Peanut Butter

Who was the person that taught you to bake? I had many teachers. Mostly my mom was my teacher. Sundays were spent in a high volume extreme bake-off. We would make a list the previous week and then shop for all the ingredients. The list would include dinners for weeknights and several batches of tarts and cookies. You could easily find 20 things in the freezer before nightfall. Organization skills were my mom’s superpower. I take after her. I can knock off 150 cookies 4 dozen tarts and a pot of soup before noon.  Well, that was today. I drove home from a Red Deer work thing, called my mom and rolled up my sleeves to power bake. I was done by 1:00 pm and started at 11:00 am. 

Fast paced was not something that described my grandmother. She was slow and methodical. She did one thing at a time. Multi-tasking was not something she was interested in. Where my mom taught me how to knock off a lot of things to save time in the future, my grandmother taught me about relaxing as you do one thing. Both methods have a place in my life. I have to admit to following my mom’s method at work and at home the most. But every now and then a slowed relaxed baking session is delightful. 

My grandma made little step stools from mandarin orange boxes that were available at Christmas. We used them for sitting in front of the TV, standing to reach things in the pantry but I used it to raise me up at the counter so I could ‘help’ bake. 

My mom let me use tools like beaters, crack eggs and measure milk. Grandma never let me do those things, but she did let me watch. Mom let me lick the beaters or sample the batter. Grandma didn’t but I stole batter when she wasn’t looking. Mom let me open the oven door so she could put trays of cookies in the oven. Grandma made me stand back far from the hot oven. The experiences were polar opposite but there was one thing grandma let me do and that was to press cookies. 

Very carefully she rolled out peanut butter cookies on a baking sheet. they were all the exact same size and evenly spaced. It always looked as if she used a ruler to measure the distance for consistency. Once all the round balls were on the sheet, it was my turn. She had a set of glasses that my aunt thinks were duralux. Small juice glasses with a starburst pattern on the bottom. It was my job to dip the glass in flour and press the cookies evenly – not too hard and not too soft. When I made these cookies with my little gram, we used a fork dipped in flour. I pressed the fork into the dough, dip in flour and press again in a cross fashion. This was more fun than eating the cookies. I have been searching ebay and vintage glass sites forever trying to find that particular pattern. My aunt told me they shattered easily so maybe there are none left in existence? At any rate, in my mind’s eye, all peanut butter cookies ever made have that pattern.  I made some today using grandma’s recipe. Because I love you, I am sharing the recipe – and all the variations with you. This isn’t the Kraft Peanut Butter recipe that uses egg, sugar and peanut butter. My recipe has flour to make it a proper cookie with a subtle flavour of peanut butter because let’s get serious, too much peanut butter is too much is too much peanut butter and who needs that? 

Grandma’s Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup salted butter (does anyone use unsalted?)
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter (smooth because my son always thought the crunchy part was bees – save the bees people!)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar – I use dark, not golden. 
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375F
  2. Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars together in a bowl; beat in eggs. (I use a mixer to get the right texture. Mix until it looks fluffy and is lighter in colour than when you started. 
  3. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir into butter mixture. Put dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour. (I sift directly into the butter mixture. I don’t usually refrigerate unless the dough is too soft and I can’t roll into a ball,)
  4. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and put on baking sheets. (I use an ice cream scoop and don’t roll) Flatten each ball with a fork (dipped in flour to prevent sticking), making a crisscross pattern. Bake in a preheated 375 F oven for about 10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown. (Forget the brown part – 10 minutes or until you can smell them.) One sheet at a time please!

This recipe makes 110 cookies. So I like to mix it up. The first tray of 35 is traditional with fork pressed method. The second tray I roll the balls in sugar then flatten with a flat-bottomed mug or cup. The third tray I add chocolate chips and drop without flattening. 

Pirate Cookies were a favourite of mine, to recreate those, mix 1/2 cup peanut butter and 2 cups icing sugar for a buttercream frosting and thin as needed with milk. Sandwich the cookies with the frosting in the middle. So sweet but extra decadent. Serve with milk and a splash of tea unless you are an adult, then its tea with a splash of milk. 

