Summer Bucket List: Make a cookbook

It’s August. That sticky month where summer exhales in a warm breath on your neck, smelling of freshly mowed grass and rich dark compost.

Normally I’d be writing about the latest backyard barbecue or late night canning session, but this summer is scripted completely differently than the last, oh, thirty-four or so. Social events, garden work and home preserving have taken a backseat to my latest occupation: book writing.

I’ve been so busy and completely immersed in this project, that I’ve neglected to share with you just exactly what ate up part of June and most of July.

It’s called Brown Eggs and Jam Jars and is slated for release in Spring of 2015 by Penguin Random House. You can read more about the cookbook on Simple Bites – and even sign up for a nifty newsletter of sorts.

 Image by Tim Chin

While book-writing sounds like I am ensconced all day at a private (and tidy) desk in my sunny loft, dreamily tapping out my food memoirs, what actually is happening is much more frantic.

Any given week could involve pages and pages of list-making-recipe-scribbling-ingredient-brainstorming-headnote-musing, dashing all over the city sourcing ingredients, recipe testing with three kids around and underfoot, eating and testing again, dishesdishesdishes, hurried antique prop shopping with very unhurried shop owners, more dishes, more eating, and then writing, some, but never enough.

Then there are the weekends of the photo shoots, which we are doing one chapter at a time, to capture our family food life directly amid the seasons of this produce-driven cookbook. Again, lists and more lists. Staying up late to iron the linens, buff the props, and clean up my gardening nails – if I’m lucky.

The morning of the shoot comes quickly and I am in the kitchen preparing each dish for its turn in the spotlight, looking for the heroes among the ingredients – that ruby red tomato, a perfect cluster of radishes, the evenly browned bun, and the diamond-shaped grill marks on the featured protein.



Image by Tim Chin

At some point in the day, I’ll rush out of the kitchen, round up my kids, dig feverishly through their drawers for something- anything– that doesn’t clash terribly or have Ninjago on the front (pre-laid out outfits for the whole family? Haha, I wish), scrub their faces, and march them outside to the garden, or wherever we are shooting that day.

I’ll draw a curtain at what happens after that, but lets be honest and admit that a small amount of bribery is offered and a good number of stern words are emitted before the shoot is half over. They’ll thank me later.

I had big plans to hire a virtual assistant, send my kids to day-camps and recruit guest bloggers for Simple Bites, but of course none of that happened. Instead I am fitting this new project into our life, weaving it into the day to day, and giving up other time consuming things.

I’ve relinquished my garden to nature (not entirely by choice, though that is another story completely), I won’t watch another minute of TV until Downton Abbey returns, and I have a tidy set of auto responses written to ship out to inquiries, invitations and opportunities that come into my inbox.

No more. Not now. This is my season to put my head down and write this book. 

It could very well be Christmas before I post here again. It is yet another area where I am giving myself grace to lay aside until time permits. You know where to find me in the meantime.

Mother’s Day in four (food) photos

Last Sunday was a good day for eating and of course I had my iPhone handy for capturing the plates and tablescapes. They were too pretty not to share here.

Now why can’t every day include breakfast in bed, seared scallops and macarons?

First up: a simply beautiful breakfast tray prepared by Danny and the boys, and delivered to my sunny bedroom on  Mother’s Day morning. Noah had whipped the cream by hand (he’s a pro) and made the crepe flower. Mateo arranged raspberries and a chocolatine (warmed) on a plate, while Danny prepared the all-important cafe latte.

Can you tell this was a brunch prepared by five brothers? We connected with Danny’s family later in the morning for an epic spread. There was a healthy component – a full on juice and smoothie bar – it’s just not pictured. Kudos, guys.

 
Dinner, chez moi, in honour of my (other) mother-in-law, and a delightful excuse to set a spring tablescape. Seared scallops with an orange-carrot puree. Asparagus with a warm raspberry vinaigrette. Buttermilk potatoes with ramps. Wild cherry blossoms for a simple , seasonal centerpiece.

Ending dinner on a sweet note with strawberry frozen yogurt, fruit, and macarons contributed by our guests. And French press coffee, dark and full-bodied.

Not Pictured: fierce hugs from wiry little boy arms. the lightest of kisses from a baby girl. handmade cards with notes in French. a clean kitchen.

A Mother’s Day for the books.

