Nephew’s First Birthday 

Sunday was my nephew’s 1st birthday party. My favourite memories from the day? Knowing my 2 year old niece called for me and sought me out in the middle of the party play chaos, and going for a walk in the woods after with Honey, my nephew, and his parents.

On our walk, I helped him explore the smell of the tall rhododendrons, watch the tadpoles in the pond (and the floating sticks in the other!), enter into a found den and feel the soft bark on the logs, and spot the green leaves waving overhead in the sunshine.

It was also really nice to just wander along chatting with my brother in law and his partner.

I really enjoy family time in the woods. 

Pumpkin Pie for All

Pumpkin pie has always been my absolute favourite holiday dessert, the highlight of my Thanksgiving and Christmas plates waiting to be gobbled up.

Over the years, I’ve made a range of pumpkin pies: from the the traditional pie loaded with gluten, eggs, cream, and sugar, to the  sugar free pie still loaded with gluten and dairy. Last year I was determined to not give up eating my star dessert, so I researched raw desserts and made a few.

After that, I experimented with ingredients and came up with this winning pumpkin pie recipe. Not only is this pumpkin pie edible by the widest range of dinner guests, it is much easier and quicker to prepare. The Absolute Best Pumpkin Pie: gluten, dairy, and sugar free, vegan, and raw.

Ingredients for filling: 

  • 1 1/4 C soaked (overnight) cashews. Measurement is post soaking.
  • 1/2 C maple syrup (or honey, if not vegan)
  • 1 C cooked (cooled) pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 C  coconut oil
  • 2 tsp of your favourite pumpkin pie spices

To prepare:

  • Prepare your choice of raw pie crust (generally blended dates and nuts, pressed into the tin). My go-to recipe is from My Wholefood Life.
  • Puree filling ingredients and add to your raw pie crust and refrigerate for up to several hours. If you are preparing this the night before or more than 4 hours before, keep the filling separate until about 2 hours before the meal and refrigerate. This keeps the crust from going soggy the next day when you’re eating ‘leftovers’.
  • Serve proudly and enjoy the creamy, fresh, pumpkin-ey deliciousness you’ve created!

 

Sweet Spot, Early September

Right now, it’s that sweet spot between summer and autumn that feels calm and slow. A place where I can still be barefoot and the sun rises and sets at perfectly agreeable times. A place where all I want to do is sow, pot up, harvest or preserve plants and these efforts are turned to bringing indoors as much of the outside as I can while the barrier between the two remains fluid. I don’t want to cover up or close up the house, but I know it is coming so I take this moment to give thanks for the summer we’ve had and dream up ways for it to fill our hearts, stomachs, and homes in the seasons to come.

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Gather, preserve, remember, savour.

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Current soundtrack: summer songs (campfire songs) or Rites of Passage.

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Farewell, July

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July is my favourite month. It is far enough into the summer that you’ve really gotten into the swing of it actually (finally!) being summer. It’s also still quite distant from the pleasant yet melancholic August afternoons that somehow both move gently along and careen past you.

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Although I deeply adore Thanksgiving, golden and sweet smelling autumn afternoons, crisp and sparkling white blankets of winter snow, the joyful burst of flowers heralding May’s arrival, and so many other beautiful seasonal experiences, I think that I could happy live year-round in the bountiful, contented, and hopeful month that is July.

Farewell July, Oh Beautiful Month!

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Thanksgiving Greetings

Today is Scottish Thanksgiving. At the very beginning of the month, I had a ‘crafternoon’ making Thanksgiving cards. It has been years since I sent cards to family on Thanksgiving, and I felt the need for that tradition this year. I made them early to send to our American family (and family in France) and held off posting to our Scottish family for a week or so to make the arrival time more appropriate.  

I made a stack of cards and filled them with one of the following five quotes:

Gratitude is the sign of noble souls. ~Aesop

I don’t want to just list the stuff I’m grateful for. I want to bathe in it. I want my heart to burst open with the joy of it all. ~Christine Kane

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. ~Melody Beattie

Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy. ~David Steindal-Rast

The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become. ~Robert Holden

It was hugely satisfying to sit in reflection making the cards and to know that my loved ones would receive a little reminder of love and gratitude.

Día de los Muertos 2015 

Although today was All Saints Day and not All Souls Day, I constructed my day of the dead altar today because I was home to welcome and reflect and will be at work tomorrow. This year’s altar was a simple one, using what we had around the house. The photos displayed showed 5 of our grandparents, but other family members lost were thought of as well. 

