Category Archives: life

meet me in muskoka + a mushroom, cheddar, and leek pie, lake style

mushroom tart

If you follow me on Instagram you may have already seen various points of the mileage I mentioned yesterday; to be quite honest, I was actually surprised at how little pictures I actually took during our travels, and that goes for most of our adventures as of late.


{captain + first mate}

I’ve been really bad about carting my DSLR on vacations with me lately (partly due to the fact that I desperately need a new telephoto lens – which obviously doesn’t come on the cheap – and I’ve been sticking my head in the sand and pretending my old one works just fine….it doesn’t), and it’s too easy to fall into the habit of snippity snapping away with ye old iPhone.


I yammered on enough yesterday about how wonderful island living is up in Muskoka, but it would be remiss of me not to mention this mushroom pie – even though I’ve got but one photograph as evidence of it’s brief existence.

{but wait! there’s more…}


the whole shebang: 6300 miles and a whole (lazy) lemon tart, iphone edition


My past 28 days have looked something like this:

Santa Barbara, CA –> Baltimore, MD –> Wilton, CT –> Lake Joseph, Ontario (Canada) –> New York City, NY –> Baltimore, MD –> Santa Barbara, CA.

We’ve just arrived back home (we being the husband, the pug, and myself, and home being to the farm) after a whirlwind East-Coast-meets-Canada Summer tour that was packed sardine-tin style with cross country flights and long long drives: a marvelous wedding weekend in a picturesque New England town, two weeks spent on an island in the middle of a giant lake in Canada, and a full week back in The City – my old love – New York, New York.

(An aside: Given that these three locales and disparate occasions demanded quite different attire, you can surely ascertain exactly how nonplussed the look on James’ face was when he saw me attempting to heave two full-sized and at-limit suitcases onto the belt in addition to the tote bags/handbags/saddlebags that I looped over his shoulders like my own personal travel burro. Efficient packer, I am not.)


Having – quite surprisingly – not traversed outside of the Pacific time zone since our arrival on the farm last Winter, we had a veritable laundry list of friends to see, places to visit, and cakes to bake (that’s a normal thing, right?), and in what seems like a relatively long stretch of time (nearly a month), we somehow managed to cram smoosh and shove nearly every single person/activity/baked good in without incident.

The trip was kicked off with our dear friends’ wedding, and we danced under the stars on a horse farm while munching on mini tacos and Polly Pocket sized margaritas housed in tiny Patron bottles. After a weekend full of feting, the car was loaded and aimed North towards the border, and we scanned the crackly FM stations while cruising through upstate New York searching for just the right songs to befit the lush rolling hillsides and endless decorously unkempt farms. A full days drive warranted cooling our jets for an evening at a darling bed and breakfast in Ithaca, and in the most touristy fashion possible we unabashedly chowed down on Buffalo wings at the restaurant that lays claim to starting that whole vinegar-spiked-hot-wing craze.


We drove into Canada and left the US behind for two glorious weeks; this was the fourth year I have accompanied James and his parents for a mid-Summer break at their lake house, and it has quickly become a yearly tradition that we eagerly look forward to as the days grow longer and July 4th approaches. The cabin is on an island – the kind where there are no cars and oh, you better choose your company wisely, as there is absolutely nowhere to hide once you arrive by boat. And, as such, there is nothing really pressing on the agenda save long and lazy afternoons filled with sunshine and novels and time spent in the kitchen tinkering with new recipes and keeping the fridge full for those who’ve worked up an appetite swimming laps around the island.

{but wait! there’s more…}

you eat & relish, now meet celia west!

CW logo 684x215 jan 2014

cw site slide 5

It’s been awhile since I’ve alluded to another project I was working on….in fact, a quick search of my archives confirms it was way back in October. Of last year. And here we are, a healthy five months later, and I am finally – FINALLY! – ready to share it with you!

cw site slide 3

(In my defense James and I have had a lot going on in these past five months, both personally and professionally, and as you well know by now we’re living in an entirely new town (hello, Santa Barbara! goodbye SF!) doing something that five months ago I would have thought was totally off the wall ((wearing overalls and farming avocados….or something like that)).  But I digress.)

marina on wood

I’ve started a jewelry line called Celia West, and I am delighted to (finally!) be able to share it with you. I’ve just launched my website at, and you can follow us on Instagram or like us on Facebook (and I’ll note doing both of these things would make me a very happy lady).  If you like jewelry, follow along! Otherwise, fear not – I’m still here cooking and baking and tinkering and making a general rumpus in the kitchen.

