Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.


May 2016

Down Bottleneck Drive and into the Summer side of the lake

It’s rare that you don’t need to enhance your photos by upping the colour saturation…this photo of the view from Summerland’s Thornhaven Estate Winery is untouched but you won’t be if you visit.

Being spoiled for choice of wineries to visit in my own Naramata Bench neighbourhood, we rarely venture down the road to OK Falls or Oliver or across the lake to Summerland which we view from our deck, but we really should get out more. A trip to Thornhaven Estate Winery and some time spent in those red chairs is time perfectly spent. I have a soft spot for anything do with Summerland because any town with “Summer” in it seems like a warm and happy place…add a glass of their Infusion frizzante and the happy metre goes into the red chair zone.

Jan Fraser, who with her husband Jack, started the winery as a “retirement” project says, “There is something special about the wineries in Summerland. I think it has to do with how many of them are family-owned. They are all pretty special out here and their is a lot of pride.” In addition to Jan and Jack, who also run Jackson Height’s vineyard, their son Jason is winemaker and cellarmaster for the estate and oversees three of Thornhaven’s Summerland vineyards. Daughter Cortney heads sales and marketing for the winery and with husband Nick oversees the Elmo’s Vineyard, where the winery grows its unique Orange Muscat.

The family is celebrating the 15 anniversary of Thornhaven in the best way possible with the release of their XV, which is the Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon blend available just at the winery. If you like pink and bubbles (yup), their Infusion is made from classic Champagne vareitals Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I loved it.

The two special 15th anniversary releases.

The family has a lot to celebrate. Jan says she is most proud of being around 15 years. Thornhaven was only the third winery in Summerland when they opened. “It’s great to be part of a community of wineries now which makes such as a nice destination for wine touring.” The Bottleneck Drive Winery Association, of which Thornhaven is an active participant and booster,  now has 19 members including a fruit winery and cidery. Among the members are Dirty Laundry Vineyard, Silkscarf Family Boutique Winery, and 8th Generation Vineyard.

IMG_9159.JPGDaughter Cortney says she is most proud of her brother Jason. “We never set out to make award-winning wines. Our goal was to make really good wines but it’s a happy surprise to be recognized and it’s all down to Jason. He has control of the vineyards to the cellar to bottling, until the wine hits the shelves. Have to give it to him. We are already having an award-winning season taking two golds at Spring Wine Festival, for the XV and our 2015 Gewürztraminer. With so many wineries now its such a great surprise that we make really great wines too.”

Known for it’s killer views of the valley and Okanagan Lake, Thornhaven ratchets it up a notch with free entertainment on the patio on summer weekend afternoons.

Thornhaven has grown from producing 2,800 cases to about 5,600 and the hard work is still engaging, Jan says. “The wine changes every year and we add new things like the frizzante.” Cortney chimes in saying, “It’s dangerously easy drinking.” I can testify to that. It was a good thing the Handyman was driving.

The family is expanding with the addition of Cortney’s three children and it’s looking like the family business may remain so for years to come. “Cortney, our first to reach Kindergarten age, was in class and the kids were working on learning how to set the table. After everything was placed, Cortney says, ‘This is where the wine glasses go.’ I explained to the teacher that we are in the wine business so she didn’t get the wrong idea.” Cortney added that local teachers get a lot of bottles of wine at the end of the year versus I Heart Teachers mugs. I bet they are OK with that.

You are welcome to bring your own picnic to enjoy on the patio. Light snacks like bruschetta, cheese, charcuterie and crackers are available to buy along with Thornhaven wine by the glass.

If all the other Bottleneck Drive wineries are as warm and welcoming as Thornhaven and their wine as good, I can understand what Jan means about Summerland having a unique vibe. “It’s a pretty great community of like-minded people who know what it takes to get great wine into the bottle,” she says.

Like the movie “Sideways” here is a bit of digression. This little bear cub is peeping in the window of our deck doors as I write this. You know the feeling when you’re back is turned and someone is watching…



Cheers to the Okanagan.

Apple cake on wheels

The apples are local, from BC Tree Fruits, a farmer’s cooperative and my eggs are from neighbour Lucy’s happy chickens

This cake is on wheels for four reasons:

  1. It’s the creation of Klemens Koester of Bread on Wheels in Kelowna
  2. It’s so straightforward to make that you can invite your friends over for coffee and have it coming out of the oven in about an hour…so fast — like a cake on wheels.
  3. The apple slice decorations make the cake resemble a wheel.
  4. It’s wheely, wheely, wheely good.

