It was a long, dark winter.

One advantage to living so far north is that when the season finally does begin to turn, the days grow longer more quickly and to a greater extent than they do in the south.

A stoicism and grim realism is still pervasive here no matter what the season, but I think that may be what prairie life is like.

We can only try to do things, shoring up optimism with one small action at a time. In my case, this has looked like:
  • Writing a standardized test
  • Purchasing pineapples to remind myself of the sun
  • Making a few friends
  • Getting adult braces...
  • Booking a holiday to Croatia
  • Running
  • Helping to organize a community garden
It felt for a long time that nothing was happening. I think it was because my physical mobility is so much more restricted when there is snow on the ground and temperatures of less than fifteen below: I have to wear a big coat and so many more pieces, all of which have to be put on and taken off when going outdoors and in; I am unwilling to cycle in the snow and ice and cold, so I am left with the comparatively inflexible bus option as my only choice for longer distance transportation; there is so much less daylight time, so I always feel in a rush to get places.

My seven-year-old laptop crashed. My credit card expired. Internet activity ceased. It took awhile to make decisions about the logistics of my material life, but I'm glad I'm back to this long letter to a few friends.
Freedom is a rain jacket and a bicycle.


Winter descends slowly from the sky; come morning, the ground has disappeared, and just like that, the season changes. I am not totally displeased: the snow-reflected light makes the whole house glow, and the air smells clean. I must be becoming a true Northerner because I even went for a run through the icy streets today.

Local produce has dwindled with the turning of the seasons but in the market I spotted some bright red Chioggia beets.

On my lunch break I had been browsing the cooking section at the university's bookstore when I came across The Swedish Table.

I briefly flipped through it, but I confess I didn't actually read any of the recipes. Nevertheless, the cover image stuck with me, so that when I spotted the Chioggia beets, I knew I wanted to eat them immediately. I also happened to be craving salmon, so that went into my basket, too. What transpired was a slippery pasta of earthiest earth and briniest sea.

Winter Chioggia Pasta
1 to 2 T olive oil
1 large Chioggia beet
1/2 red onion
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 cup cooked salmon (leftover, smoked, candied... even canned)
1 T crème fraîche or sub sour cream, cream cheese, or yogurt
1 fistfull of long pasta
fresh dill and lemon juice to serve

Cook the pasta and drain, saving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. In a large pan, heat olive oil and over medium heat briefly sautee beet and red onion, being careful not to overcook so that they do not drain their colour completely. Add peas and salmon to warm in the pan. As soon as peas have lost their frost, remove from heat, and stir in crème fraîche, supplementing with a little pasta water as you see fit. Add pasta and toss before serving. Make sure you plate it more nicely than I did. I suggest using chopsticks for the pasta and a spoon for the rest. Garnish with chopped fresh dill and a squirt of lemon juice.


Some snaps from around the allotment gardens down the street.

And then there is our rather sad looking early autumn vegetable box.

Home Improvement

1. I started Cantonese class. Unbelievably, the class costs $0! It's both difficult and very intuitive to formally learn something you've spoken with varying degrees of proficiency since beginning to talk. Eventually I want to learn Mandarin as well--but first, this.

2. I am also coding. HTML, CSS, maybe more later. Starting from the beginning to fill in any gaps in my current understanding before moving beyond. I am adding 15 minutes of coding to my morning routine.

3.  I made a mistake this week. It cost me 2 cups of chicken, a beautiful stock, and some pasta, carrots, and kale. I think it was the rosemary that imparted a mild yet persistent bitterness to an otherwise perfectly silty stock and a simple soup. I tried to save the ingredients by straining and then rinsing them, but they had absorbed too much stock. I hate wasting food.

4. Missing mountains and the ocean. Planned my trip home in December. Trying to get us to the mountains again this year to ski across frozen lake and stew in hot spring.


Comme Comme Circles Crochet Stolevia La Garconne
Black: velvet, crochet, silk, leather. The military colour and cut of the jacket and the punk masculinity of the shoes balance out the louche velvet and the matronly crochet. I initially loved this look for its simple wearability, but the more I examine it the more radical it becomes.

Comme Comme Circles Crochet Stole and Marc Jacobs Cabouchon Oxford
via La Garconne


Went to Montreal this summer. Something I miss from "back east": the fabulous bookstores. This Ain't the Rosedale Library (R.I.P.), Type Books, Swipe/Built Books, and Good Egg in Toronto and Drawn & Quarterly in Montreal, where I finally purchased Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries. This meal, made soon after our return home, was inspired more by the colours in the photos on the facing pages in the first image than by any sort of recipe specified or alluded to by the text--although I did make zucchini cakes. The salad interpreted "orange" as a fruit and not a colour, opting for raspberry hued blood oranges, fuchsia beet green stems, and russet skinned new potatoes instead of neon nasturtiums. The chunky, mawed-on-looking "handfuls of salmon" were plated in fulfillment of an intense craving for salmon à la my Poh-Poh's lunchtime kitchen table: straight from the can, with a little soy sauce poured over top. I think I may have substituted Worcestershire sauce, this time.

