Thursday, August 08, 2013

Summer Bucket List: Make a cookbook

It's August. That sticky month where summer exhales in a warm breath on your neck, smelling of freshly mowed grass and rich dark compost.

Normally I'd be writing about the latest backyard barbecue or late night canning session, but this summer is scripted completely differently than the last, oh, thirty-four or so. Social events, garden work and home preserving have taken a backseat to my latest occupation: book writing.

I've been so busy and completely immersed in this project, that I've neglected to share with you just exactly what ate up part of June and most of July.

It's called Brown Eggs and Jam Jars and is slated for release in Spring of 2015 by Penguin Random House. You can read more about the cookbook on Simple Bites - and even sign up for a nifty newsletter of sorts.

 Image by Tim Chin

While book-writing sounds like I am ensconced all day at a private (and tidy) desk in my sunny loft, dreamily tapping out my food memoirs, what actually is happening is much more frantic.

Any given week could involve pages and pages of list-making-recipe-scribbling-ingredient-brainstorming-headnote-musing, dashing all over the city sourcing ingredients, recipe testing with three kids around and underfoot, eating and testing again, dishesdishesdishes, hurried antique prop shopping with very unhurried shop owners, more dishes, more eating, and then writing, some, but never enough.

Then there are the weekends of the photo shoots, which we are doing one chapter at a time, to capture our family food life directly amid the seasons of this produce-driven cookbook. Again, lists and more lists. Staying up late to iron the linens, buff the props, and clean up my gardening nails - if I'm lucky.

The morning of the shoot comes quickly and I am in the kitchen preparing each dish for its turn in the spotlight, looking for the heroes among the ingredients - that ruby red tomato, a perfect cluster of radishes, the evenly browned bun, and the diamond-shaped grill marks on the featured protein.

Image by Tim Chin

At some point in the day, I'll rush out of the kitchen, round up my kids, dig feverishly through their drawers for something- anything- that doesn't clash terribly or have Ninjago on the front (pre-laid out outfits for the whole family? Haha, I wish), scrub their faces, and march them outside to the garden, or wherever we are shooting that day.

I'll draw a curtain at what happens after that, but lets be honest and admit that a small amount of bribery is offered and a good number of stern words are emitted before the shoot is half over. They'll thank me later.

I had big plans to hire a virtual assistant, send my kids to day-camps and recruit guest bloggers for Simple Bites, but of course none of that happened. Instead I am fitting this new project into our life, weaving it into the day to day, and giving up other time consuming things.

I've relinquished my garden to nature (not entirely by choice, though that is another story completely), I won't watch another minute of TV until Downton Abbey returns, and I have a tidy set of auto responses written to ship out to inquiries, invitations and opportunities that come into my inbox.

No more. Not now. This is my season to put my head down and write this book. 

It could very well be Christmas before I post here again. It is yet another area where I am giving myself grace to lay aside until time permits. You know where to find me in the meantime.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Time Out


The lights of The Strip from the window of my limo, a mesmerizing fountain that moved to the music of ‪Andrea Bocelli‬, sipping bubbly ‪V‬euve Clicquot while touring a private collection of Picasso’s work – last week was just a little out of the ordinary for this urban homesteader.

I’ve just returned from Las Vegas, where Saveur and the Bellagio hosted a group of food bloggers for the BFBA’s awards. What an amazing time.

Catch the story and the back story over on Simple Bites.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mother's Day in four (food) photos

Last Sunday was a good day for eating and of course I had my iPhone handy for capturing the plates and tablescapes. They were too pretty not to share here.

Now why can't every day include breakfast in bed, seared scallops and macarons?

First up: a simply beautiful breakfast tray prepared by Danny and the boys, and delivered to my sunny bedroom on  Mother's Day morning. Noah had whipped the cream by hand (he's a pro) and made the crepe flower. Mateo arranged raspberries and a chocolatine (warmed) on a plate, while Danny prepared the all-important cafe latte.

Can you tell this was a brunch prepared by five brothers? We connected with Danny's family later in the morning for an epic spread. There was a healthy component - a full on juice and smoothie bar - it's just not pictured. Kudos, guys.


Dinner, chez moi, in honour of my (other) mother-in-law, and a delightful excuse to set a spring tablescape. Seared scallops with an orange-carrot puree. Asparagus with a warm raspberry vinaigrette. Buttermilk potatoes with ramps. Wild cherry blossoms for a simple , seasonal centerpiece.

Ending dinner on a sweet note with strawberry frozen yogurt, fruit, and macarons contributed by our guests. And French press coffee, dark and full-bodied.

Not Pictured: fierce hugs from wiry little boy arms. the lightest of kisses from a baby girl. handmade cards with notes in French. a clean kitchen.

A Mother's Day for the books.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

12 things to do at a food bloggers conference (that you can’t do at home)

Check in.

