Gâteau Breton

Gâteau Breton

I had fun baking a fabulously simple gâteau the other day. I should confess that it was  emphatically not vegan (we’re trying to eat vegan more often than not). Yes, we fell spectacularly off the vegan wagon and landed with a buttery splash onto a vegetarian one. I feel a bit bad about that. But I do have to say this is one delicious gâteau and, well, if you’re going to use butter, then really use butter.

It felt like baking would be a good idea on a rainy, grey day – those warm, comforting aromas that emanate from an oven are like substitute sunshine – and chose a recipe from Mimi Thorisson’s French Country Cooking, her second cookbook. I love her books, they’re full of lovely recipes (no surprise there) and fabulous photographs but also great vignettes of how she and her family bought and renovated a big old house in a small French village and their adventures with their pop-up restaurant. I love how their lifestyle and work has positively affected the local businesses and economy, it’s an inspiring story that she also recounts in her wildly successful blog Manger, which needs no introduction from me.

The amount of butter? 16 tablespoons, or 225g, or approximately 1 cup depending on where you are. And lots of eggs and some dark rum. I can’t repeat the whole recipe I’m sure without permission, but you get the idea. It was delicious. And rich. And a very little goes a long long way. Gratifyingly my gâteau ended up looking very like the photo of the one in the cookbook. This doesn’t always happen, to me at least, so it’s nice when it does.

So after a long day of amazing snowshoeing a little over a week ago (the weather is far from spring here still)…..

It’s really nice to still have a little of the gâteau left to munch on….

Sometimes cooking is a chore, but sometimes, ummm, not so much.

 

An Aromatherapy Book Review

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Lavender about to bloom, France

I recently wrote a book review for my aromatherapy association and thought I’d share it on my blog. As with any book, recipe, blog, article or whatever I ever refer to, I don’t receive payment, have an affiliate agreement etc. etc. I just enjoy sharing information that I find interesting or useful and if someone else does too, then that’s great. There’s a lot of really excellent aromatherapy books out there and I’m happy to add this latest resource to my collection. Plus, posting this is an excuse to find a photo of some lavender about to burst into bloom, an antidote to the annoyance I’m feeling as I look at the window and see snow falling, again. Spring isn’t that far away!! We should be noticing daffodils and crocuses and extra frenzied birdsong by now!

The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness by Nerys Purchon and Lora Cantele (2014)

I would hesitate to say that any book on aromatherapy and essential oils is ‘complete’. It’s a bold statement that implies there is no more work to be done. As our understanding of these wonderful essences evolve, so too will printed resources. What The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness manages to do is straddle an interesting midline between introducing aromatherapy to readers who are learning about essential oils for the first time and providing valuable information that professional aromatherapists must surely appreciate, without however diving fully into clinical aromatherapy. I myself hover in that middle ground –  not learning about essential oils for the first time, but certainly not as experienced as the authors of this useful and informative book.

This is clearly a well written and generous (at 480 pages, very generous) handbook on the properties and uses of essential oils, succeeding in its stated aim to provide ‘sound information, based on both tradition and contemporary research’. The authorial pedigree is impressive: trained nurse Nerys Purchon (who passed away in 2011), established Rivendell Farm in Western Australia, studying natural medicine, growing herbs and becoming the country’s first producer of a cruelty-free line of cosmetics.The conducive climate of Australia seemed to inspire her practice with its abundance of therapeutic and perfumed plants. Lora Cantele, registered clinical aromatherapist, aromatherapy educator, lecturer and writer discovered aromatherapy by chance after suffering continual pain following two car accidents. Serendipitous gifts of healing essential oil blends from caring friends appeared to have triggered her commitment to aromatherapy and to spreading the word of this powerful practice.