Words Matter

I am invisible. 

I am insignificant.

My feelings are inconsequential. 

These are phrases that I was supposed to own as my label. 

The  conversation began with “My wife doesn’t like you.” Then the conversation continued to list all the things that were wrong with me. If I wanted people to like me then there was a list of things I needed to do to win the respect of everyone and continue to be part of the group.

If you know me or even spend 10 minutes with me, then you can probably figure out what my reaction was. I walked away. 

What I didn’t expect was everyone else walked away from me. A line was drawn and I watch everyone from the outside. I see them continue to meet yearly and participate in the hurtful hate rhetoric that is fundamental to their persona. I see others become pawns and are used or victims of hate speech or inappropriate actions that are meant to be ‘fun’.

Words matter. 

I thought I was done. 

I am confronted once again with a cast ‘mean girls’ (obviously a metaphor because no one is a girl). Not allowing people to sit with you at a party. Sacrificing teamwork for process  to force people into a box. Accusing a disabled man of unspeakable crimes so they can maintain money and power. Using words in a passive-aggressive manner as an effort to manipulate. Casting out people who have always worked hard to support you because a charlatan told you a story and you believed him. Lying about your situation so you can gain sympathy. This weighs heavy on me and my instinct is to walk away because high school was a long time ago. 

Words matter.

When I look at this repetitive scenario I think why am I doomed to repeat this endless cycle of hate speech and abusive patterns? Because self, you haven’t finished learning the lesson that stems from this. I asked myself through a series of reflections and meditations, “What do I need to learn from this?” 

It came to me on Saturday morning, 3:00 am to be exact. I need to show leadership and stand up for the underdog. I need to facilitate teamwork. I need to role model kindness. I need to be the change I wish to see. It won’t change the world but it will change my corner. This isn’t a Us vs Them scenario. This is an opportunity to raise everyone up to the same level. Fight the good fight.

It reminded me of my dad. 

When I was twelve, my family was eating at McDonald’s. A woman was standing in line screaming at her young daughter. The girl was sobbing on the floor and clinging to the leg of her mother begging her to stop. The women kicked her repeatedly. The restaurant was silently looking on in horror. My father stood up and walked over to the woman and demanded she stop. He said, “You don’t kick children, children are helpless. What is wrong with you?” The woman told my dad to F*** himself and mind his own business. He said no. He wasn’t going to let her kick the child.  It was like a switch went off in her. She stopped but continued to hurl abusive insults at my dad. He stood there like a shield absorbing the hate to protect that girl.  He eventually joined us again for and finished his dinner. My brother asked why he did it. My dad replied, “Because it was the right thing.” 

Since that day I have always made an effort to do the right thing. To protect children and animals because they are fragile. I made a career out of advocacy and non-profit organizations. Recently I have expanded it to warning women of predatory behaviour from men I know. I advocate where I can for indigenous rights because as a white person, I have the power to get other white people to understand. I remind people to say women instead of girls when referring to adults. All of these are superficial things that are easy to do. I ask questions that get people to think about standing in someone else’s shoes. But now I am back in the thick of it and am the recipient of hurtful actions and language. I know I am not alone. I think I am one of the helpers Mr. Rogers tells you to look for. I need to roll my sleeves and help for real. Stop taking the easy way out.  Put words into actions because, words matter. 

Journalist Joshua McKerrow explains it better than I can. Give this a read because, words matter. 

Frozen

Apparently, I am not the only person in the world who loved to eat their Christmas baking directly from the freezer.  I wrote about eating my shortbread that way and I received so many emails and messages telling me I wasn’t alone. I guess its a thing, here in Canada anyway. 

One gal told me how her mom kept all their Christmas baking in a box on the porch. That’s the thing about Canada, you don’t have a shortage of freezer space at Christmas time. My family has stored food in the trunk of the car, in a cooler on the deck, in the unheated garage and believe it or not, an actual freezer. 

