Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

It is all solved by Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake

IMG_3637.jpgWhen you combine vast quantities of Swiss chocolate with Dutch cocoa powder, French fleur de sel, fresh Canadian whipping cream and buttermilk there is no possibility on earth that this little gateau is not going to solve your problems.

The combination of rich chocolate cake, velvety frosting and a hidden layer of salted caramel is a perfect antidote to winter’s grey skies.

A single layer of luscious chocolate cake is carefully cut in half, spread with homemade salted caramel, topped with a chocolate ganache frosting and finished with a gorgeous glacage. An added bonus, the cake can be baked, frosted and frozen ahead of time with only the glacage step required before serving.

This recipe was adapted from the amazing Duchess Bake Shop Cookbook by Giselle Courteau. The shop is located in Edmonton if you get a chance to stop in, and this cake is their number one seller.

Step one

Salted CaramelIMG_3537.jpg


  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter cubed
  • 1/4 cup finely ground almonds
  • 3/4 tsp fleur de sel


Heat the cream in a small saucepan on the stove until scalding. Set aside and keep hot as you melt the sugar.

Place about a quarter of the sugar in a wide-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Gently melt the sugar, swirling the saucepan around occasionally. Do not stir. Once the sugar is almost melted, add another quarter and repeat twice more until all the sugar is completely melted and has turned amber coloured.

Remove from heat and slowly pour in the hot whipping cream mixing with a spoon or spatula until the smooth. Using a fine mesh strainer, immediately strain the caramel into a bowl.

Mix in the butter, ground almonds and fleur de sel into the hot caramel until the butter is melted. For extra smooth caramel, use an immersion blender. Transfer the caramel into jars, let cool and refrigerate until set. It will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks and is an amazing ice cream topper.

Step two

Chocolate Cake


  • 1/2 cup hot brewed coffee
  • 3 Tbsp dark chocolate
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quality cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or paste


Preheat your oven to 325F and line an 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper and spray it with vegetable oil.

In a large bowl, pour the hot coffee over the chocolate, whisking until all the coffee is poured in and the chocolate has completely melted. Set aside.

Sift all the dry ingredients together and set aside.

Whisk the egg, oil, buttermilk and vanilla together in a bowl. Slowly whisk the mixture into the melted chocolate and coffee.

Add the sifted dry ingredients and whisk until the batter comes together. The batter will appear a bit lumpy. Don’t be tempted to overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool completely. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and flip the cake out.

Step three

Ganache Frosting


  • 188 grams of good dark chocolate (I love Lindt)
  • 1/2 tsp fleur de sel
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed


Slowly melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Once the chocolate is melted, add in the fleur de sel. Set aside.

Heat the whipping cream on the stovetop until scalding. Set aside while keeping hot.

Place the water, sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar turns amber coloured. Do not stir. Remove from the heat and slowly pour in the hot cream and stir until combined. Pour this mixture over the chocolate and fleur de sel in three parts, mixing until smooth between additions.

Transfer this ganache into a stand mixer bowl and cool to room temperature Ensure both the ganache and butter cubes are at room temperature.

With the mixer on low speed, add the butter cubes to the ganache a few at time until all incorporated then turn the mixer up to medium and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.


Step four

Assemble the cake and frost

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the cake in half horizontally into two layers. Flip the top layer so its cut side is facing up.

If the salted caramel has been in the fridge, warm it in a microwave for a few seconds to soften it slightly. Spread about 1/2 cup of salted caramel over the bottom layer of the cake leaving about 1/2 inch around the edge.

IMG_3589.jpgSpread about 1 cup of the frosting over the caramel, leaving a bit of space around the edges. Place the other cake layer on top, cut side up that your cake will have a flat top and gently press down. Transfer the cake to a turntable and spoon about 2 cups of frosting on top, reserving extra frosting to finish the cake. Spread it evenly over the top and sides of the cake and smooth it out with an offset spatula. The smoother the better as the glacage will show all the imperfections.

Transfer the cake to a flat plate and freeze for at least two hours (or up to a week, if making ahead).

Step five



  • 1 cup good dark chocolate
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp light corn syrup


Slowly melt the dark chocolate over a double boiler. In a saucepan heat the whipping cream, water, and corn syrup until just scalding. Pour the hot cream over the dark chocolate in three parts, mixing in between additions until smooth.