The recipe from The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker In the Okanagan, makes two 10-inch (25-cm) cakes. It’s handy to have two cakes as you can send one home with your coffee date guest or pop it in the freezer for a future date.


  • 1 cup (250 mL) room-temperature butter
  • 1 cup (250mL) granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp (10mL) baking powder
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • 3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/8-inch (3-mm) wedges
  • apricot jam, for glazing
  • icing sugar, for dusting
Cool completely after baking before sifting on the icing sugar and brushing with the hot apricot jam or the sugar will disappear into the cake.

Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Grease and flour two 10-inch (25-cm) baking pans. In a mixer bowl, whisk room-temperature butter and sugar together until nice and fluffy, then add eggs slowly and mix well. Add flour, baking powder, vanilla and lemon zest. Mix until batter is even.

Spoon batter into cake pans evenly. Spread out until top is nice and smooth. Lay apple slices gently onto batter. Do not push into the batter.

Bake in the middle of the oven until golden brown, for about 30-40 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick which should come out without crumbs. Remove from oven and cool in the pan on a rack.

Try substituting other fruits for the apples. My apricots are just about ready so I’m going to try those next.

The nicest way to finish up: Dust icing sugar over cake and glaze apples with hot apricot jam or jelly.

The new amazing recipe book’s Bean Scene’s best-ever ginger cookie recipe is equally on wheels and will be my new go-to Christmas cookie. The spice mix is spot on.

The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker in the Okanagan

Jenn portrait with book take 2
Award-winning cookbook author Jennifer Schell at the launch of her new book, The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker in the Okanagan, at Bench 1775 Winery on the  Naramata Bench overlooking Okanagan Lake. Photo: David McIlvride, Spatula Media

Within five minutes of dipping into Jennifer Schell’s new collection of recipes, the stories of the chefs who crafted them and the artisans who provided the amazing local ingredients and the libations to accompany them, I knew she was preaching to the choir. And I say hallelujah. To anyone who delves into this beautifully written and designed cookbook who isn’t yet in the I-love-the-Okanagan-choir, your robes await.

Jennifer has the enviable good fortune of being raised on an orchard in Kelowna and has marinated herself in the area’s rich and growing artisanal food culture. She describes the book perfectly as, “A love letter to the Okanagan and to all those who have created, grown, and nurtured our special valley on this earth. They are a delightful confluence of old and new world, blending their international influence and flavours with our local bounty, establishing a cuisine that is distinctly Okanagan. Through their recipes and stories, I am pleased to introduce you to these gifted people who bring this local food to your table every day.” I love her love letter. Here’s why…

I whipped up a batch of Bean Scene’s best-ever ginger cookies from the Brunchie Lunchie section to fuel a cover-to-cover read. They were the best-ever.

During my first flip through The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine & Cheese Maker in the Okanagan, I was captivated by the photos, most taken by Jennifer herself. The photos are professional in quality but somehow capture the warmth of her subjects and the beauty of the dishes without that slick over-styled look so common in magazines and cookbooks today. I’m not sure what secret sauce went into the picture-taking, editing, lay-out process in this TouchWood Editions book but it worked.

On a second pass through I began virtually cooking and baking, selecting recipes that caught my eye and looked easy or doable and even ones that I could see taking on as a challenge like Chef Bernard’s “twisted” carrot cake and Cheffrey’s wild boar ragu. How cool would it be to serve up Wild Moon Organics Berkshire pork meatballs in tomato sauce or, cedar-roasted chicken with spruce and sumac or, pan-roasted arctic char with braised beluga lentils and smoked heirloom tomato-peach gastrique and blow the socks off my guests on our deck?

