Monday, July 26, 2010

Everything’s Coming Up Roses! Jane’s Rose Petal Cake (with apologies to Persian Love Cake)


I love this time of year for many reasons but a fragrant rose has to be one of my most favourite things. I recently came across a bottle of rose water for sale at a local deli and couldn’t resist it. When I found a recipe for Persian Love Cake featuring rose water and candied rose petals, well I figured it was all just meant to be. I will admit here that I modified it slightly. So for those of you who are Persian and feel like I may have committed a crime, well, I’m sorry.

*You need to plan ahead to make this cake because the rose petals need a day and night to cure or set or candy or whatever it is they do.

This is a great recipe to make with little girls:)

You will need:

Candied rose petals

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • A bunch of rose petals that have not been sprayed with something evil. Make sure they smell good too– not all roses are fragrant, people.


  • 1 cup flour (No, you shouldn’t use whole wheat. It’s a cake)
  • 14 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground whole cardamom seeds (removed from about 5 green cardamom pods). And if, by some chance, you can’t actually find whole green cardamom pods because we don’t live in Sri Lanka or wherever whole green cardamom pods are from, just grind up whatever you can find at Safeway or wherever. It’s OK. Relax.


  • 2/3 cup icing sugar or more…
  • as much water as you need so that it’s not too thick and not too runny- start with a couple of tablespoons.
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (that’s right – only 1 teaspoon. Trust me. It’s freakin’ strong stuff. Well. Ok – you could use a little more if you want but I’d say NO MORE that 2 teaspoons or you will wish you hadn’t)
  • 2 tablespoons natural unsalted pistachios (Or not. We were fresh out of natural unsalted pistachios at our house and judging by the number of people who asked, “hey! Where are the natural unsalted pistachios?” (which was exactly None) I think you’re good to go without them).

Ok First you have to make the candied rose petals. Choose the best petals. Spray a drying rack with olive oil. Whip up the egg whites.  Spread half a cup of sugar out on a plate or in a shallow bowl. OK ready? Dip a rose petal in the foamy egg whites (you’ll need to keep going crazy on those egg whites with a fork to keep them foamy), then either dip it in the sugar (easier if you are 8yrs old), or put the petal down on a plate and sprinkle evenly with sugar on both sides (easier if you are older than 8)



When you are done they will look sort of like this. Now go do something else for the rest of the day and come back tomorrow.

Alright feeling refreshed?


Preheat to 325. Find two round pans that are approx. the same size and grease them however you like to grease your pans (go crazy).

Mix up the flour, 7 TBSP sugar, baking powder and salt. Find another bowl and mix up the yolks, water, oil, lemon zest, and the ground cardamom. I always forget if you’re supposed to add the wet to the dry or the dry to the wet and I know my Grade 7 Home Ec. teacher is rolling in her grave (her name escapes me…anyone?) but really, people, I don’t think it matters. Mix them together however you like. I hate preachy recipes. It will look like this:


Ok now you need to beat the crap out of the egg whites, while periodically adding a tbsp of sugar, until the egg whites stand up on their own and you have added 7 tbsp total.

Add them into the other bowl of batter.


Resist the urge to eat the raw batter.

Pour the batter into the two cake pans and bake ‘em up! About 25 mins, don’t overcook or tomorrow, you will lock your keys in your car. Or something.

And…take them out when they are done (you will know they are done because when you stab them with a knife, the knife is clean when it comes out). Let them cool for a bit and then turn them out on to racks to cool completely. Your daughter will want to rush this next part but I’m telling you now, it you don't let them cool completely, the icing will run off the cakes and you will have two soggy cakes, no icing, and will feel bad. Just sayin’.

Icing – mix water and icing sugar together. I’m sure you have done this before. If not, well, just mix them together. Add the rose water. and add a little more icing sugar. If you are doing this with little girls, you may want to add a drop of red food colouring or squeeze a beet or whatever it is you do to make it a nice shade of pink. Boys will want it to be green. I know this to be true. Whatever, people, whatever. Make sure you can still pour the icing because that’s what you are going to do next.

If you like, you can either ice between the cakes, or spread a layer of jam (yum) or whatever. Then stick one cake on top of the other and admire your work.

Then pour the icing all over the two cakes. Keep going until it is covered and who cares if it's not perfect. It should look something like this:



Now the fun part! Get your beautiful candied rose petals from yesterday (they are just over there on the counter behind you) and have your daughter artfully arrange them on the cake. She will likely overdo it, but who cares.


Then stand back together and admire your beautiful cake.


