Tuesday, January 5

Nine {Blackberry Pavlova with Blackberry-Honey Syrup}

 "Little boys should never be sent to bed.  They always wake up a day older." -Peter Pan

Last night I had a thought.  One of those startling thoughts that begins innocently enough, like the faint vibrations before an earthquake that rattles you to the core.  A reality check, you could say, in the truest sense of the term, though this phrase doesn't carry the weight that I felt last night.  Perhaps an epiphany is a better way to describe it.

I was tucking Connor into bed, and though he's 9 he still likes me to lay down next to him while he's falling asleep.  We talk and talk, and if you know Connor, you know what a chatterbox he can be.  We discuss all matters of importance - from what's going on in his Minecraft world, to the bug he found & caught crawling up a tree at school (catch and release), to the science test tomorrow for which he forgot to study (but he's sure he'll do fine).   He babbles on and on, while I listen, until he finally drifts off to sleep, sometimes mid-sentence.  I treasure this time, it's part of our routine.  But don't get me wrong - there are days when I'm behind on work or have a sink-full of dishes in the kitchen and laundry to fold on the couch,  and all I can see is the minute hand ticking the time away.  Last night was one such night.  Dinner ran late, dessert even later, pushing bedtime closer and closer to midnight.  I had a 6 a.m. video conference scheduled for this morning, and all I wanted to do was crawl into bed with a cup of tea and a book.

Still, the question came, soft as the blankets I tucked in around him, "Mom, can you rest with me...?"

Immediately my to-do list scrolled before me like the never-ending credits of a too long movie.  There were hundreds of reasons I could have said, "Not tonight."  But something stopped me.  Instead I said,  "For just a minute."

Tuesday, December 15

Old Friends {Roasted Red Pepper Soup}

I had a friend years ago who used to say quirky little things like, "Don't forget your sunshine, Sweetie!" and made them sound perfectly normal.  She's someone who radiated warmth; she was unapologetically happy, all the time.  She lit up the room just by stepping through the door.  I was thinking about her a few days ago, remembering when we worked together in the Christmas department of Dillard's in our twenties.  She moved to California in 2006, the same year my son was born, and as the course of life led us in opposite directions we lost touch.  Still, she's one of those people you don't easily forget, and I always think of her when it's time to decorate the house for Christmas.  That same year I was given a beautiful, two-liter food mill at Chistmastime.  It was complete surprise, but I guess I'd complained one-too-many times to just about everyone that my old, cheap little food mill, which I bought to make baby food, was not too far from worthless as it left a greasy residue on the food no matter how thoroughly I washed it.

Sunday, November 22

Good Morning, Sunshine! {Baked Eggs with Brown Butter, Sage & Nutmeg}

The fact that Thanksgiving is just around the corner didn't even occur to me until last Friday.  I'd left early in the morning to drive to Denver to spend the weekend at the Food Allergy Bloggers' Conference with freedible.  That day I decided to take a different route - a winding, narrow two lane highway that leads into Denver from the East.  I thought perhaps the traffic would be lighter, a less stressful, more scenic drive, because for as much as I love the city, I don't like the traffic!  I'd never actually taken that road before, but that morning I was up for adventure.  The road led through a forest just outside of town.  The forest floor was blanketed in fresh snow and the rising sun's long rays stretched through the branches in such a way that the snow shimmered like diamonds in spots.  I thought to myself, look what you've been missing by taking the interstate to Denver all these years!

Tuesday, November 3

In Dreams {Savory Pumpkin Tart & Poached Pears with Cardamom Cream}

Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy. -Sigmund Freud

I really can't complain.  It's the first week of November and there are still tomatoes ripening on the vines in the garden.  Can you believe it?!  And just this morning when I walked out there to pick a few, I found a brand new blanket of tender, baby arugula, planted by the seeds of last spring's plants!  Naively, they bask in the sunshine, oblivious of what's to come.  Yet, the trees - wisest in the botanical kingdom - know it's fall, even if the temperatures say it's still summer.  Their golden leaves cling to the branches, knowing these pleasant days won't last.

I've lived in Colorado long enough to know that when summer stretches late into fall, winter will be fierce and spring, cold and damp.  So I tell myself to savour each and every warm day.  But deep inside I'm longing for the cool, crisp days of fall - for apple cider, for sweaters and boots and scarves, for late nights with friends around the fireplace, and for early mornings when the trees are frosted in fine, powdery snow.  In fact, I want it so badly I've been dreaming of it.  Strange & wild dreams.  Like that old Christmas song - it will be fall, "if only in my dreams."