The book begins with a general introduction to essential oils, explaining what they are, how they are used and safety guidelines to follow, then splits into four parts. Useful ‘tips’ are abundantly scattered throughout while cautions are highlighted in a box with a grey background in the sidebars, cleverly catching the eye to impart crucial safety information and precautions. My only caveat here would be the ‘tip’ p.36 on dosages for ‘children, the elderly and the frail’ which I think would do better highlighted as a ‘caution’.

Part 1: The Oils includes over a hundred detailed descriptions of different oils, including latin names, chemotype if appropriate, uses and precautions. Some interesting new oils, new to me at any rate, are described; Fragonia, Plai and Saro jumped out. Nor does the book shy away from mentioning oils that are not yet clinically evaluated and carry cautions, but which could prove useful such as Kanuka and the aforementioned Fragonia. There are descriptions of hydrolats in this section as well as carrier and infused oils. The latter made for particularly enjoyable reading – infused oils are a cost effective and usually safe way to experience the benefits of helpful plants and the authors provide clear and easy instructions to follow should you feel inspired to make delicious sounding concoctions such as elderflower or passionflower oil.

Part 2: Remedies offers copious recipes for various ailments, in an alphabetic range from abrasions to workplace stress. Specific men’s and women’s issues are covered here as are – and this is where the book also hovers in that middle ground – baby massages, pregnancy, douches, even cancer. In such cases however the authors stress  following professional advice from doctors and aromatherapists who specialize in, for instance, cancer care; following the recipes to the letter, and repeatedly caution the home practitioner to be thoroughly acquainted with any criteria that might prevent treatment.

Part 3: Aromatherapy for Daily Living we move onto frankly delicious sounding recipes for face – Satin Skin Gel springs to mind – hair, and body. (I question the inclusion of Rosewood essential oil in several recipes. In the profile of the oil, having mentioned the threat to the continued existence of the Rosewood tree – from environmental issues and over-harvesting – and the difficulty of sourcing the oil ethically, why indicate its use?). Further recipes include natural cleaning products for the home and the best oils to use for massages.

Part 4: Practicalities.The book rounds up a detailed, enjoyable and instructing trip through the essential oil landscape, offering equipment suggestions, how to measure and store oils and resources from around the world including oil suppliers and aromatherapy organizations.

A valuable and educational addition to any aspiring or current aromatherapists library, The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness is a book that easily communicates the dedication of its authors to the wonderful world of aromatherapy, their generosity of spirit in sharing their expertise and the creative means to pursue a healthier way of life.

 

Once Upon A Time…In New Zealand

Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track

……I spent a month or so packing kiwi fruit and another month hiking a few of New Zealand’s famously fabulous trails. I had been travelling for the majority of the time by myself in Australia but rejoined my then boyfriend briefly in NZ.

It’s over twenty years ago now (which explains the quality of the photos a bit) that I was in this slender country, long before I moved to Canada. Once here in British Columbia I felt that I recognized aspects of New Zealand in the landscape and coastline of my new home – and of my old home. Something of the coastline and mountain ranges were echoed in BC while the rolling green hills and ubiquitous sheep reminded me a little of England.

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I was rubbish (apparently) at picking out the not-quite-good-enough kiwi fruit from the production line as we packed them in boxes. What I lacked in discernment I made up for in enthusiasm and speed. Instead of being fired I was relegated to marking up the boxes for shipment. I didn’t mind, I was working in the same warehouse as my boyfriend, we were able to pay the rent and buy food and when a month or so was up we left to go hiking on the first multi-day trips I’d ever undertaken.

Those strenuous outings stood me in good stead for living in Canada and all the cycling, snowshoeing and hiking I have done and do here – not just in laying the groundwork for a good fitness base, but also for what not to do. Like not having enough food. To reduce the weight of our gear (sometimes we tented it, if there was room we stayed in one of the trail huts with their excellent wood stoves) we took red lentils, dark rye bread and biscuits. We took or filtered water as we went. That was it. We lost a lot of weight, just not in the right way. And I can’t believe now we didn’t have coffee.