And if perhaps, you have a 14yr old son like I do, you can wait for him to say “Hey it’s a pepperoni cake” like mine did :)


Cheers and happy baking!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Island Hopping Part 2 – Sunshine Coast, Neil Diamond and Smitty’s Oyster House. Sigh…

I’m on my back staring at the deep blue summer sky. Tiny waves lap and splash under the dock and my world rocks gently back and forth.  While it’s probably carcinogenic, the smell of the creosote and tar that coat the pilings, the salty ocean and the sun baked wood of the dock combine forces and take me back years and years to when I was a girl and lay on this exact spot.

Gambier Island is an annual pilgrimage for me and I look forward to my next visit the very second I have left for this year. I could go on and on but instead I’ll give you my top-10 reasons  (in no particular order) why I love this particular part of the BC coast:

10. The waters of Howe Sound are actually warm enough to swim in without causing complete paralysis. There’s no sand, but there are docks and pier and the jumping and swimming is endless.


Witness Jacob in mid-leap off the pier at Gambier Harbour.


9. BC Ferries always figures prominently in the trip to Gambier as it requires three ferries.  It’s usually a beautiful trip and the kids are always in a good mood which slightly counteracts the fact that I did miss three ferries on the way there. So, to be clear, I don’t actually LIKE BC ferries, but I do find they offer significant blog material. For example, I’m pretty sure the 20 or so cars that made it as far as the on-ramp on to the Langdale Ferry at Horseshoe Bay also do not like BC Ferries. How exactly the ferry workers mis-judged that one I do not know. All I know is that nobody was happy at the prospect of having to back off the ramp, which is what all the cars and motorcycles had to do. As the lower deck was also full, they missed the ferry. Whoops!


8. Signage on BC Ferries.

Jacob and I also spent most of the 40 minute trip from Horseshoe Bay (or Horse-Poo Bay as the kids refer to it, based on the absolute lack of anything interesting or stimulating to be found there) laughing hysterically at the sign below. WTF.DSC06188

We were very unclear on what exactly the message was here but came up with several suggestions:

  • Caution: Assemble here for Human/Dwarf merging
  • Caution: Human/Giant Merging station
  • Caution: Angry Elves may appear from any direction – protect your children at all times

Any more suggestions? I’m going to send them to BC Ferries.

7. Lunch at Smitty’s Oyster House in Gibson’s. Once an marine shop, this funky building has undergone extensive renos and did they ever do an amazing job. Loved the bright blue brick walls, the black woodwork, the amazing old windows that seem to open 10 different ways, as well as the original boom that reaches out over the boardwalk and was used to bring engines right into the shop to be worked on. My cousin Mel, her husband Stuart, and Jacob and I came for lunch but would happily have stayed for dinner if we hadn’t had to catch a ferry. We were seated outside on the patio at a huge long table where we were instructed by our slightly offensive, but hysterically funny server, to sit in twos opposite each other. Other people joined us and it soon felt like one big lunch party. The wine and conversation flowed, oysters arrived, delicious crab cakes were devoured, halibut fritters (cooked to perfection) consumed in vast quantities, and all the while boats came and went from the marina, waves lapped under the pier, and happiness reigned. I will definitely be back at the next opportunity, if not sooner :)

6. Commotion by the Ocean. This was my second time attending this annual event on Gambier Island. Held as a fundraiser for the Island’s Community Centre, the concert features Island native Bobby Bruce who is perhaps better known as Nearly Neil as in Nearly Neil Diamond. I have never been a huge Neil Diamond fan, except in a ironic sort of way but can say that I am now a huge Bobby Bruce fan. In my humble opinion, this guy is BETTER than Neil Diamond. The concert consisted of a set of Nearly Neil (excellent) followed by an appearance by Abba Kid Abra, an Abba tribute band that I could have skipped, another set by the Gambier Band who were just awesome, and then another set by Bobby Bruce singing some tunes written by Gambier Island songwriters, some of his own work and a bunch of covers. This guy can sing with the best of them. Throw in a beer garden, pulled pork sandwiches and corn on the cob, and it was a great night. Slightly surreal, but great none-the-less.


Nice shirt, Neil.

5. My Aunt and Uncle’s house. I may have gone off about this before but it really is a little slice of heaven. The garden is idyllic, the house so cool and comfortable, and the company is always wonderful.

DSC06232 DSC06231





4. Cousins.






3. Potter Organics (AKA my uncles garden)DSC04374


2. My Aunt Louise’s Kitchen.

While she claims it’s all in the reading of the recipe, I beg to differ. Every last thing that comes out of this kitchen is delicious. Jacob will attest to this – he ate three full plates of Turkey dinner, followed by pie, as will Zoe who starts talking about my aunt’s strawberry shortcake about 11 months before we are due to go.