Step six

Final assembly


Remove the cake from freezer and place it on a flat cooling rick with a pan or foil underneath to catch the drippings. Using a measuring cup or ladle pour the glacage over the top of the cake. Using an offset spatula spread the glacage over the sides, making sure to cover the whole cake. Immediately move the cake to a serving plate using a long offset spatula.

Decorate the cake with the reserved frosting. Pipe five dots on top and a decorative border around the bottom. The cake will keep at room temperature up to four days.



Dark Lane leading to Strange Garden

I would live in a house called Strange Garden given half a chance.

How pretentious is it to name your house? Oh, very, so let’s up the ante and choose a latin name.

The Handyman hails from England where house naming is a thing. Think Primrose Cottage, Two Hoots, Crumbledown, Nudgens, Wits End, Tweedledum, or Creeping Snail.

We have neighbours with house names like Ironpost Guest House, Forgotten Hill and the Grape Escape but they are guest houses with a good reason for a name. Also nearby is Rancho Costa Plenty which has been sale for awhile.

We could have chosen another dead language name like Cave Canem (beware of the dog) but that would have dated us our two pals lived to ripe old ages and are now planted in the garden, or Nessum Dorma (none shall sleep) with the idea of discouraging visitors from overstaying.


A week after our gate and name went up a neighbour pulled his car over to chat and said, “You know, I drive by your gate every day on my way to work and think, seize the day, yup, good idea.”

As hokey as it sounds, it’s become a mantra for our house that is often welcoming visitors with wine, a nap in a tree house and evenings on the deck.

The name of our Village is pretty crazy too when you know its history and it has a lot of letters “a”s … although it doesn’t hold a candle to these English villages of say…





or my personal favourite, so much so that if we decide to leave Canada and return to the Handyman’s homeland this would be the spot…



In 1905 Naramata was originally called East Summerland which was too confusing, I guess and a bit dull making us a candidate for sister villagehood with Little Snoring. The postmaster’s wife, Mrs. Gillespie was a bit of a hippie dippie in her day apparently. She was a medium of the American Spiritualistic church and invited some of her gal pals over for a get-together at which she went into a “spiritualist trance.” The spirit of a great Sioux Indian Chief, Big Moose, came to her and spoke of his dearly loved wife calling her Nar-ra-mah-tah, as she was the Smile of Manitou. All and sundry were struck by Mrs. Gillespie’s revelation, a few extra letters were dropped (which was a darn good thing) and here we are. (I wonder if Big Moose every worried about Narramahtah’s faithfulness…)

The entrancing Anna Gillespie

I also wonder if we should add Please Drive Carefully to our Village sign?

Legendary Naramata Sponge Cake


This Naramata take on a classic Victoria sponge is two fluffy sponges lightly flavoured with vanilla and almond with a very special sandwiching layer…Legend Raspberry Jam and a healthy dollop of whipping cream.

Here is a Cole’s Notes version of what went into making that legendary jam:

  1. Grow the raspberries on our farm.
  2. Harvest the raspberries at their peak.
  3. Deliver to Legend Distilling.
  4. Legend makes Slowpoke Farm Berry Vodka with them. (Check out my post about how it’s made minus some secrets.)
  5. Make raspberry jam with some more of our farm fresh raspberries and some of Legend’s Slowpoke Farm Berry Vodka made from our raspberries. It’s like raspberries times three.

A limited supply of this special jam is for sale at Legend Distilling  during the Christmas season… You can of course substitute a high-quality raspberry jam but your cake will be slightly less legendary.


Our recent snow fall has put paid to my fresh raspberry supply so it’s time to bring out the jam.



  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (soft)
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 extra-large or large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached self-rising flour


  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8″ round cake pans. Cut a round of parchment and fit in the bottom of your pan and grease and flour.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until well combined and smooth.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.
  4. Add the extracts.
  5. Add the flour, beating gently just until well combined.
  6. Divide the stiff batter evenly between the cake pans; there’ll be 11 to 12 ounces of batter in each, depending on the size eggs you used.
  7. Bake the cakes for about 20 minutes, or until they start to pull away from the edges of the pans. Remove them from the oven, cool for a couple of minutes, and turn out of the pans onto a rack to cool completely.



  • about 3/4 cup Legend Raspberry Jam
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste

IMG_3264.jpgWhen the cakes are cool, place one layer on a plate. Spread with the Legend jam or a  jam of your choice.

