I may be athropomorphisizing but this little Great Horned Owl swoops into our garden, finds a perch and sits and enjoys the sunset until it’s too dark for me to photograph her.
These photos were taken in three different sunset sessions in October, November and December in our Naramata yard overlooking Okanagan Lake.
Here is a little poetry to go along with my art… a favourite often recited by my dad…
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
BY EDWARD LEARI The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea In a beautiful pea-green boat, They took some honey, and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, And sang to a small guitar, “O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love, What a beautiful Pussy you are, You are, You are! What a beautiful Pussy you are!”
II Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl! How charmingly sweet you sing! O let us be married! too long we have tarried: But what shall we do for a ring?” They sailed away, for a year and a day, To the land where the Bong-Tree grows And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood With a ring at the end of his nose, His nose, His nose, With a ring at the end of his nose.
III “Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.” So they took it away, and were married next day By the Turkey who lives on the hill. They dined on mince, and slices of quince, Which they ate with a runcible spoon; And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, They danced by the light of the moon, The moon, The moon, They danced by the light of the moon.
Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (1983)
Five good reasons to switch up your traditional homemade holiday gifts from cookies to granola.
It couldn’t be simpler to make and your kitchen will smell like orange, cinnamon and toasted nuts and coconut for days.
It’s the perfect gift to go low- to no-waste by buying ingredients in bulk with your own containers, sourcing local like my neighbour’s walnuts, and packaging in use-again Mason jars labelled with easily washed off http://www.wineglasswriter.com Wine Glass Writers.
Granola has a longer shelf-life than cookies and it’s filled with healthy ingredients like nuts, seeds, grains and dried fruit.
It’s amazing as a breakfast cereal or sprinkled on yoghurt.
Invite over a group of friends and make a really really large batch (like 64 quart jars), put on some Christmas tunes and drink a little wine or cider.
Christmas Granola recipe
Ingredients for six cups of granola (just multiply everything for bigger batches)
Four cups quick or old-fashioned, uncooked oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts or a combination of all three
1 tablespoon wheat bran
1 tablespoon wheat germ
1/4 raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup of local honey
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups dried cranberries
Pre-heat oven to 350 F. (We also used our wood fired oven. If you are lucky enough to have one… fire it up to pizza-baking temperature or very hot, burn down the coals and then remove and cool to about 180 C… basically the temperature you would use to make bread.)
Mix all the ingredients together except the dried cranberries, (which are added after the granola is toasted) in a large bowl. Spread the granola onto cookie sheets or other suitable baking pans.
Bake for 40 minutes stirring the granola every 10 minutes so it toasts evenly. The granola should be a nice even toasted brown colour when its done.
Cool and then add the dried cranberries and mix.
Decorate your jars
Cut squares of a Christmas fabric to cover your jar lids, tie on some greenery or berries with raffia and label the jars with handy dandy Wine Glass Writers. Christmas scents will hit you as soon as you open the beautiful re-useable containers.
The Crazy Canucks, a relay team of six Canadian swimmers, followed a successful English Channel crossing in 2016, with a bid to swim North America’s equivalent. Thirty one kilometres from Catalina Island to mainland California’s San Pedro just north of LA, the swim has its own unique set of challenges, in particular the pitch black sea and sky lit only by the moon. The area is the most popular dive spot in the U.S. so it’s well known for its large variety of marine life. So, inky black ocean teaming with life and a swimmer with only a regular bathing suit, cap and goggles swimming away hoping to blend in.
It’s been 40 years since I’ve stayed up all night, watched a friend puke, shed most of my clothes and had an absolute blast. Won’t wait another 40 to do it again.
Our swim began at 10:56 p.m. Friday, September 13 under a full moon. What could go wrong?
Within minutes of the start, after I had rendezvoused with my kayak paddler, my brother Dean, and our support boat, The Bottom Scratcher I saw something.
Something big and grey and slow moving was visible in the water beneath me because of the cluster of lights from the Bottom Scratcher. It glided away and while I was telling myself that I hadn’t really seen it, it made a second pass going in the other direction. Big enough to displace the water under me and big enough to be terrifying.
During our rules debriefing aboard the Bottom Scratcher by our two Catalina Channel Swimming Federation observers, we were told to call out for advice if we saw anything disturbing rather than head for the kayak or the boat and touch either which would disqualify our entire endeavour, two years of training, hours of logistics, thousand of kilometres of air travel, three kayakers and five family and friends who came to help and cheer us on… A team earlier in the season had suffered this fate the observers told us.
