Solitude

I can lie in bed catatonic for hours staring into the ceiling half expecting it to open up and show me the sky. I can sit for hours staring out into the garden just watching bees and birds flit by. The last time I did this, it was the dark time and I was severely depressed. I recognize I am not depressed. I do recognized that I am mentally tired. I think we all are. We just handle it differently.

For me I go through long periods of time not talking. I look at people, I smile and nod but words don’t form as thoughts to express. This makes work hard. I was in a meeting last week and was supposed to talk about an idea I pitched. I couldn’t string together a coherent thought – or at least I couldn’t in a way that I would prefer. I just did what I was capable of in that moment. I made myself a script for my next meeting, I think its called coping. I am tired of a lot of things. The dumpster fire going on in the country to the south of us, the angry hostile way people behave when required to wear a mask, the fascists’ extremes our provincial government is taking to privatize the province and stuff money in the pockets of their pals. I am tired of people dying needlessly.

But mostly I am tired of people complaining about living.

Living is a privilege.

You have an obligation to care for yourself. My body has moved into self-care mode.

I went for a walk yesterday morning with my pal Cap. We went to three different locations looking for solitude without luck. I came home, made lunch and went to my room and closed the door. I laid on my bed in silence. I understand this is a form of meditation. Thoughts didn’t penetrate my brain. I was present. I decided to do a rotation of consciousness. This is a Reiki practice where you focus energy to every part of your body. Eyes, ears, brain, lungs, liver, ribs, knees, etc… you get the idea… on a rotational basis. This relaxes your body and is part of the Yoga Nidra practice. Your body sleeps and your brain is conscious. I recognize my body sleeps because I hear it snoring. But being in this state is like sleeping for four hours when you have just been in this state for 30 minutes. It is incredibly refreshing. I recommend this to anyone who is tired. It takes practice and having a recording or someone to talk you through it is important. Calm that monkey mind. I stayed in this state for 90 minutes. Clearly my body and mind needed the rest.

Other forms of self-care are also important. For me not watching the news, talking about dumpster fires and focusing on my surroundings is self-care. Using my diffuser with essential blends is an instant relaxation sensation. It calms my brain and releases tension from my shoulders. Baking can be a form of self care but I am too tired to do it right now so I read. Although lately, reading makes me sleepy so I listen to audio books. Hot showers and letting my hair dry naturally feels like luxury. I am grateful for the quiet in my home. Half of us are introverts and need quiet too. The stresses and strains of the world have become a bit much for all of us, so remember to take time for yourself.

I am at the part in Eat Love Pray, where the author is living in Bali. She mostly walks or rides her bike, eats and meditates. It is the holiday I fantasize about. Being alone for four months without obligations. Not giving to anyone, not taking from anyone, just being. Sleeping when I need it, being creative when the spirit moves me, answering to no one and most of all not working on a project that was forced upon me. I want this. I want autonomous solitude. Not forever, but for a little while – like a month.

What are you doing to care for your tired mind? I recommend visiting Jana Roemer on Insite Timer or her website for Yoga Nidra mediations. Hang in there friends and stay healthy.

Edmonton Tourist: ᑳᐦᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐠ Kâhasinîskâk

Have you seen the new bridge that spans Connors Road? It is beautiful and will need a revisit after the LRT Valley line construction is complete because you just can’t get close enough to take a good photo. I did a drive by and it doesn’t do it justice.

The bridge is called ᑳᐦᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐠ or Kâhasinîskâk (pronounced kâ-(h)a-si-nî-skâk) it means “slow moving water over stones” which is in reference to Mill Creek just south of the bridge. There are a few things I love about this project. First of all I love the nod to the Cree peoples who are here now and who came before us here on Treaty 6 lands. I love the written language of Cree. I love the look of this bridge and I love that the City of Edmonton up-cycled the old bridge and moved it to Blackmud Creek. I hope Edmonton incorporates more indigenous names, artwork and architecture in our landscape.

After I drove under it to get that terrible photo, I parked at the Muttart Conservatory so Captain and I could walk over to the bridge. I used to run here a lot and was in much better shape, but I still found the hill daunting and hard to climb. In my less than fit state, I am happy to report, I climbed that hill and lived to talk about it.

