favourites of the moment

Somehow January turned into a whirlwind, with visitors and chaos and hunting and good news and sick cats and dinner parties and all my well-intentioned post ideas got put on the back burner. But while it's been insane, I've been stocking up, paring down, and getting organized for some upcoming projects. These are the things that are keeping me sane / making me crazy at the moment.

the new year and the year that was

Happy New Year! Resolutions have always eluded me - why resolve when you can just DO? I ask myself this question often, mostly because I come from a family of doers. We're not dreamers. We just make lists, and jump right in, and try things.

I used to be unsure of how to make myself "happy", which seemed, somehow, to be the goal of all those resolutions. There was no way to PLAN for that or to just DO, like it was a box on a checklist - it just seemed like it was a magical equation that I'd seen other people have success with, but the equation was a nonsensical formula of hoops to jump through that had no labels, no timing, no structure.

And then I realized that the secret to being happy was saying yes. Was saying "Yes, I'll do that,"  "Yes, I will go on this adventure," and "Yes, I have no idea what I'm doing. And I don't care." In the end, it's always ok, even if ok means failing spectacularly. Failing makes for great stories.

The last few years of my life have been an exercise in saying yes. To Montreal. To a new life. To making friends and leaving behind the old ones, and building something where there was nothing before. To adventure and uncertainty. It's all been a bit like jumping out of a plane with no parachute, hoping for a soft landing.

And in 2012 it's only going to get better.

This year I learned to surf. I started to REALLY SERIOUSLY learn french (and use it to do more than buy groceries). I started teaching classes where sometimes, the students were really teaching me. I went to SXSW, which had been a long time coming, and didn't stop loving it even after 100 bands and a diet of scotch and tacos for thirteen days straight. I learned to love swimming again. I re-learned how to say no (which is like saying yes to more important things), how to tell a great story, and made plans to get what I want out of my work. I said yes to some fantastic opportunities and then no, when it wasn't really right (even though I really wanted it to be). I learned how to live with regret and that it was ok to be scared and vulnerable sometimes.

I celebrated my grandparent's 60th wedding anniversary, my father's 60th birthday (he will one day get revenge for all those flamingos), had great visits with family and friends in all sorts of cities, went to New York, Austin, Toronto, Halifax and Ottawa, ate at the CIA, ate tripe (and chicken hearts and beef tongue and duck gizzards, and boudin!), learned more about the inner workings of Facebook than I care to admit, daydreamed about a new life on the west coast, in Toronto and even contemplated a return to Ottawa for good measure. I made good friends, family, and myself a priority.

And then, as the year wound down, I made another list. And based on that list alone I can tell you that 2012 is going to be amazing.

Happy new year, friends. Go do big, amazing, unexpected, adventurous things and share them with the world.

New York Detour: The CIA

When we first contemplated New York (the reason we went is in the next post, I promise!) we thought about flying. Then we thought about what a pain flying is. And then we thought about taking the train (awesome! we love trains!) until we realized it turned a 6.5 hour trip into a 14 hour one. So we took the obvious and fun choice - a road trip! In november, when the leaves are still golden and the sun is still shining until *ahem* 5:30 (we smartly escaped before the time change, but returned in the dark). Since we were going to drive, and since all I did all summer was read through my virtual ipad-high stack of culinary biographies and other funny food stories, the first thing that came to mind was not 'ooh...Holland Tunnel!' or 'fall leaves. pretty!', it was more like "We MUST. GO. TO. THE. CIA."

And so we did.

For those who don't read stacks of food books, the CIA is not, in fact, the american intelligence agency. It's better!

It's the Culinary Institute of America! And it's also my new favourite place.

We decided to fit it in our return trip home so that we could (A) avoid disgusting highway food and (B) take our time and not worry about how late we were getting to New York. And it was a perfect plan.

On Monday morning, we woke up in our Park Avenue hotel, grabbed a coffee, spent some time at Kinokuniya perusing japanese craft books and hit the road. Two and a half hours (and some ridiculous Monday morning New Jersey turnpike traffic) later, we took a quick left off the highway onto Chive Street (we also exited on Parsley Lane, cue foodie eyeroll here).

First impressions are everything, and this one definitely left me wanting more time (and $160,000 for tuition for their 8-semester degree program). Breathtaking views of the Hudson, spotless gleaming hallways in gorgeous buildings, chef's jackets everywhere, and even the café looked out over an adorable little courtyard complete with a working fountain.

The campus is really lovely, but that's actually not why we detoured here. It was (no shocker) the food that was our real motivation. I had heard great things about the Apple Pie Bakery Café, the one spot on campus that's nearly always open and doesn't require a reservation. It's also more casual fare, and perfect fuel for the remaining 5 hours of our drive back to Montreal.

We perused the menu and ordered a few small plates so we could get maximum tasting opportunities. First up? Truffled grilled cheese, served with freshly made kale chips and a truffle aioli. It put every grilled cheese I've ever made to shame. Deep, deep shame. And those Kale chips? If we hadn't ordered this, I would have paid any sum of money to take a bag on the road with us (and I'd like some right now, too).

Since we were very hungry when we ordered we paired this dish with a bulghur salad (sorry! so good I forgot the photo!) and a truffled pint of freshly cut fries, sprinkled with parmesan and sea salt. I should state for the record that we couldn't finish ANY of these orders (but almost!), and I refused to leave a single kale chip behind.

We followed our moderately gluttonous meal with the quick purchase of some macarons and other treats for later, and some desperate wishes for a carb-induced nap. After a quick wander around campus and a stop into the campus bookstore, we had to hit the road. I had a hard time leaving and I'm already plotting my way back. Who's up for a 5-day pastry bootcamp?

a weekend in lodi

lodi, for those of you who have never heard of it before, is a magical little town in the finger lakes region of New York State. It's also the unofficial official summer home of my friend Jennifer and her family, so opportunities to visit and get out of the hustle bustle of the city abound! the field at "covert estates"

I visited Lodi a few weekends ago for a much needed summer break - a two day holiday away from the chaos that had become my june / july life (that's a series of stories for another time).

Living in Montreal you get used to the noises of the city, but in Lodi, once the sun goes down, there are only fireflies, the birds, and amish horse and buggy carts going by, with their resonant clomp-clomps of horse hooves and the rumble of handmade buggy wheels on the gravel shoulder of the road.

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We had dinner on the lawn (and it was delicious!).

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Ice cream to follow a trip to the ithaca farmer's market (and a trip to Target!).

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Fancy G&Ts.

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The barn at the lodi house. I'm addicted to barn stars.

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We picked mulberries from the tree in the driveway. YUM.

I'm already looking forward to going back again next month. Yay for road trips!

summer living

we've finally moved, and while I haven't found much time to take photos of anything, I have found a little time to sit on the porch and enjoy our ramshackle garden for a few minutes here and there. (like for breakfast, after a delightfully fun saturday full of old Ottawa friends and new Montreal ones) breakfast of champions

Since it started so late, I don't expect it will amount to much of anything this summer - but not for lack of trying. The real culprit of the garden's lack of success will probably be Angus, who chomps on it any chance he gets.

more porch flowers

cat grass for angus

started a bit late