benjamin bridge sauvignon blanc

(post by kara)

When asked this July if I would be able to create a painting for the release of the Benjamin Bridge Sauvignon Blanc, I didn't hesitate to say yes. I was honoured. 

"Dara Gordon, co-founder of Benjamin Bridge, envisioned potential greatness for Sauvignon Blanc in Nova Scotia and refused to let growing challenges alter this quest. This week we are releasing a wine that represents our unconditional commitment to pursue the best of our regional terroir."

My process for creating this painting was to start with understanding the terroir, the mood, emotion and flavours behind the wine and from there I put together a mood board to share with the team. I wanted to make sure I was headed in the right direction.

From there, I sit with all of the keywords, images and information I'm given and let it marinate. Sometimes that takes a few days to let it all settle and then the fun begins! In my studio sits a blank canvas, my tools, great light and a glass (or two) of sauvignon blanc.

Here's the end result.

sauvignon blanc, acrylic mixed media on canvas, 2014


cherry-lemon pudding cake

My father’s birthday was always a pretty big deal around our house. Not any more important than anyone else’s of course but probably the most fun since it was the only summer birthday in our family. My brothers and sister and I would spend hours creating homemade birthday cards and our dining room table was always filled with colorful scraps of construction paper and pinking shears and lots of stickers and glitter. It took a long time to scrape those bits of dried up glitter off the table when we were finished but it was worth it. His expression was always one of surprise and sincere appreciation and he always made us feel like we were the most creative little artists. He used to tuck the cards into the corners of his dresser mirror and many of them still remain there today. Even after all of these years.

Since his birthday was on the 1st of August, right in the middle of summer, we always celebrated with a picnic or a family day at the beach or a drive somewhere beautiful. The most memorable birthdays were spent picnicking on our beach in the north shore. My parents would pack ice cold water and lots of fruit and homemade sandwiches and we were able to recharge and reconnect as a family. The coastal drive along the sunrise trail is absolutely magnificent. It's scenic and breathtaking and peaceful and more often than not, you drive along without a single word being spoken and everyone just soaks it all in at their own pace and with their own thoughts. I imagine those drives were a welcomed respite for my parents since most of the time, we quietly enjoyed the beauty of our surroundings.  And anyone with four children knows that long, peaceful drives don’t happen very often. 

After my father died, we never celebrated a birthday in August again. That month was left barren and our father’s birthday became a day of silent remembrance and an opportunity to celebrate beautiful childhood memories. This year, we spent two full weeks at our home in the north shore and on my father’s birthday, I took my children to his beach- a mere 10 minutes away. There wasn’t a single other person there so we danced and galloped and skipped along the shore. That little beach is quaint and yet grand at the same time and in the far off distance, you can see the outline of Prince Edward Island. But more than anything, it’s filled with so many memories. Everywhere I looked I could see the faces of my loved ones. My mother, with her hair tied in a messy bun cutting fresh fruit with her pairing knife. My little brothers, learning how to swim in the ocean. My sister, collecting shells to make a necklace.  And my father. His laughter. His face.

When my youngest brother Peter and his wife Vickie announced that they were expecting a baby boy and that they were going to name him after our father, we all felt a surge of emotion. For us, the name Stamati or Steven in English, means beauty and life. It means love and family and lineage. Since she was due in July, it never really crossed our minds that another family birthday would grace us in August.

But that’s exactly what happened.

Stamati was born on August 2nd, just a day after my father’s birthday and we haven’t stopped staring at his beautiful photos. Thick black hair and lusciously perfect lips and beautiful long fingers. I can’t wait to hold him in my arms and whisper his beautiful name. And I can’t wait to celebrate an August birthday again. I can’t wait for birthday cake and balloons and presents wrapped in beautiful paper. 

I can’t wait to bring him to my father’s beach and watch him run sand through his little fingers for the first time. I can’t wait for him to dip his little toes in the warm waters of the Northumberland Strait. For him to eat wedges of juicy watermelon and to squeal with delight at the sight of all his adoring cousins.

And I know now that the spirit of this family, of who we are, will always be on that beach. We will always be connected to each other in the most profound way. Not only because of the love we had for our father, but because of the love that still remains. 



Sweet cherry sangria with basil + limoncello

We've taken some much-needed time off  so for the rest of this month and into the next, we'll be up in the north shore taking in the salty ocean air and being together without a full schedule to concede with.
Although there is ample opportunity for lazy mornings while I’m there, I've gotten into a pattern of waking up  before anyone else, making a hot cup of coffee and watching the sunrise. I love the feeling of tranquility that only early morning waking can provide which is an odd sentiment for me since most of the time I find myself aching for more sleep. But this feeling of early morning renewal is soothing and gratifying in the most peaceful way imaginable. Sometimes, I sit outside with a big blanket and stare at the still horizon and other times, I grab my camera and capture the silent morning in all its splendor and beauty.

I've truly found a calmness I can't accurately put into words. Perhaps it's simply that the distractions of my everyday life aren't there to goad me. I have the ocean. And my family. And fruits and vegetables purchased from local farm stands just up the road. Nothing seems quite as urgent or quite as severe or quite as demanding. Although big city life has always been endearing on so many levels, captivating and fulfilling even, it can’t really compare to the serenity of the country. I long for the simplicity that smaller communities offer and now, at times, even Halifax seems a bit grand.