I chose not to phone a friend and put one arm in front of me and then the next and next until the grey phantoms receded from my thoughts. A few moments later I clearly heard dolphin squeaks underwater. Kayaker Dean later reported he had seen two dolphins and a big seal at the beginning of my leg. Dolphins! I had wanted to swim with dolphins, so wish comes true, even though I didn’t see them.
The next bit of magic was bioluminescence. The bubbles from your hand entry and exit were a vibrant blue and green. We were all enchanted by it.
Before I knew it, a whistle blew and it was time to tag off to John Ostrom and it was time for Dean to paddle faster as John is speedy.
“Jumping into the ocean in the dark was made a lot easier in the moonlight,” says John. “The water was way warmer than I expected, there were no jellyfish like in the English Channel, although I occasionally brushed into bits of seaweed. The first one in the dark and the biggest chunk were disconcerting at first but then became routine.”
“It was different swimming at night,” says Peter. “This is well out of what I normally do as I am almost always asleep at 1 a.m. and definitely not swimming in the Catalina Channel so that aspect really made it a grand adventure. “
“Dean getting in the kayak and then you in the water swimming to shore at Catalina to start our swim made a very strong impression on me. As for swimming at night, it was pretty comforting to have cousin Dean in the kayak right beside me.
“It was a really fun experience having all of the 20 people on the boat including my sister Gail and her husband Doug and the boat captain Kevin and Chef Ro.”
“The mighty night swim was very much anticipated,” says Janice Johnston who tagged off from Peter in the relay. “It was like the nervous excitement of a small child on Christmas Eve. I talked about doing this for the last two years and everyone said, ‘Wow, that’s really crazy.’ I really questioned what I had signed up for and was encouraged by you saying, ‘You are going to love this!’ (I was right eh?)
“After almost losing my goggles by diving in (not a great choice) I was very scared to start but I had to with the team needing my leg of the relay. It took about five minutes to settle in to a nice pace and I couldn’t believe how beautiful the bioluminescence was. Green and blue lights with every stroke! The water was giving me a nice warm hug and the waves seemed to have flattened out. I felt like I was swimming strong and fast only to find out later that we were in a very strong current and no-one was swimming their usual distances. When I heard the whistle, I couldn’t believe it and felt I could have kept going and going.”
Chris Lough, next swimmer up, said the dark made an impression on him too. “Swimming in the dark, the full moon shining on the bubbles, the sunrise when it finally came and the whole crew having such a good time (except for the seasickness episodes) made the biggest impression. The warmth and calmness of the water surprised me. Once I got my head straight, which took about 10 minutes, I really enjoyed it. As for sharks, so many folks had been swimming previous to me and had no issues so it was not really a concern.”
Our anchor swimmer Janet Robertson, had selected the last leg as she had incorrectly anticipated it would be dawn by then. “The hardest part for me is always getting in the water. Sitting down on the platform and looking into the dark water at night and the blue water of the day made me wonder what might be out there,” she says. “My head going under water after the push off was not a happy place.”
Janet says, “Its wonderful how we all worked toward the success of the swim. Everyone was so supportive of each other and seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Dean’s determination to get us through our swims, his supportive comments from time to time were very much appreciated. He had to work harder than any of us. The beauty of the surroundings was something else I won’t ever forget. The full moon, calm ocean, the quiet… I also loved it that we all got to swim into the beach to join John, who like in England, got to touch land at the end of our channel swim.”
With the dawn the kayak exchanges became easier and for me the shark fear shrank. For John they amped up. “It was cool to be swimming at dawn when the sun came up. The downside was I could start to see shadows further down in the water. I had a few anxious moments with my imagination starting to go wild on me. I kept seeing a shark, whale, submarine, shadows? I focused on the kayak and settled down.”
How cool is this note from the Queen of open water swimming Lynne Cox! “Congratulations you Crazy Canucks: Elaine, Chris, John, Janet, Peter, and Janice on your Courageous Catalina Crossing! I Loved seeing your photos, reading about your swims, seeing how much support you had from: Dean, Jill, Isobel, Al, Gail, Mel, Chris and Doug on your swim. So happy you had such a grand adventure, a wonderful time, and made some unforgettable memories. You must feel so proud of yourself and your team! Congratulations!”
Pretty proud of us. As we were having breakfast at our hotel in our swag a woman came up to us to ask what we were up to. Upon hearing our story she said, “Don’t know if it is proper to point this out but you guys aren’t spring chickens.”
Thanks to my swim buds for life, our kayakers, friends and family on the boat and back home cheering us on, our Penticton swim coach Diane, The Bottom Scratcher crew and captain Kevin, Caterer extraordinaire Ro, observers Steve and Roxanne, the dolphins, bioluminescent plankton and California.
