oatmeal with peanut butter + banana 

Dear daughter,

In the weeks leading up to your birth, we experienced a devastating hurricane that left our entire region in a ferocious upheaval. Your father and I tucked into the spare bedroom in the back of the house where the windows were smaller and armed ourselves with candles and flashlights and big burly blankets. Surprisingly, we slept through most of the harsh rain and high winds and were spared the devastation that most of the city experienced. I was mindful of you during my entire pregnancy, but that was the first time I felt truly protective. Thoughts of not being able to get medical attention flooded my mind. I felt worried about your safety. I started plotting alternate routes to the hospital in case fallen trees and power lines prevented us from reaching our destination. More than anything, I prayed you stayed safe and healthy and snuggled next to my heart where I knew you were sheltered and unharmed. That was my very first glimpse into what motherhood would entail. Love of course, but also apprehension. Concern for your well-being. Fretting over seemingly obscure scenarios that would likely never, ever happen.

But what if? It seemed to be the only mantra that made sense for a long time.

In the years since then, you have certainly given me reasons to worry and most of them revolved around my own crazy, fierce love. I look at us now, sometimes not speaking the same language, other times laughing hysterically at jokes only we can appreciate and I feel so thankful for you. For your strong and often convincing opinions on social issues. The way you challenge me and think through, critically and mindfully, valid and often compelling points of rebuttal. The way you sing in that jazzy, throaty, Parisian style of song that is so completely you. The way you validate your brother when he tries to be a part of your beautiful world. The way you love us so completely and authentically. 

I just can’t remember a day when we, weren’t us.


Twelfth Birthday Interview with Raphaelia

 What is your favorite song?

Bad Blood by Taylor Swift

What is your favorite book?

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier. I like it because there is a lot of drama! I like drama. In books I mean. Not in real life.

Which kind of music makes you want to sing?

Pop music because it makes my ears happy. I like the tunes!

(breaks into rendition of Bad Blood by T. Swift.) 

What makes you laugh?

My family- the way they describe stories or things that happen 

What sorts of things are important to you?

My family is number one. My friends. My happiness. My family’s happiness. Love. Being loved and feeling loved is important to me. Being a good person. Music. School 

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

When someone’s in trouble I would just feel it in me. And I would know exactly how to help them. If it meant flying to get to them faster, that’s what I’d want to be able to do.

If you had three wishes, what would they be?

 1.That I am with my family foreve

 2. That I get “discovered” by an agent

 3. That I get to travel to every single country in the world. Every single one.

What does heaven look like?

Heaven is golden with lots of people that are talking and walking in flower gardens. God would be everywhere.  There are gates and angels and it’s a happy place.

If you could change one law, what would it be?

I’d change the age that people can get a driver’s license. It wouldn’t be an actual age, but based on maturity. Some 14 year olds would be better drivers than some 20 year olds. I think so anyway.

Which five words describe you best – and which five words describe me best?

1. Talented 

2. Girlie 

3. Sensitive 

4. Trustworthy 

5. Funny

If you could travel back in time three years and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?

Don’t try so hard to impress all of those popular kids because you don’t have to try so hard with real friends. Real friendship is not like that. Real friends fight for you, stand up for you and love you no matter what. 

Where is your favorite place in the world?

The cottage because when I go there I have the ocean and my family and I’ll always have those memories. 

If you could grow up to be famous, what would you want to be famous for?

Singer-pianist like Alicia Keyes.

What is one thing you want to learn how to do?

Play the harp. My piano teacher plays the harp and the sound is so relaxing and beautiful.

Who is someone that you miss?

Can I put two people? My grandfathers. They sound so great. I wish I had known them. Can I put that as one of my wishes??

What makes you nervous?

Performing in front of others. Public speeches. I just really want to do a great job and I’m scared I’ll burst out laughing. 

What makes you happy? 

My family. My friends. My life. God

What is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to you?

I have a lot of things. When my brother was born is probably number one.  We fight sometimes but I love him. He's a big part of my lfe.

If you could choose a new name for yourself, what would it be, and why?

Julia. That was my great grandmothers name and I’ve always loved it.

How would you change the world if you could?

World peace. I don’t know how though. I’d ask God to help me.

