good reads | 07

le-petit-princeI love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

Beyoncé and Kate Middleton are not fashion icons, and that’s okay.

A foodie’s lament. (Aside: can we stop using the word foodie? As someone who deeply loves to eat well and explore cuisine, I’ve always begrudged the label. What an awful word.)

This Detroit burger joint pays its staff $15 per hour and runs a profit. 

The divorce surge is over, but the myth lives on.

Potentially-valid criticisms levelled at this first look aside, I’m excited to see how Pixar adapts my very favourite children’s story for the big screen.

Product of Mexico, part one. 

Other Roundups to Love

Molly Yeh’s Friday Links (updated Fridays)

A Practical Wedding’s Happy Hour (updated Fridays)

Elise Blaha Cripe’s Weekend Links (updated Saturdays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (updated infrequently, but excellent)

[lead image: drawing from Le Petit Prince]

good reads | 06

marsala_pantone_2015

I love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

Fast fashion is dramatically changing the nature of thrift stores. 

The food is amazing but please don’t eat here. 

“Greek life” was banned on the Queen’s campus, so until I left college, I thought fraternities and sororities were just a feature of bad teen movies. Frank Bruni argues it was to my benefit. 

Speaking of my alma mater: we are the Gaels. Cha gheill!

Writers pick their best books of 2014. 

Given my propensity to make puns, China wouldn’t want me.

Love Pantone’s choice of marsala as Color of the Year 2015.

A new study suggests that the ability of HIV to cause AIDS is slowing. 

Other Roundups to Love

Molly Yeh’s Friday Links (updated Fridays)

A Practical Wedding’s Happy Hour (updated Fridays)

Elise Blaha Cripe’s Weekend Links (updated Saturdays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (updated infrequently, but excellent)

[lead image: Lani Elias Fine Art Photography]

retrospective | november

Because I enjoy a good retrospective — a look-back at the cooking, writing, events, dining, people and travel that comprised the month that was. Here’s the November 2014 edition.

15767241622_df2f3800e4_k

Cooking

My husband is officially this winter’s King of Soup. Austin spent November cranking out delicious options to fill our freezer for lunches: cream of kale and potato, Thai curried sweet potato and carrot, Adobo chili, curried lentil-cabbage stew, harissa-carrot veloute and cream of celeriac with thyme. Yes, that’s six varieties of homemade soup stacked neatly in our freezer. No complaints here!

With the cold weather, I’ve been experimenting with warm salads, based on the formula I shared earlier in November. I also perfected an old favourite — roasted chickpea and carrot salad with harissa-lime dressing, topped with feta.

We’ve been braising everything of late — it’s one of our most turned to winter cooking methods: farmer’s sausages with cabbage and fennel, pork tenderloin in apples and onions, short ribs in Cabernet Sauvignon. And while not a braise, seared pork chops with a cherry-shallot-balsamic glaze were one of my favourite things from our kitchen so far this winter.

I’ve said it a thousand times, but it stands repeating: my favourite wedding gift is our Le Creuset 5-Quart Braiser from the Beck-Rubins. We use that thing at least three times a week!

15870619611_f2c7425a73_k

Writing

In November 2014, I wrote two posts: one celebrating winter’s bounty by devouring warm salads to combat the cold; another examining Thanksgiving through the kindness of others in difficult times.

A formula for warm fall salads

We love fall salads in our house. Salads are often considered a decidedly summer meal — crunchy, cold and refreshing. But it’s into the fall and winter months that I turn to salads as something plant-based and fortifying to fuel me through the cold and sunless days. The fall brings a time to play with colour, texture and the variety of hearty vegetables that become available with the cold-weather crops.

Thanksgiving, unexpectedly

Having a sick parent is the worst thing. As much as you grow through difficult times, and oh, how you grow — patience grows, love grows, humility grows — certainly, we become better — it does not make this all easier. It is never easier. Still I try to find that silver lining, to wrap myself within, to keep keeping on.

Leslieville Cheese Co.

Events & Dining

Early in the month, we headed west to Enoteca Sociale for their famous winter truffle menu — only to be thwarted when the supplier fell through with that night’s delivery. No worry, the Enoteca’s tiny, focused menu is always spot on.

While in Niagara-on-the-Lake, we returned to Treadwell for a feast. We last ate at Treadwell about a year ago during our mini-moon and the cooking and service were just as good as we remembered!

Mid-month, we took an introductory cheese-making course with local chef Laura Buckley and I was thrilled to learn how simple it is to make fresh cheeses in our kitchen. We’re planning a spread of homemade cheeses and breads to serve with our upcoming (belated) annual American Thanksgiving dinner.

On the topic of cheese, we closed the month by returning to our old ‘hood for the Canadian Artisan Tasting Fair — with more varieties of artisan cheese, charcuterie, preserves, bread and craft brews than I could manage to fit in my belly. We picked up some especially stellar Cape Vessey (a washed-rind goat) from one of my favourite Ontario cheese producers, Fifth Town.

