Tag Archives: the south

The Differences

Dear Readers. I have ventured far from home and have neglected this space in favor of Florida. This holiday, I sunk into a deep relaxation unlike any I’ve known. I went home. The other home and, for the first time in a long time, settled in.

The holidays are always a bit emotional, especially for those of us who live far from those we love, but this year all of that was hidden under the extended time we had to be there. The weeks wrapped me in the contentment of an old quilt and was strong enough to give me time meditating on the differences.

Things are different down in America, down South, and in Florida. People talk differently, dress differently, spend their time differently. As far as I can tell, it’s these differences that make us like or not like something. ‘I’m glad to be here because here people do this or that thing. I like this or that thing better that that other thing from over there.’ Does that make ‘here’ better? More ‘my speed’? I was on this idea so much that I made a list.

Junebugs, pick up trucks, state roads, and styrofoam. Lizards, restaurant inside gas stations, spanish moss, trailers, sandy feet. Screen doors, coolers, creeks, cypress knees, and sensor lights. Saying ‘hi’ to everyone you pass. Waving with your first to fingers to people you pass while driving a car. Vegetables cooked in salt water. Drive through liquor stores. Parking lots. Sweet tea in a to-go cup. Wind chimes. Sand dunes. Woods with floors lined in pine straw.

Then I thought that is this very desire – the need to classify differences – that should be avoided. These things, the strange things, or, in my case, familiar things, are not all there is.  Can we not turn our sensitivities, our perceptions, to what we have in common instead? Would we even want to?

Today, back in Vancouver in the rain and the grey, I’ll make a little promise to look instead  for commonality. The noise of the water on the shore, flip flops, people who like boats. Sea gulls and sunburns to come. My list so far is short, but I’m working on it. Perhaps this will ease the sickness for the homes I have and, if I’m lucky, maybe those I’ll have in the future.


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Falling leaves, falling temperatures

For a person who grew up in a place where driving 400 miles north to “see the leaves change” was something we considered tourism, being in a city full of deciduous trees is a sort of treat every October.

The skinny pines of north Florida don’t offer much of  a show any time of year – steadily they live in needle-floored forests usually towering over palmettos that don’t turn for fall either. We did have a single Turkey Oak tree in my yard as a kid with leaves that reddened and then crisped up to to make one little corner of our yard a hard place to sneak around in for the noise of crunching leaves. Other than that, things were pretty green most of the year.

Here in Vancouver, the leaves are turning all around us. Orange, green, and golden showers of leaves pulled down in the wind litter the streets. Bags of yard leaves line the streets during what the city calls and “unlimited leaf collection period.” While others rake, I look up for color, deeper into my closet for  warmth, and on the ground for the found fruits of Autumn.

Green turns to red.

Green turns to red.

Blazes of orange.

Blazes of orange.

Golden and blue.

Golden and blue.

Other fruits of Autumn.

Other fruits of Autumn.


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The Woods Down Another South – dispatches from Kerrisdale

Vancouver is a funny place in that a five mile difference in your address can feel like another city all together. From here, the south end of the city, we’re halfway to the southern parks we like, but don’t visit as often. The traffic or the early sunsets of winter, which keep us closer to home most times, have temporarily released their hinderance, so we’ve lately been walking in Pacific Spirit, romping in the low tide at Iona Island, and visiting the bottom end of the Fraser.

Pacific Spirit feel like a silent sister across the water to Stanley Park, which I know much better. It’s bigger, lots bigger, so people seem more spread out. The woods have a left-alone feeling and it’s so quiet. The only creatures I’ve seen so far have been slugs taking advantage of the wetter days. There’s a pleasant lack of tourist attractions making the people traffic minimal – we’ve bumped into  the occasional guys on bikes or joggers, but the walking trails are pretty empty.

There was a nice little moment the other day when we came across a guy walking a big black dog. We were walking south and they were both standing for a long time in a path that cut across and out to the west. They didn’t really move as long as it took us to see them from before the crossing, navigate the fencing to keep bikes out, and cross back into the deeper forest on the other side. The sun was coming down through the hole in the trees the path. I don’t know if was the beauty of the orange blaze  of sunset or something else all together, but the way they were both stopped in contemplation, no cell phones, no companion to speak to, made a lovely little scene.

