Sunday was the perfect day. From the late morning, starting with breakfast and tea, to driving along the highway and back. We awoke to heavy clouds and the sprinkling of rain on the windows, dampening our expectations of a nice day in Steveston, which would undoubtably be wind swept and cold in the current weather. My initial response was,
as I stared at the sky, surprisingly close to us sitting in the kitchen,
"you don't mean to make me stay at home again do you!? Outside looks so depressing and cold, those clouds so dark!"
Dad replied to my over exaggeration calmly,
"No, we'll just see how the day goes."
And that's exactly what we did, taking each moment bit by bit, which turned into the best of all days.
Unplanned moments are always the best of moments. There are no expectations or ideals to compare with, everything just happens, flowing seamlessly when you let it, and these days can be experienced and appreciated for what they are. That spontaneity enlightens us, takes the pressure off making the day perfect, and instead, allows each of us to enjoy the company, the environment and what we set about doing that day.
I was ready to tackle the drive up to Squamish, along the highway from where our ferry docked, to a small cafe where we stopped for lattes - and to my surprise, gluten-free muffins! It was set among shops along the main road, and served a healthier option to Starbucks drinks and snacks, where the rock climbers, bikers and hang-gliders from the area come for their fill. A young girl served us, and many others who lined up, and soon after a young couple who knew her came in for coffees and breakfast wraps. They chatted, staying longer than other customers as no one else remained who needed to be served, and I was reminded of the relaxed comfort in the familiarity of small town coffee shops, where everyone knows the cashier, and everyone meets jovially, explaining the latest news in their lives, exclaiming their joy at seeing someone they know.
Traffic was sparse and calm, benefitting my new driver abilities, and dad and I later left mum to read her book comfortably settled in the cafe as we drove around, practicing on the many four-way stops, and the one round-about we found after many wrong turns. It was a warren maze of small streets and scattered stop signs, which jumped out from overgrown gardens with protruding trees, only visible when nearing the stop line. My thoughts were on nothing more than the present, which calmed me, and I was able to focus on driving solely, a helpful advantage to previous driving practices when I was focusing on school and homework or flitting between homework and dance, my mind racing between the tasks, trying to keep up with everything.
From Squamish we continued up the valley to Whistler, a spur of the moment decision as the clouds began to lift, and the possibility of some sunshine sneered up above the clouds, enticing but not yet apparent. Steveston seemed like a far drive, and we weren't keen on getting back into the city, which contained a hustle and busyness we wanted to steer away from today. We liked the tranquility of the valley, even with the heavy fog seen to be streamlining down the mountain's banks.
I drove again up the highway, manoeuvring the twists and turns through the rocks that were still uneven from their blasting to increase the size of the highway for the 2010 Olympics. It's a nice highway to drive now, smooth, and a much faster journey, which has allowed Whistler to be a day trip rather than the whole weekend for us. Gas is also cheaper in Squamish, so in a way, it's justified when paired with our need for a day out.
It was colder in Whistler, the 9°C temperature was replaced by a cooler front, although I didn't check the screen in the car I know it must have been about 4 or 5°C. Many couples walked around bundled in checkered red scarves and big duffle coats, their red mittens blended together as they cupped each others hands. Kids who climbed about on the new playground structure, an extraordinary wooden enclave, were wrapped in pastel-coloured coats and little red hats, their mothers and fathers stood with hands in pockets and babies in buggies were wrapped in furry blankets and toques with animal faces.
We walked through the village three in a row, and I broke from the pod as I darted in and out of stores, looking, looking. From the North Face to Columbia stores I was looking for a coat, one that could keep me as warm as it would keep me dry during the winter' this winter is meant to be one filled with cold temperatures and will threaten us with snow throughout the season.
Dad thinks I planned the day, with the intention of finding this coat. Ha! I love it, and it is exactly what I was looking for, even before that day, but I'm not that good at steering them. I certainly had an idea of what stores were in the village before, but how could I have ever known we would end up in Whistler?
Dear mum and dad, thank you for such a wonderful day. Finding that coat was just the icing on top of the cake, the foam of our lattes, the gluten-free to the muffins we found in that small cafe, and for dad: the complementary flavours of your beer paired with your lamb stew for lunch. It is the Irish of the pub we went to that day.
Autumn Stuffed Squash
Roasted squash, with melted butter and a seasoning of salt, is the perfect accompaniment to a fall dinner. Add a drizzle of maple syrup for another variation, or try a stuffing of wholesome rice with nuts and dried fruit, such as natural dried cranberries to complete the meal. The complementary flavours, loaded with ingredients of fall, this dish will bring everyone to the table, to the warmth of the kitchen, and can be made any time squash is available.
The best dried cranberries are from natural food stores, where added sugars are minimum, and the natural flavours of the cranberries, including a particular tartness, remains.
The stuffing of rice can be cooked and stored in an airtight container on the refrigerator up to 2 days ahead.
3 medium squash, halved lengthwise with seeds removed (I used different types to try the variety available in our local grocery store)
4 tablespoons butter (or Earth Balance) melted
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
2 cups cooked wild rice (1 cup uncooked)
2/3 cup raw cashews, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Brush 1/2 tbsp of melted butter over and inside each squash halves, sprinkle with brown sugar, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the halved squash inside facing up on a baking tray in the centre of the oven. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes or until just tender when pierced with a fork.
While the squash is in the oven, heat a large frying pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of butter.
With the butter beginning to foam, add the chopped onion, shallots, and celery, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stirring to coat.
Cook for about 6-8 minutes, with an occasional stir, until the vegetables just begin to soften. Add the chopped basil leaves and cook for another minute, or until fragrant.
Remove vegetables from the stove top and stir in the cooked rice, chopped cashews, chopped cranberries, and salt and pepper.
Spoon the filling into the roasted squash halves, it will be about half a cup each, and drizzle some of the melted butter over top.
Place the squash on the baking tray and roast under the same oven temperature until it is completely tender and the edges begin to brown. About 20-25 minutes.
Labels: cashews, celery, cranberries, dinner, fall, filling, rice, roasted, squash, Stuffed, warm