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.

Tuesday
Jun172014

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.

Tuesday
Jun102014

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? 

Thursday
May222014

whipped feta with dill, shallots + chives

I'm typing this post from my dining room table overlooking the Northumberland Straight. The sun is shining and it's warm and beautiful and completely perfect. The ocean is glistening like tiny, twinkling stars and in the distance, I can hear the delicate little chirps of morning birds. My kitchen counter is piled sky high with dirty plates and wine glasses and platters with scattered crumbs. The waxy candle drippings have spilled onto the burlap runner and left dotty traces on my table but I don’t mind one bit. They are remnants of a night spent with good friends.

For now, I am enjoying the peaceful morning with my warm cup of coffee while everyone quietly sleeps upstairs. We still don't have coverings for the bedroom windows so I imagine they'll be awakened by dancing sunrays and rippling blue skies very soon. My brother and his wife and my beautiful baby niece are upstairs too. I can hear her dainty little squirms and I'm considering dashing up there and taking her for some morning snuggles. We can stare at the water and I'll tell her about our plans for the day and she can watch as I make mango tea. Her delightfully pensive expressions let me know she’s always listening.

She’s such great company.

We don't have a lot planned for this weekend actually and that was entirely deliberate. I'd like to visit the vegetable stand up the road and possibly take a trip to the lavender farm and somewhere amidst all of that, I'll take the children for a walk along the ocean. There is a small cove on our little beach and just around the bend is the most beautiful sandy little inlet. It’s perfect for slipping into the water without the discomfort of small pebbles piercing delicate little toes. It’s still much too cold for that of course but it will be fun to show them what’s in store this summer. I imagine we will collect sea glass and flat rocks for painting and large pieces of driftwood. They’ve started a small collection of those very things already so I’ll have to remember to bring glass mason jars for storing all of these little treasures next time.

I've wondered over the last few months if we'd find a rhythm in doing nothing at all. If we’d thrive in the simplicity of being still and enjoying lazy days with nothing pressing to do. I hope this space will allow me to forgo the need to always do and always be. That I allow myself to enjoy the quiet and not be tempted to disrupt it for anything specific.

I had a hard time deciding on last nights menu because this crowd, my friends, have very obtuse palettes which is the best sort of bunch to cook for I think. Much to people’s surprise, I’m not a solid decision-maker when it comes to planning menus. I change things around at least a dozen times because I always think of something better or tastier or prettier. And yet I always find myself returning to that initial instinct.

Hesitant and then resolute. It’s a pattern.

I hope you enjoyed the long weekend with your loved ones. It was pretty glorious around here. I made a variation of this recipe for our dinner party but this version is easy and portable and just as delicious. It's quite perfect for lazy afternoons when all you want is snacky sorts of food. I slow roasted some rainbow tomatoes and slathered it all on wedged pita bread. I made root beer float shooters too because that's what happens when you're on the beach. You cook and eat and enjoy every second of it.

xo

Thursday
May082014

toasted walnut and roasted red pepper satay sauce

It’s hard for people who haven’t experienced a personal loss to really understand the magnitude of deep sorrow. How the process of bereavement extends far beyond those first few shocking days. It takes a long time to sort through this jumbled mess of emotions because reality begins to resonate in a way that is unbearable at times.

When I stepped outside of the hospital just hours after my father died, I remember how incredibly beautiful the evening was. It was unusually balmy for September and the sun had just begun to set. The breeze was warm and soothing and people were walking and talking and eating ice cream sandwiches. It felt shocking and perhaps unfair and even a bit unresolved that the world was still going on without this person I loved so much. Without this person I still really, really needed. I remember feeling like this world was missing a really important piece. A really significant contribution. One of light and laughter and beauty.

It was the power of community, the very love of my own family that allowed things to eventually be okay. 

Just okay.

But it took a really long time for that healing to unfold. It took a really long time for that emptiness to subside and be replaced with gratitude. With appreciation for what I was able to experience as a result of being my fathers’ daughter.

That evening, after we embraced and left the hospital hand-in-hand as a family, I remember looking at my mother who was filled with a deep and unwavering sorrow and I wondered how she would cope. And over the years, I have been continually surprised by her steadfast strength and her ability to survive heartache and anguish and sorrow that at times, must have felt suffocating. I celebrate her in my heart everyday for her courage and strength and purpose. For being a brilliant role model. A true confidant. A really amazing mother.

It’s hard to remember that Mother's Day can be a really painful reminder of what you don’t have. Or can’t have. Or won’t have ever again. A partner to share your life with. A child to hold. A parent to love.

And so on this Mother’s Day, I will remember my friend who lost her sister and her mother, who lost a child. I will hold space for my loved ones who have experienced the deep and devastating loss of miscarriage and for those afflicted with the anguish of losing a parent. For the mother's who have sacrificed and surrendered and forfeited absolutely everything without complaint or protest.

I hold each of you in my heart.

xo