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Pickle Me This

June 26, 2016

Happy Days

Friday was also my 37th birthday, which kicked off with a visit to the bank. Okay, that’s not completely true—I woke up and as per family tradition, people and presents were piled on my bed and I got to open the latter, which included bath things, a new robe, a beautiful shirt, and the book Mad Men Carousel, which means I now get to read my favourite television show over and over again instead of only just watching it. It all was wonderful, but then we had to get going, get the kids to school, and there was that meeting at the bank which was just a quick one because I had some papers to sign. My favourite thing about my bank is free WiFi and so as I sat there in the nondescript office and waited for pages to print and details to be sorted, my phone kept buzzing, email, Twitter and Instagram, so many excellent people sending me wishes. My best friends, old friends, online friends, and more friends—it was overwhelming. I am so incredibly grateful for the people who make my world. One in particular…


Which would be the one who orchestrated the post-bank events. He was working from home so was there to answer the knock on our door just past 10am, when a taxi arrived delivering scones and jam from Baker and Scone, the scones still warm from the oven. Lavender scones, no less. And then another knock at the door, more friends, and there was champagne and orange juice, and a fruit tart, and so much goodness. It was amazing. What a way to spend a Friday morning—and then after I went to fetch Iris at noon, I spent the afternoon reading in my hammock. (It is also nice to be out and about with Iris, who insists on telling everybody that it’s my birthday, so that I get to be celebrated and still look cool.)



That night we went to Chadwicks for dinner, and had a delightful time on the patio. Reminiscing about all the good times we’ve had there over the years—like the night that Iris discovered she had feet. And then coming home to ice cream cake, my favourite (and even better: there’s still some in the freezer right now).


We spent Saturday morning in High Park with friends for a spectacularly catered sixth birthday party, and then drove out of the city after lunch for the final lag of my birthday celebrations. Driving to Uxbridge, ON to visit Blue Heron Books—remember my first visit there two years ago? Although we stropped for gelato first and then made our way to Blue Heron, which now has an adjoining teashop, which is only good news.


The door was open and the shop was beautiful. I loved their displays, personal recommendations, the chairs, and selection. I browsed and explored, picking up titles that caught my eye. I managed not to buy every single one, although I got a few of them. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. I only returned to the cash one more time after my initial purchases. And then we made our way to the park and hung out in the shade on the grass, before heading to Urban Pantry for a ridiculously delicious dinner (with cake pops, no less). The ride back home was peaceful and nobody cried, and there is this one spot on Bloomington Road where we could see the city, small but entire, faraway over the green fields, and all of us gasped in awe.



April 30, 2011

Project Tea Party

The best thing about being married to me is that you get to spend whole mornings up to your elbows in marzipan. Because I was determined that we would make a battenberg cake for our royal wedding tea party. And today we discovered that just how Queen Victoria got so fat– it’s because you have to trim top and sides off the cake before you ice it, and it takes inordinate willpower to not eat the scraps–they were delicious! The marzipan too, even though it was too sticky. I got Stuart to construct the cake once I’d baked it, because I’m terrible at things that require attention and patience. He did a bang-up job, and the cake was delicious (then devoured). We also served these strawberry jam tarts, which were incredible (and easy). And scones shaped like teapots, which is the best thing I have ever imagined. This photo was taken before we took the sausage rolls out of the oven, and they were delicious too, although store-bought. Tea was served in the big, beautiful teapot I received as a wedding gift and that spends most of its time getting dusty on the shelf because I fear breaking it. So it was nice to use it. I also liked an excuse to pull out my teapot table cloth from Honest Ed’s, and I think the Queen probably has one similar.

And then Nathalie Foy took the (battenberg) cake for hostess gifts, bringing me actual perfume scented like a Barbara Pym paperback: “sweet, and a bit musty, a lot like Pym’s world come to think of it.” I read in the papers that the Duchess of Cambridge was wearing an identical scent yesterday.

February 28, 2011

We love Ilkley. Thank you, Jackson Brodie.