When my dad and his four siblings lived on Evergreen Street, there was a bedroom in the basement. My dad shared it with his brother and when they moved out, my two aunts moved into that room. I remember that room because I had sleep-overs in there. Outside that room was a 1960’s style rec room complete with bar stools and a pool table. Behind the bar area by the stairs was a storage room with a freezer. This was easily accessible to the bedroom. Midnight trips to the freezer we common because that is where grandma stored her baking.

Fast forward to my childhood.

My brother and I lived in our basement on Georgian Way. We had a 1970’s style ‘rumpus room’. It was aptly named because a lot of rumpusing occurred in that room. We watched cable tv, played intelevision and atari, build forts and goofed around on the piano. We didn’t have a bar but we did have a  fireplace. I never remember sitting on the sofa to watch tv, we would stack cushions on the floor so we could recline and snuggle under blankets as we watched Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Women, or Charlies Angels and sneak in a little Soap after everyone went to bed. It was as if we had our own apartment with mom, dad and our sister living upstairs. 

At Christmas time our freezer would be stocked with Christmas baking for parties. Dad would often have his fellow teachers over for a Christmas party, we would invite Santa over for a family party and we always had Christmas brunch where everyone we knew would come for breakfast. After all the savoury food was consumed the baking would come ut on three-tiered cake plates for dessert service.  Provided my brother and I had left any in the freezer.

Here’s the thing. Imagine a gripping game of Frogger, Donkey Kong or Galactica late on a Friday night when suddenly you are hungry. The ‘hangry’ kind of hunger that needs to be satisfied so you can beat your little weasel of a brother who will cheat as soon as the opportunity arises. Anger bubbles up with such intensity that food is the only thing that will sooth that beast. Its a thing, the Snicker’s commercial proves it. 

Luckily, the deep freezer chest was located in the next room beside the laundry. It was deep. When we were small I would hold my brother’s legs so he could reach the bottom. As we grew taller, I could bend at the waist with my feet dangling so I could reach those Tupperware containers that were located on the bottom, hidden under roasts and loaves of bread in an effort to conceal the baking intended for guests. 

Sucka….

I could always find the Butter Tart or Shortbread. 

The secret to not getting in trouble immediately was to leave evidence that made the containers appear full.  For example, the layers of wax paper that separated the cookies were never removed. That way when you opened the container to take a peek, it appeared as if the cookies were still on the bottom. With the butter tarts it was even easier, leave the foil tins in the container and none would be the wiser…until it was party day. 

Mom would ask dad to bring the containers upstairs to the kitchen. He would leave stacks of containers on the counter. Mom had been busy all fall building up the reserves.  Anything with coconut or cherries would still be there because … ew. The butter tarts and cookies were not. just empty packages.  This is when mom would 

lose

her 

mind.

My brother and I were always accused of the crime. He would deny it and she would believe him. I got the blame. To be fair, I was the mastermind behind the cookie caper, and likely did eat the majority of the baking but he often got away with things because he was an expert level liar.  As soon as his back was turned and mom couldn’t see him, he would smile at me and stick his tongue out. A sure sign that he was lying to her and mocking me at the same time. 

Until recently I assumed everyone ate butter tarts and no one ate frozen baking. I had no idea butter tarts were a Canadian thing. I did a little research on the confection and some regions put milk or cream in the recipe. All I can say is you are wrong. That is not the way to make them. My dad says a good butter tart must drip on your chin while eating it. I agree. That is the way to do it. I feel so strongly about this, I will share with you my family recipe. Do not put the following in your recipe and say it came from me. These ingredients are WRONG and belong in some other recipe I do not have to eat.

