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Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

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writely2015

Manic in Greece’s deep and wild Mani

 

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Sunrise view from the Maina house. This seven-storey tower in the abandoned village of Exo Nyfi is one of the tallest in the Deep Mani in Greece’s Peloponnese.

The deep and wild Mani’s history is like no other. Even for most Greeks, the Mani is considered a remote and mysterious region, a step into another world. A 75k-long peninsula, with a spine formed by the rugged Taygetus mountain range, it is inhabited by a proud warrior people, direct descendants of the ancient Spartans. For centuries, the Maniots fended off the Turks, while the rest of Greece was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire. Still today, the Maniot flag bears the words “Victory or Death,” as opposed to “Freedom or Death,” which is used in the rest of the country. Because, throughout the course of history, the Mani has never lost its freedom. Empty, ghostly hill towns cling onto distant ridges, still fortified against centuries-old threats.

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Into this land of more than 800 towers and six castles, bumbled four confident Canadian travellers with lots of wildlife encounters, including meet and greets with numerous bears, under their belts.

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Entrance to the village of Exo Nyfi.

After some tricky navigation and help from non-English speaking Greeks, we arrive at the abandoned village of Exo Nyfi in the most remote part of the Mani, termed the Deep Mani, unload our luggage and begin to look for the tower house called Maina that will be our home for a week.

Maina, a tower house dating from the 18th century, is perched on a hill with views over the countryside. The dilapidated building adjacent to a tower from the 16th century has been renovated and expanded by an annex. The project received an honorable mention in the 2015 Domes Awards 13 best built works in Greece of 2010-2014.

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Sounds cool right? We were pretty excited to see this unique house in this otherworldly part of Greece.

“Oh la, la! Oh la, la! There is a snake! I can’t stay here. Back to the car. Oh la, la!,” screams Patricia, the organizer of the home exchange that brought us to Maina. The colourful and possibly poisonous snake was shooed from the stone steps into the bushes and our life-long snake-fearing friend bravely calmed enough to complete the climb to the house. And so the mania begins.

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The scene of the crime…two crimes.

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Cool side note … In this village of Exo Nyfi John Kassavetis shot his film The Tempest (not a great movie…but fun to watch while we were there).

The original building was maintained as a long narrow volume, which unfolds perpendicularly to the topographic contour lines of hillside, as do the other houses in the settlement, looking out to the sea and the east. There is a new addition that comprises a second long narrow volume added to this old building, maintaining the same vertical relationships with the landscape relief. All three levels of the residence constitute single spaces, while the suitable placement of openings ensure natural light and ventilation during the hot Mani summers.

Once settled in with our bottled water to drink, beds selected and dinner cooked we called it an early night which was easy to do in the completely dark, completely quiet house with its lack of any neighbours.

Early in the morning I awake to something very creepy crawling over my legs and I  jump out of bed.  I make coffee and enjoy a sunrise on the patio overlooking the sea listening to the birds, the odd dog barking, goat bells tinkling and the braying of a donkey echoing off the rocky hills that form part of the house and enjoy reading the famous Mani, Travels in the Southern Peloponnese by Patrick Leigh Fermor.

When making up the bed I find this… well this is the much shrunken corpse after I smashed the shit out of it with a shoe.

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I later learn my billionopede is a scolopendra cingulata and lives in mountainous Mediterranean regions. It is often found under stones, rocks and fallen tree trunks where it rests during the day, only to come out at nighttime to feed.

Voracious feeders, they eat cricket, worms, spiders and moths, and have been known to devour young mice. They are not terribly sociable creatures and have been known to partake of a little cannibalism, occasionally eating each other.

Officially classified as centipedes, they have long bodies containing many flattened segments. They grow to 10 – 15 cm long (4″ – 6″) (although I’m sure my guy was 10″ when it was alive) and can live for up to an incredible seven years.

All interesting until I learn that it’s bite is extremely poisonous and can actually kill people. “Oh la, la.”

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Views of  tower villages… the Maniots waged long wars with the occupants of neighbouring towers while we only did battle with insect and reptile occupants of our tower.

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These severe, tall stone towers of Mani stand out against the limestone landscapes  and have become symbol of Mani’s fierce past and its fight for freedom.