Abel Tasman Track

Abel Tasman Track

Or we failed to pay enough attention to the weather. We hiked the Routeburn and Greenstone Tracks so late in the season that we found ourselves wading through rain-swollen streams and rivers as we traversed a valley floor; water cascaded down the mountainsides. Our boots remained sodden for almost the entire time. As we progressed along our route we noticed fewer and fewer hikers until we were completely alone, everyone else had either turned back or finished their hike already. And the night before we set off on what I think was the Anatoki/Waingaro Ciruit I was so cold thanks to an inadequate sleeping mat that I lay awake shivering uncontrollably until we got up the next morning. Hiking tired isn’t great, I stumbled and sprained my ankle on the first day. Soldiering on we made it to a hut set cosily in a meadow between treed hillsides. It was already inhabited by two fathers and their young sons (we weren’t the only late season hikers) and who thankfully had a roaring fire going. When we woke to a blanketing of snow we decided enough was enough and packed up for the return journey. I still remember looking back as we left the clearing and seeing four faces peering out at us through the window.

Occasionally we badly misjudged our distances. To the point that one long, long day – having decided we could fit two stages of hiking in one – we ended up stumbling down a rocky trail, in the dark (I don’t remember even having a head-lamp) led on by lights from a hut and falling, exhausted, through the door.

We were idiots. But it was a fabulous time, our naivety and ignorance aside. New Zealand is one of the best places, I still think, to hike. The routes are well maintained, the huts handily placed along the way in scenic spots – I recall one right next to a roaring river, the swing bridge conveniently located just moments away – the forests, mountains and ocean outstandingly beautiful. The convivial atmosphere on the trails was lovely and we were met with great kindness by New Zealanders who never failed to help out when they could. The island boasts remarkable birdlife, native fish, lizards and frogs but no bears or mountain lions, poisonous reptiles or vicious insects to think about when you hike.

I think it might be time for a return visit.

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Cape Foulwind, west coast South Island

 

A Little Bit of Spruce

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For the first time in many Sundays, no commitments. It’s snowing again and unusually I’m very happy to be inside in the warmth with a cup of herbal tea at hand – and an embarrassing amount of coloured pencils. I’m not sure if I just drew a spruce, pine or fir branch, I’m think it’s a spruce!

Ode To The Bicycle

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring” – Desmond Tutu

Apologies to those who love fishing! But I think you get my gist. Once upon a time I would have rated my hiking boots my most prized possession, followed by my cross-country skis followed by books and photos, then, well, not much else actually. I don’t have a lot of things – partly out of necessity, two of us live in a shoebox-sized apartment – but also because I don’t want to feel too weighed down with stuff.

Travelling in New Zealand years ago I discovered the joy of moving forward on your own two feet for extended periods while hiking the Routeburn, Greenstone and Abel Tasman trails. I’ve worn out a couple of pairs of boots over the years, my last pair stood me in good stead on some long hauls here in British Columbia, finally coming apart at the heel. I got blisters for the first time ever in twelve years or so of wearing them. They’ve been replaced but their hierarchy has changed. I’ll never not love hiking, but cycling, well, that’s taken over for the last few years and my bikes have precociously shouldered my humble boots aside to take top spot.

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Bicycle on display, Design Museum, London UK

It’s amazing how much ground you can cover on a bike. Start cycling at the beginning of the day and you could end up in a totally different environment at the end of it. Zipping around town to run errands and collect groceries often takes a fraction of the time than on foot or in a car on congested roads. Freedom, self-containment, fresh air, exercise, the soothing whirr of wheels – unless of course there’s an unexpected and frustrating click, clank or hiss necessitating a usually infuriating session of ad hoc bike maintenance, this is when I don’t love my bike.

Cycling has made me feel stronger than I thought I could possibly be. At times when I’ve despaired getting up a trail on a mountain bike, I’ve had to relax, take my time and just plug away at it. I’ve surprised myself at my tenacity and felt a real sense of achievement when I’ve crested a hill. I’ve also learned to read my energy levels much better. If I’ve had enough, that’s ok too. And there’s not many times a bike ride doesn’t put things into perspective.