  1. Coconut – just don’t
  2. Raisins – my daughter says it’s like eating old people, save a senior and keep raisins out.
  3. Currents/cranberries/fruit in general
  4. Nuts – especially walnuts. WRONG

Butter Tarts are syrupy and gooey. The better the pastry the better the tart. Here you go:

Butter Tarts

Pastry

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  •  1/4 teaspoon salt
  •  1/2 cup cold butter cubed
  •  egg yolk
  •  1 teaspoon vinegar
  •  ice water

In a large bowl, whisk flour with salt. With pastry blender or your fingers, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger pieces. 

In a separate bowl – I use my pyrex measuring cup  – whisk egg yolk with vinegar; add enough ice water to make 1/3 cup (75 mL). Sprinkle over flour mixture, stirring briskly with a fork until pastry holds together. Press into disc; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.  Remove from fridge and let it come to room temperature. Roll very thin, like 1/8″  – this prevents pastry folds in your in and you can get more filling in the tart – and cut with a 4″ glass, can or cookie cutter. My grandma used an empty tomato tin, I have a cookie cutter. $1.25 and lasts forever. This makes 12, place in a muffin tin or tart tin. 

Filling

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  •  1/2 cup corn syrup
  •  egg
  •  2 tablespoons butter softened
  •  1 teaspoon vanilla
  •  1 teaspoon vinegar
  •  1 pinch salt
  •  1/4 cup currants
  •  1/4 cup raisin
  •  1/4 cup chopped pecans
  •  1/4 cup shredded coconut

In a bowl, whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, egg, butter, vanilla, vinegar and salt until blended. Pour the filling into a measuring cup with a spout or scoop with an ice cream scoop into the tart shells. Back at 450F for about 12 minutes. I always place my tarts on a cookie sheet that has been pre-heating in the oven. This ensures the pastry is fully cooked on the bottom because no one wants to eat raw pastry dough, ask Mary Berry or Martha Stewart.  

Send one to my dad and you can eat the rest. I recommend freezing them because they will taste like my childhood. Or eat them they way my kids do, straight from the oven because it tastes like their childhood. 

Alone

I work on a communications team, but I am not one of the writers. I do spend most of my day writing but not in the creative way I prefer. Today our team went to a story writer’s class or workshop – defining it is difficult for me. 

The content was fantastic. It had me looking at things from a different perspective. I learned some new things, was reminded of some other things and enjoyed the lessons. I found the in-class work difficult. It isn’t easy for me to write in a room filled with chatter. I can’t concentrate. The gang at my table were chatty, not focused and would sing under their breath. I get their learning style is different from mine, so I finally left to go into the hallway to focus.  I was able to write and enjoyed the quiet. I wasn’t the only one out there. I have another pal who is introverted and needs quiet to work. We sat side by side tapping away. I loved it. 

At the lunch break, I stepped into the hall again for some quiet. It has been my experience that when I close my eyes, people will let you be. I work with some very caring people. Everyone touched my arm and asked if I was okay. When I explained I just need some quiet recharge time, they sat to chat. Completely missing the point of needing quiet to recharge. 

Sometimes I go to my car at lunch and just sit in the sunshine in quiet stillness. A co-worker saw me and invited me to join her for lunch in the cafeteria. I explained I like the quiet and she said, “but that’s so sad”.  Another group of people talked excitedly about the Christmas party and how fun it will be. To me, a party is the least fun thing on my list of fun things to do. All things introverts do not enjoy.

My favourite things are often alone things, or along things with my dog. I go to the art gallery alone. I walk in the valley alone with my dog. I love a good road trip alone. I drove all the way to San Francisco alone. I have been to the movies alone and I love to sit on a bench and watch the world go by….alone. 

There is a misconception that introverts are shy. I am the least shy person I know. I can engage in conversations, discuss a multitude of topics, laugh and joke around, even talk to strangers, but the more I do that, the more tired I feel. My energy depletes around people. I then take time to sit in quiet, sometimes I read or listen to a podcast, sometimes I meditate or draw, sometimes I like to sit with a friend and enjoy listening. These things recharge me. I do realize I am a minority. 