Up next? Looking like a big ass relay the entire length of Okanagan Lake in 2020 and a duo relay of the English Channel with Jan Johnson in 2023. Can’t wait!
And then this happened…just three weeks after our swim…
A San Diego resident is fortunate to have emerged unscathed after a massive great white shark chomped his kayak Saturday as he paddled off Santa Catalina Island.
Danny McDaniel and Jon Chambers were enjoying a break from a commercial scuba-diving trip and paddling in separate kayaks toward Ship Rock, near the island’s east end, when the shark bit the back of McDaniel’s vessel.
“My very first thought was that my buddy, who was 25 feet behind me to my left, was messing with me,” McDaniel, 51, told For The Win Outdoors. “But then I looked down and saw this giant snout completely over the kayak, and then I saw its huge body stretching beyond the bow.”
The shark, estimated to measure nearly 20 feet, turned McDaniel’s 9-foot kayak until he was facing a wide-eyed Chambers.
“I remember him saying, ‘Oh crap. Oh crap,’ ” McDaniel recalled. “My primary thought, meanwhile, was to stay on the kayak no matter what.”
Chambers told NBC 7 that the shark “was in attack mode” and “thought we were prey.”
McDaniel and Chambers waited briefly in eerie silence before paddling back to Emerald Bay, where the rest of the dive group had been hanging out.
On the way McDaniel discovered that the shark had left two of its teeth as souvenirs. “One was laying inside the kayak under seat, and the other was in the cargo hold behind the seat,” he said
A week before McDaniel’s encounter, (so two weeks after our swim) photographer Jami Leslie Feldman captured footage of a 13- to 14-foot great white shark swimming 70 feet below the surface at Ship Rock, and posted the clip to the Underwater Paparazzi Facebook page.
Swimmer Chris says, “I am glad I was in the water and NOT in a kayak.
A late summer evening on our Naramata, British Columbia deck turned into a two bottles of wine, three-hour bear show and some things that you had to see to believe.
A medium-sized black bear, a three-year-old (neighbourhood regular) claws his way up a 40-foot pine making a hell of a racket. He has my attention. A few minutes later it becomes obvious that a much bigger black bear was the cause of his scramble. So now there are two bears up in the tree.
The vineyard owner from our neighbouring property comes by to explain his theory that it’s a battle over territory…namely his beleaguered vineyard that is now stripped of grapes with half his irrigation system in pieces. The vineyard’s name…. Bad Bear Vineyard. Can’t make this stuff up.
During the three-hours, the bigger bear would close the gap between them and give the smaller guy what for.
A bear fight in a very tall tree must be accomplished carefully with claws firmly clinging to the tree and it is very noisy.
In between battles the bears would rest and make themselves as comfortable as possible among the branches.
The smaller guy further up the tree would occasionally break off branches and drop them on his rival. This is the part that starts to be, “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.”
The uppermost bear peed on the lower bear. It was full-on, like out of a fire hose. The big guy looked up to see what was going on and pretty much ignored it being a bear and not overly concerned with hygiene. Although, a few minutes later it did wake him up and spark a new battle, so anthropomorphasizing, maybe it did piss him off.
Just about out of wine, the fight ended when it began to get dark. The bigger bear clumsily scrabbled his way down the tree while I much more lithely ran for the house. A few minutes later the weaponized smaller bear made his way down and sauntered off.
This lovely coffee cake is easy peasy and makes the most of your spring rhubarb bounty. The crumble is elevated with the addition of coconut. The recipe is divided into three parts: the crumble, fruit and the cake. You will need a 9-inch round or square springform pan to ensure your cake will be easy to remove.
Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round springform pan and line with parchment paper.
120 grams (8 1/2 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 tsp salt
Place all the crumble ingredients in a large bowl and use your hands or a wooden spoon to mix. Set aside.
260 grams of fresh garden rhubarb (about 2 or 3 medium stalks) cut into 1 cm slices.
260 grams of fresh garden organic strawberries, hulled and sliced 0.5 cm thick
2 packed tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 cup tapioca flour (or cornstarch)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla bean paste of scraped seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod
1/8 tsp salt
Place all the fruit ingredients in a medium bowl, toss and set aside.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, cubbed
1 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 large room temperature eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and set aside. Place the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and beat for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl when necessary. Add the vanilla extract followed by the dry ingredients and beat just until combined.
Some assembly required
Pour the cake batter into the lined cake pan and smooth out the surface. Spoon over the fruit mixture and then sprinkle evenly with the crumble mixture.
