Lavender: Harvesting, Drying, Baking

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Hey all. This is going to be my last post for a few weeks. Z, X and I are going on a much-needed vacation – back to the mother land! I’m so excited to get back to Canada. We’ve already discussed that we’ll be stopping for Timmy’s in the airport as soon as we land. Some things you just can’t really get out of your system. We’ll be out of range of the internets for awhile, which is going to be quite nice, but I’ll be back in October, with more of our travel adventures (with a Canadian edition, I’m sure!) and exciting news.

I adore lavender. I find it to be such a multipurpose, perfect flower. It smells wonderful, it helps you get to sleep, it has elegant blossoms and a lovely colour. And you can even cook with it. I have one tomato soup recipe that is to die for, and I’m pretty sure it has to do with the herbes de provence, including lavender, that’s in it.

So I was very excited to discover that lavender grows EVERYWHERE here. In fields. Along the sides of fences. In ditches. And, lucky for me, in a huge bush right outside my front door. The plant is massive, and clearly very mature. I produces so many flowers throughout the season. The whole area is usually cheerfully buzzing with bees as they let off wafts of delicate lavender scent while they work. It’s as bucolic as you can get. I was determined to do something about the massive amounts of lavender growing right outside.
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Swiss Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

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It’s been five months since I moved to Switzerland. I can hardly believe we’ve almost been here for half a year. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that it has been on the whole a pretty amazing experience – full of new adventures as I try to navigate raising a toddler in a new country where my grasp of the language is tenuous. It’s been fun. Occasionally lonely, as the odd pang of homesickness strikes, and quiet, as we’ve taken this time to settle in to our new life.

Well, all of that is about to change. The lonely quiet part, not the amazing adventures part. We’re about to have guests by the boatload coming over. I really appreciate my family and friends giving us some time to acclimatize to our life over here before coming to visit. I don’t think it was planned this way, but rather hilariously it has been unanimously decided that our alone time is OVER. Everyone is coming over the next two months. And we’re jamming in a trip back to Canada in there as well. It’s going to be very busy. And I couldn’t be more happy about it.
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Book Reviews

It must be the lazy days of summer, but I am way too tired to even think of an entertaining story about our lives as ex-pats today. My only thought today is about moths: why is it when they are outside, I refer to them as butterflies and giggle as my toddler innocently runs after them, but when they are inside they are terrifying creatures that inspire fear and disgust in ways I only usually encounter in nightmares? Why are you hiding in my lamp?

Anyway, I’m also too lazy to be doing any much of reading, but here’s my latest book list. Including are my absolute favourite books by my absolute favourite children’s author, so pay attention.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Book description: A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. 

The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.

Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to Taleb, is that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities.

We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible.”

For years, Taleb has studied how we fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. We restrict our thinking to the irrelevant and inconsequential, while large events continue to surprise us and shape our world. Now, in this revelatory book, Taleb explains everything we know about what we don’t know. He offers surprisingly simple tricks for dealing with black swans and benefiting from them.

Elegant, startling, and universal in its applications ‘The Black Swan’ will change the way you look at the world. Taleb is a vastly entertaining writer, with wit, irreverence, and unusual stories to tell. He has a polymathic command of subjects ranging from cognitive science to business to probability theory.
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White Chocolate Raspberry Cookies

RaspberryCookies2My love of cookies is well documented. I just … I love them, guys. I might take little forays into cupcakes or tarts, but I’m always going to come back to the cookie. It is the ultimate comfort food. Especially soft and warm from the oven, gooey with chocolate. Yum.

Less well documented (on this blog, anyway) is my total adoration of all things Disney. I think if you hate Disney, you are taking life WAY too seriously (ahem, Z). My sister and I earnestly discuss whether it would be preferable to go to Disneyland Paris, or Paris itself. And the indoctrination starts early. X, only 18 months, already adores “Mitt-y,” as he calls Mickey Mouse, and can spot him anywhere. It doesn’t hurt that you can’t go very far in the world without seeing Mickey Mouse, so he is given constant reinforcement that this is probably an important personage to be aware of.
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An “All-Canadian” Meal

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No matter how great the food is over here, sometimes you just want to have what you know, you know? Z and I compiled a list of foods we miss from home. To be honest, it’s not very long. Dill pickle chips. Bagels. We both will be hitting up Tim Hortons when we’re back in the mother country. My biggest thing I actually miss is yellow mustard. Weird, right? But you just can’t find it here. And I know that Z misses his Kraft Dinner. We might need to stock up on that one when we can.

In order to fulfill my need for back-home cooking, I got the barbecue fired up (well, got Z to). We have this fantastic marinade for chicken, but we haven’t used it for awhile. It was heaven being able to whip it up again. It’s pretty easy and so delicious.
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Green Lentil and Coconut Curry

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There is no doubt that my son is a rough and tumble boy. He is quickly transitioning from baby to a little guy who wants to get out into the world and find all kinds of fascinating things. It really makes me think that the whole “nature vs. nurture” thing isn’t really a thing. No matter what, X will always gravitate towards trucks, the bigger the better. I don’t think there could be anything I could do to change that. He likes fast cars, choo-choo trains, and also bugs.

I got a fun surprise when he brought something to me the other day. He will often bring me interesting stones or, to my delight, flowers, when we’re outside. I opened my hand as he eagerly gave me his prize, just as he said “Bee.” I was just processing the word (his word for all creepy-crawlies, as I’ve discovered) when I found myself the happy recipient of a big beetle. When I squealed and threw it down, X gave me a reproachful look and went to pick it up again, like I didn’t really understand the magnitude of what I had been given. I finally  had to throw the poor thing in the bushes before X could do it any harm. Still. I could have been worse. We have some gigantic spiders that live in our house, and I don’t know if I would recover if he gave me one of those. Shudder.
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Lausanne/Montreux

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For our weekly adventure, we decided to stay within our own little region and took a leisurely tour around Lake Geneva (also known as Lac Leman). I don’t really know how to say this, other than: it’s stunning here. The lake, the mountain, the vistas, the beautiful bridges and the gorgeous villages that dot the coast are all designed to be breathtaking. We didn’t really have much of a plan in mind, other than getting around the lake. We began by heading up into France along the southern coast. Evian-les-Bains, of bottled water fame, was a spot that caught our eye. While we didn’t stop to poke around, there is a boardwalk-type development right at the edge of the lake, with casinos and glamourous hotels … looks like a place we’d want to visit without the toddler.
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