15685264970_119702e590_h

People

The start of holiday season always seems to bring with it reunions, and we were happy to catch up with Andrew in town from Kingston, enjoy lunch with an old colleague and friend Larry, and share an unexpected dinner with my decades-old friend Molly, who was passing through from Munich where she’s finishing her PhD.

We made the trek to Pickering (“the furthest east I’ve been in Canada,” Austin jokes…) for dinner with one of Austin’s PhD supervisors and his family. I always love a peek into other families’ rituals and this was no exception, sharing a table with a man who clearly adores Austin.

Heather’s husband, Matt, arranged a wonderful surprise evening to celebrate her 30th birthday, gathering six of her closest girlfriends for a cooking class inspired by the South of France (where Heather lived for a summer during teacher’s college), led by local chef Mardi Michaels. We split into groups to prepare a summery spread of gazpacho, ratatouille tian, pissaladière, légumes farcis and mendiants. It’s hard to believe that Heather and I have been friends for nearly a decade!

On Thanksgiving, my mom landed unexpectedly in the hospital in Toronto. It’s been many years since I walked the halls of 5A with her, but to find silver lining in a horrible situation, it’s felt good to spend so much time together — chatting for hours, going on drug store candy sprees and convincing her that she really doesn’t have to eat hospital food with four kids in town who are solid cooks. Austin commented that it’s the most we’ve been able to visit with mom in a long time. So we’re, strangely, grateful.

maria

Travel

Earlier this fall, we booked a mid-November getaway to Niagara-on-the-Lake, knowing full well we’d be sick of the dreary Toronto winter (already). We spent a blissful two days exploring some new-to-us wineries — Konzelmann, Pallatine Hills, Small Talk and Southbrook.

Konzelmann was the standout for its incredible tasting provided by wine consultant, Gus. He spent over an hour with Austin and me in a packed tasting room, taking us through vertical and comparative tastings, pouring “just one more!” wine for us to try, and generally being awesome as he shared his deep love for and knowledge of their wine. If you visit Konzelmann, ask for Gus and tell him we sent you.

On Sunday, we made our way Stateside to watch the Bills take on the Chiefs. Seeing my husband’s enthusiasm for live football brings me joy and I’m thankful for all those years I spent in preparation watching the Lions with my dad. Austin decided to sport his Tony Romo jersey for the occasion, somehow not anticipating the near constant catcalls we would receive from skeptical, horrified and amused Bills’ fans.

Mid-month, we traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan for Austin’s grandma’s memorial service. A recurring November theme: less-than-ideal circumstances offered something good — in this case, a weekend spent with my dear in-laws who are usually far away in Florida. We visited with family, ate and drank and enjoyed each-other in remembering.

It’s December, which means I have the Christmas carols blaring, egg nog chilling, advent calendar in reach and plans made to choose and decorate our tree later this week. How I love Christmas for its ritual and celebration and bringing together the people I hold dear.

Past Retrospectives

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

thanksgiving, unexpectedly

mom maria

Through marriage, I gained a second Thanksgiving. My favourite holiday. A day to quietly ponder my gratitude for this happy life I’ve co-created with so many people whom I love and who love me.

On Thanksgiving, my mom was admitted to the hospital in Toronto, for an indefinite time, for an indefinite prognosis. So many unknowns.

On Thanksgiving, my mom was admitted to the same hospital in Toronto where I spent so much of the first half of my senior year. Seven Thanksgivings ago. Afraid of what might be ahead and so grateful when she was okay.

As I sat in Austin’s arms on Thanksgiving morning, weeping into my breakfast eggs, I told him about seven years ago and the sadness and the difficultly that he’s never known. I’ve told Austin about seven years ago many, many times, as a hypothetical, as something he hasn’t lived through, but some day he likely would. Of my lovely mom who he’s only ever known sick, fully herself in spirit and mind in a body that isn’t quite her own.

When uncertainty hangs heavy, there’s a temptation to recede into sadness, to ask why my mom, the very best mom, of all moms, has been dealt this lot? Of course, I ask this question often, usually in my head, to the ceiling, before I sleep.

But thanksgiving in the best sense of the word offers an opportunity to reflect versus recede, to be hopeful instead of overcome. It is a day to give thanks for the kindness that comes even (especially) in difficult times.

I am thankful as I remember my university housemate, C. When she learned my mom was sick, she gave me the keys to her Toronto condo without hesitation. She offered me a place of rest after long days at the hospital and the solo subway commutes to Sheppard Station with Anna Nalick blaring in my ears on repeat (to this day, that song makes me reel). Those days would teach me to navigate an unknown city, Toronto, that I would one day call home. C should have been selfish in her own sadness — she lost her beautiful mom to cancer when we were in second year university. But she was only kind.