The park west of the conservatory appears to be unnamed. If you know the name, let me know. I think it is Dove of Peace park. That is where the Dove was moved to after Pope John Paul II held mass under it.

I thought there used to be a swing hanging from it. Am I imagining it? Does someone else remember it? This hill also provided great views of downtown and I took a moment to wave a my pal who lives across the river. I texted her to say I was waving. She wasn’t home but said hi.

This perspective gives you some idea how steep the hill is. It is where Edmonton Ski Club is located and people sit on these hills for the Folk Fest. It provides a lovely view – plus the construction of the valley line station. Ugly but necessary. I am sure they will place public art to help with the ugliness.

I kept climbing and made it to the top where ᑳᐦᐊᓯᓃᐢᑳᐠ or Kâhasinîskâk crossed Connors Road.

It isn’t really finished. The deck is just roofing shingles and Cap wouldn’t walk on it. Likely too hot and gritty plus he is fearful of heights. I couldn’t walk across it. It it lovely though, I love this architecture.

We headed back down the hill and saw the backside of the Dove of Peace and took in the views of Edmonton Ski Hill and the Muttart Conservatory.

When we made it down the hill, we walked around the Cloverdale neighbourhood. I like it here too but living here during Folk Fest is a no go for me. Half of Edmonton arrives in this neighbouhood for a weekend and no thanks. But it sure is charming.

Where should I go next? I might head over to Emily Murphy Park because I don’t have that in my River Valley Parks series, or maybe I will head to one of the ravines. Let me know what you would like to see next.

Stay healthy friends and get out there to explore your neighbourhoods.

Comfort

Reading is not a luxury for me, it is a necessity. As I age it takes longer for my eyes to focus in the morning so I can read the small font on my phone. Some mornings my eyes work after about five minutes, other mornings its hopeless. Today, it was as soon as I woke up. I knew it was going to be a good reading day.

I spent the summer reading a lot of stories that took place on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Escape and travel are my needs. Some years, I spend my summer reading memoirs or intense historical fiction. Considering the state of the world in 2020, obviously I needed some safe place to retreat to. Now that autumn has moved in, summer escapes are not really where I feel like hanging out. But I am not yet ready to forage away from escapes. Seeking comfort in books is like a soft quilt that wraps her arms around you. It protects me from the stress of work, sadness from the news or drama from relationships outside of my tight circle.

Often, I start three or four books until I find the one that holds my interest. I am not that girl that will stick with a book for the sake of finishing it. Life is too short. The day my medical team found an acoustic neuroma living in the left lobe of my brain, I learned very quickly what I like and don’t like. I say yes to awesome and no to awful. Honestly my life is a higher quality and incredibly peaceful since I made that decision. Yes to delicious wine and high quality chocolate, no to broccoli and relish. Yes to real sugar and carbs, no to cauliflower pizza crust and bunless burgers. I say YES to a captivating read or engrossing movie and I walk away if it is boring. I applied this to people and jobs including pharmacists and doctors. People and professionals need to make the cut or I walk and look for something or someone that is a better fit. As a result, my life is really good. I think this is called boundaries.

Lately I remember special characters from books I have read years ago. Like Ria in Tara Road. She is one of those characters that feels real enough to call and pop over for a cup of coffee. I reread the book and realized how much I had forgotten. I learned or paid attention to a different aspect of the story line because I am coming to it from a different perspective. I am older now with more life experience. The messages felt new. It was like reading a completely different book. I have read this book at least a dozen times, I read it three times before Oprah thought it should be a book club selection. I revisited Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. This time I looked at it from the confidant character rather than the protagonist. I first read this in 1998 when it was published. I was still in young hero mode and related to all of Judy Blume’s protagonists. Not this time. It was a lovely trip down memory lane and did two things for me, 1.) Made me curious about Martha’s Vineyard has a holiday destination and 2.) Made me think I should revisit her children and middle school genres.