 

Any thoughts of peaceful deep sleep in the deep Mani went out the window. Wearing sweat pants and a hoodie I did a strip search of the bed on the second night. Nothing… “OK, I can do this.” Had to take a second look and found this guy on the outside of the comforter (not aptly named). Another shoe smashing put paid to the scorpion. Unruffled husband says, “It wasn’t inside the bed, well at least not yet.”

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A fourth encounter with a hatch of a million flying ants in the downstairs house is barely worth a mention.

 

All disturbing but then there was this cure to the mania (The words Mania and Manic actually originate from Mani and it’s people)…

 

Less than a five-minute drive from Maina we found the most incredible beach boasting two tavernas whose owners happily delivered cold Greek beers to the beach. We were the only people at this beach which was the most incredible place to swim imaginable. “Have you ever seen anything like this?”, I ask my husband. “Yes, in a magazine.”

The Mani, this relatively unexplored part of Greece consists of 250 sun lit villages and sites with plenty of olive trees and cactuses. It is also about the beaches.

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View of a cool rock formation from one of the houses’ many patios.
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Sunset over “our” tower which we eventually grew to love.
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The tower itself has been stabilized with the hope of one day restoring it as well.
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This hedonistic beach was worth a few bugs.

All over the Mani you will find amazing beaches, all of them quiet and unspoiled. An ocean swimmer’s paradise of pebble, rock or sand beaches with crystalline, shallow waters of the bluest of blues.

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Koffie in Amsterdam

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This cafe, located near Anne Frank’s house, has been a coffee shop for hundreds of years.

When you talk of coffeeshops in Amsterdam it’s not about the coffee but the weed. Amsterdam coffeeshops are local legal dispensaries for marijuana, especially in the Red Light District where most of the 250 such shops are located.

I, on the other hand, went in search of the caffeinated fix. This little photo essay about Amsterdam’s Koffiehuis or cafes will give you a little snippet of the experience. Although not particularly known for their great coffee, the Dutch know a thing or two about presentation. The little cups usually accompanied by a treat and a glass of water are served in lovely cafes where you can linger and people watch.

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What better time of the year than Spring to linger at a cafe where everyone is basking in the sun after a long grey winter.

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The pastries are beautifully presented as well.

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A perfect chocolate on a Delft blue plate is too pretty to eat.

 

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Canal-side.

 

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Another cafe view
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The Dutch are known for their hot chocolate. I bought this mug from a cafe in Delft. I wish I had the hot chocolate in it right now as well.
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Coffee with a blossoming view near Vondel Park.

Naramata Bench Honey Lime Tartlets

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The honey for these deliciously sweet and tangy tarts is as local as I can get it. It comes from Tim Bouwmeester, owner/operator of Desert Flower Honey on the Naramata Bench (next to Hillside Winery). Buying local is always a good thing. Buying honey locally is an even better thing.

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Bit of a honey rant

Most honey comes from China, where beekeepers are notorious for keeping their bees healthy with antibiotics banned in North America because they seep into honey and contaminate it; packers there learn to mask the acrid notes of poor quality product by mixing in sugar or corn-based syrups to fake good taste.

None of this is on the label. Rarely will a jar of honey say “Made in China.” Instead, Chinese honey sold in North America is more likely to be stamped as Indonesian, Malaysian or Taiwanese, due to a growing multimillion dollar laundering system designed to keep the endless supply of cheap and often contaminated Chinese honey moving into North America, where tariffs have been implemented to staunch the flow and protect its own struggling industry.

All the more reason to pick up some local honey next time you are at the farmer’s market.

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The recipe is in three parts: Pastry to make the crusts, the filling and whipped cream for topping the tarts.

Pastry ingredients

You will need eight 3 3/4-inch mini tart pans with removable bottoms.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp. ice water

IMG_4861.jpgDirections

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine flour, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles pea-sized balls. Add egg yolk and ice water and pulse just until the mixture comes together and forms a ball. Don’t overdo it or your pastry will be tough.

