Monthly Archives: February 2017

Springing Up!

I am just back from a vacation to a sunny clime, and I am now home to mud and mostly grey skies.In this environment I look for every scrap of inspiration I can find. Today was my lucky day.

It started out as another grey day.Ella and I walked through the remaining snowy patches amidst the mud and other slippery bits in the orchard (those Canada Geese can be messy creatures). We slipped around as we worked our way home; I endured what I call the swampy smell of pre-spring and Ella revelled in the many earth-borne smells, her nose on overdrive.

The clouds broke this afternoon and the sun proceeded to warm everything, including my sense of gratitude. I wandered out with the dogs to let them get some fresh air and I breathed deep, too. In the brighter afternoon light I could see the new shoots all around…

Crocuses are always some of the first to break ground

Can you see the pussywillows in the foreground?


It felt easier to breathe, with the sun and the greenery. The dogs lifted their noses and seemed to fill them up with scents. Usually we walk later in the afternoon but today I decided to seize the moment. I put on my brand-new muck boots and grabbed Ella’s collar and leash. I figured we would see just how spring was advancing.

Ella is a great companion any time of year, but when I am in my winter doldrums she is a wonderful boost to my soul. Her enthusiasm with fresh smells and small puddles is completely infectious. She searches out every new shoot to sniff it out, and every little puddle is worth at least a step – usually more of a splash. The way she bounces into the mud and smiles back at me makes me smile – how can I get mad at such boundless joy?

It was in watching Ella one day on our expedition up the road that I first discovered the wild watercress in the ditch. Now it’s a race for us both to find our spots in the spring – her to splash in the mud, and me to harvest. It takes triple washing at home to make it ready to use, but the peppery flavour and fresh juicy crunch is worth the work. Long before I can harvest any wild lettuce, these leaves are ready to enjoy.

Today the leaves were just barely above the ground, but that’s okay. Every leaf gave me hope. On the way back home I tried to limit the muck damage – I said to Ella, “Try to stay out of the muck”; she trotted squarely through a tire rut full of muddy water and gave me a big grin. All I could do was chuckle.


My thanks go out to Diana Gabaldon and her character Claire Randall Fraser, who prompted me to look for wild herbs and plants. (All those Outlander books are sexy but also informative.) Props also to L.L. Bean, who make the best muck boots ever. My last pair held on for 10 years of our daily walks, and I’m excited to rack up the miles on my new ones. But most of all my gratitude is for my Brown Girl, Ella. You can say what you want about having four-legged friends – quality time with a creature so intent on loving life is good for the soul.



I Had a Hankering

Sunday is a day meant for tinkering. I like to do my tinkering in the kitchen. Sometimes it is more like work (ok, actually it is work – especially during wedding season). Thankfully I love what I do. But sometimes it’s just nice to kick around on one’s own, isn’t it?

My problem was, I had almost not energy. We just returned from our yearly winter break in Mexico, and both of us left fine but woke up at home sick the next day. I have been dragging my butt around for a few days now trying to get back up to speed. An easy recipe seemed like the thing to help. 

My mom used to say there isn’t much a cookie can’t cure. I had a hankering for a chocolate cookie, and found a tantalizing recipe through Yummly. I got to work right away….

 These kitchen-sink delights contain three of my favourite baking ingredients – browned butter, chocolate and dried cherries. And since they are made with whole wheat flour and oatmeal, they could be considered guilt-free, if not healthy. 

I will offer this counsel: Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies are so full of goodies they are hard to form into a cookie. Do use the recommended ice cream scoop to get them on the pan.  I also used a scraper to flatten them out a bit and corral the few chocolate chips that rolled away from the masses. I got 14 large cookies from one recipe. 

It has taken me two days and a few cookies to get back to full strength but I feel like I’m close to being my normal energetic self again. As usual, Mom was right. 

Watch for more updates from our Mexico travels soon. 