The comfort I feel from books I read as a child is off the charts. My first novel reading experience without an adult assist was Charlotte’s Web. I read that to my kids when they were young. The animal conversations were chaotic and fun. I forgot about that. I liked how Charlotte made Wilbur feel safe and loved. As a mom, my relationship with Charlotte was stronger. She was some spider.

I have been looking for copies of books that are now out of print. I wish I still had them but our family culture was to trade in books so you could purchase new books or visit the library. Sadly, the library doesn’t keep all the books either. Finding Apples Every Day by Grace Richardson or Mom, the Wolf Man and Me by Norma Klein is an ongoing project for me. I scour every used bookshop I come across. So far with no luck. I still think about those characters and wonder if I would still see what I liked about it in the first place.

This morning I picked up a book I had been meaning to reread for a while. I have only read it once and that was during my dark time – depression had hit me hard. This was before I figured out about boundaries and how important that was for my peace of mind and true happiness. Eat, Love, Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert made a big impression on me. It helped me figure out some things and started my introspection to figure out things. Eat the good food, meditate daily, and surround yourself with people you love and WHO LOVE YOU BACK…not those other douches.

EAT: When I first read it, I was still deep in eating disorder mode. Yo-yo dieting in an effort to seek approval. Fuck that. I now eat to nourish me. I still find myself emotionally eating but I recognize it for what it is. The damage has been done but I accept that. My beloved Great Grandmother was round a squishy like me. She gave the best hugs and her shoulder blades never once cut me.

LOVE: When I first read it, I don’t think I knew what love was. I could say it but I didn’t really understand it. I was still doing things to get people to love me. Since then, I learned no one will love you as much as you love yourself. Sounds corny but its true. If I am not going to be good to me and treat me well, I cannot expect anyone else to (sounds a lot like boundaries). Negative self-talk stopped. The dialogue that runs through your head like a mantra… I am not….. (fill in the blank). I learned about Sankalpas – an intention you repeat until you realize it. I am kind, I am loved, I am forgiveness, I am healthy, I am valued… Fill in your own blank but make it positive. Your mind is easily tricked into thinking negatively. Show yourself loving kindness – for real. It is a life changer.

Pray: When I first read it, I had meditated occasionally, usually when I was in a bad way – like going through a divorce – I rolled my eyes at it when I read the Pray part. Who meditates every day? Who has time for that? What good does that do? Well….six years after I began reading Eat Love Pray, I meditated for real. I needed a place to let go of anger and seek peace. Today I have meditated 1379 consecutive days. I started in 2016 with a challenge to myself to go 30 days in a row. Then I expanded it to 365 days. I thought it would be hard but I looked myself in the mirror and and said “Robyn – you are worth it. Do this for yourself.” So I did. It didn’t matter that I was late, everything could wait until I took 30 minutes of me time because I was worth it. Meditation has changed everything. I am calm. I can sit in chaos and watch it with a detachment and problem solve. I am not quick to anger. I see things from a multitude of perspectives. Mostly I love the way it makes me feel. I cannot explain it other than I feel connected to everyone and everything. As if a part of me is in everything and a part of everything is in me. If you meditate you know what I mean. You enter the collective WE and are no longer alone. It took me a year of daily meditation to feel connected. Now it is like breathing. It is a knowing.

Reading Eat Love Pray for a second time should be interesting and I hope comforting. Something that resonates with me in a “I totally get you” way.

Stay healthy friends and keep finding comfort in something meaningful for you. Most of all, be good to yourself.

Edmonton Tourist: Muttart Conservatory

I am getting braver. I still won’t go inside public buildings, except for grocery and pharmacy. But I am visiting lesser visited outdoor public spaces. This week I went to a few spots in Edmonton’s beautiful river valley.

September is sunflower season here. I was starting to see sunflowers pop up on my Instagram feed. I thought I would go and see if the Horticultural Society was still maintaining the gardens at the Muttart. The Muttart Conservatory is closed this year and next for extensive renovations. Hindsight tells them, it was good timing, the same goes for Fort Edmonton. Timing is everything! The new LRT line is under construction and quite frankly the roads are a mess.

But…

This scares people off and I’m for it.