Thursday, October 22

The Pumpkin Patch {Maple Roasted Pumpkin & Pumpkin Scones}

"In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy." -William Blake

It all started last fall.  I had all these brilliant cravings for pumpkin dishes floating around in my head.  Unfortunately I didn't have enough pumpkins to make them all a reality and the pumpkins in the markets left much to be desired.  I vowed that in the spring I would plant enough pumpkins in the garden to make all those dreams come true.  One thing led to another and as winter dragged on, plans began to take shape, growing larger and larger as my desire for the warmth of summer grew stronger.  Promises in winter are easy to make, but hard to keep.  

Then, one cold-but-not-too-cold day in February, we moved the garden fence across a barren plot of yard that would become our pumpkin patch.  There was life in that frozen soil, I just knew it.

But spring came late and often I found myself gazing out the frosted window at the garden, covered in silver snow, still sleeping when I was ready to run out there and yell, 'Wake up! Wake up!"

Tuesday, October 6

Meringue Mushroom Cookies

 "Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."
-Roald Dahl

To do or not to do?

That's the question I so often ask myself when it comes to this little space here on the Internet.   Most often the answer is, not to do.  My own perfectionist tendencies hold me back.  "The photos aren't good enough." I tell myself - or, "There's no story to tell."  But when it comes down to it, isn't life made up of a big, messy series of imperfect events?  In fact it's within the imperfections that magic happens.  It was in the meatballs that I threw together on a Monday night when the house was full of chaotic clamor - children fighting, dogs barking, and the neighbors chickens had gotten loose and were running around our yard.  I'd spent an hour trying to catch them all and propel them back over the fence.  So dinner was late, but when we all sat down at the table a sudden peace fell over us.  Like magic.  The kids were calm, the dog waited quietly under the table. 

It was in the cookies I baked one night to bring a little happiness when Eve had a rough day at school.  When she opened her lunchbox she found a smiling chocolate face looking back at her.  The chocolate was smeared, the eyes uneven.  Not photo-worthy, but if everything were perfect there would be no room for magic.

Sunday, August 2

Things Remembered {Chilled Pea Pod Soup + Goat Cheese Gougères}

Isn't it funny how some memories fade as we grow older, while others continue to grow stronger as the years go by?  

Let me illustrate.

They tell me I was a bit of a trouble-maker growing up.  But in my defense, as a child of an artist, rules are meant to be broken.  We used to visit my grandparent's old house on the edge of town every Sunday.  I've written about those visits often.  There were three of us kids- my brother, my cousin and myself.  The Three Amigos.  I was the oldest and therefore the ringleader.  We would run like wild animals through the woods to the north, and though we were warned not to, we'd climb to the tops of the huge pine trees that grew there, sap sticking to our hands like burnt caramel.  They tell me I once fell from one of those trees.  I have a long scar on my right forearm to prove it.  But I don't remember.

There was a loft in that old house, 16 feet above the living room.  Building codes didn't exist when the house was built, and the banisters were placed just far enough apart for a child to easily fall through.  The three of us would hang like monkeys from the banisters and swing to the winding staircase below.  They tell me that my cousin once broke her arm in an ill-fated swing from too far away.  But I don't remember.

Just past that treacherous staircase, at the end of a dimly lit hall, stood a closed door.  I knew I shouldn't, but when my grandmother was busy in the kitchen (which she always was) and my grandfather was working in the garden (which he always was), I would creep down that hall, quiet as a mouse, crack open that door and slip inside...

Monday, June 15

Timeless {Cherry Swirl Ice Cream}

"I went away next year-
Spent a season in Kashmir-
Came back thinner, rather poor,
But richer by a cherry tree at my door."
- Cherry Tree by Ruskin Bond

I used to love it when my kids would bring me the Book of Verse by Ruskin Bond.  You know how young children become enamored with adult books.  They settle themselves comfortably on the sofa, flipping through the pages as if they're reading, so grown-up.  Never mind that the book is upside-down, or that they're reading from back to front.  The important thing is that they're acting just like an adult; just like Mommy.  There they'd sit for a while, flipping the pages every few seconds, until they'd find their favourite poem, tucked among the children's verses in back.  Then they'd place the open book on my lap...