1. It really is sunny on the sunshine coast and it makes everyone smile. Just look at this blue sky:


Can’t wait to go back!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Island Hopping Part 1 Stuart Island – Camping, I Don't Think I Hate You Anymore

I’m sitting beside the campfire, smoke and ash drift pass my face. The sun has set, and the sky is a clear deep inky blue so it’s only by the light of the flames that I can check on the progress of my S’more. My marshmallow, roasted to perfection, sits waiting while the chocolate melts on its graham cracker base. I lick the chocolate off my fingers from the last S’more and take a sip of tea.

This little scene is acting itself out in various ways all round this campfire. To my left, several kids inspect the charred remains of their marshmallows while to the right, a couple of dads alternate between swilling beer, inhaling s’mores, and solving the problems of the world. It’s 10pm on Saturday night on Stuart Island and the Baldwin Family Campground and all is well in our world.

I must admit that if all aspects of camping were this enjoyable, I probably wouldn’t object so much to the general prospect of trying to live outdoors for several days in a row. I’ve never been a great camper, but before I had kids, I could at least tolerate it. We would grab a few things, throw the tent in the car, stop at the grocery store and then spend a few days lazing around the lake or wherever before heading back to work or school. Then I had kids and all hell broke loose. I have effectively blocked out most memories of a four-day camping trip spent with other families when Jacob was 8 and Zoe 3. All I can remember is being extremely sleep deprived due to a 5yr old boy to whom I shall refer as Bobby for friendship’s sake, who decided that 4:45am would be the perfect time to wake up each morning. More’s the pity that Bobby and his long-suffering dad’s tent was only a few metres from our own. Mornings went something like this:

Bobby: (forcing a whisper) “Daaaaaaaad”

Bobby’s Dad: “smurgsch”

Bobby: (whining now) “Daaaaaaaad I’m hungry”

Bobby’s Dad: “Bobbygobacktoslee….”

Bobby: “But Daaaaad I’m hungry and I’m uncomfortable”

Bobby’s Dad: (Trying to whisper) “Bobby! I’m SLEEPING!

Me: (In my head) “Yeah, Bobby, we’re all sleeping don’t you know?”


Me: (In my head) “Bobby, none of us want you to be in your tent anymore. I’m thinking Nanaimo actually”


Me: (In my head) “starting?”


Me: (in my head) “Don’t go there, Bobby”


Me: (in my head) “You don’t even know what grumpy is, Bobby’s Dad. I’ll show you grumpy”.

At this point, the antics of Bobby and his Dad had woken up half the campsite, the half that were under the age of 8 that is, and so began another very long day full of sleep-deprived adults, and cranky kids. Throw into the mix meal preparation for 62 people or however many it was, and a general cacophony of screaming and demands for snacks and toys that had been left behind at home, and it was a nightmare I swore never to repeat.

And so I swore off camping for several years. Friends would suggest a camping trip. “This” I would respond, pointing to myself “Does not camp”. They would roll their eyes but I didn’t care.

Then a couple of years ago, friends conspired against me and planned a joint family camping trip to Stuart Island, which is a lovely little island in the San Juan Islands, only a few miles by boat away from Victoria. Friends owned land there and held an annual camping trip. I was my usual difficult self proclaiming that I would go camping when I was dead and not before. To make matters even less appealing to me, this ‘campground’ was boat access only, and had no bathroom. Nothing. No cabin, no outhouse, just a hole in the ground. And not a very deep hole at that.

Well I’ll save you the details but somehow, I found myself packing camping gear, then I found myself on the boat, and then there I was at the campsite. And I’m here to say that, apart from the hole in the ground, and in spite of myself, I actually had a good time.

And so it is two years later that I find myself here again at the Baldwin family campground eating too many s’mores, meeting interesting people, and actually enjoying being outside, hiking, swimming, and cooking communally. There were a few minor glitches like when the boat hit a rock and severely damaged the motor so that we could no longer use it and had to rely on our 15horse kicker instead. It was a long trip back. And also the fact that Kent managed to fall onto a Douglas Fir branch and embed a piece of it in his leg. Nonce, the token Doctor on site, and I tried to remove the rather large ‘splinter’ that was protruding from his shin, but couldn’t budge it. After feeding Kent several glasses of whiskey, and bandaging it up for the night, we decided we would have to find a clinic the next day in Friday Harbour. $180, a few hours, and a few stitches later, Kent was good to go.

