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2013/08/16 / Shanan


Pine Trees.  Blueberries.  Lobster.  Stephen King.  I was proudly born in Maine and lived there til I was five, at which point my parents moved us back to Canada, where they grew up.  My maternal grandmother (‘Tanny’) still lives in a house right on the sea and so every summer I make the trip to visit her and to re-experience a little bit of that laid-back New England charm.  This is the source of all my early sense memories – sand under my fingernails, damp slaps of little feet on the boardwalk, the squish of tart wild blackberries from the secret patch discovered by my dad.

But the place is stubborn – after nearly 30 years, those blackberries are still growing exactly where they used to be, and the boardwalk sounds the same even under an adult’s footfalls.  As a visiting teenager, the whole place felt backwards, even mildly oppressive.  “Thank God we moved away,” I’d say to my parents, “or I’d probably be ‘pah-king the cah’ at a friend’s house and doing whip-its in their basement every weekend.”

It’s different now, though.  Being a little older, debatably a little wiser (or maybe just more nostalgic), and with a family of my own to share all those things that never really changed, that are actually pretty great.  Clambering over barnacle-encrusted rocks, inhaling the scent of wild roses, bringing home pies from the Higgins Beach market.  Sometimes it’s damn nice to exist, for a little while, in the realm of the absolute.


Speaking of absolutes, I think it’s fair to say that I absolutely must stop wearing my husband’s cast-off jean shorts in public.



This beach outside my Tanny’s place is the one that I spent all my time on as a little kid.  Isn’t it beautiful?


We were lucky enough to have a week of seriously fabulous weather.  In fact it was the first visit in memory where I packed a heavy sweater and never even had to pull it out of my suitcase.


We moved around a fair bit when I was little, and this is the first house I remember living in.  We used to rent it from a couple who still own it to this day, and I got a sweet and generous hug from Mary when I ran into her on the beach last week.


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2013/08/15 / Shanan


I’m back!  Kind of.  The day after returning from a vacation always feels like one big sad trombone.  It’s nice to snuggle back into our own beds but there’s also the struggle to breathe from beneath a mountain of laundry, the emails and phone calls that need returning, the groceries that need shopping.

But absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so they say… then again, you may feel differently after I’ve uploaded roughly a billion photographs of this trip to Maine of ours.  Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya! Tomorrow.

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2013/08/08 / Shanan


Chris, Theo and I are headed to Maine to visit my grandmother, who lives by the ocean.  Maine is my birthplace, and in fact the beach we’ll be playing on is the same beach I spent my formative years on as a nude, towheaded little person climbing rocks and making drip-castles.  It’s pretty special to bring my daughter there and make new memories (here’s where the strings come in! And, cue violins).

Also special (although frankly sometimes kind of annoying)?  There’s no cellphone coverage and my grandmother can barely work her dvd player, so needless to say there is also no internet to speak of.  Chris will undoubtedly spend some time waving his iPad around the property searching for a signal, but barring the success of that I will be unplugged for the week and taking a little break from the site.  We’ll miss each other but let’s be strong.

Looking forward to showing off countless photos of seagulls, boardwalks, and some wicked good lobstah.  xx Shanan

Image above: The pool at Hotel Deseo, Playa del Carmen, Mexico (I know, we’re going to Maine, not Mexico).

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2013/08/05 / Shanan


I’m pretty much the world’s most boring teetotaller, although this summer I’ve found myself enjoying a big bright orange bottle of Aperol (an Italian aperitif similar to Campari).  I didn’t really think my Aperol spritzes could get much better but then Bon Appétit magazine came along and blew my mind with their recipe for Aperol floats. It’s a super simple boozy dessert with all manner of desirable combinations:  sweet, fizzy, creamy, with a hint of bitterness.  That’s what they call love, my friends.  I know it’s Monday morning, but let’s make one (holy hell, it’s a holiday up here in Canada)!

berry aperol float recipe ingredients

Berry and Aperol Floats (recipe from Susan Spungen for Bon Appétit’s July 2013 issue) – makes 4

The Ingredients

1 sprig of thyme

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup Aperol

1 1/3 cups berries (I used black raspberries and red currants from the garden)

1 pint vanilla ice cream

2 cans club soda

Make it

In a small saucepan, bring thyme, sugar, and 1/4 cup of water to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes.  Remove thyme and let syrup cool.  Stir in the Aperol.

Divide the syrup mixture and berries among four tall glasses and muddle gently. Divide and add ice cream to each glass, then top with club soda.




berry aperol float recipe bon appetit vanilla ice cream

(I’m experimenting a bit with some amateur food styling and photography… this was fun to plan, messy to shoot, and weirdly satisfying as a whole. And, did you know that in ads, mashed potatoes are sometimes used as a stand-in for ice cream?)

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2013/07/30 / Shanan


It’s such a simple thing, really.  Dirt, seeds, water, sun, plants.

Our vegetable garden is in full swing at this time of the summer and I’ve come to consider growing food for ourselves both a privilege and a spiritual necessity.  Doing so with a child in tow makes the experience all the sweeter.  Every day we go outside and Theo says, “let’s check out the garden,” and then she runs all knock-kneed over to the entrance of our little fenced-in enclosure.  She walks through the rows of onions and says the long green stalks brushing against her are like “going through a carwash.”  She examines and gently pets the green tomatoes, and digs in the dirt at the edge of a bed with her little spade.  Sometimes she ‘plants’ things she’s already picked, patting them down with great concentration.  She can identify dill, and mint, and swiss chard.  I am a proud mum.

garden child nature vegetables outdoors

The initial planting of the garden only held Theo’s interest for a little while; Chris prepared the beds and I dug little holes for her to drop the seeds into.  I don’t know for sure that she fully grasps the connection between what we did months ago and what the garden looks like now, soft and leafy and very green.  We pick zucchinis and she puts them into a big bowl; I carry them inside and chop them up and use them to make pasta primavera. When we all sit down to eat, Chris and I talk about how amazing it is that we grew the zucchini we’re eating right at this moment!  Sometimes she responds with an enthusiastic, “yah!” …and sometimes she’s fishing her fork out of her milk.  That’s fine.

She does understand that when we pick all the berries, we then have to wait til the next day for more berries to ripen in their place.  She also knows that plants need water, and she loves using the watering can for the herb pots on our deck.  We read stories about the seasons, and giggle at the Frog and Toad story where Toad sings to his seeds because he thinks they are afraid to grow.

garden child nature vegetables outdoors zucchini

I don’t want to get all woo-woo earth-mother on you here, but I think that all of this should be essential for a kid to experience, in some form, from a very young age.  Getting their hands dirty is fun and tactile, learning about where food really comes from is so important, and seeing the results, the little miracles that ensue, is so gratifying.  I’m still pretty in awe of it all.

Here’s an interesting article I read in The Atlantic, it’s titled, “How Nature Resets our Minds and Bodies.” And here are some websites offering tips for starting a kid’s garden (even if you don’t have a big backyard) and ways to get them interested in the process. I’ll leave you with that food for thought, and about a zillion more pictures of us in the garden,  from both this year and last.  Thank you for reading (now go outside!).  xx Shanan

garden child nature vegetables outdoors