Category Archives: holidays

No Dear, it’s not a phase

When I was a kid, I was weird.

  • I liked wearing a flowery embroidered purple tunic with just about anything (it was my favourite top).
  • I wore horizontally striped socks with skirts.
  • I carried a book bag years before any of my schoolmates. What I thought was cool never synced up with what was considered cool.
  • I was a complete clutz, not coordinated at all.
  • I was taller than most of the boys in my class, and I didn’t wear a bra until senior high school.

My mom always let me be me. She would check with me as I got older sometimes, maybe offering another alternative for consideration, but she supported my final decisions.

Mostly, I liked being weird. I have always enjoyed quirky things, new adventures; they attracted me. It’s a lot of why I became such a foodie, wanting to try new tastes and understand how to incorporate them. Becoming a sommelier was a perfect fit – it’s a bit of a nerdy pursuit, learning all that history and geography and tasting wine but then spitting it out.

When I took up gardening, I found another weird way to express myself. Just like that embroidered top, the flowers that attract me are unique:

 

Crown Imperial

I can’t remember the name of this one, but my mom suggested it 😄

Lily of the Valley

 

For some people, all this is just too much of a difference. It can scare them away. I have been very fortunate to find some wonderful friends over the years, but often I’ve encountered folks who just don’t know what to do with me, or how to respond to all my weirdness.

I remember asking my mom one particularly tough day at about the age of 15, “All of this is just a phase, right? It will pass, I’ll grow out of it, won’t I?” Without hesitating, she answered, “No dear, it’s not a phase. You’ll have to learn to live with it.”

I think back then I figured she was kidding. It took me another few years to realize that I was born NOT to fit in. The more I tried to be a part of the cool crowd, the more they disliked me. I should have connected the dots, knowing that my tastes were different. Once I understood that others who had similar (equally weird) tastes were my tribe, then I stopped trying to explain the differences as a way of being accepted.

On this Mother’s Day as I strolled through my garden, and as I crafted the olive-wood smoked oil & vintage balsamic vinaigrette for our salad with dinner, I was thinking of my mom and her encouragement of my true self.

She was always a traditional Mom, making great cookies and putting notes in my lunch and sewing my Hallowe’en costumes… but the best thing my mom did for me was help me understand who I really am.

Thanks, Mom. Cheers!

 

 

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All Ears

Easter is a beautiful celebration, full of colour, warmth and love. The decadence of spring signifies the transition from the bleakness of winter just as Easter brings the end of Lent. People seem to breathe more deeply at Easter.

This year with Earth Day following Easter I felt a certain symmetry. My reverence for life was reaffirmed in my love for our planet.

At Rabbit Hollow we have a natural affinity to Easter – bunnies are our thing. Beatrix Potter’s Peter is the perfect mascot, with a sense of spirit and (once learned) a sense of responsibility.

Rabbits are a good symbol for us – we are all about foraging, nibbling a little here and there, and enjoying the love and abundance of family and the community at large.

We don’t have the wild bunnies here anymore that lay around when we first moved in, but our friendly sentinels greet me daily in our garden. I honour their presence every Easter. How? Well, with chocolate of course!

(Okay, maybe a Peep or two for food measure)

Especially with it being Earth Day, I wanted to honour all creatures. Ella and I had extra outside time today. I planted more bulbs and watered the early seeds, all the while thinking nurturing thoughts. I was thrilled to see a coyote out midday, cruising the field, and we spotted two deer in the orchard. Everyone was making the most of the day.

This evening as we sat down for our tea and a wee treat, I turned to my Easter chocolate. Are you like me – feet first? My Foodie book of etiquette says it’s disrespectful to eat a bunny’s ears first.

It was a lovely day, a wonderful weekend. I look forward to more warm spring days, so the bees can keep working and the blossoms can bring fruit. There is much to do if we are to help keep our planet going, and the renewal of spring is the perfect reminder to inspire me.

May your garden grow well, may the sun warm your face and may you have time to stop and smell the flowers.

Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest. – Beatrix Potter

Warming the cockles of my heart

In honour of Hot Toddy Day, and because I plan to binge watch the last few episodes of Outlander tonight, I thought it fitting that I share a good recipe for the drink that is supposed to be the perfect cure for a dreary winter and the mood we often have to accompany it.

hot toddy

I am generally a fan of hot drinks on a cold day, and I do love trivia, especially as it pertains to food and drink. Toddies not only have a connection to Scotland but also to the American Revolutionary War, so they make a perfect fit with the Outlander story. Of course, some Outlander fans would say you don’t need a hot drink to warm up while watching such a sexy romantic tale, but well, better safe than sorry!

It is said that the first use of “toddy” for a drink was in India, where the fermented sap from a toddy palm was used to sweeten a cold drink in British colonial times. This recipe of a spirit with lemon, spices and sweetener made its way back to Britain, and it was the practical Scots who decided it would work well hot as a cure for the common cold.