IMG_3268.jpgWhip the cream — 2/3 cup cream makes a medium-thickness layer of filling; 3/4 cup cream, a thick layer. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste, as you whip the cream until it’s quite stiff. Stir in the vanilla at the end.

IMG_3253.jpgIMG_3259.jpgPipe the whipped cream over the jam. You could also spread the whipped cream if you prefer.

IMG_3273.jpgIMG_3277.jpgTop with the second layer of cake.

Sift icing sugar over the top of your cake.



Refrigerate the cake until you’re ready to serve it. It’ll be at its best within 12 hours; but is still quite good up to 2 or even 3 days later. The difference will be the whipped cream, which will gradually settle/compact. Yield: about 12 servings.

Lynne Cox, Queen of Cold, sends warm wishes for Crazy Canuck Catalina swim

“Congratulations on your English Channel relay last year! ,” says Lynne Cox. That is a tough swim and it must have been fun and challenging to swim the Channel as a team. Your next goal sounds equally challenging.”

Crazy Canucks are actually a little crazy but Lynne Cox says we can take on our new challenge with confidence. (Jaime was avoiding a jelly fish you can see if you look at about the 1 o’clock position…)
Our English Channel swim

Even people outside the rather niche open water swimming world recognize the name Lynne Cox. It’s because she is an elite athlete who broke many world records, among them swimming the English Channel at 15, being the first woman to swim across the Cook Strait and working 10 years to get the permission and then swimming across the Bering Strait from Alaska to Russia during the Cold War.

“When I am swimming I feel like a musician discovering nuances in sound, color, and rhythm. My body is the instrument and the ocean is the symphony. I immerse myself in music and hear and feel the ocean’s movements We create music together. I hear the driving beat of my arms and legs and the song of my breath and bubbles,” Lynne Cox, Swimming in the Sink, An Episode of the Heart.

“The San Pedro Channel – swim from Catalina Island to the California mainland is the place I began my open water swimming career,” she says when I asked her advice on the Crazy Canucks’ next adventure in 2019. “It was as significant as my first kiss. It was where I fell in love with swimming long distances in the open water and the people who make these swims possible.”

That first kiss for Lynne came when she was all of 14 when she made the crossing with three other teenagers. “We felt a small school of fish swimming around us, bumping into our legs and feet. Flying fish the size of mockingbirds were leaping out of the water,” she writes about that historic Catalina swim in her amazing book, Swimming to Antarctica. “They’d emerge from the depths and fly across the air, flapping their fins and sailing across the sky…In the phosphorescent light, they were magically turning iridescent pink, blue, purple, rose and green.”

Lynne Cox.jpg
Lynne Cox in her element.

Lynne says, “You can expect that your Catalina Channel swim will be exciting. If it isn’t, why do it? You will have an incredible journey, learn lots about yourself and your team, and the Pacific ocean.”

Charlie, visibly cold after one of her turns in the English Channel.

“The Catalina Channel will be a bit warmer than the English Channel depending on the weather, time of the year and time of day that you swim it,” says Lynne. (See Charlie, it will be OK!) “Weather conditions are usually more stable than the English Channel, so you will have a good chance at getting good conditions.”


Lynne working hard to stay warm.




Crazy Canucks training fun.

Any advice for us non spring chickens I asked her? “I think you don’t need to be limited in your thinking by your chronological age. People in their 30s can have the bodies and health of 60-year-olds and people in their 60s can have the bodies and health of 30-year-olds. I think it’s great to tackle these swims at any age if you’ve done the preparation and you are in shape.”


It was a thrill to be in touch with Lynne and prompted a re-read of her Swimming to Antarctica book and an intense, couldn’t-put-it-down read of her latest book Swimming in the Sink which had some lyrical descriptions of open water swimming.

In the darkness of early morning, my arm strokes jostle millions of plankton. A chemical reaction occurs in their bodies. They turn the black water sparkling phosphorescent blue. I wonder about life, the universe, and my place it it. I feel the warmth in my body, the cold ocean surrounding me, and I watched fish swimming fathoms below me lighting the depths of the universe. I wonder how the stars can burn so bright without losing their heat the frigid heavens.

I watch the rosy sun rise from the dark blue ocean and see it change color and create waving rivers of crimson, orange, yellow, and white light. The onshore breeze wakes the world like a gentle morning kiss. When I train I think about my life, my passions, and what is in my heart. I list the things I do need to do each day and the things I want to do. But I also dream about what I can do, and that makes life rich and exciting. Lynne Cox

Her books are best read in front of a roaring fire with a hot chocolate. In addition to her mind-blowing swimming firsts she has been the research subject of many scientists trying to make sense of her extraordinary ability to function in water cold enough to actually kill most people.