The main loss over the past year was my maternal grandmother and it seems that she guided my preparation. After coming across a bag of puffed rice in the cupboard yesterday, I awoke thinking about peanut butter rice treats and decided to make them. As I melted, mixed, and moulded the ingredients, I thought about my Nanny and how she would always make peanut butter rice squares when we came to visit. I realised they were perfect for the altar.    

 

When it was time to decorate the table, I remembered a mallow flower I spotted in bloom in the garden yesterday morning and went out to cut it. I came back with two glasses full of flowers (mallow, nasturtium, marjoram, sage, an unknown petite and starry yellow flower, and another purple flower) that I would have expected to be dying back now but that held on to some flowers for me. I also spotted some green and red tomatoes left in the garden, even though we did our ‘final’ check and harvest two weeks ago. This excited me because my nanny loved to garden and was ever proud of her tomatoes. Thank you garden, for providing me with the things I needed to welcome her should she find her way here. 

Eclipsed

Today, the skies above the UK aligned perfectly to show us a solar eclipse on the first day of spring. I had taken the day off before I had heard about the eclipse so was quite pleased with the serendipity of my choice.

A few days before the eclipse, a colleague unwrapped a delivery and I squealed with delight for her that she had had the foresight to actually order something to keep her blinkers safe. She is a kind soul and handed me the glass to have. I thankfully refused but she said that she had a whole other stack to open, so I did accept it in the end. Last night I made a pair of goggles, packed my tripod and camera (I used the welder’s glass in front of the lens), and was ready to welcome spring.

Solar Eclipse 2015 in Stirling

This morning, I got out of bed soon after Honey got up to get ready for work and she said that she had a message from my mom. My mom said that I needed to call her urgently. This was our 7am, so my mom’s 3am! We asked what it was and I was told that my Nanny had passed away. I can’t really articulate how I feel about this yet as it is somewhat smoky and ever-changing. I do know that I am immensely sad for us and for her that she didn’t have the quality of life she enjoyed over the past few years (and was so very frustrated), but also relieved that she no longer has to be weighed down and held back. Every night this week I have been having dreams that she is younger, freer, and able to do the things she loved; always in a variety of settings.

I talked to my mom on the phone and sent Honey to work. She ended up missing her train and when she phoned in to work from the station, they agreed that she wouldn’t head in today. I was surprised but comforted when she walked back in the door.

Having Honey home meant that she could come with me to watch the solar eclipse. We packed thermoses of tea, a picnik blanket, eye protection and cameras and headed over to the old Abbey grounds. It was sunny and grassy and surprisingly warm (though I was wearing thermals) and the calm helped to ground me. We spent almost two hours in that quiet, private space, thinking about Nanny and talking very little but marvelling in nature and how precious life is. I imagined that the sad freedom I was feeling was what Nanny would be feeling as well.

It was comforting to have that space just to be and I was grateful that we were given such a beautiful event on the day that we begin to say goodbye to the last of my grandparents.

Solar Eclipse 2015 in Stirling, Scotland

Married

When Honey and I planned our trip to the US for the summer, we decided that we would get married in the nearby state of New Jersey. There will be equal marriage in Scotland soon and we will be able to exchange our Civil Partnership certificate for marriage, but we wanted legal recognition in the US, directly from the US now that it is a possibility. Two days after we booked our tickets, the announcement of equal marriage came in Pennsylvania, so we knew what our plans would be.

We got married by a judge five minutes from where I grew up, on the third anniversary of our civil partnership. Both of my parents, all of my sisters and 4/5 of my nieces and nephews and 1/2 of my American brother in laws were present. It was so wonderful to be able to do our final legal step with my family members who have not been able to help us celebrate at either our legal CP signing or the wedding party. It was also exciting to be the judge’s first same-sex couple to marry!

Married in PA

Although we had a civil ceremony in both countries, there were interesting cultural differences. First of all, the registrar in Scotland was not allowed to use any religious words and had to check our vows and music to ensure that there were no vaguely religious references at all. The judge in the US didn’t check that with us and said God several times in the ceremony. We were fine with that but I can imagine it could bother many.

A procedural difference was that the ceremony was complete in Scotland once we and our witnesses had signed the paperwork and in the US only the judge signed the paper. Apparently, our signatures at the time of application were the official record of our confirmation. We even left with an interim certificate that day, which I promptly used to update my name on my American documents.

The final difference that stands out in my mind is one of social space. In Scotland, the registrar stood behind a table (where the papers would be signed) and legally bound us to one another. In the US, there was no physical barrier between us and the judge and he placed his hand on ours as he legally bound us.

It was so interesting, but most of all it was a relief. I am finally, officially, really, truly, my wife’s wife and we are married. For real.