Summer dining Okanagan style at my nieces’ wedding at Gods Mountain catered by one of the chef’s featured in the cookbook, Dana Ewart of Joy Road Catering, Penticton. Photo: Jarusha Brown

I then began spotting familiar faces of many chefs, farmers and others from my Naramata hood, the Penticton Farmer’s Market or restaurants we frequent and I had to check out their recipes and stories…Chefs like Dana Ewart, one half of the Joy Road Catering team (Cameron Smith is the other half). We look forward to her cinnamon buns every Saturday at the farmer’s market and have been guests at the best wedding feast I’ve ever attended that they catered. This is a bit of a digression…but here are a few photos of that wedding banquet all taken by Jarusha Brown and catered by Joy Road…

IMG_2530IMG_2528IMG_2529On my list of for-sure-recipes to make very soon with the first of our Carpe Diem raspberry crop is The Bench raspberry almond tarts. I plan on taking my cookbook over when we stop for lunch at The Bench and go over the recipe with Chef Stewart Glynes. He has been my go-to guy for pastry and baking questions for sometime now. To say we are Bench regulars is a bit of an understatement…The Handyman has a custom sandwich called The Fussy Chicken there. It was fun to see Stewart sourcing his berries from my neighbour James Young who has crammed acres of production into his 0.39-acre property. James was a great help when I first got my greenhouse. I’m hoping Stewart will be a key customer for our raspberries.

I was also delighted to see my pal Karolina Born-Tschümperlin of Forest Green Man Lavender Farm (previous blog post) in a magical pairing with Legend Distilling, just a stumble from my  house (previous blog post), to create the Legendary Green Man Lavender Martini recipe. Yes please.

No self-respecting cookbook reviewer can do a proper job without actually getting some flour on that book and cracking the spine a bit. (Although I must say that I would buy this book even if I didn’t intend to bake or cook a single thing from it. The photos and the stories of the valley artisans are fun just to browse through and I plan to leave a copy in my guest room.)

Jennifer has kindly agreed to let me share a few recipes I’ve made in upcoming blog posts. The instructions were clear, the recipes produced delicious results and I’m in the enviable place to source the actual ingredients used. I’m sure you can seek out the artisans in your hood to provide you with top-quality, lovingly produced, sustainable ingredients that will at least come close.

The view from Bench 1775 Winery, labelled The Best Patio in the Word, the venue for the book launch. Its winemaker Val Tait is featured in the cookbook with a Bench 1775 Blissful Mojito recipe.

Here is a brief Q & A session with Jennifer:

How long does it take to put together a book like this, what were the biggest challenges and the most enjoyable part of the project for you?

I set a rather ambitious schedule for myself. The current cookbook took five months. The biggest challenge is the cookbook creation process, but also the most enjoyable part for me, is the photography. There is a lot of scheduling and driving around, but I truly love visiting with the people, old friends and new, and being able to visit their farms or restaurants, see what they are working on and catch up with their news. These people never fail to inspire me. Each has such passion for their craft and community, and after each and every meeting, I am super charged and can’t wait to share their faces and their stories with my readers.

What recipe should I make first and why?

It is hard for me to pick a favourite recipe so maybe if we go with what is in season. If there is still rhubarb out there (yup…some left in my garden), I would suggest my mom’s rhubarb pie. I also love the simplicity of the Apple Cake on Wheels and local apples are always available in the cold storage of BC Tree Fruits. Potatoes should be ready soon and the Sunshine Farm Heritage Potato Flan is a winner. OK, that was three instead of one. Sorry, every recipe is  wonderful!

(Throw down accepted…I’ve already made the Apple Cake on Wheels…excellent…)

What’s next in the works for you?

I swore I would take a break after this last book — but, I can’t stop now! Too many stories to share and new farmers and drink makers and butchers and bakers to meet! I am working on the outline of the next book now.


Gwen Chiffani strawberry shortcake

Just like Gwen, this cake’s got a little twist

It’s strawberry time in the Valley and this cake is a celebration of just-picked, ripe, red berries smothered in a basil-infused whipped cream slathered between the lightest, fluffiest chiffon sponge cake you will ever baked. I don’t even feel like I’ve oversold it.

I’ve never used grapeseed oil in a cake before and was skeptical. Colour me wrong. I knew as soon as the batter started to come together that it would be super light and produce a wonderful sponge and it’s wine country here. What a perfect use for a by-product…

Chiffon cake ingredients

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 8 large egg whites (from my neighbour Lucy’s chickens)
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease and line the bottoms of two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the oil and 1 1/4 cups of the sugar on medium speed for one minute. Add the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time and mix for about three minutes. The mixture will increase in volume (I told you) and be pale in colour. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after the last streaks of dry ingredients are combined. Pour the batter into a large bowl and set aside.