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking” – Arthur Conan Doyle

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Chilling out on a leisurely trail

Oh, and here’s a few fun facts and figures in an article at Climate Central.  By undertaking just 10% of urban trips in cities worldwide by bicycle instead of motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions would drop by 11%. The article concedes the potential difficulties of installing infrastructure for bikes in certain areas and the cultural shift towards bikes needed in others, but the general agreement seems to be that the science behind those figures is sound. And I don’t think there’s much dispute that exercise is good for you, I’m not saying that cycling is the reason Robert Marchand is still riding a bike at 105 years old, but I don’t think it hurts either.

“Riding bicycles will not only benefit the individual doing it, but the world at large.”
Udo E. Simonis, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Policy at the Science Centre, Berlin, January 2010

bicycles

 

Snowshoeing Joy

Winter shadows

Winter shadows

Generally speaking I don’t tend to get too down, a bit flat occasionally and that’s enough to make me feel uncomfortable and a bit despondent about how the world is behaving. I should qualify that and say how the human species is behaving and affecting the world – the latter is just doing its thing.

Above all, getting outside is one of my first choices to alleviate this sense of unbidden  dispiritedness, and I recognize (how could I not?) how very, very lucky I am to be able to do so.

Before the holidays hit, we tramped up to nearby Seymour Mountain where temperatures had started out in the morning at around -11c. I had on two pairs of thermal leggings under waterproof trousers, a thermal top, fleece, jacket, ridiculously massive gloves that I’d normally use skiing, hat, thick socks, sturdy hiking boots etc. I had no intention of getting more cold than I needed to thank you very much.

Snowshoeing is a madly active sport depending on how you approach it and calories burned range from 300 to 500 or so an hour (with some reports of 1000 calories burned per hour but that would be for extreme athletes I think). I’m not interested in the calories, just that working that hard does keep you warm.

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Looking into the sun

Looking into the sun

Once you’re up the mountain, all I can say is….the light! The blueness of the blue sky! The sharp, crystalline air that you gasp in! That ineffable, pervasive scent of snow! And then you look down and in a moment of stillness notice the intricate, delicate and unbelievable complexity of a single snowflake and how different it might be from that other snowflake (I just read that despite all the different snowflakes they are all six-sided – extraordinary, to me at least since I didn’t know that). Then you’re off again, running or stomping or whooshing through the snow.

We were flattened over the holidays by a fierce flu that, as it did to many, burnt through us like a fire leaving us drained and perpetually tired. We’re recovering now and headed up to another local mountain a couple of days ago to test our lungs. It was cold again, but it was a tad warmer and it showed in snow-free trees.

Photo by Scott

Photo by Scott

Looking out to Bowen. Photo by Scott

Bowen Island lookout, Cypress Mountain. Photo by Scott

We tramped with some effort through a patch of old growth forest, testing our strength and happy to feel our muscles respond as we expected them too, if a little slower, stopping to admire a stand of old growth that we’ve seen so many times before but are always awed by.

Winter light, photo by Scott

Winter light, photo by Scott

Old growth forest

Old growth forest

After a couple of hours we headed home, in a state approaching something like relaxed alertness. Dinner that night was home-made pizza accompanied by a glass of wine and it tasted as good as anything I’ve ever eaten and drunk. It’s the small moments stitched together that end up creating a sense of contentment.

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Seymour Mountain

Quadra Island

In early September we drove north on Vancouver Island as far as Campbell River and from there it was a ten minute ferry ride across to Quadra, one of the so-called Discovery Islands that resides along the Inside Passage seaway between Vancouver Island and the mainland and which sits at the edge of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Despite the often unreliable weather reports in this part of the world we’d planned a break for a couple of days, naively trusting the forecast of ‘mostly sun’. Although the latter did pop out now and then from behind banks of clouds as if to say ‘boo!’, surprising us with its warmth and brightness, it was more often a metallic grey sky that accompanied us on our walks during the time we spent away. That grey, and the rain, has its own beauty though.