Divide the dough into eight small balls and roll each out into a circle with a rolling pin on a lightly floured board. Place your rolled out circles inside the tart pans and using your fingers press the dough up the sides of the eight 3  3/4-inch pans. Place the pans on a cookie sheet and bake about 12 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

IMG_4859.jpgFilling ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. lime zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter cut up
  • 1 Tbsp. local honey
  • 1 cup sour cream

Directions

In a medium saucepan stir together the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in the heavy cream, lime zest and lime juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until gently boiling. Cook and stir another few minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and honey until the butter is melted. Stir in the sour cream. Spoon filling into baked tart shells. Chill at least an hour.

Whipped Cream ingredients and directions

Makes about 4 cups. (Halve the recipe by reducing the cream to one cup leaving all the other ingredients the same if you only want enough to finish off these tartlets.)

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup icing sifted icing sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • dash of salt

Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl with the whip attachment and beat on medium until soft peaks form.

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Some assembly required

Either add a spoonful of whipping cream to the top of tarts or fill a pastry bag and pipe the whipped cream on for a fancier tart. Garnish with some lime zest.

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Life changing brownies

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Hyperbole? Nope. This is hands down the best recipe for rich, chocolatey, gooey brownies with the classic crackly brownie crust that makes a brownie a brownie. Simple to make, the secret lies in the ingredients, the careful whisking and folding and the bake.

Like all baking, top quality ingredients are key. Don’t skimp and use everyday chocolate chips. It’s about 11 ounces (325 grams) of the highest quality of dark chocolate you can find, a cup of butter, five farm fresh eggs and a dash of espresso. What is not added is important too including no baking powder or baking soda.

They have a good bit of height given that they don’t have any leavening agents, so they aren’t thin, gooey and smooshed like some brownies (this is a good thing). They have substance and heft when you bite into them.

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72 per cent cacao) coarsely chopped (I use Lindt)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter cubed
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 large free-range eggs, at room temperature (important)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13 inch glass or light-coloured metal baking pan.

In a bowl, sieve together flour, salt and cocoa powder and then whisk together.

Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large non-reactive metal bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Turn off the heat but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until combined, then remove the bowl from the pan.

Add the room temperature eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir. Do not overheat the batter or the brownies will be more cakey than gooey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not the whisk), gently fold the four mixture into the chocolate until just a big of the flour is visible. It is important not to overmix.

Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes rotating your pan half way through. Insert a toothpick into the centre to check for doneness. It should come out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. An over-baked brownie won’t be a gooey one so carefully monitor the baking time.

Let the brownies cool. OK, maybe skip this step if you can’t wait.

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Sweet salty chocolate cake with an almond bark crown and a secret sauce

IMG_4647.jpgThis rich and satisfying little chocolate cake has a secret sauce that makes it unforgettable. The salty component of this beauty comes from tamari (Japanese) soy sauce and it’s in the cake batter and the crunchy almond topper. Easy to make, this six-inch cake is perfect for eight small slices or four huge ones.

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  1. Tamari almonds
  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 1 tbsp tamari or Japanese soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil, eg grapeseed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place almonds on a baking tray. Pour over tamari or Japanese soy sauce and oil and mix through evenly. Spread almonds evenly in dish and roast until fragrant and crisp, about 15 minutes. Cool before storing in a sealed jar. They will keep for several weeks.

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2. Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder sifted
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk

Directions

With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the sides of a 6-inch springform or cake ring and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, oil, soy sauce and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk until smooth. Spoon into the prepared pan.

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IMG_4616.jpgBake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes. Unmould and let cool completely on a wire rack. Clean the ring or springform ring.

3. Almond Crisp

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp tamari almonds, coarsely chopped from step 1

Directions

Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Place the ring of the springform pan on the prepared sheet.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the brown sugar and soy sauce. Simmer for 30 seconds and remove from the heat. Stir in the flour. Working quickly, pour into the ring and spread into a thin layer. Sprinkle with the almonds.

Bake for 10 minutes in a 350F oven. Let cool completely on the baking sheet, then unmould.

4. Ganache

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Ingredients

  • 170 grams good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cup 35% heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

Directions

Place the chocolate in a bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Pour over the chocolate and let melt for one minute without stirring. Using a whisk, stir until smooth. Stir in the butter. Cover and refrigerate for a half hour or until the ganache is spreadable.