Clean the mixer bowl and paddle and dry well. In the clean bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. Add the remaining two tablespoons of sugar and the cream of tartar and whisk on high until stiff peaks form.

Stop the mixer and fold the egg whites into the cake better. Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Let them rest on a wire rack until cool before running a paring knife around the edges of the cakes and removing them from their pans.

The basil-infused whipping cream gives the cake an extra something. The basil flavour pairs beautifully with strawberries. The Handyman, whose heart is only really moved by chocolate, says he would have skipped this whole basil step but my other food critics disagreed. I feel Gwen Stefani would be cool with it too.

Basil-infused whipped cream ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Slowly heat 2 cups of the cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to simmer. Meanwhile, gently muddle the basil leaves with mortar and pestle (or crush them up a bit with your hands if you are short of kitchen equipment.)

Once the cream begins to steam and simmer, remove the pan from the heat and add the basil leaves, cover and let them steep for 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a container and refrigerate until cold.


Strain out the basil leaves, re-measure the cream and top it off with more cream if necessary so you have a total of 2 cups. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, whisk the cream on medium speed until it begins to thicken. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk on high until it forms medium peaks. For best results, store the whipped cream in the fridge and assemble the cake just before serving.



Some assembly required

  • Four cups fresh strawberries

With the assistance of my son’s lovely fiancé, the cake was easy to assemble. Hull and slice the fresh strawberries 1/4 inch thick until you have about four cups of sliced berries. Reserve a few whole berries with their tops on for decoration.

Once the cakes have cooled completely, carefully halve them horizontally to create four even layers. Level the cakes and choose which layer will be the bottom. Place it on a cake plate and spread on one-quarter of the basil-infused whipped cream and one cup of the berries.

IMG_2421Top with the next layer of cake and repeat. Place the reserved strawberries on top of the last layer to decorate.


Eat your Gwen Chiffani immediately or keep refrigerated for up to two days.

This recipe, with some re-branding, came from Layered by Tessa Huff, a fellow British Columbian. My new mission in life is to make every single cake in this amazing cook book.

Raptor rescue rhapsody: A day with the owls at SORCO

This trio of 10 to 12-week-old great horned owls will be released in July

Days like this are why I blog.  Days like this are why I started my career as a newspaper reporter. To have the extraordinary opportunity to spend a day behind-the-scenes with dedicated and passionate people, to capture and share the experience with my skills and every once in awhile to help is the ultimate reward.

SORCO Raptor Rehab Centrenear Oliver, British Columbia cares for injured and orphaned raptors including: eagles, hawks, ospreys, vultures, falcons and owls until they are ready to be released back into the wild. Like all not-for-profits helping our wildlife, SORCO walks the funding tightrope with ever-growing numbers in need of help.

SORCO (South Okanagan Rehabilitation Centre for Owls)  is caring for a whopping 11 great horned owl chicks

“We have a houseful right now,” says SORCO Manager Dale Belvedere. “Because of our mild winter the great horned owls had two different matings, one at the beginning of February and another in mid-March.” Dale adds that eight of their current batch of chicks were unnecessary rescues by the well-meaning public worried about chicks on the ground.

Chicks often spend a few days out of the nest with the parents keeping a close watch and “rescuing” them often means the parents won’t take them back leaving them to spend time at the rehab centre until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

“We ask people to call us first or talk to a conservation officer before assuming the bird needs rescuing,” says Dale. The centre’s higher-than-average numbers at the moment have lead to a temporary shortage in the rats they are fed and an emergency call to the coast to resupply until the centres’ own rat breeding program can catch up. “It’s a bit of a touchy situation but we will deal with it.”

SORCO Manager Dale Belevedere with a tiny saw-whet owl named Little Hooty by its rescuer

The temporary rat shortage is nothing compared to the bizarre and disturbing vandalism the centre coped with last June. Someone broke onto SORCO’s property by forcing open the front gate, got into the food centre where the rats are raised to feed the raptors and poisoned their food. All the rats were found dead two days after the break-in and pathology tests confirmed that the rats died from a poisonous substance.