It was a thrill to read about her English Channel swims as well now knowing what it is like to be in that chilly water myself. How fun was it to read that her boat pilot was our pilot’s dad, Reg Brickell?

Reg Brickell, Jr., our pilot for the Crazy Canucks English Channel swim was a teenager at the time of Lynne’s English Channel swims. He was actually on his dad’s boat when Lynne made history by making the fastest crossings. (Her first record came when she was only 15.) Lynne wrote about how important her pilot was in her record-breaking crossing with his knowledge of the currents and tides. His son helped us Crazies battle through gale force four winds to accomplish our goal.


Lynne says it will be warmer team! Maybe we will be sunning ourselves on deck when we cross the San Pedro Channel.


Harvest with Naramata vineyard pioneer

IMG_3141.jpgWe chat quietly with whomever is closest to us in the row as we bend and search for the attachment points (there is actually a word for these…peduncles) for the gorgeous clusters of Malbec and snip and toss them into the lugs. It’s a glorious 14 degrees with not a cloud in the sky in a beautiful piece of the Naramata Bench called Rock Oven Vineyards perched just above Lake Breeze Winery. If I’m working next to Barry (Irvine), who along with his wife Sue, own the vineyard, I ask him about the grapes we are harvesting, what they will be made into and the Naramata wine industry.


Malbec (sometimes called Côt and Auxxerois) is from France, where it grows in the Sud-Ouest. The thin-skinned grape is a natural cross of two esoteric varieties that are from Montpellier and Gaillac in the Sud-Ouest. Today the majority of France’s Malbec is found in Cahors, a small town on a switchback river that gently flows towards Bordeaux.

Malbec quickly became common as a blending grape in Bordeaux’s top five wine grapes. However, because of the grapes’ poor resistance to weather and pests, it never surfaced as a top French variety. Instead, it found a new home in Mendoza, Argentina where a nostalgic French botanist planted it by order of the mayor in 1868. It also grows well in our increasingly hot and dry Okanagan climate.

Malbec produces an inky, dark, full-bodied red wine. Expect rich flavours of black cherry, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry. Malbec wines typically have an aroma of leather, spice and herbs. As with all wines, the characteristics of Malbec can be unique to the area in which it’s grown, but it typically has medium ripe tannins with rich acidity and a smoky finish.

The lovely tasting Malbec we are picking will go right to Lake Breeze and will become a Rosé. The 2016 varietal was award-winning and has sold out.


Barry and Sue Irvine sat on their deck overlooking Okanagan Lake sipping wine almost three decades ago with the founders of Hillside Cellars, Lang Vineyards and Wildgoose discussing the farmgate proposal they spearheaded together that eventually lead to these small producers being allowed to sell their own wine.

“I remember talking to Premier Bill Vander Zalm who said that all the orchards on the Bench would eventually be replaced by vineyards,” says Barry. “I didn’t believe him at the time.”

The Irvines converted their cherry orchards to vines beginning in 1981.


In more recent years, they have sold off much of their vineyards but are still keeping their hand in with the Malbec we are harvesting and with some unusual Schonberger grapes.


Barry says that the vines from the grapes we are carefully hand-picking today are the result of at least 10 passes through the vineyards.  The careful tending includes hours and hours spent pruning, tucking, thinning and spraying for mildew throughout the growing season. Vineyard management is not for the faint of heart.

Fellow harvester John and Barry (right) ready to go at 8:30 in the morning.
Barry was hard at it long before we arrived lifting the nets that protected the crop from birds, moving the lugs and bins in place and sharpening the pruners.
Bend, snip, repeat and once two lugs are filled lift (bend your knees) and dump into the big bins.


On this perfect late fall day it was impossible not to take small breaks to stretch sore backs and soak in the scenery and the enjoy the sun on our faces.
Views include the Schonberger vines down in the gulley and the hills of the Naramata Bench in one direction…
…and the lake in the other.

IMG_3172.jpgCovered in dirt from sitting on the ground to reach the low-hanging bunches, sticky from the grape juice, tired and sore we all converge on the last row working side-by-side until the vines are bare of fruit and the bins are heaped.