The parking lot at the Muttart was surprisingly full but I learned that was for the construction. I found a spot in the north section and parked. A few masks were tossed on the ground. Your mom doesn’t work here so clean up after yourself. You should be ashamed. Clip those loops and toss in the trash. Better yet, purchase a pile of reusables and wash them. At least you are wearing a mask…

Captain and I walked south towards the cute little foot bridge at the path entrance.

There were a few people walking around but only two small families. My first thought was this would be a lovely spot for a wedding. I knew an Egyptian family who immigrated here years ago. They held their daughter’s wedding photos here because of the pyramids. They were beautiful photos.

I had forgotten there was a gazebo too.

This park is really charming. Cap was pulling me onward towards the gardens. I instantly spied the sunflower bed. So we headed towards it.

It shared space with zinnias, or at least I think they are zinnias. Fun fact, they were Lois Holes favourite flower – or at least she said they were in her annuals book.

You can’t tell from this photo but the space between the gardens and the cityscape is the LRT construction. Crouch low so you get the best vantage point.

The bees were busy gathering pollen for winter. I found a few hives mounted on trees to support bee life here in Edmonton, SAVE OUR POLLINATORS!

I took a pile of photos of just sunflowers. You can check those out on Instagram, some even star bees.

We wandered around the flower beds and found the afternoon to be relaxing. I missed this. I miss Edmonton’s parks. But I am reluctant to go to many places. Usually the colder weather reduces the number of people in the parks, so I am going to check more out this fall. I am not afraid of cold and snow, and it keeps people inside. All the better for me.

My plan was to climb up on top of the conservatory. The conservatory is built into the ground with the centre courtyard a flat space for walking around and looking into the greenhouse pyramids. I climbed up the steep bank only to find the walkway closed. Sad sigh on my part.

We climbed back down and walked around the south side of the conservatory. This area was ankle deep grass. It wasn’t mowed all season.

I knew the community gardens were around the west side of the conservatory so we headed there. These gardens are overrun with weeds but we found strawberries, peppers, green tomatoes, chard and milkweed.

I turned around an saw a tiny path that let to Dove of Peace Park, but I will save that for next week.

Have you been to the Muttart Gardens? It is a perfect place to sit and meditate or wander around and smell the flowers. It is worth a visit.

Edmonton Tourist: University of Alberta

It is the time of year when students are heading back to school and participating in a once in a lifetime pandemic. Life is strange and unfamiliar right now. Both my adult children are attending classes but not at their campus of choice. They are attending classes via Teams, Zoom and eClass. This is how I finished my degree, so I know a little bit about what they are going through. It is hard to make connections, participate in group work, and borrow books from the library. My work from home situation is similar. It is hard to work on group projects, chat and become inspired and get those creative juices flowing. However, it is what it is and we are making the most of it.

My daughter is annoyed that she is paying buckets of money and she doesn’t even get to enjoy the best part of University, Fall Semester on the Arts Quad. I have to agree. It is the best part about about being a U of A student. Certainly not the windowless classrooms, but walking across campus to get to different classes before winter sets in.

I left the house last week for the first time since forever or blursday, I can’t remember. I hadn’t been on campus since last fall. My MRI doesn’t count because I was in and out of the Kaye without going anywhere but my car. I was doing some architectural research for a book I am working on and drove to the University of Alberta Campus and brought my pal Captain. We could have stayed in the car but I needed to walk.

It felt normal. I miss normal.

I parked at Rutherford House Provincial Historic site. For those of you not in the know, Alexander Rutherford was Alberta’s first Premier. His other lesser home is found in the valley at Fort Edmonton Park. I have toured this house a lot. I used to imagine living here when I was a kid. I loved the opulence of the grand staircase and the idea of having a maid to cook meals. My hubs does that now and it is as decadent as you think it might be. We walked around the gardens taking bad photos.

The gardens are well maintained and lovely for being so late in the season.

We headed south towards the Common where the international students reside as well as other student housing. I love that the campus sits on the south bank of the North Saskachewan River.

The older homes mixed with the newer architecture is normal to me and I love the character it adds to Garneau neighbourhood. The big elm trees that hang over the streets is so lovely and calming. I ask myself every time I am here, WHY DO I NOT LIVE HERE?