“SORCO uses a variety of foods depending on the particular needs of the recovering bird. However, rats are the primary food source. Before a raptor can be released back into the wild, they need to demonstrate their ability to hunt for live prey.”

Even more devastating, the centre’s mascot and education bird, Houdini had eaten some of the poisoned rats during the two-day period between the poisoning and the rat deaths. The rescue owl had a long six-month recovery from the poisoning.

Houdini is back to his duties helping to spread the word on what we can all do to help protect raptors in the Okanagan Valley

As a result of the unsolved incident, SORCO has had to spend precious resources to add security systems to all its facilities.

A great counterpoint to this dark day in the centre’s history is the building of the new treatment clinic in 2014 by the students of Okanagan College Penticton’s Residential Construction program. The new 1,500-square-foot structure provides room to care for the raptors when they first come to the rehab centre and replaced a cramped and noisy 250-square-foot room that was completely inadequate.

The great horned owl chicks were eminently photogenic

The centre is on track for a record year of “patients” which is not good news for our wild bird populations. Dale says they are under threat by the removal of trees for development, the addition of more and more glass windows and topless glass patio railings and increased car traffic. So far they have had 20 more predators in the centre compared to the same time last year. In 2012, SORCO cared for and released 60 raptors and more than doubled just three years later with a total of 150 in 2015.

One of their more serious cases was brought in in January with injuries from being hit by a car. Named Archimedes by its rescuer, the great horned owl was hit by a car near Rock Creek and treated by the vets at the Penticton Veterinary Hospital before being brought to SORCO. The owl was found standing on the road with a serious head injury, the yellow of both her eyes was bright red with blood and her mouth and beak were full of blood. She has made a good recovery although she has a partial separation of the left retina and will have limited sight in that eye. She won’t be released until she learns to hunt with the changes to her vision.

Archimedes was badly injured by a car and has made a remarkable recovery

One of the centre’s newest arrivals is pretty special. This small streaked Western Screech-owl is endangered with only about 50 to 200 individuals left in the Okanagan Valley which is its only home in British Columbia. This little guy, found in a Kelowna parking lot, prefers the bottomlands which is habitat more likely to be developed. Timber harvesting and the removal of dead trees that serve as potential nest-cavity sites had lead to the decline in Western Screech-owl numbers.

This Western Screech-owl’s rehab will be carefully followed due to its endangered status. It made the coolest noises.

Of all the birds at the Raptor Centre, the great horned owl chicks stole my heart. Here are some of the many, many photos I took of Peanut, Popcorn, Pinto and the rest of the gang.

Peanut is the baby of the parliament and is working on flight skills
Dale says she thinks they look like little astronauts… I see what she means. Peanut is taking in some rays
I like this quote from Munia Khan, “Soft feathers cannot make a cruel bird kind.”… But they sure make them look cute and they aren’t cruel either…just have mad hunting skills


Cool shot showing an owl’s nictitating membrane. They close this special see-through membrane to protect their eyes just before impact when they are catching their prey.
Flight training
Our fascination with owls comes from our awe mixed in with a bit of fear at their night-time silent hunting prowess.

Here is how we can help SORCO Raptor Rehab Centre. Go online and donate or offer to volunteer. Plan a visit to the centre at its open house in May, which is its biggest fund-raising event. This year’s event was a few weeks ago and hosted more than 1,500 people. The centre is not open to the public but occasionally its possible to watch a raptor release and many educational programs are offered throughout the year where Houdini often makes an appearance. Take some time to review the “Found a Raptor” link on their site so you are armed with accurate information.

Thanks Dale for an amazing day with these invaluable birds. Without birds of prey our Valley would be overrun with rodents. The magical sightings and sounds of owls and other birds of prey in the wild is priceless. Thanks too to the dedicated SORCO volunteers, board members and all who have donated to the centre.

Banishing blueberry eating birds to make blueberry tarts

Blueberry tart wouldn’t be possible without good bird netting.

The birds know a good thing when they see it. The very minute blueberries are ripe and ready to eat they are on it. If you want to find your thrill on blueberry hill you need some pre-planning. Our berries in our first producing patch are just blueing up nicely so it’s time for The Handyman to work his magic.