The Vagrancies of Weather

There is a storm coming in today.  It’s coming from the south yet it’s a California circle of weather and we are just on the edge making the circle’s extreme edge the south. Horrible weather for Canada usually translates into cooler bearable; tomatoes don’t ripen as they should, there is more wind than is necessary thank you very much and after the sun goes down, we wear our woolies. Mexicans wear lugs and downfilled jackets this time of year! Forecasts for tomorrow are very gusty winds, much moisture (which is such a variable it’s laughable) and generally inhospitable. It does let us know there is no chance of snow.

As is with most weekends that run into bad weather there are multiple outdoor social events to consider not attending: the Rescate (the subscription med/aid for US/Cdn citizens  who need emergency services) bazaar and auction of goods with local crafts and goodies, the local SPCA book sale, a local Saturday gathering place market and an artist showing. Then there’s the golf, the pickleball tournament, windsurfing events, fishing tourmanents and ongoing diving, birding and sealife touring. Cycling and hiking are on the upswing but not exactly Moab territory yet. A place with options. This does not include all the boat owners who just roll their eyes at anyone who does anything else. Boating was the beginning of this community and is a backbone that thru all remains.

The most interesting bit about this burg of San Carlos is the incredible diversity of interests that galvanize people to come here and ultimately keep them apart. The illusion of a very small community was not planned. Yet everyone here is amazed at the numbers of people at any given event that will attract all groups. There is always a comment from someone that says ‘Wow, there were so many people and I didn’t see anyone I knew!’ I am in that category. Everywhere I go I see more and more people I don’t recognize from anywhere I have been or anything I do. Yet because of my age and a number of things I am involved in I do associate with longtimers.

I noticed today that with the high winds the pelicans, cranes, egrets and larger species are all holed up in the esturary. Lots of water and fish this time of year so they are just hanging out. Kinda like the rest of us.

I’ve been cooking but nothing that is spectacular. Pulled off some profiteroles that were great choux, a chocolate filling not quite pudding nor mousse and managed a just about whipped cream. Tooled with variances on eggplant parmesan which I liked and tried out the baking power/salt dusting for super crispy wings. This was/is a work in progress. Don’t know where it went wrong but … good bones …

Your faithful Happy Gourmand is back from her sojourn in the sun and at the Hollow I see. I will sign off with a few photos of the estuary and it’s beautiful birds. A bit of palapa repair construction as it’s always amazing what’s done with debris…in this case palm fronds. Will enter this dialogue again if invited as a guest with updates on ‘a room of one’s own’ and pics of same so you can follow the innovative construction techniques and keep you posted on my garden, birds and cooking experients.

img_0003img_0004img_0009img_3699img_3692img_3697img_3703img_3695img_3700img_3701I wasn’t as disciplined as your blogger I know but I enjoyed myself immensely. Thanks.



Meant to be 

I am one of the lucky ones. This week we had the day for lovers. It is the worst if you’re single and wishing you weren’t. You are reminded everywhere that you should be with someone. But I believe togetherness comes in many forms, and love takes many shapes. I am happy having my soulmate by my side but that is my life, and not what everyone wants. Happiness does not come from another, it comes from within. Sharing it is just part of the fun. 

That said, I will admit I am  a sucker for romance.i love rose petals on the bed and kisses and dinner by candlelight. I even consider it a sign that expressions of like-minded people are linked to food: “two peas in a pod”, “like bread and butter, salt & pepper”, etc. And I love spontaneous moments that make me feel connected. 

We had one of those moments on a touring day during our  vacation. We spent the day traveling the island of Cozumel in a rented jeep. My man upgraded to the jeep, intending it to be reminiscent of a movie scene from “The Thomas Crown Affair”, with Pierce Brianna and Renée Rousseau. It’s a very romantic and sexy movie, full of elegant scenes with the couple.  After only a few kilometres on the road it became more like “Romancing the Stone”, with Kurt Douglas and Kathleen Turner. More adventure than elegance, requiring more humour than grace. But we laughed and took pictures to document the story, and headed to a secluded beach anyway, despite the clunks and bangs in the vehicle. 

