Wednesday
Oct152014

tomato-orzo stew with parmesan + basil

Oh my. I had no idea I've been away from this space for so long. I've been wrapped up in birthday celebrations and preparations for Thanksgiving. Time passes quickly and there are days where that feels like a good thing, and then other times, you sort of feel sad about it because it might mean that you’re not loving and embracing it enough. That's how I'm feeling these days. Time is hurtling and I don't like it one bit. It’s evident when I’m with my beautiful little niece who is now seven months old. Or when I look at photos of my darling nephew who is already two months old. How did that happen?

Autumn is in full bloom and that means bright colored, honey-toned leaves with flecks of red and orange. It means chunky knits and tall boots and spiced-lattes. Soups and stews and chilis and homemade biscuits. Roaring fires and brisk, nippy strolls. And although the days are getting shorted by the minute, I've embraced it by delving into some fine reading material. My book club is currently into this little gem which is terrifying and exhilarating and inconceivable. It makes the early departure of sunlight a little more bearable when there’s a good book and warm cup of tea in hand.

We had a really wonderful weekend. The weather was perfect and it was spent in the company of family and good friends. We shared a meal and played board games and took long walks on the beach. The children collected sea glass and we made hearts in the sand out of rocks and my mom helped me collect some driftwood. I’m not sure what I’ll use it for but I’ve always loved the twists and bends and color of wood that’s been bathed in salt water and sun. All year long, it’s a reminder that summer is never too far away and in the depths of winter, that is a welcomed reprieve.  I used to always think of this time of year as a precursor to winter which made it nearly impossible for me to embrace the beauty and splendor of the season. But slowly, I’ve learned that every period offers something poetic and beautiful. I have to try really hard to remember that when it’s minus 30 and the cold is thrashing with bitterness and fury. It’s times like this, even in the midst of wet slushy winters and blowing, prickly snow that I am grateful for this place. For living near the ocean and amidst valleys and farms and beautiful orchards where a breathtaking hike and the opportunity to gather your own apples and pumpkins are so very close.  

While we were walking and collecting things and looking out into the beautiful ocean, we couldn’t help but feel grateful. For the water and the warm October breeze and the tall sun-lit trees. That feeling of being immersed in nature is so invigorating and freeing. It's peaceful and quiet and because that little stretch of beach is so private, the solitude sort of allows you to lose yourself in your own private thoughts. I realize now that this place in the north shore saved me in so many ways. From being too busy or too involved or too immersed in so many extras that crowd your mind and leave you feeling a bit worn out. This past Thanksgiving weekend, in my own private tribute of gratitude, this space was near the top.

And I imagine it always will be. 

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.