Wednesday
Sep172014

peanut butter granola with dark chocolate

My darling girl,

I remember the way I used to rub my belly and sing songs and imagine days where we would have only each other while the rest of the world went about their daily labors. That we would lie in bed, cuddled and warm, reading fairy tales and napping arm in arm.

I'm so happy those things actually happened.

I can hardly believe almost eleven years have passed since you graced us with your presence. Eleven years since I felt your heart beating next to mine. A heartbeat I heard many times before through medical appointments, but one I longed to touch and feel and caress. It was and still is, the most beautiful sound on earth. I've wondered about that sweet heart of yours so many times over the years. About how I would cope if someone toyed or broke or abused it. I wondered what I would say to make that pain and hurt go away, or if my words could ever provide enough comfort and healing.

I believe we are called to live a life of honor and truth. One that propels us forward spiritually and authentically. To be empathetic and understanding along this journey and to live faithfully even when life seems terribly unfair. Even when we are broken and afraid and overwhelmed. Even when we feel we don't have any more to give. It takes a long time to grow into the person we are meant to be and along the way we will encounter hardship and sorrow. And as you try hard to find your own path, I hope you never forget that all of these things, the good and the bad, strengthen our spirit.

It's easy to be swept up in that current. In that need to be accepted and noticed and loved. Any change you feel is necessary should come from a place of personal growth rather than a need to conform. We are all just beautiful souls trying hard to find our way, but we often neglect the fact that the clearest path to the truth lies in our ability to believe in ourselves. I want you to know that your self-worth should never come from a place of compliance or from a desire to be recognized for anything more than what you actually are.

And now, almost eleven years since I first laid eyes on your little face, I see how much you have taught me about love and resilience. I know now more than ever that what matters most in this life is those morsels of goodness found in a persons heart and soul, and I can say with absolute certainty that yours is filled with empathy and compassion. With love and light.

It’s hard for me not to be consumed with what lies ahead but I am learning that the very best way to live, is in the here and now. Not to concern myself with tomorrow but to focus solely on the miracle of this beautiful life.

Today. With you.

Love you forever and ever and ever,

Mom

Wednesday
Sep102014

roasted chickpea, sweet potato + quinoa pilaf

My mother always said that a child’s Godparents are determined long before a baby is even born. The connection is already forged and put forth and the promise of a spiritual presence is pre-determined. I've always felt a deep connection with my own Godparents and like the idea that we've always belonged to each other. 

My Godfather, was always, always, immaculately dressed with a four piece suit and a fedora with a small feather tucked on the side. He looked like a movie star from the twenties. Perfectly groomed. Dapper. Distinguished. My Godmother was beautiful, with rippling black curls and big brown eyes and they were both devoted to our relationship. To making it special and strong. 

Even though they lived in a very urban setting on a very busy downtown street, they managed to create a beautiful backyard oasis filled with colorful flowers and sweet smelling potted herbs. Across the street was a mom and pop shop that sold comic books and candy and every time I’d visit, I dashed over with a two dollar bill in my hand for a bag of roast chicken potato chips and a pack of cherry- flavored Chiclets. 

They reserved a barrel of crayons and old paper placemats from their restaurant for impromptu art sessions and they'd always hang my drawings on their wall or fridge. We'd often feast on a lunch of braised beef and fluffy white rice and homemade pudding, and sip on little cartons of the sweetest imported orange nectar I’d ever tasted. And then we'd sit in their very formal living room adorned with antique Victorian-style furniture and long flowing drapes and have coffee and homemade almond biscuits. My cup was always filled with more milk of course but still, I felt a bit grown up about the whole process and for being included in what seemed like a very formal ritual. But perhaps my favorite part was being allowed to feed their pet canary, George. He was a bright yellow hue with flecks of orange and ginger and he had the tiniest beak I’d ever seen. I'd sit next to his cage and listen to him chirp happy little tunes that I swore mimicked many of my favorite childhood songs. Before I left, my Godfather would always take a big scoop of candy from a decorative bowl on his dining table and shove them in my pockets. “Thank you,” I’d mumble, with a mouthful of buttery, English toffee. He’d wink at me and put his finger to his mouth making a faint shushing sound.

Our little secret.

I only have happy memories of the time I spent with them and I love that I’ve carried these beautiful, real-life stories with me all these years. That they have become a huge part of the way I remember my childhood and ultimately, I think that’s what’s made the biggest impression on me. The practice of spending time with my loved ones from a very young age and being immersed in their every day life. The garden. George the canary. Coffee and biscuits. It’s all part of this chapter in my life that has become a compass for me. My Godparents are a part of my story and I am a part of theirs. It’s this beautiful map of connections and experiences and memories, some magnificent and others, rather ordinary, but still meaningful and important.

Still celebrated. 

Very recently, my  Godmother had her 91st birthday and I am so happy that she is still here with me, watching my own children grow. She has a maternal presence that can’t quite compare and I’ve always valued her advice and unwavering devotion. When we asked her to be Raphaelia's Godmother too, she wept. And so did I. Because the truth is, she's the very best Godmother and the very best person.

She belongs to us. And we belong to her.

Saturday
Aug232014

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

Thursday
Aug072014

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. 

 

Wednesday
Jul162014

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.