October, I love you

This is the best. I’m reclining on the couch next to our jubilantly flowering begonia tree (?) with a near-bottomless mug of tea and the late afternoon light is all golden and violet playing on the buildings down the street and illuminating the intense yellow of the birch leaves overhead. The rabbits are quietly nibbling hay, the husband is puttering in his workshop, and the cat is out of sight but almost certainly lounging on the doorstep like she owns this end of the neighbourhood.

I’ve had some time off, which may account for this good mood and this first blog post in five months (!). I suppose I could say we’ve been doing exciting things and visiting everyone we miss in the daily grind of working life. But mostly that wouldn’t be true. It is such a relief to finally have time for ourselves. Things like Enough Sleep, baking, painting, cooking real food… these have been enough, so much enough that I want to wallow in them and never go back to the hectic busy life. It is so good to see the light move across the house and garden at different times of day. To mostly not wear a bra. To stay up until midnight painting ten paintings at once and listening to an audiobook because I squeezed too much paint onto the palate and because I could.

I don’t have a recipe today, only a heartfelt recommendation of the quiet life, of stepping back and slowing down, of spending a day pulling weeds and listening to birdsong, and of walking in the rain under dripping trees and coming home to make chai and chilli and biscuits, or whatever is easy and fulfilling. Also, I get awkward about blogging when I let too much time elapse between posts, and had meant to write something quite different but here we are and it’s good to be back.


It has again been ages.

Spring rushed by and summer has been upon us already.

Or so it seems. I’m not used to sandals in April.

Some things that have brightened my week:
a fish jumping / a seal surfacing / the morning sun bright on the water / the breakfast sandwich at dak / coffee (always) / three herons – flying, standing, stealthing

Saturday: good family and good food, brunch and gelato in the sun, time together.
A walk around Durrance Lake: lizards / columbine / wild geranium / people fishing / shining water / green trees / apple blossoms / shade under the trees / moss and lichen / black and white moth / blue butterflies / huckleberry / ferns unfurling fiddleheads / rock ferns / trilliums in flower / vanilla leaf or deerfoot / blue sky overhead / praying for rain

Sunday up-island at the farm: good friends and good food, picnic in the sun-shade grass, deviled eggs, exploring expeditions in creekbeds and over fields, skirting nettle.
wisps of cloud in plumes – feathers – mares’ tails in hot blue sky / tall trees – bare dry limbs / chickens / salmonberry / currant / elder / green grass and ladybugs / red-breasted sapsucker / reddish snails in the dry creek bed / giant old trees – ancient fir – rough cork bark peeling

(when short on time, lists.)
ps. there are saffron clusters of ladybug eggs spangling the white bark of our birch tree – I discovered them yesterday


the light

Out of the corner of my eye I witnessed the sun come out.

I’m drawing a sleepy blank on what to say but I wanted to post a few pictures from the past month. I flipped through my notebook for inspiration and was reminded of a few things. In January and February I was especially glad for this year’s seed catalogue, Zephyr the rabbit’s silver feet, raspberry leaf tea, cara cara oranges, satsuma mandarins, AlterEco brown butter chocolate, the previously mentioned frozen cookie dough portioned out in the freezer and sideways-pouring silver rain. This month, I am grateful for bright mornings, marmalade! (on everything, now, with butter), flighty spring weather, lengthened light in the evenings, and riding my clattery blue bike, especially through the park where there are ducks and squirrels! galore. This is not to say that mornings have been easy this week with the time change (I almost wrote “moanings” instead of mornings there, and almost left it), but the light- I’m glad for the light. On the subject of marmalade, that bittersweet tangy light in a jar, I am blessed with a mother who makes a batch every winter and have amassed a small -yes, now dwindling- collection of the glowing jars. They taste of days spent scraping citrus rinds around my grandparents’ table with cousins and aunts, the fragrant pot steaming on the stove, and the flavour of these gatherings concentrated in the vintages that line our pantry shelves. It’s deeply reassuring to me that no matter what else, every year my mother hands me a small fiery jar of her grandmother’s recipe. I missed the marmalade making this winter but, with my renewed appetite for the stuff, will be sure to join in next year-it’s what we do.