IMG_3161.jpgIt’s hard to romanticize harvesting grapes on the Naramata Bench with all the bending and lifting and all the hard work leading up to it but on a day like this with great company, interesting conversation and views so spectacular they don’t look real, it’s impossible not to.

Got thyme to make a fancy ass orange raspberry brown sugar buttermilk cake?

IMG_1322.jpgWhen you have a raspberry farm you seek out raspberry recipes. This one is a gem. The thyme and orange flavours add a lovely sharp counterpoint to the rich brown sugar buttermilk cake with raspberry filling. The only downside, it only uses a scant half cup of berries!


Orange thyme syrup

  • 1/2 cup of fresh orange juice…use blood oranges if you can find them
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme

Combine the orange juice and sugar in a saucepan and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and add the thyme. Simmer for 8 or 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep until cool. Strain the syrup and discard the thyme. You can make this a day ahead and refrigerate if you are organized.

Brown sugar buttermilk cake

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup room temp. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 3 large farm-fresh organic eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour three 6-inch cake pans.

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

In the bowl of stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and orange zest. Turn the mixer to medium-high and mix until the butter is light and fluffy (5 minutes or so). Stop mixer and scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Mix on medium for 30 seconds.

Evenly divide the batter in the three prepared pans. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on wire racks for 15 minutes before removing from pans.



Raspberry Buttercream (Makes a bit over three cups…you will need 2 cups)

  • 1/2 cup large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of fresh raspberries from your local farmer
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  1. Make the buttercream

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Whisk them together by hand to combine. Make a double boiler by filling a medium pot filled with water over medium-high heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the pot. The bottom of the pot should not touch the water.

Whisk intermittently and heat the egg mixture to 160F (candy thermometer) or until it is hot to the touch. Carefully fit the mixer bowl onto the stand mixer and whip with the wire attachment on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until it holds medium-stiff peaks. The bowl should be back to room temperature at this point. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.

With the mixer on low, add the cubed butter, a few tablespoons at a time then the vanilla. Once incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Make the raspberry puree

Blend the raspberries and 2 teaspoons of sugar together in a food processor until combined. Strain to remove seeds through a mesh sieve set up over a bowl. Add a 1/4 cup of this pureed mixture to 2 cups of the buttercream (you will have extra buttercream) until combined.

IMG_1315.jpgSome assembly required

Once the cakes have cooled, level them and choose which one will be at the bottom. Generously brush the cake layers with the orange thyme syrup. Place the bottom layer on a cake plate and spread on 3/4 cup of the raspberry buttercream with an offset spatula. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat with the buttercream, ending with the third layer. Use the remaining buttercream to fill in any gaps between layers and give the cake a rustic coat of icing.

Make the orange glaze

  • 1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar sifted
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh orange juice (blood orange juice works well here if you can find it as gives the icing a nice colour)

In a small bowl, whisk the confectioner’s sugar and orange juice together until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the glaze onto the centre of the top of the cake and spread it evenly letting it drip over the edges.

Top with a thyme crown.




Catalina Channel next up … with water-wings and a guitar



Twenty-six miles, so near yet far
I’d swim with just some water-wings and my guitar
I could leave the wings
But I’ll need the guitar for romance
Romance, romance, romance

Catalina Island may be the island of romance but a relay attempt from the island to the California shore will be anything but. That’s OK. The Crazy Canucks are gearing up for our next adventure in 2019 after successfully crossing the English Channel in 2016. As the first dude to cross the English Channel (Mathew Webb) says, “Nothing great is easy.”



France can just be spotted. Still gives me shivers…

Less than 300 relay teams have made the 32.5 kilometre crossing which starts at midnight from Catalina Island when winds are calmest. It’s cool that it’s still a relatively small number of crazies that have made the crossing. This open water swim challenge, part of the triple crown of swimming that includes the English Channel and the swim around Manhattan, has some unique elements we will have to wrap our heads around including a lot of night swimming. It’s so dark on a Catalina crossing that some swimmers experience vertigo not knowing which is up or down in the inky black. This channel is also home to a type of fish with a recognizable fin that shall remain very nameless, especially as the team has four members at present and it would be fun to add a full compliment of six.

How hard can it be right? Canadians are a tough lot as we proved to our sceptical English Channel boat pilot Reg. He confessed after our swim, with a pint in front of him, that he wasn’t super confident we would make it as we had done the majority of our training in lakes.