The year my dad and I ran the Calgary Marathon, we drove down with my son and we rented a suite. It had two bedrooms, a kitchen and living room. After a day of spending it with people, we decided this was the perfect hotel room for three introverts. We each went to a room and did quiet things alone until dinner. Then we were recharged enough to socialize.

After the loud and energetic session today, I came down to my office and put my headphones on. There isn’t sound that comes from them, but I like the cozy feeling they give plus the added benefit that people don’t think I can hear them when I wear them. My family understands I need alone time. I think that’s why I love my dog so much. He is also an introvert. He will play and socialize a few minutes a day, but then he rather you sit quietly with him. If you aren’t quiet, he will leave to the sanctuary of my closet where he can sit in peace. 

It was a very busy day but sometimes these kinds of days are important to remind me how great it feels to sit alone. 

Shortbread

My former life and marriage had a lot of dark moments, but… I learned a lot of very useful and important things. I can operate a backhoe and chainsaw. I can peel logs, do a full scribe notch and build walls for a log home. I know how to leave space for windows so the settling won’t break the glass. I missed the part about raising the ridge pole and putting the roof on, but I bet I could find someone to do that for me. I learned to grow all my fruit and vegetables and preserve them for winter.  I can pickle, make jam and jellies and can fruit and veg until you think you will never run out of food. I can make quilts, sew clothes, knit and crochet sweaters, blankets and slippers. I know how to change oil, dig a trench (to run power and services from the road to the back of the lot) plus I can water ski, paddle a canoe down rapids and weld. All random things that I now have in my arsenal of skills. If there comes a time that the world might seem to be ending and everything is destroyed, I got you. I know what plants with keep scurvy away and you won’t starve. I can build you a home but not a roof – I am sure I can figure that out.  Come find me, we can start our own village. 

My favourite thing I learned during that time is the recipe for shortbread from the exhusband’s mom. I still make it every year and it is the one thing my brother loves, so I make sure he gets a generous batch. 

I was flipping through Amazon and looking at embossed rolling pins. They are so beautiful I decided to buy one for my shortbread this year.

It hasn’t arrived yet. It might take another 3 weeks. It looks like this:

I was taught to drop the dough onto the baking sheet and sprinkle with coloured sugar or red and green cherries. I did that once and decided …ew. No thanks. Plain is fine. So I use a cookie stamp. I roll the cookie out, stamp it and then use a cutter to get the perfect shape. I have a pottery stamp that I slipped into my suitcase when I left home. My mom wasn’t a huge baker, she is a French style cook and I baked. So I figured she may not notice it was gone until now, Hi Mom!

The stamp itself isn’t particularly beautiful but it is fun to stamp out designs. and I don’t know why I never bought a prettier pattern. But here were are. Now I wait for my new rolling pin.  It is not a Scottish Style shortbread, that is heavier and denser, also great but different.  This is the classic whipped shortbread recipe found on the cornstarch box, or rather you used to find it there, I haven’t seen it for years but I still have a copy taped to the inside of my cookie book. My cookie series has been so popular with you asking for more secrets. Since this recipe is not a family secret, this is for you. 

Idiotstick’s Mom’s Shortbread Recipe 

  • 3/4 cup softened salted butter – this is important – or add a pinch of salt if you use unsalted
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch 

Preheat oven to 300 F. 

Sift together cornstarch, sugar and flour. beat together with butter in the mixer or by hand – mixer makes it lighter. I mix it for a long while. You think it will never come together and them, boom, it forms a ball and pulls away from the bowl. Then it is done. 

I roll out on a clean surface, do not flour. 

I stamp and cut the shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. It helps to have an offset spatula to loosen the cookies from the counter. Alternatively, you can form balls and press with a stamp or fork. I bake for 20 minutes. take out just before the start to go golden on the edges. You want white cookies, not brown cookies. These are shortbread but if you over bake them, its not the end of the world. Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry are not in your kitchen. 

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container. I like to freeze them and eat them cold, but I realize I am the only person on the planet who prefers this. 