February 29

I love that today is a leap day- it seems like a special pocket of time.

Outside, the cheery trills of robins are balancing the soft dreariness of grey sky on the verge of rain. This afternoon, the sun shone and lit the pink cherry blossom and warmed the rug. In the morning, as on all mornings here, sea gulls dotted the field like sheep.

This past week there were some glorious spring storms, erratic wind/rain/sun and all colours in the sky. I dug out my paints. I finally bought an umbrella. Days were segmented by cappucinos, africanos, earl grey and herbal teas. Our rabbits are molting winter down. The daffodils are nodding bright heads.

I hurt my back by lifting a bin incorrectly and have spent the past few days feeling like a century has been tacked on to my years. It’s easing up now and I am so glad. (That icy-hot stuff is so weird!) How easy it is to take health for granted.

I’m including the recipe for what I wish I was making right now. I like to make and freeze a batch of these cookies to have on hand – a gift to our future selves.

Chocolate Apricot Pecan Cookies
Adapted from Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Cookbook. The original recipe does not call for pecans, so feel free to leave them out. 

In a medium large bowl, stir together with a whisk then set aside:
1 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp finely ground espresso beans

In a medium small bowl or in a KitchenAid mixer, cream until light and fluffy:
1 c butter, softened
1 c good raw/brown sugar such as panela-rapadura

Add eggs to creamed butter and sugar one at a time, mixing well, adding vanilla with second egg:
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla

Add dry ingredients and stir to mix until flour is just incorporated. Then stir in:
3/4 cup dried unsulphured apricots, chopped
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and cooled, roughly crushed by hand
8-9 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Let dough rest in the fridge for at least an hour before scooping and baking cookies. Or scoop then freeze dough to later thaw and bake whenever you need a few cookies! Makes about 16 cookies. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. 

muck and splendor

I’ve gotten lazy about blogging lately. I think if I could write in the mornings it would be easier, because I always have words in my head on my walks to work. I sometimes manage to jot a few things down on my lunch breaks but that time is mainly consumed by the very necessary eating of my lunch, and I am a slow eater.

It is almost garden season here on the coast. Some people might be out puttering already, or wisely starting seedlings indoors. I’m content to revel in the spring flowers and cherry blossoms everywhere and let the soil dry out a little. The garden is very wet and mucky, and the muck is cold and wet. Yes, I can wait. But we have had the 2016 West Coast Seeds catalogue propped on our kitchen island for weeks, open to onions, juicy carrots, beans, bright perennials, bee and butterfly wildflower blends, asparagus and artichokes, and all sorts of salad greens.

So, the cherry blossoms! Since my mention of them around this time last year, their splendor faded in my mind as the months and seasons gave way to other things. There is perhaps no other season quite so spectacular in Victoria as when all the cherry tree-lined streets (much of downtown and seemingly entire neighborhoods as well) are decked out – nay, billowing, with small pink flowers. It’s cheering, like a wholesome month-long valentines for the soul. Or something. In any case, they are undeniably delightful.

the season so far

The season so far has been like every other coastal February- the brightest, best days since summer, bookended by days of soft, sleepy grey rain. I love it.

Most notable is the light lingering towards evening, and that I’ve left my sweater at home every morning this week and haven’t missed it.

While dinners lately have tended towards dull, parsnips have been the shining stars of several meals, as have broccoli, cabbage and sambal olek. We found last year’s  rhubarb in the freezer and had it sauced with pancakes. Then there was chocolate cheesecake for my dad’s birthday…

Chocolate Marble Cheesecake
Makes one 9″ cake. My mother’s recipe- I’m not sure where she got it from.

1/4 c butter, softened
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c flour

Preheat oven to 400º F. In large mixing bowl, beat butter till soft. Gradually add sugar, beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and stir in flour. With floured fingertips, press dough evenly in bottom of ungreased 9″ springform pan. Bake until golden, 10-12 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.