But in spite of these events, there’s something about being outside early in the morning, or sitting around the campfire with a cup of tea, vaguely wondering, but not worrying, where the kids are that is just so relaxing and calming, it almost makes me want to do it again.

I think I’ll wait a year. 


Camp Kitchen


Kent on the post-surgical unit. Note the cup of Fire Whiskey in his hand…


Jacob at any given point except for when he is sleeping (see below)


The trip over when the motor still worked. Note the sleeping Jacob.


Roche Harbour


The Crew

DSC06096 DSC06095



Kent about to provide his opinion on topic x


This yacht had an open house and we were COMPLETELY ignored by the salesman. And I was going to write a cheque, too, but the bathroom was too small.


Kent sleeping off the effects of his anaesthetic…


Cemetery Island


  The campground from the water. It helps when it is soo beautiful everywhere.


The lovely and hospitable Penelope and Eric, who so kindly have us all to stay on their land.


4th of July festivities on Stuart Island


Boat ride home and two sleeping 8yr olds.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sky Mall – Where Dogs are too Tired to get up on the Couch by Themselves...

On a recent trip to San Francisco I had the great pleasure of being introduced to a new publication that I cannot believe I have never read before: Sky Mall. It’s one of those freebie magazine that they stuff in the seat pocket in front of you, knowing full well that at some point on the flight, you will reach for it either to a)avoid the person next to you who may or may not be droning on about their cat’s digestive problems, or b) because there is something about being on a plane that turns us all into attention-challenged idiots: I read a book for three seconds, put it down, stare out the window for awhile, then try to read again but realize I have burnt my retinas staring out the window, then can’t read anymore. It’s a sad cycle that I seem bent on repeating throughout the duration of the flight. Occasionally I will attempt to sleep, but this is usually met with about as much success as my annual pre-summer diet.

Anyway – so there I was in my seat, with nothing to do, when I happened to notice Sky Mall in the seat pocket. And so began a very happy hour of reading that caused the flight to pass by so quickly that I was actually a bit upset when we began our approach to YYJ as I was not even close to finishing the magazine. Fortunately I was quickly distracted from my despair by the gathering storm outside my window and ensuing turbulence. I love it when the gulf islands get bigger and then smaller and then bigger in quick succession as the plane appears to drop a few hundred feet in one go, the regain it, then lose it again, and then just stay there. It’s as if the pilot has decided: ‘What the hell, not much point in going back up…"’. I’m pretty sure that flying into a pocket of turbulence and plunging toward the ocean is not how they teach them to land a plane but what do I know.

I do know that I was able to have a moment of clarity through my anxiety that allowed me to quickly stuff Sky Mall in my bag before getting off the plane. And no need to feel any guilt that I was depriving future passengers of pleasure:“Free copy – take it. We’ll replace it!” the magazine joyfully proclaims across the front page.  Well Ok, then! I will! And hey, thanks, Sky Mall!

But back to the actual items available for purchase through this fine establishment. Let’s start with the Head Spa Massager. Wear this and enjoy looking like you have been rummaging through Boba Fett’s old trunk of too-small helmet cast-offs.


Or perhaps you need a Full Head of Hair in 30 seconds? Try new Toppik Hair Building Fibres that allegedly stay on through wind, rain, and sweat. Hmmmmm. Why not just take the pepper grinder and go crazy.

DSC06042 DSC06043

And right below that is an ad for the X6 Hair Laser. Yes except this one is for thinning hair. No no, it is for improving the look of thinning hair. Does this mean it makes thin hair thinner? How could it make it thicker? Who are these people. And besides, it looks like a bomb or something.


For those of you with pets who encourage your short-legged pet to sleep on your bed, but worry about how to get your pet from the floor all the way on to the bed, today is your lucky day. The Pet Ramp and Staircase is at your service. Oh, and it is also soft on paws, just like the great outdoors. Which is where animals are supposed to live, by the way. In case you have forgotten. Which clearly, you have, if you think it is OK to buy a ramp for your cat to get up on your bed. I know I know you LOVE your dog and usually, I love your dog too. I just think this is going a bit too far.


But I’m not done quite yet. Actually, if you are the type of person who might purchase the Pet Ramp and Staircase for the bedroom, but experience angst when pondering how to help your shedding machine up onto the living room furniture, then look no further than page 46 of Sky Mall where you will find the PupSTEP Plus. Yes, this handy item will help your cat or dog or coatimundi up onto the couch for a ‘well-deserved nap’ after a hard night on your bed.