Thank you so much for your support, and for continuing to support me here on my little-ole-blog soapbox.  Your encouragement, kind words, and continual enthusiasm truly do mean the world to me!

a signoff

australia 2012, part 3: melbourne – st. kilda & the cbd

melbourne - st kilda & cbd

Well, it’s been a year (and a month!) since we actually took this trip and I snapped these pictures long ago with full intentions of coming home and giving you some long winded recap of every thing I ate, place I went to, and international incident I caused…..

But, like I said…it’s been a year. It’s old news! In the interest of cleaning out my ‘Post Drafts’ box (and therefore also absolving myself of the guilt I feel when I see all of my half-mused musings), I’ll spare you the gory (read: awesome) nitty-gritty of the last week of our trip to the Southern Hemisphere and tell you this:

If you make it to Australia, you absolutely must visit Melbourne. If you are a fan of the charm of European cities, the buzz of New York, the laissez faire nature of San Francisco, and enjoy having fun in general, then you will adore Melbourne. Skinny little laneways, crawling bougainvillea and ivy, smells of various dishes wafting through the streets, the beach, and a mish/mash of cultures all colliding in one place…..Melbourne is a heavenly cacophony for the senses. The people are ultra laid back and love nothing more than to go out to eat really good food, drink pints, and be generally very merry; they crowd the cafes to laugh over extra-long suppers, and no one minds if a little wine spills on the cobbled sidewalks. And the ASIAN FOOD! Due to Australia’s somewhat close proximity to Southeast Asia, the influences in local cuisine are clear cut.  I had the best Vietnamese food I’ve ever had, and it’s everywhere — pho for days, I tell you. Asian-fusion is big there, and they do it in a way that makes every “Asian-fusion” place in the States I’ve ever been to feel on par with Panda Express.   Get thee to Chin Chin and order thee the sweet and sticky pork and a lemongrass cocktail, then kick your heels up with the pretty people at Go Go bar (downstairs) late night.  And the SEAFOOD….prawns, whole fish, crabs the size of your head – you name it, I ate it. With unabashed glee. I’ve noted the names of a few more of our favorite places in links below, but otherwise, I bestow to you, a quick and dirty photographic journey of one of my favorite cities to date.  Oh…and before you head home, head to Aesop to stock up on their amazing skin care products – surely you’ve checked a bag for this trip…be a rebel and buy something over 3oz!



second to last night, dinner at half moon

{maybe the only (blurry!) pic we have together in 14 whole days!}

gorgeous ivy covered church in st. kilda

{gorgeous ivy, gorgeous days}

stokehouse - zucchini and chickpea salad

{zucchini and chickpea salad with hazelnuts and mint}

stokehouse - delicious mussels

{excellent mussels at the stokehouse cafe}

taking a spin around town

{taking a city spin on two wheels}

breaks of sunshine

{bustling city center}

bougainvillea lining all the streets

{love: bougainvillea lining all the neighborhood streets}

spicy szechuan chicken (with chilis!)

{spicy szechwan chicken and chilis}

{but wait! there’s more…}

twentyfourteen – i think you’re great.

IMG_3925 copy

“If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she’s late? Nobody.”  –Holden Caulfield

I’m late to the party here, which is unsurprising, seeing as I’ve been late (*cough*….never showed up) for most of late Fall and Winter’s major milestones. That Thanksgiving recipe roundup I mentally planned out? MIA. Any egg-nog-y or ginger-spiced recipes to jazz up your holiday table? Totally left you hanging. Some festive New Years pop*fizz*clink action?

You’re pickin’ up what I’m layin’ down.