See? Not the prettiest stamp but they taste amazing. 

Pemberley

I am one of the many women I know who swoon at the thought of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Mr. Darcy has been my literary crush for decades. I loved Pride and Prejudice, early feminist literature where Jane and Elizabeth know what they want and have high expectations from the men in their life. It amazes me how it still remains a highly popular book.  

My daughter read it a few years ago and we have watched every version of on the screen. My sister and I attended a theatrical version and we both swooned over Mr. Darcy. I have considered attending the Pride and Prejudice Ball here in Edmonton but I don’t have a period gown to wear nor do I think I want to invest in a ball gown and not have  Mr. Darcy to attend with me. I receive Jane Austen event listings that occur in Edmonton including the marathon in January at the Capitol Theatre in Fort Edmonton Park. I think I will go to that but they sent me a coupon code to attend Miss. Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley. 

!!!!!!!!!

I do realize Jane Austen didn’t pen the play but I wanted to go anyways! My daughter and I looked up tickets for a last minute showing and found two seats in the third row. Obviously, we went. 

I used to attend Edmonton Citadel productions regularly. The sister and I had season tickets one year. I love the theatre but have been spreading my theatre dollar around to other smaller productions to support community theatre and the University productions. I seem to attend one Citadel production a year. Last year I attended Peter and the Star Catchers, the year before was Evangeline, before that was Beauty and the Beast. I enjoyed all of them very much. But Miss Bennett was a dream come true!

Not only was Mr. Darcy there, but you could also see how happy he and Elizabeth were. Jane and Mr. Wingham were adorable. Lydia was as flighty as ever and then there was poor Mary.  The play was humorous and thoughtful. Often stories wain by the second act but I was engaged for the entire production and never once felt like I needed a break. When it ended I wanted to see it again and thought if I stayed in my seat, could they really force me out of the building? 

The lobby was decorated as Pemberley and I had never seen the lobby take on the theme of the play before. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling and masterpiece paintings scrims covered the windows. The Shoctor Stage was elegant and stunning. It felt Christmasy and cozy. I want this play to be my new Christmas tradition, but I fear it won’t be in production every year.  It’s playing until December 9th.

Go get your tickets.

You’re welcome. 

Comfort

Grey Cup Sunday came and went without any fanfare in my home. As a child, I spent the day at the movies with my mom and aunty taking us to the local theatre to watch Old Yeller, That Darn Cat or a multitude of other Disney movies at the Capilano Cinema. After the movie, we went back to my grandma’s house where the rest of the family was watching the game. Food was laid out on trays and plates for everyone to nibble. The adults had Black Lable or Lethbridge Pilsners in their hands while cheering for the Rough Riders or Eskimos. We would enter and would go to the closet to pull out the basket of lego or pencil crayons and build or colour until the half-time show where grandpa would call us for a roast dinner. The table was set up buffet style so everyone could get back to the game. I can still smell the spiciness of the roast and the aromatics of the beer bread. I loved his Sunday roasts. 

This was Grey Cup to me. Not a football game. I began watching football as I grew older and my team was in it every year. It was something that became expected, Edmonton would be in the game and would win…always. It was comforting. 

When I became an adult with children of my own, Grey Cup parties became less appealing. Edmonton was not in it as frequent. Managing children among non-child friendly events were stressful. Eventually, I decided to stay home with my kids and let the hubs decide if he wanted to go or not. Grey Cup Sunday became a day filled with Christmas baking. Both my children have commented to me how great it felt to have me in the kitchen with the cookie smells wafting from the kitchen and they were close by on the sofa reading or playing and sampling the food coming out of the kitchen. It was comforting. 