Today Harriet stayed home with her grandparents, and Stuart and I drove to Ilkley in Yorkshire (which is very close to Burley Cross country). I wanted to go to a Bettys Tea Room after reading Starting Early Took My Dog (which should probably receive a commission for our visit). Jackson Brodie certainly did not mislead us: if the Bettys girls ran the government, indeed, there would not have been recent economic disasters, or disasters of any kind. Tea was completely delicious, definitely the best we’d had since Saturday, and I was particularly in love with the woman having her breakfast at the table across from ours’ (“Anything else for ye, Vera?” they asked as she was preparing to go, as she tied a kerchief around her hair).

We had fun exploring the town afterwards, visiting the best butcher in Britain, and the Grove Bookshop, a fabulous independent bookshop whose business was booming. We got a steak and kidney pie at the former, and at the bookshop, I got a Penguin 75 tote bag, and Old Filth by Jane Gardam (which I’ve had out of the library twice, but have always had to return before I’ve had a chance to read it).

September 17, 2010

See you at Eden Mills!

I will see you all at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival this weekend. Not quite sure when we’ll be arriving, as we’re still working out napping logistics, but I hope to catch Patricia Storms, Dionne Brand, Stephen Heighton, the Leon Rooke interview, Marthe Jocelyn and Karen Connelly. I also hope to buy a few books. I will be reading on the second Fringe Stage (3:30-4:30 at “Cottage”– I’m last up). Come say hi, please, and I will give you a pumpkin scone* from our picnic!

*While supplies last.

September 1, 2010

The world is a Pymian place

I discovered The Barbara Pym Society before I’d even discovered Barbara Pym, in 2007 when I read this wonderful article on the CBC Arts site. This article was mostly the reason I ended up reading my first Pym book last fall, which was Excellent Women (though I think I was also inspired by a reference in Susan Hill’s Howards End is on the Landing.) And that book was the way I fell in love with Barbara Pym, and how convenient that she  had her own society that I could join. They hold annual conferences in Massachusetts and Oxford, both of which are just a bit too far out of my way, but I had a dream of one day getting there, and indulging in a bit of Pym talk with like-minded individuals.

It was to my great joy that I received a letter in July from Judy, a local Pym Society member who was looking for a meet-up. Turns out there are only a few of us in Canada– one in Montreal, three in the GTA, and four in Victoria (which makes it a veritable hotbed, no?). Judy orchestrated a get-together for those of us nearby, was gracious enough to move the venue to my house (as travelling alone with Harriet is less than fun), and we were thrilled to have our third member RSVP, and were pleased that she was to bring her daughter. Because, she and her daughter had visited Barbara Pym’s cottage during a trip to England in 2009, and they even met Barbara Pym’s sister. (Pym herself died in 1980).

And truly the world is a delightful place, because this group of strangers got together and there was immediately a kinship. We ranged in age (including Harriet) from 1-85, and we entertained one another with stories of how we’d found Barbara Pym, and what she meant to us. How her work is so deceptively simple, and how she invests the ordinary with meaning. Tea was served, scones were eaten (as this was my house, after all). At this point, Harriet left the room, and then returned wearing a hat and carrying a handbag. It was 40 degrees outside and we were sweltering in spite of the fan, but even still, the time went too quick and good conversation flowed. We wondered if Pym had ever fathomed that groups such as ours’ would be discussing her work (with such passion) thirty years after her death. Having recently read her biography, I suspected probably not, but I really wish I could have told her. Someone suggested that one couldn’t channel a spirit anymore than we were doing just then, and she was probably right.

It was a wonderful gathering, and we’re going to do it again, and I think I might have been the luckiest one there because I’ve still got unread Pyms before me. The others were inspired to reread. We said goodbye with enthusiastic hugs, and after everyone had left, I opened the hostess gift that Judy had brought me, and how thrilled I was to discover (wrapped in William Morris paper, of course) a jar of Ovaltine.

The world is a Pymian place.

August 18, 2010

Blueberry Scones

May 9, 2010

I'd rather lick a garbage truck

It was a year ago that we discovered just how immovable our child was, though I wouldn’t comprehend just how much until she was born. And now she’s eleven and a half months old, we’re planning her first birthday party. She sleeps all night almost every night, which makes me feel that wonder and amazement you’re supposed to feel when someone hands you your newborn for the first time. That this enormous blessing could be mine. (Other mothers say, “We’ll see how long it lasts” and then I want to hit them.)