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2012 > 2013

Most memories start as a impersonal note on the calendar: Baby Due Date. Easter. 10th Anniversary. Photography Workshop. School Out. Blogging Conference. Birthday Dinner. Thanksgiving. Cookie Swap. Christmas…

Before you know it, you’ve swept through all the dates, snapped the photos, kept the mementos, and these moments are threaded together to make a full year of memories.

The uncomfortable bits – like labor, humidity, and waiting in line – tend to fade away, and the really important parts, such as holding one’s teeny newborn girl, are recalled as clearly as the day they took place.

At the start of a new year, it is as important to look at where we’ve come from, as it is to project where we’d like to go. I’ve been doing plenty of both this week, as we step out of holiday mode, and back into routine.

Here’s a short look back on some of my favorite holiday moments (all iPhone images). This year seemed extra special for some reason. Maybe it was the drifts of powder (I adore a white Christmas), or maybe because it was Clara’s first Christmas and that is just magical.

The wrapping is always far more interesting than the actual gifts when you are 9 months old.

You go ahead and slurp oysters, I’m just fine over herewith my felt food and Trumpette Mary Janes socks.

Mmm. Oysters.

A new generation of snow bunnies, sporting hand knit woollies from the Wimbush aunties and Nana.

Christmas Day, 2012. I love them so much.

Oh and ties from The Pleated Poppy? Adore.

An outing to the Nutcracker ballet with Noah.  He later described the ballerinas as ‘scrumptious’. Heaven help us in ten years.

What else to do when you are snowed in? With homemade gingerbread, this template, and help together with homemade marshmallow fluff.

Christmas morning. Overnight cinnamon rolls, peach preserves, fruit, and Prosecco. (Should I post this cinnamon roll recipe? It’s amazing.)

The cookies were beautiful this year. Not too rich or gooey. Perfect with tea.

The canine cousins came for a stay and whipped the boys through the snow on a sled. Talk about a thrill.

Here’s wishing you all a Happy New Year and the very best for 2013.

December Days

Not everyone understood my last rant post. My own mum gave me flack about it, “I thought Under the High Chair was a food blog” she said. It was, I defended, and gave the short version of how it has morphed into my personal blog. (Clearly Simple Bites is the ‘all food, all the time’ blog of the two.) “Well your aunt thinks you’re pregnant,” she sniffed.

However, unfounded baby rumors aside, a lot of people related to my sound off. A lot. Even one guy is sick and tired of being asked when he’s going to start having kids. And he’s a guy.

It’s all very interesting. In a nutshell, we’d all wish people would
stop asking us about how we are (or are not) building our families.

Now it isn’t my intention for a second post to be about pregnancy, but I did want to mention that I received a lot of comments, emails and remarks in response to the post, before we move onto something a tad less serious.

Like cookies.

Here we are, two weeks away from Christmas, and this little family is deep into holiday prep. Before I sat down to write this post, I piled a plate high with cookies for Danny as a bribe to address our Christmas cards. It’s a task I loathe; I hope my bribe works.

Stockings have been hung, a twig tree decorated, and the last few gifts stashed in the top of the closet. If only we had snow, I might really believe that the season of good tidings was upon us, but it is elusive this year save for a thin blanket of ice.

While we wait for the late-coming white drifts, the last days of the school year are getting crossed off the calendar, one-by-one, and we keep a growing list of activities we want to visit over the holidays.

My annual cookie swap has come and gone, and my freezer is lined with long plastic containers of fresh baked goodies. I organize them by similar flavors, so they maintain their cookie integrity. Everything chocolate in one flat, shortbread and vanilla cookies in another, and all gingerbread and spiced goodies are grouped together. It’s a good system.

My girls baked some beautiful cookies, fudge and chocolate-dipped caramels.

We barely fit everything on the table – over 1000 cookies -and my simple, festive centerpiece of tea lights in jam jars bathed the heaping plates in a warm glow. It’s a little bit like a beautiful dream, wouldn’t you agree?

I captured a few moments via Instagram just to prove it wasn’t all a dream.

This also could have been a scene from a reverie: a break from work and the kids to have an uninterrupted dinner with friends? Yes, please.

Let the holidays come. We’re ready for them and we fully intend to take the hustle and bustle at our own pace. After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays wherever you may find yourself this December.