haunted.

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It is very, very hard for me to work up any kind of enthusiasm about Halloween.

Except for a few great years in my partying days, it’s never been my favourite occasion – and this year, I am feeling especially curmudgeonly about it. If it weren’t for my children, I would, without a doubt, be one of those people who turned off the lights and locked the doors and stayed in the attic drinking wine until it was all over.

Thankfully, earlier this week – before I got too mired in irritation about it all – I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with the fabulous Kristin Sjaarda. We hung out, drank coffee, dissected the latest unpleasant news of our world, weathered an epic rainstorm, and put together a spooky mantel to be featured on the Marion House Book today.

If you head over there right now, you’ll miss my (humbug) rant about the senselessness of sending our children out into the cold, dark night with the sole mandate of gathering and gobbling up as much refined sugar as they possibly can – lucky you! – but if you stick around here, you get this recipe for pumpkin seeds.

First published on this blog three years ago, they have become a Halloween tradition around here (if such a thing exists) and remain my go-to reward for getting through this day.

Well, these and the baby Kit Kats.

Trick or Treat!

Pumpkin Seeds for Snacking

the seeds of one large pumpkin, cleaned of goo, rinsed, and well dried
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp (lightly packed) brown sugar
1 tsp sea salt
2 pinches cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.

Place pumpkin seeds in a large mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients, then toss with pumpkin seeds until they are well coated.

Spread seeds onto prepared baking sheet and bake 45 minutes, until dry and slightly golden in colour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

Serves one spooked Mama.


queen of the road.

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I took my children on a road trip over the summer.

My husband was in the middle of a creative project, so it was just the three of us; I joked that I was recreating the family drives of my ’70s childhood, with no movies or gadgets in the car, several singalongs and the occasional “stop that immediately or I will pull over!”

It was an eight hour drive. They didn’t sleep the entire time.

I loved the feeling that we were all hurtling along together, the highway spooling out behind us as we set off on an adventure. We stopped for doughnuts and gas and a late lunch, once I realized that we would not arrive at our destination anywhere near lunchtime – but otherwise, we just drove, mostly contentedly.

We spent the better part of a week at a house in the woods which was the family cottage of two of my dearest friends, and the site of many a revelrous sojourn when we were all much younger. It felt like such a gift to be able to be there with my babes, to layer new experiences onto my memories of being there, and to gather my old friends and all of our young children in one place: everyone got along, and there were bonfires and duck dinners and lake swimming and wine – all of the same components, in fact, that I remember from our party years, but somehow sweeter.

We left amid promises to hurry back.

This morning, I am packing up the car again. Neither the drive nor the stay will be quite as long – we are going to the city this time, and it’s September now, with all of its attendant have-tos – but it will be so good to get back on the road, to get my arms around my friends, to witness the reunion of our children. We will be staying in my old neighbourhood, a place steeped in romance and nostalgia. There will be old haunts and things we’ve never seen.

We will find new experiences to layer lightly and carefully over my memories of a cherished time and place.

I can’t wait.


crickets/on patience and change.

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Friends, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I have fallen out of the habit of writing here.

There have been a few factors at play: we have had extra work and houseguests and difficult emotional times. There was a mantle of tension and sadness settled on our small family that has taken us no small effort to shift.

We took a road trip. I discovered Instagram.

And I would be a remiss Canadian if I failed to blame the weather: never-ending winter, truncated spring, less-than-sultry summer; and, just lately, swampy, blazing heat when most of us are too busy – or too over it – to enjoy it.

So even if you had heard from me, I fear that my less-than-enthusiastic tone might have put you off.

Perhaps irrevocably (I’m hoping my silence hasn’t done the same).

Meanwhile, incredibly, here we are, knocking down the door on September’s first full weekend, and things couldn’t be much better. And since it’s Friday, and I know we all have a lot to do, I’ll leave you here with these few snippets – and a promise to come back again soon.

***

“Today is your last day of being four,” I whispered to my son in the wee hours of the morning on the day before his birthday, and shivered a little at the thought.

Five years old! I remember nearly every minute, and it still feels like those years have dashed by. I am no longer the mother of a baby or a toddler (or both). I have children now, tall and sturdy and erudite and curious and highly quirky kids.

They are both officially in full-day school this year, and although this week has been overwhelming at times, we are getting there.

Happily, I have had the opportunity to work with some incredible people to soothe my bereft mama heart, as well as some serious sartorial daydreams in the form of lookbooks from here, and here – the latter so heavily fondled that it is creased like a love letter.

***

Speaking of love letters:

“I don’t want to be the kind of musician that ignores the pop culture. I want to be a part of my time, and soak it all in.

I have always been a big fan of Beck. From the grinding, bad-boyfriend albums of my youth to this latest lush and mellow LP, which sounds perfect even on my dodgy old turntable, his shifting and brilliant sound has provided a soundtrack for much of my adult life.

I stood riveted in front of the radio several weeks ago, listening to him reflect on his music and his process – and, really, his life – in an interview which confirmed my suspicion that he and I are soul mates, on some cosmic (and strictly platonic) level.

I could fill this post with quotes from that interview, but it wouldn’t be the same – and you’d miss a gorgeous in-studio performance. Listen to it here.

***

Finally, we took a little hiatus from our weekend newspaper delivery over the summer – we were feeling awash in newsprint – but I could never, never, give up my Sunday New York Times. Last weekend’s T magazine made the case for everything I require of a style-centric publication, and I loved this recent lighthearted interview with Jenna Lyons, who answered a question about diet and exercise as follows:

“I lift some really heavy sequins during the day. And I walk in five-inch heels regularly, which I believe is really good for my calves. Do we have to talk about diet and fitness?”

