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:
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!
When the world falls away, what else can you do but pause a moment to think of your own little world?
We are in a haze at the moment, with smoke from forest fires to the west and the north drifting into our valley of paradise. Depending on which way the wind blows, the smoke hangs on one side of the valley or the other.
When I got up this morning, everything but our little domain had disappeared in an eerie sort of brownish fog. I could see the vegetable fields, and the farm market at the end of the street, but the town and hills beyond were gone. There was no sign of the lake and what was usually beyond seemed a figment of my imagination. In the air was the scent of ash, charcoal – like the melancholy smell that signifies the end of an evening bonfire.
I suddenly felt a rush of gratitude. Here I was walking casually with Ella, having just stopped to nibble berries from our bushes in the front yard. I watched the young crew picking cucumbers and zucchinis from the fields to be sold at the farm market. So peaceful. But with an underlying sense of foreboding.
I was struck later in the day too, by a story shared from someone I know of their recent tough family times. They were stoic, and gave the advice “Hug your loved ones. Hug them hard.” I was heartbroken for them in their difficulty and also inspired by their ability to carry on. Using love as a force in life, a way to sustain oneself, is quite possibly the best diet you can adopt.
I’m using today as motivation to focus even more on the value of my time to sit and share a meal. The simple moments around a table are the perfect time for us to soak in the love and be grateful for our blessings.
There but for the grace of God go I.
It’s Father’s Day today, and I’m sad. I feel rather forlorn. You see, I grew up as a Princess, with all the trappings of a young girl in a magic kingdom. I had an idyllic childhood, full of happy memories in good times and lessons learned in tough times. Everything always turned out okay, and more often than not it felt that way because my Dad was the one to cheer me on or push me on. After all, he was the one who made me a Princess. The problem is, he’s gone now.
I miss my dad every day, but Father’s Day hurts in a special melancholy way. It makes me remember the myriad of things that my Dad taught me, and then the breath catches in my throat as I am struck with not being able to tell him or hug him to say thanks.
I don’t like to dwell on the past – you can’t live there. But I don’t want to forget “wonderful Daddy from Winnipeg” , as we used to joke should be his title. So if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to mention some of my favourite memories and learnings:
- Waking up to music he would play… I had a turntable in my bedroom and he would come down and put a record on to wake me up for school. Billy Joel, The Eagles, Supertramp, Neil Diamond, Nilsson. I still love “Dad rock”, as all that music is now labelled.
- Watching CBS Sunday Morning, together and then separately when I was older, but still sharing our love for the good news and the quirky discoveries in the world. I still watch, and often smile at stories I know he would have enjoyed.
- Marching to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – through the house, pretending to be like Mickey Mouse with his broom.. The whole family would march in a line, my brother and I swinging our imaginary brooms with great fervor and my Mom bringing up the rear (to make sure things didn’t get too crazy). We’d go down the hall and over their bed, even. It makes me smile every time I think of it.
- Eating the fried egg sandwiches he used to make me before early morning high school basketball practice. I wish now I had practiced even harder. I wish I’d known then that stronger arms would have helped my shot. But he cheered me on through my clutziness, and even bought season tickets to the Vancouver Grizzlies’ inaugural season years later, so we could watch games live. I travelled from Calgary whenever I could, and we saw Michael Jordan play!
- His sayings still get me through tough days – “Illegitimum non carborundum est” (don’t let the bastards get you down) and “optireculitis” (a condition in which your optical nerve gets tangled with your rectum, giving you a shitty outlook) . When I felt as though the world was against me, he would always say, “Who loves you, Kricky? Your Daddy does.”
- Our trip to Maui was full of great memories and lots of laughter. He hadn’t been well and the quality time was good for both of us. I was so chuffed when one of the last times we spoke he talked of how great that trip was…
- The Treehouse Bistro, which was the 2 directors chairs at the corner window in his West End apartment, was the place we solved all the problems of the world on many a Friday night. Now I have the chairs, and every time I sit in one I think of our great ideas, and the spectacular meals we ate in them.
- “Where’s the other 2 percent ?” – the answer to my declaration that I got 98% on a test at school. Then it was frustrating to be teased, but it made me tough enough to take the blows the world dealt me, and it made me want to push myself and improve.
- “Drive till you get there”. Learning to drive, a standard no less, was stress at a new level with my dad, who was an RCMP officer for a time as a young man. Thanks for keeping me safe, Daddy.
- “If you got it, flaunt it”. This wasn’t meant to be trashy, but rather to encourage my self-confidence. My dad knew I was the not the kind of kid who fit in, and he more than anyone helped me learn to be myself, and be proud of that.
- “Take 10 pictures for every one you want. Film is cheap.” Nowadays it’s even cheaper with digital pics, and I’m thankful to have memories recorded. I wish I had copies of more of my childhood photos!
I could go on, but perhaps the most important thing I learned, ironically, came from the fact that he got sick. For many years the doctors predicted he didn’t have long to live, so my dad did not sit back to save for a rainy day. He lived the Carpe Diem philosophy to the fullest he could. It shaped my life, and has been my motivation to strive for that balance in life we all hope to have.
I so wish we’d had more time together. But I am so thankful for all that I got from my dad. I might be a Princess without a kingdom but I am still a Princess. I can still flaunt it, I can still battle the dragons, I can still reach for my happily ever after. I know somewhere there is a soul out there smiling proudly. Who loves you, Daddy? Your Kricky Princess, that’s who.
This time of year is when I really feel like I deserve a treat. With the cold wind blowing during my walks with Ella this week I must have burned extra calories.
Sweets offer us a boost in energy. Numerous ingredients gives a combination of flavours and benefits. A decadent dessert is comfort food on steroids. Therefore, making Millionaire Shortbread is completely justified. What is Millionaire Shortbread, you ask? Let me tell you…
Martin and I discovered this wonderful dessert in Scotland a few years back. We were there in March and it was bone-chilling damp cold (I don’t know how kilts can keep anyone warm in that kind of weather!)
We ducked into a cozy cafe in Edinburgh after having visited the Surgeon’s Hall Museums at the Royal College of Surgeons.
(It might sound creepy, but this place is well worth the visit if you are in Edinburgh, full of interesting exhibits and amazing facts. ) Amidst the aromas of black tea and coffee in the cafe we spied a row of squares among the usual pastries, layered and elegant. Once I saw the name I knew we had to sample one.
I can’t find any information on where the name Millionaire Shortbread comes from – it must be just because the layering of shortbread, caramel and chocolate all in one bite makes you feel like you’ve struck it rich.
I didn’t get the recipe from the cafe, and the ones I found needed tweaking so I added my own Scottish-Canadian twist. They aren’t hard to make, all they take is a bit of patience as the layers set. While you wait I recommend thinking of with whom you will share them, as they are addictive and one really is sufficient.
Once you have settled in with your hot beverage and squares of decadence, you might want to continue the Scottish theme. There are many topics of discussion – one of my favourites is the Outlander series of books, written by Diana Gabaldon – which have now also become a TV series. (If you’ve been in a hole and haven’t heard of Outlander, these stories tell the tale of the love between a post-war nurse and the Highlander she meets when she tumbles through time to the 18th century. Their love stands not only the test of time but also numerous historical events.) What better way to while away an afternoon with a friend than to muse on possible alternate lives and love that transcends all obstacles?
By now you are probably thinking I’ve gone overboard, but that’s because you haven’t tasted Millionaire Shortbread. Just go make some. Then you’ll know what I mean.
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…
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.