When you have finished contemplating what humankind has come to, consider investing in a little something to improve your status in the neighbourhood: the “Bigfoot, the Garden Yeti” statue. Now, I don't know about you, but personally I’m hung up on a few details here. First of all, Sky Mall claims this statue has been “hand-painted for startling realism” but then reveals that it is only 2ft tall. A 2ft tall Bigfoot? Now how realistic is that. You may as well give it a clown nose if it’s only going to be 2ft tall. Sounds more like a garden gnome gone wrong to me. Somewhere in a factory in China, someone is putting the finishing touches on yet another “Bigfoot, the Garden Yeti” statue and wondering what the hell is wrong with us over here in the West.


But I digress. I am also questioning the authenticity of this item. I mean, really, can I trust someone who refers to Bigfoot as a “Garden Yeti” to have the details right when they have clearly gotten their Large Mythical Creatures mixed up? Hey, Sky Mall, Yetis are from the Himalayas and Bigfoot is from the Pacific Northwest. Duh.

OK Let’s move on to my favourite item in the Sky Mall catalogue: the “Zombie of Montclaire Moors” statue. Unlike our friend the Garden Yeti, this baby is life-sized. But it gets better! Sky Mall actually suggests that this would be a good addition to your family room, garden plot, or office. I can see how that one would play out:

Me: “time for bed honey”


Me: “now honey we’ve been through this already – the Zombie is not a REAL zombie, just a statue captured in meticulous detail in quality designer resin”


ME: “Hello, Sky Mall?”DSC06147

And again, the details, SkyMall – it’s all in the details so sit up and get a pen cuz a) Zombies don’t plead for assistance and b) they can’t breathe. I’m feeling my confidence in Sky Mall slip away with this obvious disregard for facts. First the Garden Yeti, and now this. Whatever, Sky Mall, Whatever. As partial as I am to Zombies, I think I’ll give this one a miss.

Now I’m sure some of you would have just blipped right over the statuary section but I feel sure you would not have missed this next item. 


Ok Here’s the thing. PUT THAT AWAY. And put away those pyjamas too. Can you imagine actually using this? “Excuse me while I just set this bouncy castle on my fold-down tray…sorry did I elbow you?” And how, I ask you, will your face look after being jammed up against this puppy for any length of time. You may have gotten a few minutes sleep, but you will appear to have suffered a stroke for some hours post-flight. Whatever people, whatever.

This last item leaves me speechless. Now I like cats, and have had several as pets. But as far as I’m concerned, IT’S A CAT. IT DOESN’T USE THE TOILET.  I don’t care if you live in an apartment. If I visit someone at their place, use the bathroom and discover that the CAT ALSO USES THE SAME TOILET I’m gonna FREAK. That’s GROSS! I don’t care if cats are “clean” or whatever, they still lick their own bums. NO CATS ON THE TOILET.


Let’s look at that again:


I’d challenge Litter Kwitter’s claim that they have actually had the success they claim with this product. Cats don’t typically like to be told what to do. And I’d actually like to watch someone try to train a cat to use the toilet:

Owner Irene: “Come on, Fluffy, up on the toilet with you…Up you go..that’s it good Fluffy, go…now, Fluffy, no biting!”

Fluffy: (In her head) “Like I’m going to get up on that thing. Just try that again and I’m gonna stick you with my claws”

Owner Irene: “Good Fluffy, Come on let’s try again…Up on the toi…Ouch! Oh I’m sure you didn’t mean that did you, Fluffy…”

Fluffy: (In her head) “Yes I meant it and I’m not ‘getting on the toilet’, I told you. Catnip flavoured toilet paper or otherwise.”

Owner Irene: “Fluffy just get on the toilet and give it a try, please? How about a treat?”

Fluffy: “Yeah how about you treat me like a cat and let me out of this stupid bathroom"

Owner Irene “I paid $60 for this stupid video so just do like the man says and get on the toilet”

Fluffy: “If you keep trying to get me to get on the goddamn toilet, I’m gonna scratch you a new one”

Owner Irene: “I don’t know, Bill, She’s got that same look in her eyes when you tried to get her to wear that bell…do you remember that, Bill? When we had to go to cancel our holiday? I think I’m just going to leave it. It’s not worth it…”

Fluffy: “You’re so right it’s not worth it, Irene. Now leave me alone”

So many questions, I have so many questions. Like, WTF? for one.

Well that brings my rant to an end. I could have mentioned so many items. Like the underwater pogo stick (“perform a variety of waterborne stunts!”), or the bug vacuum, or the ceramic pet fountain, the telekinetic obstacle course, the indoor dog restroom (for “times of harsh weather”). But I have to stop somewhere. For now. In the meantime, I can’t wait for my next flight and the next issue of SkyMall.