We stopped and admired gardens and buildings then found ourselves in front of Convocation Hall, the old Arts Building. The entire arts quad is lovely. A friend of mind said it reminds him of Harvard. Harvard is 383 years old, U of A is 112 years old but it feels stately and peacful.

There is a little brook between Convocation Hall and Hub. I love to sit here and just think or meditate. I have had many great ideas here and the best part is I haven’t shared this spot with anyone so it isn’t tainted with memories. It is just my spot to visit alone.

My parents used to take my brother and I here for walks in the evening. Likely my dad had to drop off a paper or we were picking him up from class. I don’t remember, but I loved running around the big trees and visiting the Turtle or as the sign post says, Tory Building.

So many great memories here for me. I hope my kids have equally great ones too. Get out and explore new neighbourhoods, Edmonton is a lovely city.

Bake Club: Scones

A couple of years ago I received a jar of flour, sugar, baking powder and freeze dried raspberries as a gift. I made them and thought freeze dried raspberries are the greatest thing ever. I still think highly of them, but the greatest thing ever is actually the magic of buttermilk. I tried to recreate this scone recipe several times and each time it was good. Once it even tasted just like that jar of scone mix. Recently, I decided to make them again, except I decided to use buttermilk, because I had it in the fridge and I like how fluffy it makes cake and biscuits. I accidentally made the best scones ever.

When you bake with buttermilk, you need to add baking powder so it has something to react to. I found if I use 1 cup of flour, then I need 1 tsp of baking powder. If I use 1 1/2 cups of flour I need 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder – see where I am going here? Baking soda reacts immediately with the buttermilk causing the dough to rise and baking powder gives the dough lift and keeps it elevated or a slow continued rise with the heat. These two ingredients are key to a fluffy scone.

I bet you are wondering the difference between a scone and a biscuit? A scone has egg in it. It also tends to be drier and needs support from fruit, jam and nuts, or other flavourings like herbs and onions. Scones tend to be a bit denser, something I like with tea for breakfast or as an afternoon snack to help me last until dinner.

Messing around with proportions I think I came up with a version I really like. It was soft and luscious and perfect for breakfast. This recipe is not sweet. If you like a sweeter bread, add an additional 1/2 cup of sugar. If you need more sweetness, think about jam or honey as a condiment, or make a compound butter. Honey butter is nice.

I sifted together 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, 2 tbsp of granulated sugar, 2 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp of baking soda. You could use bread flour but I never have it in the house. Give it a good whisk before adding 1/2 cup of cubed butter. It should be cold but honestly, I never have cold butter. Butter as it melts in the oven creates pockets of steam that add to the flakiness. If you are quick and gentle, room temp is fine.

I tossed the butter pieces into the flour to coat them well. Then I use my thumb and two fingers in a circular rubbing motion to work the butter into the flour until the butter is pea sized. Using a pastry cutter does the same thing. I read once using two knives works too…. two knives? Just get your hands dirty. That is what they are for. Then you get a feel for you baking and you know when to stop.

After the butter is worked in you can stick it in the freezer for about 10 minutes if you wish. I don’t because I think it’s fine. I am not trying to win the GBBO. At this point I add an egg to 1 cup of butter milk and whisk them together. Making a well in the center of the flour, I pour the buttermilk egg mixture in. With a fork, I pull the flour into the center getting everything moist and incorporated.

I added fresh raspberries that had seen better days and a cup of freezed dried raspberries, the last of my visit from Trader Joe’s. You can add anything you like here, nuts and apples, blue berries or rum soaked raisins. The choice is yours and do what you like, but don’t go over 1 1/2 cups of extras because the dough won’t be able to hold it together – chocolate and banana would be nice too!

Gently fold everything together. Now the tricky part. This is a wet dough. Prep a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat lined tray. Four your hands! I did this on a cutting board and regretted it. Do it on the baking sheet. Pat the dough into a large circle about an inch thick. Cut and separate the wedges.