"Please read the one about the window," Connor would implore.

"Can we read the one about the cherry tree instead?"  I'd ask.  Then quickly add, "We can read them both!"

Eve, night-owl as she's always been, preferred me to read about the dark.  It starts "Little one, don't be afraid..."

"Can we read the one about the cherry tree, too?"  I'd ask.  Shameless!  I know. 

"OK, Mamma!"

That seems like just yesterday, though it was years ago.  A lifetime to them; a mere moment to me.  They can both read on their own, now.  Great literary works like Captain Underpants and the American Girl Doll series.  And they almost never ask me to read to them.  I guess I'm feeling rather nostalgic these days.  Missing the times when they were happy to listen to what I wanted to read.  But things change.  Time moves on.

I haven't thought of that poem about the cherry tree for a while.  Things have been so busy around here these days.  The book sits on the shelf gathering dust - waiting, along with all the other books I promised myself I'd read again.  Someday.  Time ticks on, and still they sit.  Patient.  Unopened.  Sleeping.

I know it's been a while since I wrote my last blog post.  In the spring when it was raining and still cool enough for soup.  Again, time escapes me.  I grasp at it, but it's always just beyond my reach.  But today I found something in the yard that changed all that.  Something that surprised me, though it shouldn't have, and reminded me of those sweet poems we used to read together at night.

Monday, May 4

Good Luck Chuck {Sriracha Sunflower Soup and Sunflower & Honey Swirl Ice Cream}

When a story begins, "It was a dark and stormy night. . . " you know it's going to be good.

We were looking over the menu at The Kitchen in downtown Denver after a brief and rather bumpy round of introductions.   I could see the passion in his eyes as he started to tell me the tale.  I'd been looking forward to hearing the story of Chuck for weeks.

"I was driving down on a south Florida highway in the pouring rain..." he went on.  Having lived in Florida myself for several years, I knew just the kind of rain he was talking about.  Rain that comes down in volatile, horizontal waves, like sheets on a clothesline, thrashing in the wind.

 Our drinks arrived and he paused briefly to marvel at the colour of the Chardonnay.  It was a stunning shade of coral. 

"It was a busy highway, and there was a lot of traffic going both directions," he continued, "but out of the corner of my eye I saw a man on the side of the highway.  I glanced in the rear view mirror as I sped past and saw that the man was pushing an empty baby stroller and cradling something under his sopping trench coat..."

Most of us would have driven on by with little more than a passing thought... "better him than me."  But not my new friend.  I was discovering, through that first conversation, the  principals on which he's built his life.  One is:  if there's a way to change the world for the better, go for it.  As such, when he glanced again at the man growing smaller in his rear view mirror, he knew he had to do something.  So he pulled a U-turn and circled back around, pulling off the highway to help.

"...I heard the crying as soon as I opened the door.  The man was cradling a tiny baby girl, trying his best to shelter her from the pounding rain within the folds of his soaking coat.  She was inconsolable, and having just become a new father myself, my heart went out to these two strangers."

Monday, April 20

Birthdays & Buttercream {Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Buttercream}

"Cinderella, dressed in yella, went up stairs to kiss a fella.  Made a mistake and kissed a snake!  How many doctors did it take?"

It all started two months ago.  I was picking the kids up from school on an icy February afternoon.  The kind of day when the wind whips in biting gusts between the buildings and razor-sharp bits of snow sting your face.  I can't even call them "snowflakes" because "knives" are a much more accurate description.  I wrapped my scarf around my chin as I walked the block and a half from where I'd parked the car to their schoolhouse.  I was eager to get home, turn on the stove and start a pot of mushroom risotto for dinner.  As we drove home, she told me that she wanted to have her birthday party at a certain pizza place.  You, no doubt, know the one - singing robots, silly music,  flashing lights & the electronic hum of enough arcade games to make you half crazy, and mediocre pizza at best.  I think every town must have one and there's nothing wrong with this restaurant, once or twice in a blue moon.  But we've celebrated more than our fair share of birthdays there.   And in any case, I had other plans in mind.

