This buttery, almond flavoured cherry cake is an old family favourite! I’ve recently found it works just as well in this gluten free version made with almond and coconut flour.
I wrote a blog post about my book club for the Gems blog this week, and it got me thinking about our latest book, Kristan Hannah’s The Great Alone, set in off-the-grid Alaska in the 1970’s. As I read it, it brought back memories of the years I spent living in a log cabin in small town, Northern Ontario.
This picture was taken right after we took the Insulbrick off the cabin. It was an asphalt, roofing-like covering made to look like brick that people covered old buildings with at one point in time, trying to make them look “modern”.
We were delighted to find these beautiful logs underneath in perfect condition!
But I met my elderly neighbor up at the mailboxes one day and she observed, “You’ve taken the Insulbrick off. I remember when they moved the house down here near the road from that hill over there. Then they put the Insulbrick on. Now you’re taking it off.”
No, “it looks great”. Her comments put a lot of things in perspective for me!
We had electricity, but we heated our log cabin with a wood stove and while we did have running water, it was in the form of a hand pump at the kitchen sink. My enterprising husband hooked up an almost complete plumbing system and, in the end, we had hot water in the kitchen, a bathroom sink and a shower—but no toilet. We put an outhouse in the corner of the woodshed that was attached to the back of the house, and that was considered luxurious by some of our neighbors, that we didn’t have to go out in the snow. Some of our friends had no electricity, no plumbing, carried water in from an old well, and skied in half a mile from the dirt road in the winter.
Once, before we moved up to Renfrew County, my husband, who was not my husband yet, and I decided to visit our friends. There was no cell phone then, so we took a chance and showed up at their log house late one Friday night. They were so-o-o happy to see us. Cabin fever had set in.
“We’ve made an Italian restaurant,” they said. They had thrown a red checked table cloth over a giant spool for electrical cable, made fabulous sauce from their home-grown, canned tomatoes, and we ate and drank wine late into the night by the light of an old oil lamp.
Hannah’s book deals with darker subjects of PTSD and domestic abuse, but she does a great job of explaining the lure, and the pain, of living in the north. There’s something very freeing about living off the grid, but we did find a darkness descended in the winter, both literally and emotionally. Many of our friends separated, families broke up and, at one point, we almost did too.
I guess, in spite of my Finnish blood, I’m not built of sturdy enough stock to tough it out. The last straw came one winter day when my husband and I both had bad colds and high fevers, and had to go out to shovel the snow off the woodshed roof so it wouldn’t cave in.
When we came inside to warm up, my husband said, “Let’s go visit Mike on Vancouver Island.”
So we did. And the rest is history.
After 22 years in this house I’m moving, and I think the thing I’ll miss the most is the fig tree. It’s not fig season yet, the figs are still hard little nubs on the branch, but last year the figs ripened while I was in Scotland and my friends left bags of fruit for me in the freezer that the move has prompted me to deal with.
So I’m making jam, three batches of fig and ginger jam, to be exact, and thinking it might be my last. Possibly not the most pressing job in this crazy month, but soothing, somehow.
I’m feeling sentimental because the bower beneath the fig arbor (the tree gets so heavy with fruit that we had to build a support) was the scene of Stephanie and Max’s first kiss in The Good Neighbor. In my Fortune Bay series, Stephanie is the matriarch, and a widow, alone until Max comes along. He’s new in town and, well, they hit it off right away.
The fig tree scene from The Good Neighbor:
Max walked around the corner of the house into Stephanie’s back yard. The warm breeze off the lake smelled sweet as honey wine. “Steph?”
A disembodied voice floated to him on the wind. “Over here.”
He scanned the yard and noticed a tree the size and shape of an elephant, up against one of the out buildings, shivering, its big, lobed leaves quaking. He headed over and stepped under the trellis that held up the long, knotted branches. Sunlight penetrated the translucent leaves creating a cool and ethereal bower.
“The figs are in!” Stephanie’s triumphant voice emerged from inside the tree. A stepladder with two feet perched on a rung halfway up, leaned against the arbor. Long, firm legs rose from there, ending where Stephanie’s baggy green shorts disappeared into the dense leafy branches.
“Help me,” she said, her hand appearing beneath the canopy of leaves, cupping a succulent green fruit.
Max took the warm fig from her hand. He’d never seen fresh figs before. So soft you couldn’t pile them without them losing their shape, he placed it carefully into the cardboard flat at the foot of the ladder.
Splat! One fell at his feet, bursting like a water balloon.
“Sorry.” Stephanie’s voice was muffled by the layers of leaves between them. He bent over to look at the fallen fruit more closely. It had broken open on impact, revealing bright pink flesh inside that looked like a million tiny caterpillars.
“Are they supposed to look like that?”
“Well, that one is very ripe. Here, take these.”
He reached a hand up by her hip to take the next handful, fully aware he could have run his hand right up her leg and into those baggy shorts. Instead he placed the fruit on the flat, then gazed around, suddenly seeing hundreds of camouflaged green orbs, the same luminous colour as the leaves. A wasp buzzed past his ear and settled on the mashed fruit at his feet.
“Can I help?” He reached up and gingerly touched a fig sticking out from a branch. Having seen how soft they could be, he was afraid to squeeze it, but this one was as firm as a zucchini so he left it on the tree. “How do you tell if they’re ripe?”
“They hang pendulously,” Stephanie said. “And the colour changes, takes on a yellowish cast.”
