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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keeping count.

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The morning after I turned forty, the power went out.

At first I worried about the significance of the lights going out on the first day of my new decade, but in fact it wasn’t so bad. It was a drizzly day, and we (we grown-ups, at least) were all feeling a little foggy from the previous night’s enthusiastic consumption; we lit candles and gathered vintage silk and Mongolian lamb and feather pillows and coverlets and curled up.

My sister was here for the briefest of wonderful visits, so we took advantage, drinking perfect coffee (courtesy of the restaurant around the corner) and looking out at the rain and reveling in the chance to be together, which doesn’t happen for us nearly as often as I’d like.

At a certain point my husband dashed out for provisions and we opened the last of the bubbly. My sister kept me company while I made dessert for the following day’s Thanksgiving feast. An easy, comforting dinner, a little more wine, an early bedtime – and, just like that, the weekend of my big birthday was over.

My sister flew home early the next morning.

And now I am forty – the age I had been approaching with a mix of curiosity and dread all these months, the age I was determined to be on the right side of, to be content with, to somehow conquer – and nothing has changed.

Things here carry on as they do, haphazard and beautiful.

This weekend, we are having a party.

I have more blessings than I know how to count.

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my boy.

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This is my boy.

Four years have passed since his birth, a day that shifted everything that I thought I knew about myself and what I could survive.

Four! That number sounds so meager, for a child who packs such a wallop of quirky charm and carefully crafted thoughts and a stop-you-in-your tracks smile – if you are lucky enough to earn it.

He’s a treasure, this one.


nothing ever happens.

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Early in July, two or three days into her summer holidays, my daughter told me she was bored.

It was the first time in her life that she had made such a pronouncement, accompanied by a sigh and an air of world-weariness that was both amusing and mildly alarming – she is, after all, just barely seven – but it was not the last.

Not even close.

(I remember having that feeling as a child: I’m not sure I was bored, exactly, but being untethered from the daily routine of the school schedule was, no matter how welcome, sometimes a little deflating. So I should have been sympathetic – and in fact I was, for the first while, but then – predictably – my tolerance waned.)

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But I am here to tell you, friends, that despite my daughter’s pre-pre-adolescent murmurs of discontent, this summer has been nothing approaching boring.

In the past week alone, there were four cakes baked, three birthday celebrations, two actual birthdays, and one quickened-heartbeat-inducing top secret photo shoot (about which I will gladly tell you more when it is published, in October).

We have begun a holiday-Monday family tradition involving this place.

We have discovered magical hidden parts of our city.

I have fallen in love with dresses and cold brew.

We have purchased airplane tickets and are counting down days.

My garden has grown wilder.

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And the other night, in the midst of this delightful, demanding, madcap and anything-but-boring stretch of weeks, the light shifted slightly and a breeze came through the screen door, bringing the kind of cool air that signals imminent change, making me want to catch my absent husband and my perfect summer and my no-longer-babies in my arms and tell them:

I love you.

I love you.

I love you.

 


indulge me.

I tend to be a bit childish about my birthday.

Never mind that I am an adult – a parent, even! – with responsibilities and practical concerns to attend to daily; when it comes to my birthday, I insist on indulgence of all kinds.

This year was no different.

Although my actual birthday was this past Friday, I have enough wonderful friends and family in my midst that my celebration spilled into the weekend and is still, in some senses, ongoing.

So, I know I owe you more (much more!) than just this, but I hope you’ll indulge me for a few more days…

Birthday Brownies

1 1/3c soft unsalted butter
400g bittersweet chocolate, chopped – the best possible quality (I use Green and Black’s)
6 eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/2c brown sugar
1 1/2c flour
a pinch of sea salt
1/2c white chocolate chips
1/2c chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9X13-inch baking dish and line with parchment. Fill a saucepan with water to the one-third mark, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.

Combine butter and chocolate chunks in a medium bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and melt butter and chocolate together, stirring regularly with a heatproof spatula, until combined.

In another medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla and brown sugar. Combine flour and salt in a separate small bowl.

Let chocolate mixture cool slightly, then whisk in egg mixture. Add flour mixture, white chocolate chips, and pecans, and beat until well combined.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes.

Cool completely in pan on a rack, then cut into squares.

You should get a minimum of 32, but really, the size (and level of indulgence) is completely up to you.


my girl.

 

This is my girl.

She’s bright and kind and compassionate and sharply articulate.

 


She is, and has always been, great company.

 


She is six today, and I can barely believe it.

My girl. Isn’t she something?


consumed.

The past two weeks have been almost embarrassingly full of indulgence for me.

My birthday celebrations started several days early and did not finish until a full week of epic good times had been had.

There was Thanksgiving, the best holiday of the whole year.

An evening out with old and new friends that was so much fun that I still smile at the thought of it, an entire week later.

And an incredible run of sunny days and balmy temperatures that just ended a few nights ago.

I was also undeservedly showered with gifts – some of them in the form of gift certificates to a few of my favourite places – an occurrence that then prompted a little shopping of my own.

I do love to shop, and always have, and I am past the point of apologizing for it (in the words of the divine Rufus Wainwright, “so what if I like pretty things?”) and the flush of joy that finding a new and lovely thing brings.

As I am always quick to protest (perhaps I am not quite so unapologetic as I’d like to think?), the object in question doesn’t have to be expensive, or even unused; it just has to strike some chord in my admittedly quirky aesthetic.

Most recently, it was a fur coat that hinted of the glamourous life of its former owner and a vintage lamp that casts the most glorious shadows in my dining room. Neither cost me a thing, and the beauty that they have brought to my daily life is indescribable.

Still, negligible impact on my pocketbook notwithstanding, I think it may be time to take a short break on the shopping, lest the bringing home of pretty things turn into an all-consuming fixation

(I remember overhearing, years ago, a conversation between two women in a shoe store in which one said to the other, “if I buy them, I will have to feed my kids oatmeal for dinner for at least a month. Would that be terrible?” I am not that woman, but that’s not to say I don’t have her in me).

I fear that it may be a bit like trying to coax a genie back into her bottle, this not-shopping thing, and if I am unsuccessful, I am determined not to panic.

But either way, I will be making more of this soup, and I suggest you do the same. Warming, delicious, simple, and marvelously indulgent, it hints of the glamour of lives past.

And not that it matters, but it will barely cost you a thing.


French Onion Soup

This recipe makes a lot of soup, but it freezes and reheats well. Still, it’s easily halved for a more manageable amount.

3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 kg onions, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
5-6 sprigs thyme (optional)
2c red wine
8c beef stock, or rich vegetable stock
stale baguette slices (two per person)
several slices of gruyere (a generous amount per baguette slice)

In a large, heavy pot, heat oil and butter together over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring fairly regularly, until onions have taken on a fair amount of colour – they should be a deep golden-brown (this is the crucial part of making French onion soup, so take your time with this step).

Throw in thyme, if you have some, then red wine. Cook 2-3 minutes, then add stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until you are ready to serve – I’d say a minimum of 20 minutes or so.

When ready to serve, arrange baguette slices on a baking tray and preheat broiler. Cover each piece of bread with a generous amount of cheese, and cook under the broiler until cheese is bubbly and golden in spots.

Ladle soup into bowls, and add a couple of pieces of cheese toast to each bowl.

Serves 8-10 (large glass of wine optional).