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Some Assembly Required

Slice the cake in half horizontally to obtain two layers. Spread the ganache onto each layer and stack them. Top with the almond crisp.

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Naramata Seed Company – farm-based rare and historic seed varieties – what’s old is new again

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Some of the Naramata Seed Company’s unusual varieties illustrated by Tim himself.

“I’ve been doing this for a little more than 20 years, ” says Naramatian Tim Skrypiczajko as he shows me around one of the two plots of land he farms on North Naramata Road.
“I learned to garden from some old-school organic farmers, they saved their own seed, so to me it’s always been a part of the process.”

Over the past 50 or so years seed growing has changed dramatically as part of the industrialization of agriculture that resulted in commercial vegetable seed growing becoming specialized and in the hands of a relatively few companies and people. Farmers like Tim are working  hard to preserve and maintain unique seedstock suited to particular micro-climates. He quotes John Navazio, the author of The Organic Seed Grower, “The seed was part of their farm and their farm was part of the seed. Each variety that was selected over time to meet the environmental conditions and the farmer’s needs became part of the whole system used on the farm.” That was the way it had always worked and Tim is doing his part to continue that valuable tradition in Naramata.

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Tim takes me on a tour of one of the plots he farms along North Naramata Road on late winter’s day.

Germination

“I’m a curious person by nature, so I just started to try to grow as many different things as possible. If it was something I’d never heard of before, even better.” Tim started saving seeds and expanding the variety of seeds he grew in earnest. “I would seek out new and different varieties from small seed companies here and there, as well as a few other sources and started to amass a large collection.” His collection grew to the point that he turned his hobby into a business in 2010 and began selling seeds. He has now at the point that the Naramata Seed Company is his primary focus.

“I still treat it like a hobby though. Growing so many different things keeps it interesting. The only part of the business that feels like a real job is the marketing stuff,” he adds.

Tim says his philosophy has always been to work with the farm — it’s soil, climate, topography… and farm in a way that’s suitable for that. “At some point I realized the place where I live is the ideal place to produce seeds so it made sense to focus on that. I feel the plots I farm are the best place in Canada to produce certain kinds of seeds.”

 

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Tim at the top of one of his plots.

“I discovered that growing and selling seeds is a good way to make a viable income from a couple acres of land, while being able to do most of the work by hand and not having to use lots of machinery, which I like.

“Sometimes I wonder how I ended up doing this, and think that somehow the seeds chose me to be their custodian, not the other way around.”

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Tim cleaning some seeds before packaging.

The Naramata Seed Company’s seeds are open-pollinated, untreated and of course non-GMO and Tim farms using traditional chemical-free farming techniques. He is dedicated to the preservation of genetic diversity and is focused on rare and historic varieties.

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Starting your own seeds is easier than you think

Tim says it’s easy to grow plants from seeds and encourages everyone to give it a try. “You will soon realize it’s not as daunting as it seems. There are lots more people who want to try growing from seed all the time.”

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My greenhouse where I grow many of Tim’s seeds every year.
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Farming is not for the faint of heart. After years working around a large rock Tim has decided this is the winter it’s going.
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Along with growing seeds, Tim loves illustrating and his to scale and beautifully coloured pictures are on his seed packages.

A tomato is born

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New for this year, is the Sweet Pit Tomato, which Tim developed out of an accidental cross between Summer Cider, a large orange tomato and another unknown variety. It is a unique colour, a dusty orange with green shoulders and when sliced is orange in the centre and the edges with green gel around the seeds. It has a creamy texture and sweet rich flavour.

Naramata is a great place to grow anything, he says. North Naramata’s isolation from other farms and gardens reduces the risk of potential cross-pollination he adds.

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Tim’s land as a summer storm sweeps in. Photo by Tim Skrypiczajko.

Growing the company

As for the future, the Naramata Seed Company will soon have an upgraded website making online ordering easy. His goal is to grow the company to the point where he can focus on the growing and seed cleaning and turn the marketing over to someone else.

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Slow & Seedy Sunday

Tim is playing a key role in Slow & Seedy Sunday taking place in Naramata February 11 from 11 – 3 at Columbia Hall. The free event hosted by NaramataSlow will include seed and garden-related vendors, a preserve exchange and information on a backyard chicken project. Speakers include James Young, who has obtained farm status on a relatively modest plot of land in the Village, beekeeper Tim Bouwmeester of Desert Flower Honey and Chris Mathison, the owner/operator of the Grist Mill Garden who will talk about seed starting and diversity. Check out the NaramataSlow Facebook page to learn more.