But, I’ve got some excuses (don’t I always?!), and in the spirit of my New Year’s resolutions of only looking onward, moving upward, and thinking positively, I’m here now.  However, ‘here,’ for me anyway, has changed quite dramatically over the past few weeks.  If you’ve been around here for any time at all, you’ll know that my little family (one husband, one pug, and two black kitties because, yes, we are insane) has been happily settling into a relatively new life in San Francisco, and championing all of the lovely friends, spaces, and places that have made their way into our heads and hearts over the past 10 months.  Not a bad thing exists about San Francisco, in my mind; it fit(s) us like that cliche well-worn glove, and the tough things that normally come with a cross country move (awkward transitions) just did not exist.  But it’s funny how things – big things – can turn on a little slice of time the size of the proverbial dime, and as it seems to be the norm for us these past three years, we’re doing it again.  We’re moving.  We’re not moving because San Francisco is failing us in any way – because really, it’s been the most magnificent hostess.  We’re moving because in the whirlwind that was our December, an incredible opportunity to move to, live on, and manage a magnificent avocado ranch in Montecito, California has arisen, and after much enthusiastic conversation (and, quite honestly, very little debate), we’re graciously and thankfully taking the tall challenge head on and with gusto.  Another move!  To a small town of ten-thousand that sits nestled up right against it’s bigger sister, Santa Barbara, and to a place that I’ve fallen fast in love with, and already believe is one of the most beautiful in the country.  And this move will be the last one for a very, very, long time; this is, to date, the biggest decision we have ever made, personally and professionally, and the timing, for us, is ever so right.  We’re feeling very lucky and elated for a new adventure, while at the same time a bittersweet sadness to bid our Bay Area friends goodbye.  Grateful for the support from our incredibly kind and generous families, friends, and new opportunities doesn’t even begin to encompass our rosy outlook for this new year.  

2014, I’m so happy you’re here.  And I already think you’re a smashing success.  Brace yourself for some avocado recipes…..


{sunrise at miramar beach}


{home for a few weeks: our little beachside rental}


{sunny central coastline}


{avocado hillsides}


{celebratory oystahs}


{prepping christmas beef wellington}


{beach supper: snapper with backyard lemons and grilled green onion}




{santa barbara farmers markets: 7 days a week, year round!}


{sea air makes me sleepy}


{a new years cheers – with local brews}


{january tomatoes that taste, literally, like august}




{kale salads everywhere in january}


{such a fitting gift from my sister in law}


{montecito sunshine}


{“yous meanz we ken come to da beach every dayz?!”}


{two, in blue}


{like a boss.}


{a man and his pug, soaking up the sunset}


{the purple hour – my favorite}


{lunch date! heirloom tomato bloody mary, kale caesar}


{our wild saturday nights: fried calamari and sriracha aioli at home}


{just when it starts to set}

australia 2012, part 2: mornington peninsula

australia 2012 - mornington peninsula

Continuing on with that ‘better late than never theme…..’ (Ahem.)

We were really disappointed we didn’t have more time to spend in Sydney, but I was also overcome with excitement to discover a completely new part of the country I was already so taken by.  I had naively originally expected that we would just hop into a rental car and drive South down the coastline on a leisurely drive, but after discovering that the trip from Sydney to Melbourne would log twelve to fifteen hours  in the car (and all while driving on the other side of the road!), that idea was quickly scrapped, and we made our way to the airport for a much more palatable hour-and-thirty-minute flight.  After a small misunderstanding with our cab driver (which resulted at being dropped off at some random [wrong!] terminal and some subsequent whining and begging to allow our bags to be checked with barely twenty minutes till takeoff), we were off.

Our first order of business upon arrival was securing our rental car, and driving even further down the coast, out of Melbourne, down to an area called the Mornington Peninsula.  We were absolutely ravenous by the time we were arrived, but we pushed half-way through the three-hour long trip in search of a little town called Springvale where we had heard you could find the best bowl of Pho you’d ever eat in your life.  After a few a slew of U-turns, we finally flung open the door to Pho Hung Vuong Saigon, and sat down to what turned out to be one of the best meals in my thirty years on planet Earth: perfectly spiced clear beef broth, nearly see-through strips of thinly sliced beef shin and tendon, and piles of fresh cilantro, bean thread noodles, and chili peppers on the side.  It was the best kind of comfort food, and chased away any remaining remnants of jet lag that had plagued our early wakeup that morning.   We sucked our bowls down in record time and hit the road again, cranky no longer, towards Uncle Norman and Aunt Miyoko’s house nestled deep down in the peninsula.

As we traversed further out of the city and into the countryside, the scenery turned lush and green, and caution signs for the odd jumping kangaroo or clumsy wombat dotted the roadsides with increasing frequency.  The Mornington Peninsula has become a popular country escape for the city dwellers of Melbourne proper, and is well known for it’s many wineries, golf resorts, rocky beaches, and quaint towns.  Norm and Miyoko had generously offered to host us at their lovely home for three nights, and from the very moment we arrived we immediately felt at ease.  I am very lucky in that I am married to man whose interesting heritage (half Kiwi [New Zealand], half British) lends itself to having wonderful friends and relatives all over the world, and, as a weary traveler, encountering familiar and friendly faces on the other side of the globe makes the entire experience that much more special.  As soon as we were settled, Norm pulled out his impressive collection of sake glasses (it is a tradition in their house for each guest to select their own) and Miyoko began preparing us an appetizer of traditional Japanese tempura with fresh local fish and plump green peas.  We settled in to their backyard, surrounded by the sounds of local birds and the scent of their garden flowers, kicked off our shoes, and relaxed.