The Handyman used 3/4″ PVC with some t-joints and PVC glue to make the structure, spending about $50 on materials. He measured the width of the blueberry bed and the height. Our box was 8 feet wide and he used two 10-foot sections of PVC to give us a 7-foot clearance at the apex of the hoop. He says you could also add some rebar inside the PVC to make the structure sturdier which he plans to do in the future when we enclose the much larger commercial patch for the berry farm. If you need to make the structure more freestanding, ie. you don’t have a wooden box as your bed to staple the PVC too, you will need to insert a section of rebar into the ends of the PVC to allow you to dig the PVC into the ground. The bird netting was a lucky drive-by find found at the side of the road with a “free” sign on it. Of course, you can purchase netting…


We heaped lovely soil with lots of peat moss into this raised box and I top with a mulch of pine needles to keep these acid-loving berries happy.
Here is a side view…we have left one end up so the bees can finish up their last bit of pollination for us. We will secure this opening when the berries are ripe and weigh down the bottom with a few rocks we can remove to lift the flap when harvesting.
Here is a look at the roof structure. The nets are secured with zip ties.
Blueberries are safe as houses from the birds but easily accessible for picking.
Jacquy Pfieiffer’s blueberry tart is a pretty good pay-back for The Handyman’s work.

Blueberry Tart

Day one:

Sweet Dough (makes enough for two 9-inch crusts)

  • 168 grams or 6 ounces of unsalted butter
  • 1.4 grams or 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 112 grams or 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 39 grams or 1/3 cup of almond flour
  • 7 grams or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 extra large egg plus 1 to 2 teaspoons
  • 315 grams or 2 7/8 cup sifted cake flour

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream the butter and sea salt on medium speed for about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and add the confectioners’ sugar and combine with the butter at low speed. Scrape down the bowl and then add almond flour and vanilla and combine at low speed. Add the eggs, one at a time and about a quarter of the cake flour and beat on low until just incorporated. Stop the machine and scrape down the bowl. Gradually add the remaining flour and mix just until the dough comes together. Don’t over mix. Press the dough into a 1/2″ thick rectangle block, wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight or for at least two to three hours.

You could also make the streusel (see below) on day one and or the blueberry filling and refrigerate until ready to assemble and bake.

Day two:

After it has chilled, remove the dough from the refrigerator, cut it into two equal portions and roll one out in a 1/4 ” thick circle and line a 9-inch tart pan, ring, or heart.


Using a fork, perforate the bottom of the shell making rows of little holes. Place in the refrigerator uncovered for at least an hour. (Freeze the second portion of dough for a future use). Pre-bake the shell in a 325F oven. To do this, line the shell with parchment and add rice, dried beans or pie weights. Bake with this “faux” filling for 15 minutes and then remove the parchment and rice, beans or weights and return the tart shell to the oven for another 5 to 15 minutes until it is golden brown and evenly coloured. Brush with an egg wash (1 beaten egg with 1 tablespoon of water) and return to the oven for five more minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling.

Blueberry filling

  • 280 grams or 2 1/4 cups blueberries. If using frozen, choose wild blueberries
  • 51.5 grams or 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 grams or 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 grams or 1 1/4 teaspoons water
  • 2.5 grams or 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 a vanilla bean
  • 36 grams or 2 yolks plus 1 teaspoon egg yolks
  • 56 grams or 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 56 grams or 1/4 cup heavy cream


In a medium saucepan, combine the blueberries and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and boil for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, water and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Gradually stir the mixture into the berries and simmer 1 minute until thickened. If the mixture is too watery, dissolve another 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch into a tablespoon of juice and stir in. Simmer until thickened and then remove from heat.

Using a knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a medium bowl. Add the egg yolk and remaining sugar and beat together with a whisk. Add the milk and cream and beat together until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the blueberries.


  • 60 grams or 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 88 grams or 1/3 cup turbinado sugar
  • 70 grams or 1/2 cup of cake flour
  • 70 grams or 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 gram or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 13 grams or 1 tablespoon Kirschwasser

(This will make more than you need. You can freeze the leftovers and use to make fruit crumbles or top muffins.)

Preheat oven to 325 F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut the butter into cubes and place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and mix on medium for about 2 minutes until crumbly.

Spread on the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown and crisp. Allow to cool.