Believing strongly in the power of preventative medicines, the Scots made the hot toddy a popular beverage. Their presence during the time of the American Revolutionary War (just like Jamie Fraser in the Outlander stories) was what brought the drink to North America. It is said the colonists liked the drink for liquid courage, but I think perhaps it might just have been to stave off the cold, damp weather.

I was a bit surprised a recipe wasn’t included in the Outlander Kitchen Cookbook, one of my favourite themed recipe collections. outlander kitchen cookbook(It contains so many other wonderful gems that I will use that common old Scottish phrase – “dinna fash” – if you’re thinking this makes it unworthy. On the contrary, I recommend it most highly for anyone with even a passing fancy for Scottish tastes and a love of history.

You can use the spirit of your choice to make a toddy, but here I’m offering what I believe would be the Scottish recipe. Lemons wouldn’t have been common in Scotland or America in the times of the colonists, but feel free to add a slice of lemon if you’d like a more worldly twist.

Spices too are adaptable; traditionally the slice of lemon is stuck with a few whole cloves before it is dropped in the glass, and a cinnamon stick garnishes the drink. If you’re feeling adventurous, a few pink peppercorns or a slice of ginger root can kick things up a notch.

I believe that a Highlander such as Jamie Fraser would have chosen a smoky, peaty Scotch like Laphroaig, but if your tastes are more mellow then perhaps a Glenmorangie would be to your liking. Feel free to experiment with different options. Just remember not to do it if you have to get up and drive afterwards.

Claire Fraser would undoubtedly have a stash of spices in her medicine kit, knowing the benefits of such things as cinnamon and cloves. With their time in the Caribbean, I like to think she might still have had a few treasures that could have helped raise the spirits of a toddy drinker, and perhaps eased the jolt from such a forceful libation.

As a last tip, I’ll offer a few tips on the vessel you use:

  • if you use a glass, put a metal spoon in the glass before you add the hot water. This will conduct the heat and prevent it from cracking.
  • if you choose a metal mug, remember it will conduct the heat very well – even handles can get hot, so be careful. It would be a shame to waste a good drink by dropping it on the ground.

 

SCOTTISH HOT TODDY

Instructions: Add 1 1/2 ounces of Laphroaig 10 (or another Islay Scotch) and 1 teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to a heat-safe glass. Season with lemon or orange, studded with a few whole cloves if desired, and a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon. Heat 3 ounces of water to a near-boil and pour into glass; stir until honey is dissolved.

Slàinte!

jamie fraser drinking

Cookie Withdrawal

new years start A New Year. Endless possibilities. A whole world of opportunity and adventure. And the chance to get back to more healthy eating and avoid the never-ending indulgences of baked goods and cocktails. It all sounds simple in theory.

But I’m sitting here wishing there were just a few mincemeat tarts left, or maybe one more lebkuchen. My cup of tea is lonely. I did work out this morning, so I would be deserving of a wee something, wouldn’t I?

It’s hard to start fresh. The pressure of new goals, new resolutions, hopes for improving Christmas cookiesoneself; it’s all a lot to handle. I wonder if it didn’t come on the heels of all that Christmas spirit, would even bother attempting such lofty efforts? Who can blame us if we need a little help in getting over the hump?

The Epiphany is the closing gesture on our  holiday season, by some accounts the twelfth day of Christmas. I like to celebrate in the French tradition, with a Galette des Rois, but I have also enjoyed the New Orleans version with an English name: King Cake. Either way, it’s a nice treat to share, shaking off the after-Christmas blues and giving us that kickstart for the New Year.

Food is sustenance, in many different ways. Perhaps as a gourmand, I need more sustenance than the average soul. The ambience of a good meal shared around the table is as fulfilling as the meal itself.

One of my  kindred spirits, Winnie the Pooh, expressed this philosophy best.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”

pooh and piglet breakfast

So whether a piece of cake does the trick, or the company of a friend with whom to share that cake, it’s still time well spent (and calories well consumed, if you ask me.)

 

 

‘‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

In our house, Christmas was a big deal.

Decorating the tree was a major undertaking, usually requiring a few days to get everything tight. (Yes, we were a “one strand of tinsel at a time” kind of family.) Gifts were all thoughtful, and their wrapping was to be done with care. Everything was meant to be savoured.

Christmas Eve was inevitably busy, with last minute gifts to wrap amidst visiting friends. But once dinner was done, we settled in. Final preparations were near.

Every year of my childhood we read Clement C. Moore’s classic, once the cookies were set out for Santa.

Santa had to get a sample of each of the baked goods we’d made that year. I remember my mom explaining he probably wouldn’t have room to try them all, having to see everyone around the world.

I used to be able to recite all the verses… my favourite was

My mom usually read the story, but one year we were lucky enough to have Gramps there – he knew The Man in Red personally, so that was extra cool.

As soon as the story was finished, my brother and I would kiss our parents good night, and then it was off to bed to await the magic. I don’t remember dreams of sugar plums but I did sleep well.

I still get up in the morning to check and see what Santa sampled.

I hope there is magic in your heart too – you do know that Santa checks in anyway, even if you don’t put out cookies, right?

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