Now he could see the difference. Some of the fruit stuck straight out from the branches, but others had developed a suggestive droop. Like a ripe breast. He reached out and held the weight of one in his hand and could tell without squeezing that it was ready. With the fruit in his palm, he pulled the fig towards him and it tore away leaving a shred of green skin attached to the branch. The fruit oozed a few white drops of a liquid into his hand.
This just gets more and more suggestive, he thought, a grin on his face as he bent over and set it gently with the others.
Stephanie took a step backwards down the ladder, the green shorts stretched over her round bottom coming down to eye level. Her hands were full of fruit and the ladder wobbled as she took another step. Max reached out to steady the ladder with one hand on either side as she continued to climb down, into the circle of his arms. When she turned around, she smiled.
They were in her yard, yet the bower screened them in a private world.
She met his eyes. “Let me put these down.”
He stepped back, sorry to see the moment pass, kicking himself for not taking the chance while he had her in his arms. As she bent over to the cardboard flat, her breasts swayed pendulously, brushing his arm. His eyes swelled. She wasn’t wearing a bra.
She stood up, stepped back into his space and met his gaze. Was that a smile on her full luscious lips? His arms reached out and there, in the green glow under the arbour, pulled her into an embrace. A forbidden, Garden of Eden embrace.
Their lips touched gently, exploring, and her hands came up to his shoulders. He deepened the kiss and her lips softened in response. His hands dropped to her waist, brushing the sides of her free-hanging breasts. Not grabbing, not even really touching, just feeling the weight.
And she laughed, rich and deep. She’s ripe too, he thought, his head reeling with the suggestion.
Then she stepped back and bent to pick up the flat of fruit and, as they emerged into the sunlight, the moment became like a scent left in the bower. But he would remember the feel of her, and the taste, and promised himself he’d taste it again.
“A drink?” she asked. “It must be that time.”
He followed her back to the house and when they were sitting in the screen porch, drinks in their hands, she said, “That was great, but—aren’t you married?”
“Sort of.” How could he explain the woman who called herself his wife? He was unable to put the cold years into words, too shy to admit that this was what he wanted.
She looked at him directly, obviously amused by his reply. “I can’t have an affair with a sort-of-married man.”
“I know,” he said.
And they finished their drinks in companionable silence as the blue of evening fell around them.
* * * * *
And although I’ve never been kissed beneath the fig tree, it is a magical place and I will miss it. But as luck would have it, I’d rooted a baby fig that I will take with me and maybe in a few years, when my supply of jam runs out, this tree will be big enough to start giving me figs.
The next Fortune Bay book, Starting Over, is ready for pre-order at all the regular online stores, for a first-day-only price of $1.99!
This is to give my regular readers a chance to pre-order the book for this special one-day-only price before bounces back to the regular price of $3.99 USD the following day.
Pre-ordering will ensure that you don’t miss out on this Launch Day sale.
If you’ve never pre-ordered a book before, don’t worry, it’s a piece of cake. Just follow the links to your regular online site and order the e-book like you normally would. Your e-book copy of Starting Over will automatically be delivered to your e-reader on the day of it’s release, January 30, 2018 for half the regular price.
Here’s the back cover blurb:
Lily’s not the only one starting over…
Lily Brewster has been caring for ‘strays’ all her life. The more battered the baby bird or helpless the new kid in class, the more she wants to help. Now, her dream of a family in tatters, Lily leaves Seattle, seeking refuge a cabin in the woods on Majestic Lake. Here, she pulls herself together, helping her father at the new Fortune Bay Resort, taking on any job that needs doing—including looking after a “Mr. Morris”, the mystery guest in Cottage Four.
Marshall Mason, charismatic country rock star, is hiding from the press in Cottage Four while he heals from a motorcycle accident that has left him severely scarred, outside and in. As Marshall contemplates the end of his music career and the loss of his family, he spins deeper into depression, until one day, a woman knocks on his cottage door.
By the time Lily puts two and two together and figures out who the mystery man in Cottage Four really is, she and the reclusive ‘Mr. Morris’ are linked together in ways neither saw coming.
Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to find your way back into the sun. Join Lily and Marshall, starting over.
Thanks for reading the Fortune Bay books. I hope you enjoy Lily and Marshall’s story!
Welcome back to Fortune Bay!
Be sure to read The Good Neighbor first – then you’ll want to read this novella!
You can buy Family Matters HERE
– now available in paperback, too!
When I finished writing Home for Christmas, Louise and Blue’s story, I sat back and thought about where everyone in Fortune Bay was in their lives at this point. Louise and Blue were fine, all lovey-dovely, Louise moving into Blue’s new log house, both of them ecstatic about the possibility of twins.
But what about Frankie and Sean? By spring, it had been five months since they found Amber—or rather, since she found Sean. Now he and Amber were living with his mom Stephanie, and Frankie was living alone—not the best situation for Sean and Frankie – or for Stephanie and Max.
And what about Amber? It was hard to believe everything was just smooth sailing for her after such a huge upheaval in her life.
By now you have probably figured out how real these characters are to me! Lol. I couldn’t leave them in this situation. The story started to grow and turned into this sequel novella, written specially for my most loyal readers who have been reading all the Murphy family Fortune Bay books.
If you haven’t read the other books, do yourself a favor and put this book aside until you have.
I hope you enjoy Family Matters as much as I enjoyed writing it!
One reader obviously felt the same way when they finished The Good Neighbor.
I hope she finds this book now. If she is on my mailing list she’ll know by now.
Thanks for reading,