Now that my kids are adults and I can only tell you who is playing in the Grey Cup this year because it is in Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa – FYI, and I can tell you it is still the day I do the bulk of the baking. I make less because I don’t go to Christmas parties so I don’t feel the need to bring things to people’s homes. I made a batch of shortbread for my brother. A few mincemeat and butter tarts because on Christmas Eve it is a nice treat. Ginger sparklers and chocolate chip were the main event this year because I only make what my children will eat.  I may still make honey popcorn because it is my favourite, but I eat fewer sweets now than I used to but it is a great treat to mail away to friends to let them know I am thinking of them. It is always comforting when you know you have someone far away who thinks about you. 

It was a long week and I pampered myself with comforting things. I pulled out a book that I only read when I need an escape. I first read this book during Christmas break in University back in the day. I read it again when I went back to work after my kids were older and I hated every second of my day and longed for an escape. I read it again when I was in the hospital after having surgery and needed to get my mind off the pain. This book came out again this week to help me relax and transport me away to England where I like to think I want to live until I am actually there and remember I love it here in Canada best. Books so comforting to me. 

My daughter gave me a box of bath bombs from Lush last Christmas. I love a good soak in a hot tub with a book. Wednesday, my day started at 5 in the dark in a parking lot setting up for a work event. It was dark but surprisingly mild for a November morning.  By Noon I was done and went home. I was so glad I saved that last bath bomb. It was a Dragon’s Egg. It hissed and sizzled and stained my body blue. The fragrant steam relaxed me and I read my book for four hours, only moving to add more hot water. It was so comforting for me! It was the perfect way to end my day.

I have a teapot that my little gram used. When I think of her I like to make a pot of Red Rose tea and sip away from the Royal Albert petit point patterned cup. Sipping from the set she used always made me feel grown up and sophisticated. It is a ritual I share with my kids and hopefully one day any grandchildren I might have. Tea Parties are a guilty pleasure of my childhood that I still indulge in today. I am happy to share this ritual with anyone who is interested. Cookies and tea are my favourite comfort food. 

One of my best pals lives in California. They celebrated their birthday this week and I called them to say ‘HEY! You are old now!’. I find long newsy phone chats comforting. My mom called this morning from England and we video chatted. I saw my dad and my daughter hopped on the call. We caught up on the weekly things and reminisced about older things and then we made plans for future things. My dad misses family rituals and I think I will recreate Christmas breakfast for him when he returns because it isn’t about the day, it’s about the event itself. Sweet and savoury with coffee and juice is how we always ate breakfast Christmas morning. We don’t know when that will be because they decide last minute when they will be home. But when they do arrive, Christmas breakfast will be waiting because it’s comforting for my dad. 

I think that is what relationships are all about. Finding comfort in our day to day and enjoying it. 

Sleepless

My mind is buzzing with workload and life, so my brain assumes I want to be awake every night between 2:00 am and 4:00 am. My brain is incorrect. I would prefer sleeping at 2:00. This has me thinking about a reading light… and retirement. Freedom 55 and all that. Unfortunately, I chose the Freedom 75 plan. Max out those RRSPs kids!

When I was a preschooler, I remember choosing afternoon school, so I could sleep in. Looking back at my life, I doubt I slept in because I went to work with my mom. I was probably up at 6:00, at grandma’s by 7:30. I probably could have gone to early school, but I would have missed my daily Muppet fix. Anyone who knows me, understand the importance of Kermit and his pals. I love Sesame Street as much as the Muppet Show gang, but the one constant is Kermit. He is the calm in any storm. He has control of the situation and always comes up with multiple plans because let’s be honest, Muppets are wildcards, and anything can happen from boomerang fish to exploding chickens. Kermit has control of the situation.

I suspect he didn’t sleep much.

Kermit sits on my desk at work and I have a Kermit for at home. Over the Rainbow is my favourite song and I think there aren’t enough banjos or bongos in today’s music. Soon I will start watching Muppet Christmas specials because it fills me with joy. Everyone at my office understands the importance of Kermit in my life. I look to him for all my experiential events and projects. The only difference between him and I was he had an assistant Scooter. Maybe someday I should be so lucky.