Sprinkle 17 grams or 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of the streusel in an even layer on the bottom of the pre-baked tart shell. Spread the blueberries on top. Place on a sheet pan and bake 30 to 40 minutes until just set. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Sorry birds







Must love bees: It takes hundreds to make berry tarts

Our raspberry farm is abuzz today.

Each raspberry “flower” has many stamens and styles, each attached to a carpel with two ovules. Because the small individual flowers on each receptacle open over an extended period, bees must visit each plant several times to ensure that enough individual flowers are pollinated to make enough fruit for us to sell.

We are relying on wild bees to do the work for us.
The flowers are kind of pretty close-up

We are talking 100 to 125 pistils, per raspberry to which pollen must be transferred to create a mature seed and the tasty red druplet surrounding the seed. If each and every one of these druplets is not pollinated, the overall integrity of the fruit is compromised and the fruit will be misshapen and crumbly.

I feel like I should be bringing out pitchers of iced tea for them or offering them tiny, careful massages.

Some of the many variety of bees I spotted include honey, bumble, carpenter, cuckoo, digger, mason, yellow-faced and mining bees. I would just get them in focus and they would be off before I could capture their photo. These few photos in the post were among about 100 of blurred or vanished bees. They are busy right?

You can tell that this guy is a honey bee as you can see the pollen basket on its hind leg (white). The bee moistens the pollen with nectar and packs it in the pollen basket for transport.

During this time of the year it’s important not to water the raspberries too much as the nectar will drip off the immature berry and the pollinators won’t be attracted to them. Pesticides are a concern too but not for us and we don’t use them on our organic berries. Even it the pesticide is not toxic to bees, they often repel them.

Encore raspberries.
We made mason bee houses at a recent Naramata Garden Club meeting. I plan on making more to give the little guys a reason to stick around and help us out.

There are so many recipes that use berries made possible by the work of all those bees. Here’s an easy one that looks and tastes great.


Easiest ever elegant dessert…part of the dessert table I made for my lovely niece Nicole’s wedding…

Chocolate berry shells

  • Buy pre-made chocolate shells
  • Daub a teaspoon or so of jam onto the shell and spread it around…it will act as “glue” for the berries
  • Decorate with a mix of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
  • Finish with a grating of lemon peel

“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead: So…more “secret” garden

I took my camera out for “a few minutes” in the early morning today for a look-around the secret garden and an hour later had to be dragged away. Here’s a Cole’s Notes look at what held me captivate because sometimes, the biggest secrets you can only tell a stranger.

Unusual red clematis, Rebecca, launched at the Chelsea Flower show in England. It reads a bit pink in this photo with the sun shining through but is very, very red. The shot below better flaunts its redness.
Just opening, Rebecca is the newest variety from Raymond Evison and is named after his eldest daughter. It can be grown in any location and holds it colour well in full sun. It can also be grown in a container.
One more clematis…I’ve forgotten the variety of this purple gem.
Mirror, mirror on the wall…

“The best secrets are the most twisted.” Sara Shepard.

My aquilegia are putting on one final show. It seems strange that two birds as different as the eagle (in Latin, aquila) and the dove (columbus) should both give their name to the same flower — aquilegia or columbine. It is an easy perennial to start from seed and all of mine came from seeds from England germinated in my greenhouse. I’m still collecting.
I love the ruffles.
Aquilegias love the dappled shade in the secret garden and are perfect in its cottage garden setting.
The bees seem to like them too.

“Photography is all about secrets. The secrets we all have and will never tell.” Kim Edwards, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.

The fine spray of The Handyman’s irrigation also makes it a lovely place to be in the mornings.
Hard to believe this allium is part of the onion and garlic family.
Quick digression to my potager, that I passed by on the way to the secret garden…These chives are related to the allium as well.
…and look lovely in a salad.

“Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast.” Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden.


“But some secrets are too delicious not to share.” Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay.

Maybe flowers are overrated.
She knows some secrets.
Frogs have taken up residence.

“That, my dear, is what makes a character interesting, their secrets.” Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden.

IMG_8821“Secrets are like plants. They can stay buried deep in the earth for a long time, but eventually they’ll send up shoots and give themselves away.” Judy Reene Singer, Still Life with Elephant.