She planted a seed that February afternoon and I began dreaming of April!  Dreaming of the promise of warmer weather (though no less temperamental, I must say).  Of planting the first pea and lettuce seeds in the garden, of cutting the first lilacs for the dining room table and watching the irises open-wide their bright faces to the sun.  Of cherry blossoms, green grass, and rain instead of needle-like snow!  I'd been planning a garden tea party for months, since her last birthday party, in fact, though in Colorado, the garden is only just awakening from it's winter slumber in mid-April and the weather is still quite cool.  So we'd bring the garden into the kitchen.  We'd tape flowers to the walls and butterflies to the ceiling.  And there would be vases of flowers of all sorts.  The only requirement being that they are all pink, naturally.  We sent Grandma out on a special mission to scour all the second hand stores and antique shops in town for just the right China tea cups with matching saucers.  A fun job it you ask me!  Each cup would be different and unique like the guests themselves, but each would have a pretty floral design that would fit beautifully in to the garden that our kitchen would become!

Wednesday, March 25

Forbidden Love {Vanilla Bean Pavlova with Strawberries & Cream}

"Some of the greatest stories ever told were never meant to be told at all . . . "

Stop me if you've heard this one. . .

Long ago there was a young girl named Xanat.  She lived with her parents on the sugar-sandy beaches of what is now eastern Mexico.  She played in the warm Mexican sunshine and ran free with childish abandon amongst the flowers & trees of the nearby forest.  She would frequently come home with an orchid, her favorite, tucked behind her ear.  She was a pearl in her mother's eye; a thorn in her father's side.

As she grew older her beauty blossomed like the flowers of the forest.  Fine features, long hair, soft as silk and black as the rarest pearl in the sea, and eyes so dark you became lost just staring into them.  But her most beguiling feature could not be seen, but rather felt.  For from within she radiated a sense of headstrong independence that both terrified and captivated all those around her.  Naturally, she took after her father.

She fascinated the young men of the village and soon they began vying for her attention.  One look in her eternal eyes and they were just as lost as a leaf floating on the vast, rolling waves of the ocean.  There were many suitors, but one young man won her heart and stole her soul.  Together they approached her father to ask for his blessing on their marriage.

Her father became enraged at their request.  "My daughter has hair of ebony, skin of gold, and eyes of the darkest roasted cacao!" he thundered.   "She will never marry a town peasant!  I forbid her to marry any mortal.  She is meant for a god!"

The young man cowered beneath his rage, but Xanat stood tall and faced her father with a stubbornness just as fierce.  "I will marry whom I will."  She proclaimed, anger rising like the swell of the sea just before a hurricane.

Saturday, March 7

Morning ~ A Soliloquy {Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake & Spiced Coffee}

"The fire is dying, the lamp is growing dim, the shades of night are lifting.  The morning light steals across my window pane, where webs of snow are drifting..."-Gordon Lightfoot

Rituals.  They're what hold my life together.  Tiny moments throughout the day.  Strung together like drops of dew on a spider's web.  Each one, on its own, insignificant, but when laced together they form the framework on which I've built a life.  These rituals.  From the time I wake until I finally drift off.  They're sacred.

Rising from bed, bleary-eyed, shuffling down the dark hallway to the kitchen. (Was it Longfellow who said, "The nearer the dawn, the darker the night?")   Pouring fresh water into the kettle and putting it on the stove.  Sliding back the blinds from the large kitchen window.  Each day begins the same.  And if for some reason these rituals don't happen - a child is sick, I've overslept - then I'm quite lost for hours.

The kettle begins to whistle.  I hurry to turn it off before it wakes my sleeping family.  These treasured moments alone are not to be interrupted.  Mixing mahogany coffee grounds with rich spices in the bottom of the coffee press.  Watching the steam rise in soft, muslin clouds as I pour water over top.  These rituals start each day anew and bespeak the opportunities that await.

Standing in front of that kitchen window (it's my favourite spot in the house).  Watching the dawn break on the horizon.  I've said this before, but I had never actually seen a sunrise until my children were born.  It's true!  I never had a reason to rise while it was still dark.  Never craved the absolute peace of having the quiet, sleeping house to myself.  Never knew the bliss of listening to my children softly snore as I cradle that first cup of coffee in my hands.  I let the warmth seep into my palms, up my arms, into my soul.  I breath in the steam from my cup as the first rays of sunlight stretch through that window and across the kitchen floor, bathing me in golden warmth.  These morning rituals are the ones I cherish most.