1 recipe cheesecake crust
3/4 c sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/8 tsp salt
3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temp.
1 c heavy whipping cream (unwhipped)
3 oz bittersweet baking chocolate, melted

Make crust. Preheat oven to 375º F. In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour and salt; mix well. Add cream cheese. With mixer at medium speed, beat until smooth and well blended. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla;  beat just until well blended (scrape down bowl to incorporate and prevent any lumps). Set aside 2 c filling. Pour remaining filling on top of crust. Stir chocolate into reserved filling until well combined. Drop chocolate mixture by tablespoonfuls into cream cheese filling, forming 6 “puddles”. Swirl filling with a knife 2 or 3 times for a marbled effect. Bake 55 minutes (centre will be slightly soft). Immediately run spatula around edge of cake to loosen from pan (this helps prevent cracking). Cool on wire rack 1 hr, then cover and chill at least 4-5 hrs before cutting.


boring but true

It’s easy enough to look back on the past few months as such a busy, hectic time filled with socializing and indulgence. In reality though, while we have been having some delightful visits and while I did eat most of our share of orange-zest Florentine-roca in the very recent past, we’ve mostly been lounging our way through winter, drinking tea on the couch with the rabbits and listening to the Spilled Milk podcast (which I’m currently addicted to, along with the orange Florentines).

I meant to write on the morning after my last post that winter’s edge had softened overnight and I noticed the green shoots of spring bulbs on my walk to the bakery. I even lingered on the porch in short sleeves and left the front door open for the length of a sunbeam to let the mild air freshen the house. I have since seen snowdrops (!) in veritable drifts and the first yellow crocuses are almost open. I’ve also sighted one of each of the following in flower: Oregon grape, currant, and cherry. Most of the rain lately has had a springlike feel to it -warmer, milder, more spontaneous and moody.

I’m going to resist the urge to itemize all the glories of the past month, but for memory’s sake must mention a magical weekend in Vancouver, some good little invigorating runs in light drizzle along the water, a magnificent bike ride and a homey, crafty day complete with garden food and a very good friend.



I suppose I should get this out of the way: I hate January. Yes, yes, the light is returning, creeping back into the days a few minutes at a time and eventually it will be spring, but it’s not happening soon enough for me. There are no snowflakes here to gloss over this whole winter thing with beauty and magic. Just endless, dreary grey. I have been lamenting that my thickest, wooliest socks won’t fit in my wet-weather boots.

However, this winter has also been lovely, comforting, unexpected, just right. Here are some of the best and most beautiful moments:


  • Acres of red blueberry stalks stretching out to blue mountains under bright blue sky.
  • Hundreds of bald eagles overhead, filling all the bare trees with black and white.
  • Hoarfrost encrusting everything in lavish crystals- quartz and selenite grown overnight- rough spikes in the morning sun. The pond frozen, goldfish circulating slowly under thick ice.
  • Nights when the stars came out and the moon glowed cold and bright, all icy pricks of light above dark trees.
  • Many rosy sunrises- more breathtaking mornings than I could keep count of- puffs and pillars of pink lighted clouds on the eastern horizon.
  • That long slow golden light of the afternoon on a clear day, honey frozen in the air.
  • When we happened to drop by an old friend’s just for a moment, and ended up staying for the evening. We arrived as she was pulling a dish of ultimate comfort food from the oven, and just happened to have two pies in the car, left over from an earlier occasion.
  • Snow on Hurricane Ridge, driving through mist, salal-filled roadsides.
  • The usual warm and chaotic times of family Christmas, a turkey that refused to cook and late nights chatting in the kitchen.
  • How the streets of Seattle felt like home would if home were more exciting, and how thrilling it is to feel at home someplace exciting.
  • Reading a new cookbook on the couch in the evening with a mug of hot tea and sweet Seven the bunny snuggled in next to me on the wool blanket. Also, how we’ve spent several many evenings since in the same way.
  • A quiet ringing in of the new year, with good friends and glasses of frothy homemade eggnog. Also, a surprising and excellent snack of raw sliced fennel with cheese and crackers.
  • A new IKEA kitchen island, where I drink kombucha out of a brandy snifter and read food magazines, and feel grown-up. Jeremy likes it too, and has anointed the oak top with beeswax and mineral oil.
  • The flooded field behind our farmer’s market grocery store, frost ringed and filled with trumpeter swans.