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The island has a lovely rural feel to it. As we travelled around on the quiet, leaf-strewn roads we spotted small farms, goats and sheep wandering in fields and signs advertising bags of apples. A woman we met walking her dog mentioned she had an overwhelming amount of berries she’d had to freeze following this year’s bumper crop. We also found Quadra unexpectedly mountainous (at least on the north end) with a surprisingly busy forestry industry. A friend told me he remembers being flown in with a group of workers by helicopter to do some tree planting over thirty years ago. For the last twenty years there’s been an inspiring and protracted push to protect the environment and the effort seems to have paid off. The island also has a distinct and prosperous indigenous presence. The We Wai Kai band of the Laichwiltach people (part of the Kwa’ Kwa’ Ka’ Wa’Kw First Nation) largely reside in Cape Mudge, one of three main villages on the island.

We drove through verdant forest thick with trees, moss and ferns, until the road we were on ran out. After parking we walked to the waters edge, chatting with another couple we bumped into who were hoping to spot whales (they never appeared), and gazed across the rain-stippled water at a homestead, it’s back protected by a wall of trees.

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There’s a great hike (one of many on the island) up a lovely area called Chinese Mountains. A few steps off the road into the forest and after that we didn’t meet a soul for the next couple of hours. It was mulchy and damp on the trail, banana slugs strewn around as if they’d been thrown there. We tried to avoid victimizing them with an unthinkable squelching as we picked our way around them, attempting to avoid slipping on a trail that was largely made up of wet, sharp rocks. It was only lunchtime and already the mossy greenness seemed to be getting darker; the rain was moving in but we wanted to get to the top for a view of the Coast Mountains and Vancouver Island.

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Use all four limbs to climb up this part of the trail

Despite the fog and mist obscuring most of the vista the truncated view was worth the effort. We huddled under a tree eating a chocolate bar as the rain started to get heavier. I was antsy and wanted to retreat before it completely poured, I had visions of us barreling down on our backsides in a torrent of water. As it was we had to be careful to pick out the occasionally obscured trail as the misty dampness roiled around us, at one point backing away from a sheer drop we had somehow managed to walk ourselves out to.

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View from the top

Appropriately, now that I think about it, the north end of the island was enveloped in mist, cloud and rain the entire time. It was on the south end that we enjoyed some sun. It made an appearance when we were taking a look at Cape Mudge lighthouse, one of the few accessible by road in Canada. It’s manned too, which is rather cool (although the romantic in me was a bit disappointed to find out the lighthouse keeper – isn’t that a lovely vintage sounding phrase – doesn’t actually live there, but in a building behind the lighthouse). The latter sits on the edge of a sandy beach where we found a comfortable log to lean against and fell asleep for a few minutes in the sudden warmth. Our hopeful whale watching friends had mentioned that they’d heard the whoosh of a blowhole from a whale whilst they had been here. We of course heard seagulls, the plop of waves….. and the distant throb from tugboat engines.

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Cape Mudge lighthouse

Actually it felt as if we were seeing the world in a micro rather than a macro way for our entire stay. On the way back from a lodge after dinner we spotted several deer, of mostly bambi size, and even a tiny frog that leaped heroically away from the glare of the car headlights (we drove very slowly) and at the small but fascinating salmon hatchery we spotted an undulating group of tiny salmon hatchlings sheltering at the shallow end of their nursery pond. Whether it’s small or large wildlife, whether it rains or shines, it really doesn’t matter.

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View from Rebecca Spit, east side of Quadra Island

 

Autumn Goodness

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It feels good to fly a little free and figure out the colours needed for a drawing, like this one of an autumn leaf, rather than copy faithfully from a book. The latter is a great way to learn and I’ll refer to those same books for suggestions when I get stumped, but the training wheels had to come off at some point (as they did with the plum).