Amen. And have a wonderful weekend!


my valentine.

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Friends, what a pleasure to have my ode to love posted over on the Marion House Book today!

This is my third post for Emma (see the first here, and the second here) and I’m honoured and inspired every time I have a chance to share that space – especially when the charming and highly talented Kristin Sjaarda is involved, which she was in this case.

While you are perusing Emma’s beautiful blog, I’ll be here, making these waffles for my house full of sweeties, drinking hot tea, and waiting for the appropriate moment to dive into a pile of luscious sugar cookies from our local bakery (now? What about now?).

And wishing you a day filled with love.

 


spoiled.

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I am so grateful that the sun is shining today.

We are back (yes!) from our sojourn in the south, and despite how wonderful it is to be home – and particularly, back in the arms of my love – I have found the return to the cold weather staggeringly difficult.

This is partly because, in my vanity, I have never quite been able to embrace the practical requirements of the Canadian winter. I have been enthusiastically watching the Olympics these past few days, hoping for inspiration both sartorial and otherwise (#wearewinter!) but ultimately I’d sooner stay under the covers or close to the stove, without socks or sleeves, alternating fistfuls of vitamin D with glasses of wine and counting the days until spring.

I would poke my head out for this coleslaw, though, because the very thought of it is enough to transport me back to my mother’s Mexican kitchen; and it works here, too, its crunch and bright flavours a fresh contrast to whatever warm, comforting thing you’ve likely got on your plate.

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Before I get to the recipe, I need to tell you a little more about my trip. If you were following my Instagram feed, at right (@yesthisisperfect: hooray, technology!) you will have an idea of how it went: my parents’ Mexican life is enviable and happy-making in all of the best ways, and they made us feel like we fit right in. They also live in a beautiful town which lends itself very nicely to artful, vintage-looking snapshots.

But the part you didn’t get to see, because it was usually too late and too dark (and with too much wine involved) was the cooking. Using a two-burner camp stove and a 30-year-old wall oven, my mom creates meals with a combination of economy and abandon, and the same celebration of, and devotion to, really good food that she has my whole life.

I was spoiled.

I was also reminded that the insistence on making each meal an occasion is something that I have drifted from over the past several years, and I’ve missed that. I’m going to work on getting it back.

Just as soon as I get out from under the covers.
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Mexican Coleslaw

1/2 head cabbage (to yield 8 cups shredded)
1 bunch cilantro, washed well and ends trimmed but stems left on
1 red bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed
a 2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled
scant 1/4c mayonnaise
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar, or to taste
1 tsp celery salt
salt and pepper as desired

My mom puts the cabbage, cilantro, bell pepper and ginger into her blender all at once. She then fills her blender jar with water to cover the vegetables, and pulses until everything is finely shredded but not ground to a pulp. She then drains it all in a colander to yield the fluffiest coleslaw I have ever seen.

What you should also know is that this method did not totally work for me; I blame my blender, which is high powered and did not play nicely with my cabbage. I used my mother’s method for the cilantro, bell pepper and ginger, and it came out beautifully, but I shredded my cabbage the old fashioned way – with my food processor.

However you get there, once the first four ingredients are nicely shredded, transfer them to a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, oil, sugar, and celery salt. Toss coleslaw with dressing (it will feel like there is not enough dressing, but I promise you there is!), taste, and add salt and pepper as you wish.

Serves 8-10.


all my bags are packed.

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Friends, it’s happening: I’ve bundled up my children, and we are winging our way to this perfect place this morning.

I won’t see you for three weeks!

But when I do, I hope you forgive my ear-to-ear smile and the tan that I will brandish shamelessly, like a trophy.

And in the meantime, I hope you will follow me: on instagram @yesthisisperfect (updates will also appear in the column on the right, if this new-fangled technology is to be trusted), on twitter@anniedishes.

I have a guest post coming up on the gorgeous Marion House Book, and I hope, too, that you will keep an eye out for that.

As my children would say:

Kisses! Love you! Kisses!

And hasta luego, friends. See you in February!


on the next day.

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I am a big fan of boxing day.

First of all, it’s my sister’s birthday, so it seems only natural to greet the 26th of December with nearly as much fanfare as the 25th.

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Also, there is something about the energy on the day after Christmas that I just adore: the house is slightly disheveled, with the detritus of yesterday’s gifting and feasting and drinking still lingering about, but it’s not so painfully messy that I feel I have to get up from the couch – and the new novel I just started – and actually deal with it.

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We seem as a family to be moving around in a haze of love this week, all goodwill toward one another (read: a remarkable, if no doubt short-lived, absence of sibling strife) and small moments of joy, and none of the high anxiety-slash-anticipation inherent in the big day.

There have been many videos watched. I’ve nearly gone blind putting together a pair of Lego superheroes. We’ve skated and sledded. The sun has come out.

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There is an abundance of food in the fridge and wine in the cupboard, amazing leftovers (if I do say so myself) and enough residual holiday spirit to make a batch of these cookies, which, it must be said, may actually be the best cookies I have ever made.

Chocolate Ginger Cookies
adapted from Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook

1/2 c soft unsalted butter
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c dark molasses
1 1/2c all purpose flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
8 oz. (240g) dark chocolate, chopped
coarse granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. Add flour to butter mixture and beat until just combined.

Stir in chopped chocolate.

Pour a cup or so of sugar onto a plate.

Scoop up a tablespoon of dough and use your hands to roll it into a ball. Dredge in coarse sugar before placing on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough – I got two pans os 15 cookies each when I made these.

Bake cookies one sheet at a time, in the centre of the oven, until surface is cracked and they are barely dry at the edges, about 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet.

Eat with abandon.

Makes 30 cookies.

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