Iona I have visited many times both to look for birds or just to be in a different landscape for a while. A big, flat place, the island has a long beach at low tide and is free of forest for the most part. The muddy flats look almost alien compared to the rocky beaches I’ve come to know. There are also neat little rolling meadows covered in grasses and moss. Interesting ducks or reed-dwelling birds can be found on the lakes and the little alder (I think) thicket at the back end of the park has a feeling like little fairies could be living under the leaves and branches.

The other neat thing nearby is the bottom end of the Fraser River. Over the summer we visited it further north and east, so it’s neat to see where the water ends up. There’s a little park that follows it along the opposite shore from Iona with an old grey-wood board walk and lots of people brining playful dogs down to the beach. While the criss-crossing trails of the other parks in town are lovely, it’s nice here because there’s only the one place to walk along the river. The other evening, we watched the tide pulling out long grasses from the shallow places under the walkway and the sun going down over the water.

We’re also close to VanDussen and we caught the rare plant sale there last week. It was a neat little scene, but I knew precious little about what I was looking at. I did recognize some tropical plants and also the native Gary Oak, but the flats of tiny-leafed berries and succulents were like little black cups of  mystery. I’ve been reading on one seller’s site and hope to better understand the beauty of these specimens by next year’s sale. By then, we’ll be back home in the West End, so will have to make more of a trek. Somethings, it seems from our short stay in a different kind of south, are worth the journey.

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The Halfway Report: 15/30

With the year mark coming back around faster than I am keeping up with, my plan of having 30 cakes in the first 365 days of my 30th year might need a little recap and refresh.

Luckily, I didn’t have to dig very deep to remember that I started this count at the birthday lunch I had with a wonderful friend who took me out for mini cakes and a palm reading (yes, both services are offered at the same venue – obviously an incredible pal for finding it and knowing how thoroughly happy it would make me). From there I was surprised at work with a chocolate cake breakfast and the ball, as they say, was officially in play.

I’ve since had cakes for Christmas, a famous Vancouver-style cupcake, and a stunning southern classic cake paired with champagne and a healthy dose of my girls back home. I’ve baked a few, including this coconut beauty, and tucked in a couple of  mini treats to what would have otherwise been regular days.

All told, I still have exactly 2 months and 29 days to finish. With the installment of #15 (spiced milk cake with caramel icing) and the incredible looking strawberry cake recipe that I was gifted recently, I think I’ll be well able to note this as a happy 30th year indeed.

15/30 - a classic milk cake recipe (with cardamom, nutmeg and all spice added to the milk) plus a brown sugar caramel icing - helps start Fall off right.

A classic milk cake recipe (with cardamom, nutmeg and all spice added to the milk) plus a brown sugar caramel and elderflower icings to help start Fall off right.


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Bowl of Sunshine

Here we sit at the height of summer.

Here we sit at the height of summer.

In the last few weeks, Okanagan Valley peaches have been making their way into grocery stores here in Vancouver and I couldn’t be happier or more impressed. When we lived in Tallahassee, we were never far from famous Georgia peaches. Spotting one of those makeshift farm stands under a tailgating-style tent on the side of some dusty road almost always warranted a stop for berries, watermelons, and peaches.

Up here, the peaches are adorned with ‘organic’ and ‘local’ stickers, which wouldn’t have seemed appropriate at all back home. They also lack the warmth of the ones you’d bite into under 90 degree blazing sunshine who’s orange color seemed to hold onto the sun itself. They did grow under a similar sun, though, and they are so incredibly delicious.

This morning’s bowl of peaches, just as sweet as you could imagine, brings me thoughts of those hot summers even under today’s cloudy skies. Thanks for that, peaches. And please do stay a while.

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Bare Trees and Spring at Van Dusen Botanical Garden

Bare trees in the garden's center lawn.

Bare trees in the garden’s center lawn.