Incidentally, ate a salad of mixed lettuces and peppery, orange nasturtiums fresh from the backyard garden box last night in honour of a friend's visit on her way home to Montreal from Ulukhaktok, where the local diet includes very few green things.

Type Books, Swipe/Built Books, Good Egg, Drawn and Quarterly
Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries
Shotgun Jimmie's Everything, Everything  


Chasing Skirt

Looks 1, 3, 6, and 17 from Margaret Howell's Autumn/Winter 2013 Collection
I love Margaret Howell's pieces because they are practical, sincere, and elegant at once. They indicate a strong commitment to modernism. There has been a lot of talk about personal "uniforms" over the past two years, but to wear Margaret Howell is to step into a uniform that has less to do with the individual and more to do with position, context, surroundings, role, and publics. The cut of a blouse or the shape of the skirt reference a wartime only our ninety-something year-old grandparents remember, but this is a past of which we still have a collective awareness, whether through family photographs or popular television. Yet, these garments do not look archaic--they look confidently contemporary. They do not merely illustrate the return of a fad ("Everything comes back eventually!"); rather, they are a reminder of constance. Some people find uniforms restrictive, but I find them liberating. They simplify our choices in a hyper-marketed, consumer driven world. They are meant to withstand daily wear for years to come. They de-emphasize ownership and force someone to look into your eyes rather than at the pattern of your dress to find your spark of individuality. A uniform lets you get down to business, speak from your mind, and cut to the chase.


"It's the volume"

"The Weather Bunderground" at Traditional Chinese Bun; rooftop gazing in the shadow of the Tower; the ferry back from Poor Pilgrims at the islands.
Strange to have a look at our past lives. Friendships still as great as ever. Lots of excitement for the present and the future, and many indulgent regressions.


Another reason I love the slow slide of August into September: the anniversary of our first date. Even if at the time I didn't even suspect we were on a date, it is still fun to celebrate something in a summer month; both Co and I have winter birthdays. This year, Co's present arrived a little early: a loaf of bread from Poilâne! In the end, it had perfect timing, as our favourite local bakery had closed shop for the family's annual summer holiday.


Everyone always says that September, the start of the school year in much of the northern hemisphere, feels like the real beginning of a new year. But let's talk about the period that precedes that--the languid summer months, particularly August, where in the midst of such relaxation and enjoyment whether at lakeside cabin, on coastal road trip, on apartment balcony, or on the jacket-less walk home from work, one's mind turns introspective. Something about the warmth and the near-gilded greens takes the edge off a feeling that in another season would be melancholy. It's a time to regroup, to ready oneself for the onslaught of stress, strain, cold, and long sleeves, for in winter we are locked under ice, our dreams and aspirations frozen, our fluid momentum locked. August becomes the race to redefine who we will be for the next year.

Who will I be? I have now spent one year living in this northern city that Co and I describe by turns as a work camp, an endless suburb, dusty, dirty, rough, ignorant, uncultured, community-minded, close-minded, sparse, diverse, unchanged and unchanging, a small town, a place that tries, and a place that doesn't. I came here looking for change and although there have been many of them, I think I have yet to find the change I crave.

I abandoned my idea of landscape architecture school not long after moving here. Geography was perhaps partly to blame. If you live where I do, it seems highly unlikely that anyone who makes a profession of sculpting ground and placing plants could ever make a go of it. Observing the state of most yards here, it becomes abundantly clear that a landscape architect's work would hardly be noticed, appreciated, or solicited in this city. Even then, everything is under a metre of snow from late October to late April here--a full half year.

I am still interested in plants and land. I have devoted some thought to agriculture, resource economics, and waste management. Oh, and cooking and eating, but that is a given.

I like my job, I have a great working relationship with my supervisor and her researchers, I like working five minutes away from the gym and a twenty-five minute bicycle ride from home. I don't like being alone in an air-conditioned, window-less office without having had a sustained conversation--work related or otherwise--with anyone else the entire work day. I am growing tired of the content I read all day.

So, when a position with the program through which I volunteer was posted, I hesitated, but ultimately submitted my application enthusiastically. Telling my current supervisor that I had an interview was one of the most difficult things I've ever done, yet I felt more articulate in that moment than I had for the previous six months. Though the content area sets me alight with passion and the duties are consistent with my background, I think the interview went badly. In fact, I am almost hoping it did, so that I will be forced to act on the plans I had made prior to applying: take a couple of classes, publish a zine, work on a web project I've been dreaming up. Having a job in whose content area I will never feel totally immersed has its advantages: though some days leave me with tired eyes, and mentally drained, I am never emotionally drained. This August, I am reaching for a way to activate that emotional energy.

I've made a list of schools, and at least three of the fifteen or so listed I would be excited to attend. I had planned to apply this fall for next year, but I'm just not sure. I desperately want to go, but I am not sure if they'll let me in. Does my CV demonstrate adequate passion, preparation, and work ethic? Although I think early admission is out of the question, I am beginning to believe that I will be able to cobble together sufficient material for a January or February deadline. And if I don't feel ready yet, there's always the next year.