I used to fear that the way I imagined my life here would differ greatly from the reality of what lay before me. That, the never- ending chore and project list would in fact, prevent me from enjoying the very essence of this home. I suppose only time will tell what this place will come to mean to me but I always imagined it would be a place of refuge from broken teenage hearts and mangled friendships. A sanctuary that would provide safety and shelter. The first place my children would want to run away to when things didn’t seem right with the world. And for right now, this place is just that. Happiness and laughter and adventure. I want to hold onto all of it because I know the day will come when they won’t want to spend every waking moment in our presence. They won’t ask us to watch them swim or dance or help them dust the sand off their little toes or for a towel to dry their eyes when sudsy soap gets in the way. I remind myself of these very things as often as I can and as a result, the need to breath it all in is so much stronger than the need for peace and quiet.

I wish things could stay this way forever.

Now this sangria. The most important part of this recipe is to let the ingredients sit so the flavors can meld together. If you can plan ahead and allow them to mingle overnight, the sangria will burst with flavor. If you throw it together on a whim like I did the first couple of times I made it, the cherry-basil flavor is much too mild and you want something explosive with strong notes of cherry and lemon and basil. It’s the epitome of summer living.


fish tacos with chili avocado cream + carrot-zucchini slaw

When I had my children, I didn’t think another love existed that could compare to the one I had for them. But three short months ago, a beautiful baby girl was born and she captivated my heart in a way that I didn’t know was possible.I love this baby girl because she is my brother's child, my mother's granddaughter, my children's cousin, my first niece. But I also really love her just because. In ways that are both familiar and unfamiliar. 

My brother and his wife are about to embark on the grandest journey of their lives. Challenging and grueling but also magical and perfect. I can’t wait to witness the delight they’ll take in the simplest of things; the sweet smell of their baby just after she’s been bathed. Those quiet moments when she’s been fed and changed and everything seems right with the world. Those split second half grins in the midst of a deep, entrenched sleep.
I can't wait for those first smiles and giggles and the pitter-patter of tiny toes on the hardwood floor. The first taste of homegrown smooshed vegetables or those teeny puffs of air as she exhales. That breathless sort of feeling they'll have when she'll recognize their voices or when she’ll squeeze their finger with her tiny fist.

And to be able to relive that experience through the eyes of my brother, my very own brother, is truly amazing.

There's a special kind of feeling when your sibling has a child of his own. I finally understand the magnitude of love he has for my own children. I finally know what it means to be on the other side. It's this instant sort of love. A really unexplainable kind of love. The most incredible thing about parenting is that omnipotent devotion that just seems to explode. The feeling of being bone tired, exhausted beyond words, not really knowing when the last time you ate or showered or had a meaningful conversation was and yet, still having that adrenal drive, that raw instinctual desire to get up and do it over and over based on nothing but the purest form of love. Based on nothing but this inherent desire to see that beautiful little face.
A face you used to dream of once upon a time.

And it’s the sort of thing that can’t really be described. Not verbally. Not emotionally. Not in any real, tangible way. 

That love exists because it just does

Because it just is.

And it could never have been any other way. It could never have been any other baby or any other family or any other moment. 

All of a sudden he’s a father. And she's a mother. 

And that’s our girl.


fire-roasted tomato salsa with cumin + lime

We had plans to go to the North Shore last weekend with friends. I was going to make homemade chicken burgers with black bean and corn relish and minted avocado mash. There was going to be rhubarb-basil lemonade and spinach and pistachio salad and fire roasted tomato salsa and chips. Hot dogs with doughy buns and salted caramel brownie sundaes. We made sure to have lots of outdoor games for the children; washer toss and bocce and croquet. Frisbee and baseball and loads of little nets for collecting butterflies.  And on top of that, the forecast was calling for nothing but bright blue skies and deliriously gorgeous sun. But early Saturday morning, my little Nikolas woke up with a horrible stomach bug and his pale face and droopy eyes told me we had to cancel and arrange for another day. 

I’m so happy we did. Just days later, my husband and daughter came down with the same awful virus and I’m not quite sure how I managed to escape it all. There must be a rule in favor of mother’s staying healthy and strong when the entire household has come to a complete halt. I mean, that would be catastrophioc.

And so, while my sick little family settled on stale toast and orange blossom tea and watched a marathon of Star Wars movies, I decided to refurbish a pair of old worn out chairs that I was just going to throw away. I had bought them on a whim many years ago simply to fill a void in my living room and even though they weren’t fabulously chic, they served a purpose and it worked with the overall design. I think the main reason I kept them around all these years is because I liked the shape. The back legs are slightly curved and they are generous and comfortable and they just worked in my space. I had been thinking about restoring them for a while and this just seemed like the perfect time.

Not really.

It was actually the worst possible time but I had already made up my mind and so, that was that. 

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but I have been blessed with fiercely talented friends. Friends who tackle DIY projects and make them look fun and engaging and ridiculously simple. I called my incredible friend Cora-Lee who literally dashed over moments after work had finished to help me reupholster these rugged chairs.  And even though she had a million things to do (she was leaving for the US the very next day for an amazing rock concert) she still made time to help me and so I really have to thank her for that. I know that friends don't need public nods of gratitude but really, she was so gracious and patient and I totally owe her one. 

Anyway, the chairs are done and they look fresh and crisp and new and they add a whole new look and feel to my living room. There are some imperfections if you look closely but I don't mind one bit because I love the transformation. 

Oh and the best part?  I spent a mere $60 on materials for both chairs which I thought was more than reasonable.

How about you friends? Are you big on DIY projects?