As a kid, trips to visit family in  St. Louis helped shape our year. Often, we’d arrive in the dead of December in time for Christmas. Usually it took place at several venues across town and there was much driving around and eating multiple dinners. As the Floridian cousins, we’d wait for snow and the chance to borrow the gear of our relatives to attempt sledding or making a wonky snowman. On winter trips we usually didn’t venture too far from the warmth of an aunt’s house or the confines of an indoor museum. Occasionally, the trip would be made in the summer and a place we always visited was Shaw’s Garden (also known as the Missouri Botanical Garden). My parents would fawn over the plants they could no longer grow in their sandy Floridian yard. My sister and I would gawk at the big trees with leaves that we were told fell off in the winter leaving the tree bare and naked. This, being from a land of skinny pines, fascinated me and, frankly, left me feeling a little saddened.

Well, it seems that not much has changed. My intrigue into the lives of trees in the deciduous sort is as well as strong as my subtle apprehension to them. What to do? Visit the Botanical Garden, I thought, and do so especially in the winter.

We didn’t go at all in January, but took advantage of a sunny day recently to walk among strange trees and remark on those bare branches that have come to be more familiar. Thankfully, the markings of Spring were peeking out under a sun that was strong enough to show us our nearly forgotten shadows.

The new entry and visitor's center has a neat art gallery space and a great place for coffee and snacks.

The new entry and visitor’s center has a neat art gallery space and a nice little place for coffee and snacks.


Highlights from the garden this season include the Japanese White Pine.

The leavings of winter.

The leavings of Winter.

The glories of Spring.

The reaching of Spring.

Right now the Witch Hazel blooms in a canopy over the walks near the back of the garden.

Right now the Witch Hazel blooms in a canopy over the walks near the back of the garden.

A carpet of Persian Violets.

A carpet of Persian Violets.

An unfamiliar sight these days.

An unfamiliar sight these days.

That Japanese Pine from the highlights at the entrance. It's from another part of the world, but then, after all, so am I.

That Japanese Pine from the highlights at the entrance. It’s from another part of the world, but then, after all, so am I.










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My heart belongs to N.O.

After missing the last few years home for Christmas, we’ve booked tickets and will soon be south-bound. I’m really excited for family times and for warm weather and for lounging around with old friends. Also, the idea that we might make a sneaky little trip to one of my favorite places in the world, New Orleans. Skip the Bourbon Street and the ghost tours and head straight to the regular restaurants and quiet neighborhoods. Talk to the person who owns the book shop or take a side trip to the aquarium. To celebrate (and perhaps solidify) the potential for a visit, here’s a look at my last trip there a few years ago.


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fried and green

Not too long ago I wrote about this bowl of what some would call disappointment.


I’d waited until way into November to cut the last of these and came up with one singular red in a pile of green, green, green (It was delicious though and full of peppery flavor. Thanks little guy.) I think I know a few people who would have fed this to their compost pile but it’s important not to doubt the beauty and magic of having been a southern girl. A rub in a little flour, a bath in an egg wash, a dip in cornmeal + breadcrumbs + salt + paprika, and a trip to the old oil jacuzzi can turn an unripened crop into something truly lovely.


And what to do with leftover egg wash? French Toast, of course.



And, cause it’s Vancouver not Vicksburg, a ramekin of leftover tzatziki.

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country music

Yucky weather, streaming internet radio on new phone, feelings of being a small thing in a world out to get you, or maybe just some happenstance thing has been bringing more and more country music into my world lately. Maybe it’s the whiskey. Whatever the cause I’m digging the effect.

The standouts….

From Hard Way Home by Brandie Carlile, “I wish I could find a soul to steal/I could be the engine, you could be the wheel”

From First Aid Kit’s Emmylou “Oh the bitter winds are coming in/And I’m already missing the summer/Stockholm’s cold but I’ve been told/I was born to endure this kind of weather/When it’s you I find like a ghost in my mind/I am defeated and I gladly wear the crown”

and from Shreveport by the Gourds, ” Said he was already broke and he just got paid/We spent the rest of the night singin’ by his Mama’s grave/Shreveport, Oh Shreveport/Wonder where I’ll be/when the sun comes t’ shine” They also have a great cover of Ziggy Stardust.

Cheers to railroad beats, fiddles, lonely girls and the ghost of Gram Parsons.

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