Butterscotch whiskey tarts

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There is a hint of nostalgia that comes as you eat these tarts. It’s from your mum’s instant jello pudding days. But these beauties made with cream, milk, fresh farm eggs, bourbon vanilla bean and whiskey are very much a cut above.

You’ll notice that I add a splash of whiskey, (not scotch but rye in this case) but the tart’s pudding filling is not likely named after ‘scotch’. One theory is that the name ‘butterscotch’ is a derivation of ‘butter-scorched’. Others say it that it meant ‘scotching’ or cutting, which they did to slabs of buttery, creamy caramels when making candy.

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Ingredients

(18 tarts)

  • 6 farm-fresh egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey (some dad nostalgia here too…he used to rub whiskey on my teething gums and have a dram himself)
  • 3 Flake bars for decoration
  • 18 frozen tart shells (I usually make my own pastry but elected to go the easy route…if you are feeling ambitious homemade pastry shells will make the tarts even more delicious. An oat wheat pie crust would be even nicer…)

 Directions

Bake the tart shells following package directions.

Put the egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar with a 1/4 cup of water and stir gently with a spatula being careful not to splash the sides of the pan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the mixture begins to turn a dark amber colour. Swirl the pan but do not stir. Remove from the heat, let stand one minute then stir in the cream. Pour the caramel into a small bowl and set aside.

In another saucepan, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in the milk and whisk to combine.

Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the saucepan with the milk and toss in the vanilla bean into the milk as well. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the caramel. Whisk together until combined, then pour a third of the mixture over the eggs. Keep whisking the eggs and add another third of the hot milk mixture. Transfer the egg mixture back to the saucepan with the milk mixture and whisking constantly, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until very thick.

Remove from the heat and add the butter and whiskey.

Keep whisking for about a minute to cool the pudding slightly. Let sit for about 15 minutes, then remove the vanilla bean.

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Here there are with some other boozy homemade pals. The lemon tarts are topped with amaretto meringue and the chocolate ganache are have a splash of Legend Manitou.

Some assembly required

Whisk the pudding one more time until smooth. Divide the pudding equally among the baked tart shells and sprinkle with some crumbled Flake bar. Cover the tarts and refrigerate for about two hours before serving. Store any leftovers, tightly covered, in the fridge for up to two days.

 

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Naramata artist captures the whispering of our landscape

 

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GATHERING Dennis Evans, Acrylic on Canvas, 36″ x 48″ x 3″ (Note, photography (lighting) are not doing full justice to his work)

Noted Naramata artist Dennis Evans unveiled his latest work at an exhibition entitled Messengers last evening. Hauntingly beautiful, Evans has captured the unique resonance of Naramata in these 14 major works.

“When the iconic jazz saxophonist and composer, John Coltrane, visited Nagasaki, his guide found him on the train playing a flute,” Evans says. “The man asked Coltrane, ‘why are you playing the flute?’ He answered, ‘I’m trying to find the sound of Nagasaki.”

Evans has found the sound of Naramata and its sacred resonance in this body of work. Anchored by his Celtic ancestry, the artist has imbedded Celtic images into his landscape paintings.

“It’s my way of  communicating a special resonance with the land and communicating this connection to the viewer,” he says. “It’s an invitation to the viewer to meditate on the universal bond between nature and humanity and what we define as our sense of place.”

 

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SUNSET OVER GIANT’S HEAD, Dennis Evans, Acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 48″ x 3″

The Celtic symbol appears in sharp focus in some works or it subtly emerges or recedes into the landscape in others. The symbols connect with the sky, the earth and everything in between. Evans says the image is intended to highlight the non-physical aspect of the landscape or the landscape whispering to the painter.

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Dennis Evans introducing his show at Leir House in Penticton with my favourite painting in the exhibition, Sacred Grove, in the background.

Messengers is Evans’ second instalment in his quest to capture, visually, the unique resonance of a particular place. It follows on from Songs in the Landscape which also exhibited at Leir House in the fall of 2016.