Canadians are so tough that the first to cross the Catalina Channel solo was a 17-year-old from Toronto, George Young. Young was the only one of 101 starters in a race in January of 1927 and he did most of the swim without his swim trunks. We will likely wear suits…

Many of our English Channel team mates suffered sea sickness but we will be better prepared on this go and our pilot boat is more of a cruiser vs. a fishing boat so will be much more comfortable and less rocky… I’m sure of it…

Here is my 10 point case for talking more of my team mates into this new adventure…

1. The Catalina Channel is slightly shorter than the English Channel (32.5 km vs 33.7 km, about 0.8 miles shorter which should take an elite swimmer about 16 minutes)
2. The Catalina Channel is slightly to significantly warmer no matter what month is attempt is made.
3. Tides are much less powerful and less lateral than those in the English Channel.
4. The Catalina Channel winds are significantly less strong than in the English Channel on any given day, especially since most Catalina Channel swimmer begin their traverse at night. (We faced Force 4 winds on the English Channel)
5. The Catalina Channel has jellyfish, but while everything can change on any given day, the jellyfish in the Pacific are generally not in the same volumes as they are strewn across the English Channel. (Two of us got stung.)
6. The Catalina Channel allows kayakers, paddlers and pace swimmers to support the swim from shore-to-shore in any formation or duration as desired.
7. The windows of the Catalina Channel are much longer due to the number of swimmers and fickle weather in the English Channel.
8. Both shores and illumination across the Catalina Channel can generally be seen, even at night, but this psychological advantage is not always available in the English Channel.
9. Dolphins, a sign of good luck and protection among channel swimmers, are in significantly greater numbers in the Catalina Channel. (How cool would that be)
10. Boat traffic is significantly less in the Catalina Channel than in the English Channel.


A couple of additional “selling” features of the Catalina adventure are the name of the boat that we will charter to guide us, our kayak paddlers and the pipes that will mark our successful completion. The Bottom Scratcher  (yup…that’s the name) and its captain and piper Greg Elliot will pilot, our paddlers will include my brother Dean and fellow team member John’s wife Izzie.


Crazy Canucks Catalina Channel Relay 2019 here we come!


Bottling Summer — Legend Raspberry Jam Recipe



Take just picked raspberries from our Naramata berry farm and a craft-distilled slowly infused Farm Berry Vodka from our neighbour Legend Distilling and bottle it. Think toast on a cold January morning in front of a fire slathered with the colours and aromas of a hot summer day – elegant and not oversweet.

This easy jam recipe can be adapted for ingredients you have easy access to if you don’t happen to own a berry farm or live near a distillery. There is no substitute for the Wine Glass Writer pens I used to mark the jars with, however. They are invaluable for canning, as I like to re-use jars and scrubbing sticky labels off is an unnecessary and annoying step.  The writers are fun to use and lets you be creative, jazzing up and customizing your jars.


Adding a soupçon of a summer wine like rosé or a fruit-infused spirit like Legend’s Slowpoke Farm Berry Vodka plays well with the beautifully ripe fruit. Legend’s limited release handmade vodka – slowly infused with the best local fruits, is the distillery’s tribute to those who value the slow and steady – acknowledging that all great things come to those who wait.

The berries in Legend’s Slowpoke come from our farm, which is a cool fact I brag about a lot. I think this makes the jam especially nice. Our berries are hand picked in the mornings and delivered to the distillery that same afternoon. Distiller Doug Lennie does his magic and now I’m adding this infusion into more fresh picked berries with some sugar and a dash of lemon juice. It’s like raspberry essence distilled, given a kick and married with yet more raspberries.


I like using a touch of alcohol in sweet preserves to give them a certain je ne sais quoi. It elevates a nice jam to an extraordinary one. A half cup for the jam, a small glass for me…


Like all cooking and baking, the end results are always, always about using the best quality ingredients you can source. Pick your own raspberries, buy them from a local farmer at the market, buy organic ones from the supermarket or as a last resort, use top quality frozen berries. Choose a hand-crafted spirit or a nice bottle of rosé.

Legend Raspberry Jam Recipe

Makes about 12 small jars (125 ml) of jam or six to eight larger jars.


  • 16 cups raspberries
  • 4 cups sugar
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • ½  cup Legend Slowpoke Farm Berry Vodka (or another berry-infused spirit, Kirsch or a nice dry rosé)


1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Using your hands, crush the raspberries until completely broken down.