When I lay awake at night I am filled with anxiety, I make lists and play out scenarios of all the terrible things that might happen. I know Kermit does the same. When he was Jim Henson’s responsibility, he was more in control. When Henson died, and Steve Whitmire took over, I think Kermit became anxiety ridden. Kermit is back on track with Matt Vogel, more like the frog I remember from his reporter days on the street. This is my goal. Get my act together, experience less anxiety and get more sleep.

I do all the things self-help tells me to, including meditation. Sometimes it works for me but mostly it does not. Tell me what you have going on between 2 and 4, perhaps we can meet for book club, or better yet, tell me what works for you to induce sleep. I am eager to be new and improved like Kermit.

No gifts for you

Last week I talked about the shift and how I have changed because of my meditation practice. Something else has happened too. My need or desire for things has vanished. I lived a long time wanting things or needing money so I could acquire things. Part of that was being married to someone who controlled all the money that came and went from the bank account. I never had money and I never was allowed to spend it. I was dressed pretty much in rags and my mom took pity on me. She would buy me new clothes. I had to lie about them. If he wasn’t letting me buy clothes, no one else could either. It was just a long line of experiences I went through. In my new life when I had money, I wanted to buy things I never had before. I bought jewelry I liked, not jewelry that I was told to like or should like or was even allowed to have, I bought Tiffany. Eventually, money was spent on experiences. I travelled more and bought less crap. Now I hardly buy anything. My dishwasher burst into flames in the spring and I still haven’t replaced it. It doesn’t matter to me.

My point is, I feel different. I don’t want things. I just get what I need. I was told this would happen when you practiced meditation regularly. So now I know.

I also don’t want to buy things for other people. We aren’t exchanging Christmas gifts this year. I don’t want anyone to buy me anything because this feels different.

But…

I like doing things for people and will do that as gifts. My friend’s birthday is coming up and we were chatting about their new goal of cooking more and eating out less. So they were making an effort to learn to cook. Their favourite cookie is chocolate chip, so I was inspired to build a cookie kit with my tried and true cookie recipe and mail it to them.

I filled a cookie jar with 3 bags of premeasured ingredients ( flour mixture, sugar mixture and chocolate chips) and a small container of pure vanilla. I added a whisk and small spatula in case they didn’t have one. All they needed was a cookie sheet, butter and eggs.

From the photos they sent, it seems they turned out great. They had never made cookies from scratch and it was so much easier than they thought it would be. Now I think they will bake more often. Since I shared my recipe with them, I thought I would share it with you because Sharing is Caring.

This is a variation of the Nestle Toll House Cookie. I changed it to reflect the texture I like. It took me a year of experimenting with the ingredients but I settled on this one. It is my son’s favourite cookie of all time. Baking for him makes me happy. Mostly because he walks into the kitchen, sees the cookies and says “oooooooooooooooh” and immediately steals cookie dough and a baked cookie.

Edmonton Tourist’s Chocolate Chip Cookie

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature and salted, not that unsalted stuff. The flavour of the salt contrasts with the sweet and makes it AMAZING
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar – dark brown gives a deeper flavour but light brown will work!
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of PURE vanilla extract ( the Barefoot Contessa is correct –  use the good stuff. The best you can buy or make your own using vodka and vanilla bean.)
  • large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet but go to town on your favourite – broken chocolate bars are great too)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift or whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl ( I sift over the sugar mixture and only use one bowl) beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

(I use a cookie scoop that measures 1 tablespoon and parchment paper.)

BAKE 375° F a for 9 to 11 minutes (9 minutes for a soft chewie cookie, 11 minutes for a crisper texture I always bake for 9 minutes). Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes ( this is important! Leave the cookie too long on the hot sheet and it overcooks); remove to wire racks to cool completely.
Pro-Tip: Freeze dough in tablespoon portions and bake one or two for freshly baked cookies whenever you want them. My kids eat the cookie dough before they get into the oven so this is a wasted step for me. I will freeze baked cookies but they also go missing when I look for them.

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These don’t double well but they go great with milk. Best gift ever.