The clocks have recently gone back and I never quite know how to feel about this, waking up is a little easier with more light, rather than burrowing back down into the duvet whilst the darkness lingers. But then it gets darker in the evening so much sooner, which is not really appealing to me. Perhaps though the autumn/winter seasons are some of the potentially most creative times? The energy is more withdrawn, less exuberantly outward, which can feel like a kind of loss at first, but if you can channel that saved energy it might actually be replenishing. With less time to be outside there’s more time to rest, to draw, cook, read, learn more about photography, to write…. (I’m just talking about what I enjoy, insert your own particular interests and hobbies).

Speaking of comfort food (we were weren’t we?!), I tried making a pumpkin pie, which I haven’t done for a few years. I used the same pastry recipe as I did for a fruit pie – once again omitting added salt as I used salted butter – and my own recipe for the pumpkin filling, which is as follows:

1 14oz (or 400mls) can of organic pumpkin

I cup of soy milk

2 eggs

1/4 – 1/2 cup of maple syrup

1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix all together, pour into a nine inch pie dish lined with the pastry, cook at approx 350f for about 45-50mins or until the pumpkin is set. Voila! Delish with added whipped cream.

pumpkin-pie

“It was one of those days you sometimes get latish in the autumn when the sun beams, the birds toot, and there is a bracing tang in the air that sends the blood beetling briskly through the veins.” P.G.Wodehouse.

Enjoy the rest of the autumn!

Plum Pie With Coffee Ice Cream

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Prune plum

Autumn means many things to people. Windswept streets, leaves turning vibrant copper and red hues, falling rain. It also means for many, myself included, warm pies using the last of the summer fruit before segueing into pumpkin pies – a very North American tradition that we’ve just enjoyed with the Thanksgiving weekend (I also often turn to frozen fruit once the summer is over, it works well too).

There seemed to be an abundance of prune plums around in the late summer and I got the chance to not only draw one (see above) but also to make a couple of pies with them. For one pie I added in a couple of late season nectarines that couldn’t be eaten raw – they’d become very mealy.

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Plum pie, with a couple of nectarines thrown in

I also made coffee ice cream from a great recipe by Nigella Lawson, no ice cream maker needed. Unfortunately I made a tactical error by adding in not espresso powder, but espresso coffee I’d ground myself. A rookie mistake, the ice cream had the oddest granular texture. It tasted good though.

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Pie and grainy coffee ice cream

The only problem with making ice cream in Canada is the difficulty in finding fatty enough cream. I had tried to make a lemon & saffron ice cream recipe from a favourite food/living in France blog I follow called Manger. I couldn’t get the cream to thicken. Perplexed I emailed the author, Mimi Thorisson, for her advice. She very kindly wrote  back and suggested the lack of fat might be the issue. Hmm, what to do? And then I had a brainwave. In a recipe using 300ml of cream, I used 200ml of the thickest cream I could find here (whipping cream at a mere 33% fat) and added the final 100ml using imported English Double Devon Cream which can be found in quite a few stores (I found mine at Wholefoods). It’s so whoppingly high in fat, 48%, that it more than made up the balance. Not very scientific but it worked.

I used this pastry recipe, omitting the salt since I used salted butter. I cut the plums roughly into quarters and placed in the pie dish, removing the stones of course; added a little orange juice for moisture and about a tablespoon of sugar to the fruit then covered with the remaining pastry. I cooked the pie in a preheated oven at 350f for about 45mins or until the fruit seemed to be bubbling and the pastry was golden. Our oven runs hot so I may not have cooked it as long as some might need to.

Oh, and I remade the coffee ice cream with powdered coffee the next time! It was delicious. And, yes, smoother.