2. Transfer the raspberry mixture to a large saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-high and continue to stir until the jam has thickened, about 12 minutes. During this 12 minutes, I like to ladle about the half the jam mixture through a sieve placed over the boiling jam to remove some of the raspberry seeds.

3. Transfer the jam to a sterile airtight container and let it cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator and use within a month.

4. If you wish to store the jam for up to a year as I do, follow these canning instructions.


To check if the jam has set, place a teaspoon of jam onto a chilled plate and place in the freezer for a few minutes. Using your finger, push through the jam. If it wrinkles, it has set; if not, cook the jam for an additional minute or two.

Canning directions

  1. Fill a canner or stockpot half full with water. Place lid on canner. Heat to a simmer. Keep canning rack to the side until ready to use.
  2. Wash jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well.
  3. Keep jars warm until ready to use, in order to minimize risk of breakage when filling with hot jam or jelly. Set the jars on a cookie sheet in a 250F degree oven.
  4. Boil some water in a kettle and pour over the lids placed in a heat-proof bowl. Set the bands aside in your work area. Use a canning magnet to easily remove the lids from the hot water with out touching them.

Fill your jars

  1. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, one at a time, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe any jam or jelly from the rims of the jars. Center lids on jars. Twist on the bands until fingertip tight.
  2. Place six filled jars in the canning rack inside the canner, ensuring jars are covered by 1-2 inches of water. Place lid on canner. Bring water to gentle, steady boil. Repeat until all your jars have been boiled.
  3. Process jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 12 to 24 hours by pressing on centre of cooled lid. If the jar is sealed it will not flex up or down. Store any un-sealed jars in the fridge and use within a month.




Lake love and the 52 handstands




October swim.

This summer I went swimming. I swam and swam and swam right into fall. I swam in Canada’s largest open water swim race, Across the Lake in Kelowna and I swam 12 kilmetres in Canada’s longest lake swim, the Skaha Ultra. When all the training was done I decided to swim every single day in the lake until October just for the love of the lake. For the love of swimming. My 52-day streak had no fixed swim distance but each swim ended with a handstand. Why? The answer is as unfathomable as the streak.

IMG_0934.JPG“If all you did in your lifetime was enjoy the beautiful things around you — the sunset, moon and clouds or all the plants and animals — that would be a worthy life.” Laird Hamilton

I’ve swum in the English Channel, the Hudson River, the Med, the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Caribbean and in countless Canadian lakes. Anywhere. Everyday. Always. It’s who I am.

At the cottage, with my mum and dad (left) looking on.

Of all the places I’ve swum Okanagan Lake is as perfect as it gets.

IMG_1606.jpgIt’s clean, big, deep, varied, gets nice and warm in summer, has few weeds, no predators, changing weather conditions to make it feel like an ocean some days and the scenery is spectacular. I’ve seen eagles and osprey fishing, loons diving, vintage planes flying overhead, sailboats, windsurfers and kite boarders playing, outriggers, kayakers, dragon boaters, paddle boarders. I’ve swum beside an historic paddle wheeler. I’ve dodged sunbathers on rafts and talked to triathletes. I’ve occasionally collected beer cans to recycle and dove down to add to my sunglass collection. I watched water bombers fight a wildfire. One awful day I kept an eye for a dead body as searchers looked for a drowning victim.

Sometimes the lake is silver.
Sometimes I wear at wetsuit but not on my streak.
During the wildfires, sometimes the lake was shrouded in smoke.
Other days it was blue.
Calm as a mill pond…
Choppy like the ocean.

I like to watch the water drip off my arms and sparkle in the sun. One magical day during a sun shower, raindrops splashed back off the lake like diamonds. I’ve seen small glowing yellow leaves suspended in dark waters.

Not to over romanticize it, the last two weeks of the streak took some moments of courage to enter the bone chilling water.

One, two, three and swim like hell.

On the plus side, I have had lovely Manitou beach and her sheltered bay all to myself. My swim three days ago was the nicest of the year. The sun was warm, my skin burning in the cold water and I was feeling uplifted, clean, happy, energized and calm all at the same time. It’s a sensory deprivation and sensory overload.

And then there is cake! Time to celebrate the end of the streak with a spiced apple caramel handstand cake. 
IMG_2456 2.jpg
Thanks to the Handyman for the lifeguarding when it got cold and for the HandstandCam photography!
Bring on Spring!

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