Merry Christmas

Wishing you a joyful holiday season, even if things are quieter than you’d like and different than you’d hoped for. It’s a good time to celebrate those simple but incredibly important things: health, peace, and the family and friends who make our lives worth living. They may not be able to join us at the table this year, but they can be with us in spirit or perhaps virtually. It’s also a good time to indulge just a little. For those whose indulgence is chocolate, here’s my easy and go-to recipe for chocolate truffles. See you in January!

Chocolate Truffles

8 ounces/227 grams bittersweet chocolate (Bakers or a high quality bar)

3/4 cup/180 mL whipping cream

2 tablespoons/30 mL butter

2 – 3 tablespoons/30 – 45 mL orange or almond liqueur (or substitute your favorite)

Combine cream and butter, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat; add liqueur and chocolate. Stir until chocolate is entirely melted. Chill the mixture until it’s firm enough to handle, but not rock-solid, about 3 hours. Using a teaspoon, form and roll mixture into small balls. Roll each truffle in cocoa powder or ground nuts. Store in the fridge for several weeks or freeze for up to three months.

Summer Immersion

I hope you’re enjoying the summer. We took a quick trip across the water to Vancouver recently.  We saw family, ate at a few great restaurants (Ten Ten Tapas and Espana – both highly recommended) and we rode our bikes all the way around Stanley Park. The weather cooperated and we had a fabulous time. I took no pictures while we were cycling but I remembered to pull out the cell phone during a trip to Granville Island.

From the aquabus on the way there:

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Checking out the bakery. Can’t decide on a flavor?



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Towering cherry trees.





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The only way to eat chocolate. With lavender.





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Don’t hate on the geese. They’re parents too.





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Making concrete look pretty.



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Peony love.







And so to bed.june 2015 140


Imagination: Blessing or Curse?

mental-workspace-in-human-brainOne great thing about being a writer is my imagination is always on steroids.

One lousy thing about being a writer is my imagination is always on steroids.

Plus when you’re a writer and a mother, there is guilt. I’m not talking about the guilt of deadlines, or traveling when there’s an event at home, or being preoccupied with the book a little too much.

No, I’m talking about the guilt of having an imagination that’s always on steroids. Because if you have more than one child, chances are high you’ll pass that particular blessing on to at least one of them.  If so, my condolences. And a suggestion: get out the Tylenol. You will need it.

Case in point (actually two cases).  Case one: Several weeks ago, a friend left six chocolate covered strawberries on my doorstep. Delighted, I brought them inside, ate one, and put the rest on a high table for later.  When my back was turned, Luna, my Sheltie, jumped up, grabbed three and gobbled them down before I could pry her mouth apart (first time she has ever grabbed food from the table).   I spent the next twenty-four hours in one of three states: on my laptop trying to assess how much chocolate it takes to cover three strawberries and how toxic that would be to a 20 pound Sheltie; staring at her while I waited for the convulsions to start; and obsessing about how we would break the news to Teen Freud that one of the dogs died while he was in Morocco.

Case two: in Morocco, Teen Freud was having adventures of his own, including, but not limited to, getting a bad concussion after hitting his head so hard on a bathroom sink that part of it broke off.  Determined to avoid Moroccan hospitals (he was traveling with an Australian medical doctor who came equipped with her own IVs and syringes, among other things) he opted to wait until he got to the London leg of his trip before seeking medical attention. Unfortunately before he could do that, he bumped his head a second time which led him to immediately google second impact syndrome. He spent the next several days convinced he had it, waiting for the convulsions to start, and obsessing about dying so far away from home.

By the time we got wind of all this, Luna had recovered completely but Teen Freud was certain he was poised to die from a brain bleed.  I’m not minimizing brain bleeds. They’re serious, we all know that, and there’s no question Teen Freud had a bad concussion, which is nothing to mess with either.Two doctors told him so (one was, in Teen Freud’s words, ‘barely out of diapers’ and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard your baby child describe someone else as young enough to be in diapers).

You also haven’t lived until the offspring with the imagination on steroids sustains a (potentially serious) injury 7500 kilometres away from home and you are forced to read between the lines. To separate the rhetoric from the meaningful. The facts from the paranoia.  Until you are forced to remind yourself that he carries your genes, your imagination, and your touch for drama along with a dose of hypochondria that clearly came from the other side of the family.

One great thing about children who travel is they always come home. And there’s nothing lousy about that.  However, Teen Freud is now convinced he has post-concussion syndrome.

We’re beating back our collective imaginations and monitoring the situation. Stay tuned.

Chocolate School Ruined Me . . .

BeansNibsandChocolate3Well, almost. It turned me into a chocolate snob, plus I’ll never look at those heart-shaped chocolate boxes the same way again.

I spent eight hours in chocolate school last month. Chocolate isn’t a huge passion of mine, though I love a good, dark bar (and I can make one last a week if I hide it from Teen Freud and Mr. Petrol Head).

I went for story research. And also because the instructor promised to spill secrets about the industry, turn my understanding of chocolate on its ear and give us samples of fancy imported chocolate that you can’t find outside of Europe. Besides Mr. P went too and we had dinner first. So it was kind of like a date night with benefits. Research benefits.

I knew I was in trouble when the instructor started talking about his own personal chocolate cellar. Yes, he has one; he keeps his special chocolate there. While it ages. For years. (I have no patience for that. My aging limit is three months – plenty of time to let a manuscript rest between revisions or grow a decent tomato).

Things got worse when we were told we were eating chocolate wrong. Apparently you’re not supposed to stuff it in your mouth before your Sheltie grabs it from your hand. You’re supposed to break it off, piece by small piece, letting it gently dissolve between your tongue and front teeth. This should take at least five minutes. Only then can you appreciate the nuances of flavor.

And there are flavors. Plain chocolate can be flowery, fruity, spicy, nutty or a pile of other things. It can also have nuances of leather, hay, coffee, toast or wood. Mushrooms even. Who knew?

I knew about the problem of child and slave labor within much of the cacao industry, and that was troubling to hear again, but I didn’t know how hard it is to grow cacao trees or the intricacies of chocolate production. Nor had I heard the story behind those pretty, heart-shaped Valentine boxes. They were scandalous when Richard Cadbury introduced them back in 1869. The shape mimicked a plant known for birth control properties and the drawing was used as a signal from a man to a woman: get some; you’ll need it.

I learned plenty in chocolate school. I learned how the phrase ‘money grows on trees’ was inspired by chocolate. I learned that cacao is the second largest world cash crop after wheat. I learned that chocolate still tastes good when you eat it fast. That mushrooms work better in sauce than as chocolate nuance. That I’ll never have a chocolate cellar.

Mostly I learned that when Mr. P. buys me a sweet red heart-shaped box of Valentine’s chocolates I should smile and not let the kids know what it really means. But I doubt that’ll be a problem. Since the class, I’ve developed a Amedei-porcelana-50grtaste for Amedei Porcelana, a delicious Italian chocolate that retails for about $100 a pound.

It looks like it’ll be an expensive Valentine’s Day at our house.