Isle-sur-la-Sorgue: The Mothership for French antique shopping

Get up! It’s a perfect day to go antique shopping…the view from our rented house in the tiny Provence village of Rasteau
Views along the way to Isle-sur-la-Sourge

What’s the big deal? Isle-sur-la-Sourge has morphed into the antique shopping capital of France and one of the top three in Europe. There are more than 350 permanent antique dealers spread over the town and two major international antique fairs at Easter and on August 15. Don’t wear socks, it will blow them off. If you are in the know, the locals call antiques “brocante”. I get why, I went broke buying brocante.

Too big for my suitcase, “tant pis” as the French would say. My expandable suitcase is pretty miraculous but does have a limit. I’m seriously tempted by the idea of filling a shipping container and selling some of my finds next time.


Found it! My first treasure all wrapped up and ready to take home. I’m liking that fountain and the outdoor set too.

My primary mission was to find a hand-carved rustic bread proving bowl and I found one in the very first shop we walked into. It’s a sign right? I took it to mean I was on a roll.

Here it is back home in Canada…It fit perfectly in my suitcase with clothes packed around and in it. I love thinking about the other woman who made bread with it and her own Handyman making it for her.

My next purchase was a basket which happened to nestle nicely into my new bowl in my suitcase, with a slight bending of the handle.

My antique mushroom picking basket was a bargain at 20 Euros. It made a stop at our patio table in Rasteau before heading home in my magic suitcase.
It posed for another selfie in Ilse-sur-la-Sorgue in front of an historic waterwheel. The town stretches across the Sorgue River — earning it the nickname of Venice of Provence. The mossy waterwheels were used for dyeing fabrics and powering olive and paper mills.

IMG_1252If you ever look up from all the shopping for treasures, the town is pretty. It’s shaded with plane trees, the river actually babbles and the riverside cafes and restaurants are festooned with flowers. There is a farmer’s market as well where we sorted our dinner.

Olives times a million at the farmer’s market

We stopped for lunch too which was necessary to keep the rest of the less enthusiastic antique shoppers’ spirits buoyed.

Crepes s’il vous plait

Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a 30-minute drive from Avignon and is also accessible by train. If you go, it’s best to arrive early for the Sunday market, which starts at 9 a.m.  both to enable you to find parking and to avoid the crowds. It was raining by the time we got there and not crowded. You can try to negotiate a bit on the prices too. I paid about 20 Euros less on the asking price of my wooden bowl and saved another 10 Euros on the picking basket. I had also done some pre-pricing on the Internet so had a rough idea what I wanted to pay. Bargaining is worth a try. I think that being polite and speaking to the vendors in French helped. It’s not a place to find amazing bargains though. Dealers are savvy and know their prices. The thrill for me was finding things not found in Canada or found here, imported from Europe and sold for appropriately more money. It was also about having so many wonderful things all in one place.


The antiques trade took off here about 30 years ago when a few dealers got together on weekends to sell off the contents of a few local chateaux. (Wish I had been there for that.) There are now 10 main areas or “villages” spread throughout the town with the largest being Le Village des Anitiquaires de la Gare where over 100 dealers are gathered in a giant warehouse. Here is a tiny list of what you will find: garden furniture, entire fireplaces, enamel signs, books, paintings, cutlery sets, linen, zinc-top tables, mirrors, crystal, stone statues, silver trays, glassware, porcelain, jewellery, weird curiosities, lamps, children’s toys, and on it goes with enough treasure to fill Ali Baba’s cavern and a few select items left over for my modest Canadian home.

There is so much to see that I could happily have spent a second or third day here.
The view from our Rasteau villa

It wasn’t too hard to leave as dinner on the terrace of our Rasteau villa was pretty inviting. Much of the conversation centred around items sadly left behind due to budgetary and suitecasary considerations. I have to go back with bigger luggage and wallet…

View of the villa in the last of the evening sun.
Olive trees flank the drive and a vineyard sits below.

It was one of my best antique shopping days ever (on par with the day spent at Ardingly Antiques Fair in England). The Handyman, his brother (and our wonderful English relatives) indulged me and helped make the day special. The Handyman and his brother had other plans for the following day that I in turn did not indulge by accompanying them.

The Handyman and his brother summited Ventoux on their bikes the day after our visit to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue while I basked in the afterglow on the terrace with a good book and a glass of wine. Chacun son truc.


Blog at

Up ↑