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Successful coffee ice cream

Two Cycle Routes in The Okanagan

For four days in June we’d made an escape to one of our favourite campgrounds on the far side of Skaha Lake, across from Penticton in the Okanagan.

sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ  Provincial Park, formerly Okanagan Falls in the town of the same name, is now managed and run by the Osoyoos Indian Band. The name means ‘little falls’, and although the falls themselves for which the park is named no longer exist – in the 1950’s they were blasted to make way for a flood control dam – at night we can hear the rushing water of the Okanagan River by the side of the campground. It’s challenging to describe the allure of this spot, jammed as it is between the river and a road just off the highway. It’s small, it has very limited amenities (certainly no showers), there’s little to no privacy for each site. But its compact size is part of the charm; tucked around the corner of the mountainside as it is, the highway noise is eliminated.  The riparian vegetation encourages birds and bats. As so often happens in campgrounds, despite the open tent sites, there’s an unspoken agreement to  preserve the illusion of privacy. A friendly nod as you walk past sites and then eyes are politely averted.

The weather was mercurial during the week we stayed. Thunder and lightning the first night accompanied by cool rain. Perhaps we hadn’t brought enough warm gear? Then the sun broke with a vengeance, the temperature shot straight up to 30c and suddenly the swim gear and sun umbrella for scrubby Skaha Beach didn’t seem to be out of the question anymore. It also meant we needed to tactically time a couple of bike rides, we both cycle better in slightly cooler temperatures.

Holidays to me don’t mean getting up at six or seven in the morning, even though I was the one harassing us to get moving this time, so thank goodness for coffee. And food, ahhh food! I do love it so (I have to segue here and mention a great little compendium of recipes created and put together in a book I bought called Bike. Camp. Cook by a couple who have bike toured a huge amount, who clearly appreciate good food and who wanted to eat well and nutritiously on their trips. I originally stumbled across their book on Kickstarter but they now feature it on their website Going Slowly. They recommend a cooking set that we purchased and it has made our lives so much easier. I’ve followed their recipes for french toast, mango/avocado salsa, baked bananas, feta cheese and zucchini fritters, all so good. I photocopied the recipes I wanted to use, a useful way to save weight).

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Mango and avocado salsa, I added tomatoes.

Fortified by caffeine and french toast we struck off for what was actually a short (one hour) ride, but a pretty one. At the far end of Okanagan Falls we turned onto McLean Creek Road, a popular local cycling circuit. It wound up a couple of steep turns then levelled out into a gently winding route past farms and well tended, prosperous looking ranches before dropping down to the east side of Skaha Lake and so back to the campground. As we started out the sun was already burning (hence the arm protectors), the sky a gorgeous blue.

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Early morning light. Photos by Scott

A day later we woke to a hot but overcast day, the sky an oppressive stony grey. Our circuit this time took us in the opposite direction for a two or three hour ride. We tackled two outrageous hair pin turns on Green Lake Road which runs beside the campground, passes a vineyard or two and turns onto White Lake Road, leading to Twin Lakes Road and thence to Highway 3A and back again. There’s a beauty to this sage-filled landscape that can’t be denied. During most of the time riding out and back to the campground we rarely saw a car, sometimes a motorbike and as there were no fondos on at that time (it’s a popular area for group rides), just a few  cyclists. Once we’d reached the highway we spotted a nearby gas station and stopped outside to drink chocolate milk and stretch. As we relaxed in the shade a red-faced dad, mum, teenage son and daughter, all impressively geared up in matching cycling gear, rolled up, ran inside and emerged with the largest ice creams I think I’ve ever seen. We exchanged ‘hellos’ and route suggestions. People are friendly here anyway, it’s part of what brings us back each year, but I’m nearly always struck by the camaraderie of the cycling world, it’s a lovely thing.

If you like cycling there’s so many more routes to ride nearby, this is just a taster of this beautiful and diverse area, and you can always stop off for a glass of wine at one of the many vineyards. We certainly did.

White Lake Road

White Lake Road

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