seasonal living

Shepherd’s Lunch // Fresh Ricotta


The Wholesome Handbook - Fresh Ricotta

Ricotta is an optimistic cheese, a bucolic one, wet and springy and feminine. It’s a cheese you eat with olive oil or honeycomb on a hillside in the sun. It’s a poor man’s cheese, a country bumpkin cheese, a dish for shepherds and milkmaids and ploughmen.

The ancestors of ricotta date back to the bronze age, but the modern iteration is a lovechild born a thousand years ago in Sicily, when the island was under Arabic rule. Ricotta is gold wrung from wastewater – traditionally made from leftover sheep’s cheese whey, a literal peasant’s portion, an ingenuity born of necessity. The wealthy caught on eventually and claimed it for themselves, as they do, and ricotta’s current culinary rep is much more bijou than it perhaps deserves. Ricotta is, at the heart of it, wholesome countryside food, easy to make, easier to eat.

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Eat Your Heart Out // Steamed Artichokes


Steamed Spring Artichokes - The Wholesome Handbook

The first artichoke was a woman.

A Greek beauty with fuzzy eyebrows and long black hair, heavy and slick with olive oil. The kind of woman who bathed naked in the ocean froth and loved to feel the grit of wet sand between her toes, the kind of woman who swam in thunderstorms and baked herself to a burnished copper on black rocks in the sun. The kind of woman with many lovers and many daughters. The kind of woman who loved, more than anything, to laugh.

Her name was Cynara.

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Travelogue // Abbotsford, British Columbia


Travelogue - Abbotsford - The Wholesome Handbook

Driving from Alberta to B.C. for a weekend visit with Andrew’s grandparents was like leaping forward in time. As we weaved around and over the Rockies on Highway 1 and the Coquihalla, the world shifted from a humble, budding brown to a raucous, lush eruption of green.

B.C. is a land of plenty. It’s crowded with dense hills and heavy clouds, and you can smell the ocean salt in the air. After 10 car-bound hours of podcasts, coffee, and rain, the eldest Reists welcomed us with their legendary Strawberry Birthday Cake, studded with saran-wrapped loonies, and we chatted long into the night.

Our first morning, we breakfasted on homemade raisin bread and blackberry preserves picked from the cemetery bushes across the street – does anyone feed us better than our grandparents? Afterwards, I managed to drag the boys out to the gloriously muddy Bloom Tulip Festival, and had to fight every one of my instincts to just lay down in the muck and roll around like a happy piglet. Spring makes me a little wild, but then again, I suppose it does that to all of us – Beltane has its reputation for a reason, after all.

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A Spring Mood


The Wholesome Handbook - A Spring Mood

I awoke this morning to rain.

Before coffee, before the sanctuary of the shower, even before the ghosts of last night’s dreams had slipped out of my mind, I had to feel it. I ran outside to the gray dawn in my robe and bare feet, and tilted my face up towards the sky, my husband laughing at me from the kitchen. God, it felt so good. I can’t even begin to tell you.

Rain. Not half-frozen sleet, not the tentative drizzling the sky’s been experimenting with lately – but real, relentless rain.

Later, wrapped in a shawl at the window, bitter coffee steaming up from the mug warming my hands, the rain turned to snow again. Spring is messy like that, especially in this place, this unpredictable land between the mountains and the prairies. But the white on the ground can’t erase the fact that for a moment, I had rain. Spring is here, and life is changing again.
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A Winter Mood


The Wholesome Handbook - A Winter Mood

Winter has a soul. Every northerner knows this. It blows in on a whim, somehow always unexpected, and blankets the world in white. The rivers groan under ice, and the northern lights ripple over midnight-silent cities. Hoar frost grows crystalline on every naked branch and makes the world into a dreamscape. The air turns hungry, and nips at fingers like a stray dog.

Winter is snowshoeing in an evergreen forest, grand haunted hotels, steaming hot springs. It’s blue ice and sidewalk salt. It’s a cheeky glug of Baileys in my morning coffee. It’s my mother’s meticulously styled tree, and the dogs propped up in their own seats at the table on Christmas morning. It’s my husband proposing to me in a mountain cave as snowflakes melt on my cheeks. When you spend five months of the year in winter, it starts to become a part of you.

I love autumn, it’s true. But winter is in my bones. Winter is home.
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An Autumn Mood


The Wholesome Handbook - That Autumn Mood

That familiar, ghostly whisper of cold in the air. The first glint of amber in a sea of exhausted green. A million little deaths perfuming the streets with a vegetal, earthy tang. I don’t stand a chance against autumn. Every year it creeps in like some unforgotten ex-lover, beautiful and moody and fleeting, and I am bewitched.

I feel most like myself when the world is warm and golden, when I’m not overwhelmed by summer’s lusty chaos or driven into hibernation by the dark, wolfish cold of winter. Autumn feels poetic and gentle, full of wisdom and mystery. In the throes of its death, the world feels so exquisitely alive.

When the seasons shift, it’s wise that we do so as well. Living seasonally is good for you. It’s about mirroring the earth and her cycles, honouring the history of our more pastoral forefathers, remembering that you’re a part of this epic, cosmic dance. It’s just good earthling etiquette to embrace the spirit of the season. Here’s how I’m settling into my favourite time of year.

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How to Spring Clean Your Entire Life


How to Spring Clean Your Entire Life - The Wholesome Handbook

Spring is finally, blessedly upon us, and she brings with her all that glorious opportunity for rebirth and renewal. Now is the time to till our soil, to breathe life into all of the corners of our soul, to release the old to make room for the new. It’s the ideal time to refresh not only our homes, but our entire lives.


Throw open the windows and let your rooms bathe in the loamy, leafy smell of spring. Wipe down your walls with lavender and sage, wash floors, scrub appliances. Gently tuck your winter blankets away for the season, and unfurl your sheer summer linens into the fresh air. Take everything you own out of your closet, and only put back the items that you love. Only the best should touch your body – donate everything else. Fill your home with new greenery, huge leafy philodendrons, dramatic string-of-pearls. Burn beeswax candles, shake out the rugs, re-season your cast irons, and scrub out the old frost from the icebox.


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