Bake for about 70 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cover with tin foil for the last 15-20 minutes of baking so the top doesn’t get too dark. Cool completely before removing from pan.
Naramata is world-renowned for taking it slow. Our little village 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 just get better and better and living up to our slow status.
Here is a new and most wonderful way to celebrate life in the slow lane in eight painless steps:
Take your time, decide if you want it neat, with a splash of water to open up the flavours or on ice if it’s a hot day and that’s your jam.
Stroll on out to the patio with the best view in stunning Naramata overlooking vineyards, Okanagan Lake and Giant’s Head mountain.
Pull up an Adirondack and place your tumbler on the arm.
Leisurely contemplate the amber colour of the whisky as the sun lights it up.
Get your nose involved and appreciate the aromas of dried fruits, vanilla and spice.
Take a sip…savour.
It took Legend Owner/Distiller Doug Lennie four years to make this beautiful Wyatt Whisky, we owe it to him to push pause and fully immerse ourselves in the tasting.
“Making whisky is why I wanted to get into distilling in the first place,” says Doug as he talks to me on the sunny patio in early spring about Legend’s inaugural 1,400 bottles of Wyatt Whisky. “It’s special because it’s named after our son. It’s special because it’s made with British Columbia wheat and aged in oak barrels that previously held local wines and ports. It’s special because we are excited about good food and wine and we are making something unique that is full of character.”
Wyatt Whisky joins a growing list of hand-crafted spirits the Naramata distillery is garnering a loyal and enthusiastic following for. It’s best known for its range of legendary gins.
Doug describes his first whisky as very much a Canadian style whisky made from 90 per cent wheat (Red Wheat from Peace River), 10 per cent rye and aged in toasted French oak barrels. The grain is milled, mashed, fermented and distilled at Legend Distilling in its gorgeous copper beauty, the centrepiece of the distillery’s front window.
Wyatt Whisky is 40 per cent alcohol and is non-chill filtered which Doug says makes for a more flavourful, full-bodied whisky. To ensure the first release was amazing, Doug waited a year longer than the three-year cycle many new distilleries are on for their whisky programs.
“The art comes into the blending,” he says. “The whisky is stored in barrels from different cooperages with different char levels.” His Canadian-style,”…is not as aggressive as an American whisky which is aged in barrels with a 1/4 inch of charcoal. My style is more subtle. You taste the wood flavour and the fruity notes from the barrels along with the lovely caramel and wheat flavours of the grains.”
For those still working on acquiring the acquired taste whisky drinkers talk of and aren’t quite ready for a neat or nearly neat taste, Legend Owner and cocktail genius Dawn Lennie came up with her own take on a whisky sour in collaboration with Naramata’s Elephant Island Winery.
ON NARAMATA THYME 2oz Wyatt Whisky 1oz Elephant Island Apricot dessert wine 1/2 oz lemon juice 1/2 oz honey syrup (1:1 honey and water) 2 sprigs fresh thyme Ice Add all but 1 sprig of thyme to a shaker full of ice and shake shake shake. Strain into coup glass and garnish with fresh thyme.
If I had made a fine whisky that I hovered over for four years it would be a grand Tom Hanks, “I made fire” moment shouted at full volume. Doug Lennie, in his humble, laid-back style says, “I hope everyone loves it as much as I do.” Give it a taste, take your time.
Just a few tropical ingredients are needed to make a delicious treat that although extremely good are a rather poor substitute for being on one of Hawaii’s beautiful islands. I brought the mac nuts, flaky sea salt and Kona honey home with me but your local honey will make a fine substitute and the nuts are readily available at the grocery store.
Makes 18 or more if you cut them into smaller pieces
1 cup macadamia nuts
2/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
7 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp heavy cream (I use lactose-free for the Handyman and it works just fine)
4 1/2 Tbsp good local honey
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp light brown sugar
Scraped seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
1/4 tsp flaky sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, making sure the paper rises about 1 1/2 inches over the edges of the pan, set aside.
Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and roast for 7 minutes. Spread the coconut out on a separate baking sheet and toast for just 2 minutes. Place the nuts and coconut in a medium heatproof bowl and set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, then add the cream, honey, corn syrup, brown sugar, vanilla seeds and salt. Stir until combined, then increase the heat to medium. Bring to a boil. Do not stir. Continue to boil until the temperature reaches 253 to 255 F on a candy thermometer… the top end of firm ball stage. This takes between 12 and 20 minutes. Remove from heat immediately — move fast, as the temperature of the caramel will continue to rise. Pour over the nuts and coconut. Then pour into your lined square pan and flatten with a spatula.