We spent the next three days exploring the peninsula and taking in all that the gorgeous area had to offer.  Norm booked us in for massages at the natural hot springs that he runs year round, and we were totally spoiled – it was the absolute best massage I have ever had, and after being reduced to a jelly-like state I slinked into  the hot mineral-rich waters of one of the thermal pools, and floated on my back till my hands and feet were pruned.  We dined outside on invigorating ‘spa food’ – healthy fresh pressed juices and delicious cool and crisp salads – and toured the grounds extensively, trying out something called a ‘Turkish Bath” and even braving a couple of the chilly plunge pools. (For the record, I was much happier lazing in the warmth than sadistically dunking in the cold.)  The weather was unbeatable – warm, sunny, and dry – and we capped off a fantastically relaxing day with supper at a local Thai restaurant, sampling a green curry, delicious phat si lo (aka pad see ew, a rice noodle dish), and, my favorite, a whole fried local fish with tamarind sauce, enjoyed straight off the bone.

Our next days were spent cruising down the coast line and stopping in to explore the beach towns of Sorrento and Portsea, both of which were emphatically charming and surprising.  We had both left Manly expecting that the ‘beach’ portion of our vacation was over (the forecast in Mornington was not exactly working in our favor), but the sun struggled to get it’s head out up and over the clouds, and we were afforded bright blue skies and (mostly) sunny afternoons for our entire stay.  Our favorite beach was located in Sorrento, with a craggy and rough coastline punctuated by enormous rocks, and gorgeous seaweed covered flats that made for an impressive view while rounding up over a crest and dropping down onto the beach.  We strolled through the center of town and shopped at the boutiques, taking breaks for perfectly brewed cappuccinos and scoops of fresh strawberry ice cream which were immediately followed with long naps on our outstretched towels, and some hard work on our Aussie tans.

Our final afternoon was spent touring the countryside, stopping in for tastings at two of Miyoko’s favorite wineries, and enjoying a long and late lunch of seared duck, curried mussels, and meltingly rare salmon filets.  We swung by an organic market and picked up a selection of locally made (and very stinky!) cheeses to enjoy with that evening’s planned meal of grilled lamb chops, and indulged in a long nap and an old movie in bed before supper.  Norm was an expert on the grill and seared the chops till just their very middles had twinges of scarlet, and after eating entirely too much (and sharing a few bottles of red wine), we participated in what I can only describe as a horribly sorry (but very enthusiastic!) karaoke session.  (Let’s just say that my rendition of the B-52’s “Love Shack” was causing both of their poor cats to yowl uncontrollably!).  An A+ for effort was given to all.

Mornington is beautiful – and unexpectedly so, actually.  We had read that it was a haven for tired city-dwellers and knew it would be relaxing and ‘pretty’, but the plushness of the landscape, the sharp aquamarine hue of the ocean, and the rolling and unadulterated lush green hills that blanket the region literally took our breath away.  We experienced all of this beauty in such a comfortable setting, and were so grateful to have such wonderful, kind, and caring hosts to have made our experiences there truly unique.  I felt genuinely rested when we packed up our car (and apologized to said kitties for my utter lack of any vocal talents), and we sadly said our goodbyes.  We rolled back up the coastline (and had a few panicked moments forgetting we were meant to keep our vehicle firmly planted in the left lane) towards Melbourne, and off towards the last stretch of our adventure – five days spent in St. Kilda, a funky enclave of the sprawling city, and five more glorious chances to discover even more about this fantastically enigmatic country.

an afternoon swim

{sorrento, in front of the beach}

deep blue waters

{waves + tidepools}

{but wait! there’s more…and lots of pictures, too!}

on learning from a dreary hour

peekaboo cow hollow

Fall seven times, stand up eight.  — Japanese Proverb

One of the best things about this place is that no matter how drizzly, gray, or bleak it looks out there, it always manages to get better – even if “better” is just a fleeting spot of sunshine in the evening, a breeze warm enough for a few minutes sans jacket, or the sight of some brilliant blooms lining the street through the haze of a stubborn fog.  San Francisco’s wildly unpredictable clime: a life’s lesson to be had, that’s for sure.

too many choices!

ombre leaves


top of the hill

white flower