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SOLSTICE: SPIRIT OF WINTER, Acrylic on Canvas, 36: x 48″ x 3″
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The exhibition also contained a small sampling of new works, including this stunning painting of clouds over Giant’s Head.

A life-long artist, Dennis has the good fortune or as he would interpret it, fate, to end up in a place that speaks to him. Having moved from Calgary to Naramata a decade ago, he says,” I am much more connected to the landscape here. Pretty much all my landscapes are within walking distance of the studio. I have enough inspiration in Naramata to last a lifetime.”

What’s special about Naramata? “We didn’t really know how amazing it really is until we landed here,” says Dennis. “It has an aura about it. I don’t know if it is because it’s isolated being at the end of the road as it is. It was also special to the First Nations people. They didn’t live here but came to the area for their ceremonies. It’s also home to a proportionally large number of artists, which must be for a reason, and home to an incredible concentration of unique individuals.”

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Music throughout the opening evening was played by Don and Debbie who took us on a journey through their interpretations of Evans’ work, including EQUINOX: SPIRIT OF SPRING, which is hung behind the musicians.
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Lucky guests of the opening left with a catalogue and a mug potted by Evans. The mug was filled with Meadow Vista (Kelowna) Cloud Horse mead, made by fermenting BC honey. Born in Viking, Alberta, Dennis began his art career at the Alberta College of Art (now the Alberta College of Art and Design) in the 1960s and graduated with a major in pottery and ceramics, a first love which he still practices.
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Evans and ROCK SPIRIT, Acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 48″ x 3″
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Detail of Evan’s signature
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One of the smaller works which caught my eye.
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RESONANCE: Self portrait, Acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 48″ x 3″

Messengers will be exhibited at Leir House in Penticton until February 16th and most of the works are for sale.

Evans’ wife Patricia Evans read some of her poetry at the opening including this piece which perfectly suited the ambiance created by the art, music, hospitality and the warmth of the historic Leir House:

Unravel the sunset.

Watch its colours rain down, 

holding close, the sacred.

Spirits from the land call to the sun.

We, descendants of the stars, 

need hearing aids.

Five Naramata secrets too good to keep

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Photo by Preserved Light
1.Where the Universe Aligns

For a fleeting time every June, around the time of the summer solstice, the setting sun lines up to shine its dying rays through the Kettle Valley Railway’s Little Tunnel, above the Village of Naramata. Photogenic on any day of the year, this tunnel engineered by Andrew McCulloch more than 100 years was blasted out of a rock cliff that hangs dramatically over the Okanagan Lake.

The summer solstice,  June 21st, is the longest days of the year for anyone living north of the equator and marks the beginning of summer. If pagan rituals are your thing, how cool would hiking up (or driving) to the tunnel to mark the occasion be?

No one really knows why Stonehenge was built some 5,000 years ago. But one possibility is that it was used to mark solstices and equinoxes. That’s because during the summer solstice, the sun rises just over the structure’s Heel Stone and hits the Altar Stone dead centre. I wonder if McCulloch knew about the solstice magic he created?  Bring your camera. Preserved Light‘s Caillum Smith often offers photography workshops at Little Tunnel during the solstice.  If you go, don’t touch the tunnel walls when the sun’s rays pierce through it as you will likely be transported through the stone and back in time and find yourself in the middle of the Battle of Culloden. Right?

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The views from the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, called the KVR by locals, are so stunning that I can still conjure up the feeling I had when first gob-smacked by them. The KVR is a notable part of the Trans Canada Trail.
2. We Love our Public Art 

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Photo by Preserved Light

Although I don’t want to reveal the exact location of this amazing art to help preserve it, Naramata has some very special rocks.  Some of the most intriguing images of Canadian rock art or pictographs are painted on cliffs in interior British Columbia. The Okanagan Valley of British Columbia was the traditional territory of the Interior Salish peoples, hunters and gatherers who followed a seasonal migration. Their material culture was simple and easily transportable, and they had very little impact on their environment. They did leave behind one sign of their presence however – their paintings on stone, or pictographs.