Hearty Hazelnut Shortbread with Apricot Jam
This is not melt-in-the-mouth shortbread; rather it is dense, rich, nutty and sustaining. Good to tuck into a mittened hand when heading out the door for a winter walk. The shortbread recipe that this is based on (my mother’s) sustained me through several long overnight bus trips from the coast to the mountains in my early twenties.

1 c butter
1/8 c coconut sugar
3/8 c cane sugar (1/4 + 1/8)
1 c AP flour (all purpose)
1 c WWP flour (whole wheat pastry)
1/4 c hazelnut flour
apricot jam for thumbprint

Preheat oven to 300°F. In a medium-large bowl, roughly cream butter and sugars with a sturdy wooden spoon. Add flour one cup at a time, or in smaller increments if that feels easier. Gather dough into a ball, and roll out on a floured surface to about 1/4″-1/3″ thick. Cut into fun shapes and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. The cookies won’t spread so can be placed close together. Bake 20-25 minutes. About halfway through the bake, remove cookies to oven and make a depression in the center of each one, either with a spoon or with your fingers. Spoon enough jam to fill depressions and return cookies to the oven. The cookies are done when they are lightly browned underneath. Let cool on a rack, and store in tins for a week or more.



Saturday mornings can be a time when the week catches up with me but I haven’t yet caught up with the week. I spent this one at the kitchen table with coffee and a pile of cookbooks.

The wind is still roaring in from the sea with force, still slamming against the house and rushing through the trees. Our front lawn is littered with branches and the only birds I’ve seen out are seabirds and waterbirds. Today I was introduced to a Victoria tradition: the breakwater on a windy day. On one side the huge waves rolled in and on the other, wind devils danced across the water. Spray crashed over the boardwalk and the high whine of the wind funneling in towards shore filled our ears. There was a log-jam at the appearing-and-disappearing beach and gulls and cormorants climbed against the wind to stay motionless above the roiling water. We walked and staggered our way out along the breakwater, laughing and shrieking as the wave-spray crashed over us. I had my arm up when the spray from one wave arced above, and was immediately wet to the elbow as the wind and water found their way down my sleeve. Our rubber boots were filled to their tops and I was wet from head to toe, through three layers of raincoat and wool. We shared a salty kiss in the lee of the lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. On the way back to shore the wind was in our faces and the drops of spray pelted hard as hailstones. We exchanged wild grins with a few folk as delightedly crazed as ourselves, and arrived, shivering and sloshing at the café on shore, where we tipped bootfuls of ocean at the door. I poured out my boots again on our front porch, and wrung out my socks and am now quite warm and dry and ready to do it all over again.

Here is something warm and delicious:

Savory choux-pastry cheese puffs, adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan
baking sheets, lined with parchment

1 c water
3 oz (6 T) butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch nutmeg
pinch thyme (crumbled if dry, minced if fresh)
3/4 c AP flour (all-purpose)
4 eggs
2/3 c grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring water to a boil with the butter and seasonings and boil slowly until the butter has melted. Meanwhile, measure the flour and make sure the cheese is grated.

Remove from heat and immediately pour in all the flour at once. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for several seconds to blend thoroughly. Then beat over moderately high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until mixture leaves the sides of the pan, forms a mass, and begins to film the bottom of the pan.

Remove saucepan from heat and make a well in the centre of paste. Break one egg into the well and beat into the paste for several seconds until it has absorbed. Continue with the rest of the eggs, beating them in one by one. Beat for a moment more to be sure all is well blended and smooth. Then beat in cheese.

Drop the paste onto the parchment-lined baking sheets with a spoon (a full tablespoon, perhaps, blobs approx. 2″ across) Leave blob-sizd spaces between the blobs as they will grow! Alternatively, for neater puffs use a piping bag. You can make smaller puffs: reduce baking time to 20 minutes for puffs 1″ across. Option: for shiny puffs, brush with beaten egg before baking. You can also sprinkle more grated cheese on top if desired.

Bake, depending on size, for about 25-28 minutes (less for smaller puffs). The puffs are done when they have doubled in size, are golden brown, and firm and crusty to touch. Remove them from the oven and pierce the side of each puff with a sharp knife. Then set in the turned-off oven and leave the door ajar for 10 minutes (this stops them from collapsing). Eat. Or cool on a wire rack, and then eat.