We were repaid for our perseverance on the beach while admiring the treasures washed ashore (and not focusing on the garbage – that topic is for another post). Each of us picked up a piece of a conch shell, still retaining some of its satiny pink lustre. As we stopped to show each other our finds, we realized a certain symmetry… sure enough, they fit together!

 I don’t want to refer to that other romantic movie about completing each other, but well you know, if the shoe fits…

Now that we are home, the memories of this day will be added to our collection of stories we tell others, and each other, over the years. We will laugh at the humour in the jeep “upgrade”, and wistfully remember all the spectacular photos forever lost when his phone went in the waves as he took a shot of me in the water. It wasn’t a perfect day, but it will be a very special memory. 

Our deal as soulmates is we focus on us as a team. When one is down, the other one pulls us back up. The phone went in the water and I didn’t say anything, I just handed mine over and said, “let’s just take more pictures”.  If I ever feel not quite up to par, he is there to cheer me on and remind me how special I am. (If I get really down he might even scold me about beating myself up.) That’s what special people do. 

Your person might be a friend, or relative, or mentor… if you don’t have one, it doesn’t hurt to ask people you know if they will give more. I have discovered that most of us want to, but we are afraid to offend. 

As we move past Valentine’s Day and look towards the coming spring, how about we all try to be someone’s cherry on their sundae – even just for a moment? The world could use a bit more love. There is no such thing as too many smiling people, too many happy hearts. 

Yet one more experiment…

No pictures tonight of tonight. Somehow missed that the camera needed charging and also ran out of Telemex money. Carlos Slim, the multi-mega-Mexican Bill Gates without the foundations makes sure phone service and phones are cheap enough but there is no plan that forgives your $ date. Tis all pay it forward. End I will post some Mexico City market photos…tis a market worth thinking about visiting. And, a bit of the wonder.

Got some wonderful looking fresh market garden brussels sprouts at the Empalme market. Cabbage of any sort not my fave vegetable. Creates rumblings in my tummy. They looked so beautiful couldn’t resist. Next life I won’t try and cook but paint! Have had wonderful renditions of sprouts by Kristin and also Martin. Tonight’s was a miso base marinate for baking. Really stretched for a protein to match: didn’t want beef anything, no ground pork for a meatball with ginger plus crunch something, chicken was also in short supply for barbequing or roasting. Meat is funny here in San Carlos. There is the grocery; brought in packaged everything. The little Mexican grocery that has developed a marketing plan to incorporate their ‘tourist’ patrons has a great freezer and a butcher. The senior guy is fantastic; enough English that he smiles when he plays with you and that wonderful expertise when he understands and you don’t that he repeats, in English, exactly what you want. There just was no fresh pork or chicken today. Anywhere in San Carlos. What the market did have was a smoked very large chop. This was a mean porker! So, two chops. I am thinking with the bulb of fresh ginger miracuously found at the chain, some relatively hot cherry peppers wrinkling in the bowl and some soy plus lime I might match the miso sprouts. Knew rice would not fly for the eaters so baby potatoe very lightly smashed with green onion and a tiny bit of roasted garlic I had on hand. Not perfect but something.

The sprouts delicious but way too much sauce for the amount of green. Even I thought the poor sprouts tasted totally drowned. Will do it again but less marinate. This mix took away the cabbage taste, to me overpowering aroma and produced pizzaz to the tastebuds. The potatoe mix worked even as an add on. The meat was less so. The smoked did not take the fresh ginger to heart and only little heat stood out. Less than stellar but what the hey…twas an experiment in availability and on hand. Wine and hungry people, good conversation forgive lack of perfection. Those dining really only have to appreciate the effort. Not looking for any stars.

Mexico City market pics and a few of the sights in a way require no narrative. Perception is everything. Mine is in the photos. Hope yours will be somewhat titillated by mine. Cheers.



%d bloggers like this: