and social media. But there's nothing quite like when we're all in the same room together, 30 or so familiar faces, the same features (in our case, twinkling eyes and proud sets of buckteeth) echoing through the generations.
Despite the distance between us and the time we've spent apart, when we do meet up, it's like nothing has changed. Conversations seem to pick up where they left off, as if the months or years separating visits were nothing more than a short pause. Seeing my relatives again feels as comfortable as slipping into a favourite pair of well-worn jeans, or picking up a beloved book I've read a hundred times. No matter where we are, or who is hosting, it's like coming home.
The Watsons try to make get-togethers an annual occurrence, with a generous relation offering to host at a different location each year. Because we're polite folk who don't want to descend like a herd of hungry elephants on a poor aunt, uncle or cousin, the agreed-upon tradition is to make the feast potluck. We're each assigned a course to bring (appetizers, main or dessert), and we spend hours doting on hot stoves and ovens, prepping veggies and icing cakes. When we arrive, each of us ports our wares in casserole dishes and Tupperware from the car to doorstep like precious cargo.
It's no accident that even before the hugs and the small talk, the dish each person provided is the primary topic of conversation; the first question out of everyone's mouths is "What did you bring?" And because we've been having our reunions for as long as I can remember some of the recipes that appear are like family members in and of themselves. My cousin Dawn makes the cheesiest, ooey-gooiest lasagna that I can't ever resist having seconds of, and when I see it there on the dining table, I feel waves of nostalgia and familiarity (not to mention hunger). Some recipes are re-created in honour of relatives who have passed away or can't be there: My late Aunt Barb's trifle is a bittersweet, but mostly sweet, way of remembering her. Of course, we welcome new recipes, too, much like new babies; my 10-year-old niece wowed us last year when she made a batch of perfectly chewy yet crispy cookies from scratch.
Maybe it's not that the recipes are like relatives in their own right, but that the food we bring is an extension of who we are. Our secret recipes and special ingredients, year after year, become entwined with our personalities. They're a way for each of us to show our love for our family, and for them, in return, to show their love for us. When I look forward to our next reunions, I always vividly imagine the food that's going to be there, and each of the people I adore who'll bring them.
Want to plan your own big family reunion? Visit caltelli150.ca for your chance to win 1 of 3 Catelli Family Reunion Experiences valued at approximately $10,000 each.To celebrate its shared 150th birthday, Catelli is saying thanks to Canadian families with the this gift of togetherness.Contest runs from February 28 to April 4 and is open to Canadian residents only.