Painted in red ochres, iron oxides mixed with clay, the designs were applied with fingers or sticks and were thought to be painted by teenagers as part of their puberty rituals or by adults painting images from dreams.

3. We Aren’t Afraid of the Dark

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Photo taken in my very dark yard.
A big part of the appeal of Naramata is what we don’t have such as no fast-food outlets, no traffic lights, no industrial development and very few streetlights. It’s dark at night, inky black in some spots and this is rare today and valuable.

Star gazing, Northern Lights watching and awareness of the phases of the moon are a special part of life here and should not be undervalued according to Elizabeth Griffin, Visiting Astronomer at the NRC, and also Member of the Light Pollution Committee, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada – Victoria Centre. “Light pollution affects astronomy in a big way. Stars are faint and distant and the scattered light from our cities makes them hard to see. Observation now requires costly equipment in remote locations,” she says. “All this light is bad for us as well. We don’t sleep as well when its not dark meaning we have less melatonin that we need to repair our bodies. Light pollution damages sensitive eco-systems like those of insects and birds, and eventually damages the whole bio-system upon which we depend for food.”

(This helps explain why our guests from urban areas talk about how well they sleep here…)

Dr. Griffin tells me a story passed on by the director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. “There was a significant earthquake in 1980 in the LA area and it disrupted electrical cables plunging LA into darkness. The switchboard at the observatory became jammed with calls by people reporting that they had seen something unusual. It turns out that they were able to see the Milky Way for the first time. There is something so sad about that.”

We can see the Milky Way here and many other constellations and planets by lying on our backs on our lawn and gazing up. “You are lucky,” says Dr. Griffin. “Municipalities are doing quite a lot like ensuring street lights are angled down and shutting off sport’s field lights at night but there are no laws regulating the use of domestic lights. All we can do is try to educate people that all this light is damaging and unnecessary and that they are missing out on something special.

“The Okanagan is good for star watching,” adds Dr. Griffin. “You are relatively sparsely populated there and there are a lot of pockets behind the mountains where you are quite well shielded from lights.”

Along with embracing the darkness, Naramatians are also treated to quiet that allows us to hear birds and wildlife. My current favourite thing is opening my deck door early in the morning to listen to a pair of owls talking to each other. Also part and parcel of life in our Village are the wonderful scents of sage and pine that are released in summer evenings on hot days.

 

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A requirement to see and photograph the Northern Lights is darkness. Photo by Preserved Light
4. We Let it All Slip Slide Away

There is a little-known spot on Naramata Creek where a waterfall has some chutes and pools suitable for a little sliding.  Tucked away up Arawana, an old forest service road, and along a trail, these rock slides provide a bit of cool fun.

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Photo by Preserved Light

5. We are Internationally Recognized for our Slow Pace of Life

Naramata is one of only three Canadian communities with a special status as a “slow city” bestowed on us by Cittaslow, an international organization formed in Orvieto Italy in 1999.  We join Cowichan Bay and Wolfville as places where the pace of life is a bit more human.

To quote from the charmingly translated Italian on the Cittaslow website, “A Cittaslow place is motivated by curious people of a recovered time, where man is still protagonist of the slow and healthy succession of seasons, respectful of citizens’ health, the authenticity of products and good food, rich of fascinating craft traditions, of valuable works of art, squares, theatres, shops, cafes and restaurants. These are places of the spirit and unspoiled landscapes characterized by spontaneity of religious rites and respect the traditions of the joy of slow and quiet living.”

As a way of celebrating our Cittaslow status, Naramata holds a harvest dinner in the fall. One of the organizers of the dinner, Miranda Halladay, said, “ Naramatians have an encyclopedia of reasons why they feel lucky enough to call this place home, covering the spectrum from peacocks (a secret for another day…we have resident peacocks that wander around in our Village) to people. The Cittaslow designation prompts us to think and to talk about these aspects of our community, to protect and foster these elements that are integral to living NaramataSlow.

“Creating and sharing a meal focused on the immense and delicious bounty our community produces with friends, neighbours and visitors alike feels like a natural tradition in the making, and the right way to foster conversation.”

Thanks to Preserved Light for collaborating with me on this post!

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My photo from the first dinner in 2016 now well on its way to being an annual tradition.

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Photo by Preserved Light

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