Conference organizers Mardi, Ethan and Melissa did their homework with the location of the very first Canadian food bloggers conference. Hockley Valley Resort provided us with a rustic, yet comfortable setting, stellar service, and hand’s down the best food I’ve enjoyed at any conference.
Fires flickering in the foyer set a warm, welcoming tone that continued throughout the entire weekend - even when we lost power for a few hours.
It is safe to say that Hockley will be seeing me again, perhaps on a future anniversary getaway, ideally when the garden is bursting and the grapes are ripe on the vine.

Leave the bed unmade.

This part was kind of how I imagine life would be like at Downton Abbey. The clothes I left of the floor were picked up and folded and the bed was made for me – not to mention adorned with a bag of molasses cookies.
Speaking of bed, I wanted to add the whole package - sheets, canopy, douvet, mattress - to my tab and bring it all home. Is a bed considered an incidental? Gosh. That bed was dreamy.
And the view from my balcony? Like Narnia.

Help yourself by helping out

I spent most of Friday playing Santa and channeling Oprah while laughing with a fantastic community of food bloggers from coast to coast. At least that’s what it felt like. It certainly didn’t feel like work. 
We volunteered to help the conference organizers with some of the behind-the-scenes tasks such as stuffing swag bags (above) and registering some 90 attendees (below).
It was humbling to work with these strong Canadian women, each as unique as the province they represented. The conference hadn't even started and I already felt enriched just by knowing them.

Smile, and greet Canada’s finest food bloggers in one afternoon

As registrants trickled up the stairs and over to our table to pick up their name tag and badge, I had to pinch myself to make sure this was really happening. So many familiar faces that I usually see in my Twitter stream were materializing before our booth.

Their excitement was palpable. I'm sure mine was too.

What else can you do at a food blogging conference? Let's keep going.

Kick off dinner with a poutine starter - pommes frites, cheese curd and a red wine reduction. Eat two bowls and treat yo self.

Enjoy some of the finest wine Ontario has to offer, while you listen to gentlemen from the wineries eloquently share their stories of success. Appreciate their Bradly Cooper-ish good looks - and toast with another glass.

Get goofy in the Kitchen Aid photo booth with Canada's Queen of Cookie. Hit up their milkshake bar afterward, because poutine and roast beef dinner isn't excessive enough for one night.

Geek out over session after session of stellar speakers. Appreciate the militia-like manner in which moderator, Allison, keeps everything on track.

Breathe a sigh of relief when your own panel is over. Realize that sharing 9 photos that show your culinary journey wasn't a totally dorky move.

Eat way too many Cherry Bourbon Blondies right before dinner, accompanied by a bottle or two of wine. Relish in friendships that span the country and stand the test of time, yet never grow cold.

Sit next to Corey Mintz at dinner and laugh uproariously for two hours with Jan, Danny, Corey and Marian. Discus making lunch for Ruth Reichl, how Craigslist was the demise of newspapers, dinner parties with kids, and your least favorite body features.

Witness Mairlyn throw food and carry out other capers. Listen to Corey and Dana discuss the merits of horse meat.

Gawk over cookies by Art to Eat. Realize that Adell is even sweeter than her cookies, and that you kind of want to be just like her when you grow up.

Also be impressed by these absolutely incredible Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer Cookies made and distributed by Marian of Sweetopia.

Fall asleep on someone's shoulder, but only if you are under two feet tall.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2012 > 2013

Most memories start as a impersonal note on the calendar: Baby Due Date. Easter. 10th Anniversary. Photography Workshop. School Out. Blogging Conference. Birthday Dinner. Thanksgiving. Cookie Swap. Christmas...

Before you know it, you've swept through all the dates, snapped the photos, kept the mementos, and these moments are threaded together to make a full year of memories.

The uncomfortable bits - like labor, humidity, and waiting in line - tend to fade away, and the really important parts, such as holding one's teeny newborn girl, are recalled as clearly as the day they took place.

At the start of a new year, it is as important to look at where we've come from, as it is to project where we'd like to go. I've been doing plenty of both this week, as we step out of holiday mode, and back into routine.

Here's a short look back on some of my favorite holiday moments (all iPhone images). This year seemed extra special for some reason. Maybe it was the drifts of powder (I adore a white Christmas), or maybe because it was Clara's first Christmas and that is just magical.

The wrapping is always far more interesting than the actual gifts when you are 9 months old.

You go ahead and slurp oysters, I'm just fine over herewith my felt food and Trumpette Mary Janes socks.

Mmm. Oysters.

A new generation of snow bunnies, sporting hand knit woollies from the Wimbush aunties and Nana.

Christmas Day, 2012. I love them so much.

Oh and ties from The Pleated Poppy? Adore.

An outing to the Nutcracker ballet with Noah.  He later described the ballerinas as 'scrumptious'. Heaven help us in ten years.

What else to do when you are snowed in? With homemade gingerbread, this template, and help together with homemade marshmallow fluff.

Christmas morning. Overnight cinnamon rolls, peach preserves, fruit, and Prosecco. (Should I post this cinnamon roll recipe? It's amazing.)

The cookies were beautiful this year. Not too rich or gooey. Perfect with tea.

The canine cousins came for a stay and whipped the boys through the snow on a sled. Talk about a thrill.

Here's wishing you all a Happy New Year and the very best for 2013.


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