What do you know how to do that you can teach to others?

Music. Art. How to have good posture.

What is your favorite outfit?

A Blue and black dress that I got from Justice that my grandmother gave me for my 11th birthday. It has a matching belt. I’m not describing it very well but you know the one I mean right mom? It’s nice!

What is the difference between being smart and being wise?

Being smart is being able to understand things. Being wise is taking chances. 

Do you know how much I love you?

Yes. I know you love me.

Yes but do you know how much?

100%?? The most you can love someone.

Yes. Even more



slow cooker chill with dark ale

We’ve had some changes around here lately that have made me reevaluate a few things. Positive changes in my professional career that have left me feeling fulfilled and engaged and profoundly content. But at the end of the day, when I come home and make dinner and clean up and get the kids to bed and make lunches for the next day, I don’t have any room left for writing. No more room for journaling or photographing or documenting. And so I wondered if perhaps Pepper + Paint had fulfilled its purpose in my life. Maybe it existed to prepare me for this moment? Maybe it allowed me to find myself in the most profound way possible?

Maybe it was time to say good-bye.

This space has been a big part of my life for so many years. As most things do, it came along at a time when I really needed it and somewhere along the way, I discovered a lot of amazing little things about myself. Things I’m not necessarily sure I ever knew before. I was reading a book recently where the author describes a moment when she complied a selection of her most cherished books for her children and it made me think about this blog. I’m certainly not a famous author. And I don’t have an assortment of published books to leave behind. But I do have a collection of stories that mean something to me. Stories about the life I share with my family. Stories about the places we’ve been and the people we’ve met and the meals we’ve shared.

This blog made me realize that it was the actual practice of writing that made me love it so much. It was the habitual journaling and cooking and photographing that made me want to keep doing it. And not just for me, but for my children. I’m not sure how often I’ll be here, but I promise to show up. I promise to check in and tell you about my day and share a recipe.  

It’s hard to turn your back on self- discovery. On something that has helped you grow and learn and evolve. I’m not sure how long this blog will occupy a space in my life, but I know it’s not time to let go.





cherry-coconut almond muffins

My grandparents had an enormous backyard. It was beautiful and lush with a large vegetable garden and two statuesque apple trees near the back. Off to the side were concrete steps that paved the way to a smaller garden. That lower patch was adorned with sweet smelling flowers and two majestic cherry trees that were the focal point in that small stretch of green. They shielded us from the hot sun. Provided the perfect backdrop for family photos. The branches hung just low enough that our little hands could bend them forward to pick a few brightly colored stems. The tree trunks were thick enough that we were able to lean against them, bury our faces in our hands and count out loud for hide-and-seek.

A rainbow of pale yellow to bright red, those cherries were the perfect combination of sweet and sour. My grandmother often made cherry jam which was dense and syrupy and wonderful for slathering on thick slices of buttered toast. Other times, we’d spoon it onto vanilla ice cream after a particularly hot day and other times still, she’d make a lemon-cherry cake that was moist and buttery and so delicious, that it seldom made it past the first day. I remember running barefoot in the grass collecting fallen cherries in the hem of my skirt and eating more than I actually brought back to the kitchen. I loved their sudden burst of sour juice and the way my fingers were stained the most lovely candy-apple red.

When our sweet Raphaelia was born, we planted a cherry tree to honor the occasion but up until now, it’s only yielded a handful of cherries. This year however, we had an abundance of beautifully ripe fruit and we picked and rinsed and savored them exactly as they were. But then I remembered my grandmothers stewed cherry jam and that my mom wanted to make sour cherry liqueur. I thought of making a small batch of cherry syrup for summer cocktails or a light and airy Pavlova but in the end, we decided on simple cherry muffins. They’re wonderful for those busy school mornings and a nice little pick-me-up with your afternoon tea. I also took some over to a friend who just had a new baby as they are fairly healthy and easy to grab when you’re feeling the pangs of hunger, but have a wee little one who needs your attention. I know cherry season has come and gone, but if you’re able to get some sour cherries, make these muffins.