I had a splendid Mother’s Day today, beginning with six and a half hours sleep (and it’s only that because I stay up far too late), then a lie-in, breakfast in bed (croissants! yoghurt! fresh fruit! tea!). Harriet was thoughtful enough to buy me Darwin’s Bastards (which I didn’t think I’d want to read when I first heard about it, but the more I read about it, the more I longed to). This afternoon, my own wonderful mom came into the city and accompanied us to afternoon tea at The Four Seasons. Scones were so fresh. Harriet was an angel, and the staff were so nice to us even though they had to vaccuum grapes and cheddar cheese off the floor after we had gone. (Interestingly, they remembered Harriet from our last tea in February. I am not sure whether that’s a good thing or not.)

Also, asparagus is in season, so all is well.

In really stange news, my maternity leave ended on Friday. In an alternate universe, I’d be going back to work on Monday, but as working full time and being a mother would cut into my tea breaks, we decided it would be best if I stayed home for a while. Also, my husband begins a new day job in two weeks, leaving his Bay Street office behind for work at a non-profit. I’m very proud of him, excited for him, and relieved that if I get to be home all day, at least he’ll be working somewhere that makes him happy.

And I do mean that, “get to be home all day”. Can I just say that staying home with a small baby sucks like nothing else in the world? I’d rather work in a glass chewing factory or lick a garbage truck. Staying home with a one-year-old, however, is pretty brilliant and gets better all the time. It’s also a great excuse to spend sunny afternoons outside in the park. Even though her naps are often fleeting, I get to curl up on the couch with a book and a cup of tea. When Harriet is awake, we hang out together. She is beginning to show her understanding of language in ways that fascinate me, we can share jokes, she is a pretty happy kid and very affectionate, and I really do like her company. So I feel lucky that we get to continue our days together, that spring is here and summer is coming, and I look forward to exercising feats of financial acrobatics so that our little family can get away with having our income cut in half. (There may have to be less afternoon tea. This is sad).

Anyway, all of this is to say that I am grateful for my good fortune (especially the asparagus) and that I’m very happy that I’m a mother today.

October 2, 2009

Let it be known

Let it be known that the scones at the Royal Botanical Gardens’ Turner Pavilion Tea House are some of the best I’ve ever had. And scone-wise, I’ve been around, so that is saying something.

Let it also be known that some days maternity leave is sinfully delightful.

April 27, 2009

Tea for… Eight?

I hosted an afternoon tea today for my friend Jennie, who is getting married in July. It was the first time I’d ever made tea WITH sandwiches, which turned out not to be true at all as Stuart made all the sandwiches. They were delicious! We had smoked salmon, cucumber cream cheese, and cheddar and chutney. For sweets, we had banana cake, chocolate cupcakes and fresh fruit. And of course, scones with strawberry jam and devonshire cream. Tea options were hot and iced, and the whole thing was delicious. I am pleased, and grateful for a friend who lends the occasion of her wedding as an excuse to fulfill my own tea fixation. It was a very lovely afternoon.

March 30, 2009

New life!

This weekend was marvelous, and yes, mostly because this little picture was taken yesterday across the road from my house. Spring has seen fit to descend upon us early, and I am so grateful. This weekend’s other delights just as splendid as the sunshine– ice cream eaten outside, dinner at Dessert Trends Bistro, lots of time for knitting, getting chores done, Midsomer Murders on DVD, rainy Sundays, rainy Sunday scrabble (with the power out!), brunch with friends, an afternoon tea party (with jammy scones), lots of reading. Lots of book buying too– we got the Free to Be… You and Me 35th Anniversary Edition (which came with a CD!) from Book City yesterday, ostensibly for the baby, but probably more for nostalgia (although the book is beautiful and looks totally up to date). Today’s brunch was located conveniently across the street from This Ain’t The Rosedale Library, and it just so happened I was in the market for The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (upon the recommendation of Patricia Storms). Now I must go for a bubble bath, and read Lauren Groff’s new collection of short stories, Delicate Edible Birds. I am hoping to stay up past 9pm most nights this week, so I do foresee a bit more posting. But then again, you never can tell.

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