I am thankful for my dad, my impossible hero and 401 warrior, who drove between Windsor and Toronto (a 4-hour drive) multiple times a week to be with mom while running a business and caring for my little sisters. It takes a certain kind of man to treat an eight hour commute as norm, but such is his love for my mom. I was reminded again Thanksgiving eve, as dad raced mom to Toronto for her hospital admission, then turned back to Windsor to take care of life’s necessities. My dad has not known normal in a very long time, but he’s never wavered.

I am thankful for my Toronto blood: Austin, Niki and Myles. Thankful that mom has — for the first time — four kids in her adopted hospital city to keep her company and help one-another stumble through. Thankful for my selfless husband who spends his days off hanging out with mom, chatting for hours, bringing library books and tea, and making laps around floor 5 holding her hand.

I am thankful for my sweet colleague L, who closed the kitchen door and grabbed me at the water cooler on Thanksgiving morning and held me and just listened when I quietly broke down about all of this, when I couldn’t compartmentalize, when, for a moment, I lost my business face.

I am thankful for the kind people who ask over and again about mom’s health, and never tire when I offer an honest answer. When mom was first sick, I would do a good job pretending. I would give the expected response: “she’s okay.” But that answer is unhelpful to us all. So I tell the truth. Sometimes mom is more okay and sometimes she’s less okay and sometimes she’s not okay at all. I appreciate every person who asks and I appreciate their kindness (sometimes through discomfort) as they hear the truth.

Having a sick parent is the worst thing. As much as you grow through difficult times, and oh, how you grow — patience grows, love grows, humility grows — certainly, we become better — it does not make this all easier. It is never easier. Still I try to find that silver lining, to wrap myself within, to keep keeping on.

This Thanksgiving did not offer turkey or football or pumpkin pie or grand festivity. But it was still full of reasons to reflect, to be grateful, to surrender in thanks.

[photo credit: A. Eleni Pontikis]

good reads | 05

synesthesia-solids

I love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

So, you’ve finally started wearing the right bra size.

Nine GIFs that brilliantly explain responsive design.

The art of slowing down in a museum.

God, the ocean, sunsets… pinterest? What Americans are thankful for, by state. 

In short: stop eating supermarket chicken.

Austin and I are big proponents of living in a small, smart space — we make regular use of almost all of our living area. The data backs it up.

Is it possible to learn synaesthesia? 

The secret life of passwords.

Olive tree leprosy is as disastrous as it sounds.

Other Roundups to Love

Molly Yeh’s Friday Links (updated Fridays)

A Practical Wedding’s Happy Hour (updated Fridays)

Elise Blaha Cripe’s Weekend Links (updated Saturdays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (updated infrequently, but excellent)

[lead image: Synesthesia Solids by Lunchbreath on Flickr]

good reads | 04

asilah-morocco-corbis

I love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

Molly Yeh is the queen of delightful remakes of childhood classics (see: funfetti cake, pop-tarts, dunkaroos). Her most recent effort: the Italian rainbow cookie cake.

The socio-aesthetics of pink.

I love Gabrielle Hamilton’s East Village restaurant Prune. Her second book — a cookbook bearing its name — is going on our bookshelf. 

Paul Draper is fighting for disclosure of the many additives used in commercial wine-making.

And one man’s quest to sanitize your filthy coffee cup lid.

Our trip to Morocco is a few months away, but this photo essay has me pining for her colourful cities.

I’ve come over the years to appreciate Ivanka Trump’s no-mess feminism: it looks effortless because she works damn hard.

Oxford’s 2014 Word of the Year goes to… 

The onomatopoeia we apply to animal sounds varies widely across languages. Now I know why the dogs in Greece gav-gav and the roosters cry ki-ki-ri-ku!

Other Roundups to Love

Molly Yeh’s Friday Links (updated Fridays)

A Practical Wedding’s Happy Hour (updated Fridays)

Elise Blaha Cripe’s Weekend Links (updated Saturdays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (updated infrequently, but excellent)

[lead image: Floris Leeuwenberg/Corbis]

good reads | 03

Harpa Concert Hall Rekjavik

I love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

On Maryland’s burgeoning oyster industry.

Some solid wine tips from a great sommelier.

I’ve enjoyed learning more about Olafur Eliasson since visiting Reykjavik’s Harpa Concert Hall in October. This feature about the man and his work is totally fascinating.

Joseph Smith had 40 wives. Officially.

“Here’s how I approach this site, and have for a long time. I think of it as my practice.” Heidi Swanson reminds us why she’s our favourite food blogger.

The silence of Virginia Woolf.

Seeing Daniel Humm lecture to a room of 30 at George Brown College in 2010 remains one of the highlights of my food memory and what prompted my many travels to Eleven Madison Park. I would have loved to see him lecture at Harvard.

Other Roundups to Love

Molly Yeh’s Friday Links (updated Fridays)

A Practical Wedding’s Happy Hour (updated Fridays)

Elise Blaha Cripe’s Weekend Links (updated Saturdays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (updated infrequently, but excellent)

[lead image: Flight at Harpa Concert Hall, my own]