31 August 2012

California Sunset

Los Angeles, California

Spending many hours of driving on the intricate web of highways around Los Angeles, gave me copious amounts of time to observe the sky.  One night on a long drive across the sun baked land, the sky filled with an ethereal pink haze as a blazing coral sun disc sunk closer and closer to the black horizon.  It was a moment of calm from the heat of the day and a time to reflect.  As a kid, I had a certain view of California.  A view that could only be imagined growing up on the Canadian prairies.  The classic cliché of palm tree sunsets was an image taken for granted.  But after spending hours with the sky, I can appreciate how beautiful the sunsets really are in California.  The sky, in its surreal glory, tumultuously roared with colour and volume in angelic silence as we passed underneath in quiet awe. 

30 August 2012

Claremont Cuties

Claremont, California

The weather was uncomfortably hot while we were in California and the day we decided to check out Claremont was no different.  Georgia practically melted to her car seat and was covered in sweat before we could close the car door.  McKay's cheeses didn't stand a chance in the inferno.  It was so hot that we went from air conditioner to air conditioner most of our trip.  After being reclusive, we decided to risk it all and brave the heat to enjoy a leisurely stroll on a lazy afternoon.  Banyan took a rest to rehydrate while Georgia ran down the street.  McKay disappeared into the local record shop and I stood there soaking up the dry heat.  

29 August 2012

Cheese Cave

Claremont, California

The Cheese Cave is a beautifully curated shop located in Claremont, California with a unique selection of artisanal cheeses and everything you could possibly want for a rustic cheese party.  We paid them a visit on our last day in the area and McKay couldn't help himself but sample their wares.  While he was busy shmoozing with the cheesemongers, I had my hands full, literally, with a camera, diaper bag, and one year old.  This shop had all kinds of breakable glass objects at Georgia's level which became a high stress situation when ever I put her down for a second to snap some photos.  To add more pressure, Banyan kept nagging me to buy him San pellegrino, candied almonds, and a sandwich.  McKay, completely oblivious to my struggles, blissfully savoured a symphony of cheeses.  

The crew working there were incredibly knowledgeable and down to earth and made us feel most welcome despite the circus act going on around me.  They had really good olive oils and Balsamic vinegar on tap and had a system where you could bring back your empty bottle of oil or vinegar to refill it.  Banyan (like his father) couldn't help himself and had no problem dipping into the samples more than once.  For those who know me, those two items are my most favourite things to use on a daily basis.  A good quality bottle of oil and vinegar can make the humblest salad seem sublime.  We also discovered the Cheese Cave carries Bundaberg ginger beer, the best ginger beer ever made and is extremely difficult to find outside of Australia.  This was my all time favourite drink and I haven't seen one since we left Brisbane eight years ago.  I love this shop and it doesn't even matter that I can't eat cheese. 

28 August 2012

The Generous Heart of a Little Boy

Banyan is an incredibly thoughtful boy.  He has a passion for serving people and making sure they are comfortable.  If you have ever been a guest in our house, I'm sure you have experienced Banyan's hospitality.  First he will bring out his multi-coloured ikea plastic cups and pass them around, then he brings out his Papa's special juice and pours a glass for every one.  Next, it's time to divvy up his stash of granola bars, apple sauces, throat lozenges, pickles, olives or what ever happens to be with in his reach.  Feeling cold?  No problem, Banyan will bring you a pile of blankets then jump all over you until you can't take it any more.  He will even set up the sofa bed incase your tired.  He also knows it's nice to give flowers to people.  It took a whole summer of training him not to pick every flower in sight but the flowers were very pretty and it allowed me to use every single vase in the house.  Lately, Banyan has been leaving little gifts and handing out treats to our neighbours.  This morning he got dressed, ate some banana bread and said, "see you later".  I inquired where he was going and he said he had to make a delivery of figs to the neighbours.  "Oh".  Of course he had picked the hardest, most unedible ones, so I helped him out a little.  He took the dish of freshly picked figs and banged on the neighbours' doors at 8:20am. When Banyan gets an idea, we just go with it.  If he's determined to do something with or with our our help, might as well help him do it right.  

22 August 2012

Old Fashioned Raspberry Jam

August has been a very busy month for us with camping, weddings, traveling and more camping.  It never seems to end.  I resigned to myself that I just wasn't going to do any canning this year.  There just didn't seem to be any time to drive out to the berry farms and go picking.  But Two days before we were about to leave for Los Angeles, McKay decided we were going berry picking as a family.  I didn't argue and thought, well we could eat most of the berries and freeze the rest.  The berries were too delicious not to preserve so after spending half the day at the berry farm, I spent the other half making jam.  The raspberries were particularly and incredibly delectable.  

I've spend a few years making jam now and I have experimented widely with all kinds of sweeteners, no sweeteners, and all types of pectin.  It wasn't until I spent two weeks in France and ate breakfast like the French that my mind was opened to a whole other possibility.  NO PECTIN.  Wow.  Amazing.  Of course I inquired about Lilly's jam as we ate it every morning on a fresh crusty baguette (gluten free bread for me).  I've never had such good jam, what was her secret?  Just fruit and sugar.  The part that really blew me away was the fact that after opening a sealed jar, it went right back in the cupboard, no refrigeration necessary.  As soon as I returned to Vancouver, I checked out an old fashioned preserves book and found a plethora of jam recipes containing only fruit and sugar.  

I realized, perhaps, it wasn't the sugar I didn't like in jam, it was the pectin.  Long story short, this jam is the best I have made to date and I am a believer.  The key is to put enough sugar in (which isn't as much as you would think) to preserve it  and ward off any mold and secondly, keep it at a rapid boil until it sets.  Beautifully sublime. 

About the sugar, I'm not a sugar hound and like things unsweetened but when it comes to jam, I am perfectly okay with it.  I used natural cane sugar that hasn't been chemically processed.  To me, that makes it more okay, don't you think?  

21 August 2012

Ryue Nishizawa: Teshima Art Museum, Japan

I discovered the Teshima Art Museum not while I was in Japan but this morning @molostudio and I was completely blown away by it's ethereal poetry.  The Architect, Ryue Nishizawa, conveys a space that flows seamlessly with it's surrounding natural environment like a "droplet of water gliding across the land".  Through the oval openings, the elements are allowed to interact with the structure creating a tangible, audible experience that continually changes.  You can read more about it at designboom.  This is number one on my list when I return to Japan.  

20 August 2012

Strasbourg Blues

I just want to say, the French have the most sublime hues of blue.  And who wouldn't want heart shaped cut outs in their shutters?  That is something you just don't see in Vancouver.  Shutters themselves are a novelty but I loved the elementary shapes cut into them.  I'm surprised I didn't see any star shapes but I was amused to see a few clover shaped cut outs.  Thanks to Banyan, who was a good sport jumping in front of doors to get his photo taken.  I never know what kind of pose I will get from him but thankfully he stayed conservative with arms glued to the side of his body.