Happy first week of school dear friends. 


creamy salad dressing

Without any prompting from me, my children have started keeping a summer journal. Short little excerpts detailing their daily activities or a few lines about really important things like finding heart-shaped rocks and puffy clouds that look like elephants and hermit crabs that are small and feisty. Deeper thoughts have emerged like wondering who they’ll have as teachers next year or if grade 7 will be as difficult as everyone says it is or trying really hard to decipher if, as Sarah McLachlan sings, love really is better than ice cream ( honest to goodness, we’re debating this very thing.)

I don’t correct their spelling or punctuation or grammar. They’ll eventually learn proper editing techniques, but they might not always have the drive to write. They seem genuinely enthusiastic about it and I don’t want to stifle their creativity by making them pause for corrections and proofreading. That’s never been the purpose of journaling anyway. I want them to write simply because they have something to say. Because they enjoy it. Because they are passionate about ideas and concepts and things and people. And mostly because some day, far from now, they’ll read these entries and think of a time that was uncomplicated and carefree. When the most pressing thing on their minds was whether to have waffles or fried eggs for breakfast.

One of the very best gifts they can give themselves is being able to read their story in their very own words. From their own perspectives. One day, they will smile as they look back at their sweet cursive handwriting and recall all of those little things that would have otherwise been forgotten. World Cup predictions. Best friends. Stories about soccer games and camping trips and making strawberry pie. And those are important memories. They remind us that, even when life felt dismal, we were part of a circle of people that loved us. We took pleasure in simple things like picnicking in the park or meeting our friends for ice cream on a hot summer evening. Making homemade popsicles and having lemonade stands and beach days where we jumped over big waves and buried ourselves in the sand. It proves that we were content even when life wasn’t perfect

The opening line in one of Niko’s entries is, Today is a new day for me! Can you believe that? Today is a NEW DAY friends. Full of new possibilities and insights and experiences. And every single day for the rest of his life will be a brand new day.

I hope they spend the summer writing their little hearts out. Writing about every single beautiful thing. About the feel of the salty ocean on their bare skin. About what it’s like to lose an important soccer game. About the first taste of moon mist ice cream and walking barefoot in the prickly grass. About water balloon fights and spontaneous lawn games and collecting sticks for campfire smores. Some day, when the responsibilities of adulthood threaten to take away these little morsels of truth, these journals will be here.

And they will be filled with all the wonder and awe and amazement of childhood.

P.S A bit off topic but I’m sharing a recipe for a delicious salad dressing I made for a dinner party we had on the north shore over the weekend. It was a nice change from the olive-oil based dressings I normally make and I think it’s the perfect dressing for summer salads. We’ve even had it as a chip dip and also as a sauce over chilled salmon. So versatile and so good.



fried egg pizza with boursin + smoked salmon

I've always been drawn to the idea of having a bed and breakfast. A small dwelling with a modern-rustic esthetic and a garden rich in vegetables and orchard fruit. Beautiful gauzy linens that adorn the breakfast table with farm fresh eggs and homemade biscuits and fresh wildflowers gracing every table. I'm not sure if my life will ever allow for such a thing, but I like day dreaming about it anyway.

Growing up in a family of four children, there was always laughter and home cooked meals and more than our share of arguments over misplaced clothing and borrowed make- up and little brothers who’d pick up the telephone and listen in on private conversations. And I suppose on some level, it's the commotion I’ve always loved. The constant, never-ending upheaval that comes with a full house.

We've decided to rent out our north shore home for part of the summer. Not in a bed and breakfast capacity but still, I like thinking about the kinds of people who will pass through our door. About the meals they’ll create and the conversations they’ll have and the memories they’ll make. I hope they wake up to rolling waves and glorious sunshine every single day and I hope they gather seashells and build sand castles and collect minty colored sea glass. I hope they run around bare foot in the grass and drink lemonade and eat homemade lobster rolls and rippled potato chips. That they take afternoon naps and make peach cobbler and fruity summer sangria and visit the lavender farm up the street. I hope they wrap themselves in warm blankets and gaze at the starry midnight sky and wake up in the morning to homemade waffles and hot coffee. That they read a great summer romance and resurrect their love of crazy eights and immerse themselves in marathons of classic board games.

Even if it rains.

Even if it pours for days and days.

I hope they love every single moment.