Brush with butter milk and sprinkle sugar over top. I used granulated sugar but any will do. If you dust with icing sugar, wait until they come out of the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400F. I prefer them the next day but some of my family like them warm out of the oven. I freeze these and pull them out as I need them. If you try them, let me know what you think!

They aren’t pretty but they are delicious.

Edmonton Tourist: Emily Murphy House

I was researching Garneau, a community in Edmonton, for a new novel I am writing and I stumbled upon Emily Murphy’s house. I knew she lived in Edmonton when she arrived west in 1907. I didn’t give much thought to where she lived. I was looking around google maps looking for a specific architectural style needed for my story. I knew it was in the area between the High Level Diner and the river valley, but I zoomed out a bit to see what else was in that neighbourhood and a pin was marking her house.

I am not a stranger to the University of Alberta. I worked in the area for years, attended classes on campus, and worked production on the Indoor Games held at the Butter Dome. I would run all over the commons and quad, check out the public art and dine at the locals like Sugar Bowl and High Level Diner. My friend Jenny even lived on the same street at the Murphy House and I never knew it.

Emily Murphy House is located 11011 – 88 Ave on the 88 Ave common. It’s a road that only has vehicle access occasionally, usually during student move in time. The house is surrounded by student housing for the University of Alberta. The student housing was originally built for the 1983 Universiade Games as athletes village. (I remember those games and spent the entire summer on campus watching events and games. It was a great summer.) The tree lined common is typical of the area, well, typical of most of the older Edmonton neighbourhoods, with elm boulevard trees.

The house was not marked from street view, I had to walk right up to the stairs before I found the historical marker. It was built in 1912. Emily Murphy didn’t move into the home until 1917 and lived there until her death on 1933. I stood there for a moment thinking about the significance. She was an activist and author in her own right, but also part of the Famous Five. The group of Canadian white women who fought for the right to be people under the law in the infamous Persons Case. That is some big history in this house. The Person’s Case happened in 1929. Big meetings happened in that house. I found that cool. It still surprises me that I hadn’t thought about where Emily Murphy might live. The park that bears her name is straight north of the house in the river valley and there is a statue that commemorates her and her contributions. I also had been there but not in a few years. It is one of my favourite places for a picnic though. Check it out if you are in the area.

I guess my point is, Edmonton is full of history and interesting things to look at. You don’t need to go to other cities or countries to be a tourist. You can do it in your own backyard.

Stay healthy everyone.

Bake Club: These are not kiddie cookies

I am starting to develop my own baking recipes and adding them to my vintage cookbook if they pass the family. If they like it and want it again, it passes, if they don’t – total fail and it is left out. I cleaned up the pantry and needed to do something with some raw pecans and hard raisins.

I liberated a bottle of spiced rum from my son and poured about 1/8 cup over the rest of the raisins, 1/2 cup. I let the raisins soak for about an hour. It smelled so good.

I melted 1/4 cup of salted butter in a sauce pan and added the rest of my raw pecans. I let the butter foam and I watch it closely because I didn’t want it to burn. It took about 2 minutes on medium heat. Make sure you remove it once you can smell roasty toasty nuts. I poured everything through a sieve and reserved the butter.

Preheat your oven to 350F I whisked together 1 cup of flour, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/8 tsp nutmeg. I then added 2 cups of quick oats. Whisked it together and set it aside.

Pull out your mixer either a stand or hand beaters because you need to whipped the butter and sugars until it looks like frosting. Cream together the reserved 1/4 of browned butter – it has a pecan flavour and smells fantastic. (scrape in those brown solid bits because it adds the best flavour) Add 1/2 cup of salted butter – room temperature, 3/4 cup of packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1 egg , 2 tsp vanilla, 2 Tbsp of maple syrup (the real stuff. If you don’t have it, leave out the fake and carry on) Mix this until it is light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the flour and mix until almost combined. Add the plumped raisins (I didn’t drain the rum, I added it to the cookie batter – because RUM IS DELICIOUS!) and the buttered pecans. Combine and let it sit for 5 minutes to let the flour hydrate. This makes a huge difference. Take the time.

On a parchment lined or silpat lined baking sheet, drop 1/4 cup or a ice cream scoop of batter on the sheet. My tray holds 6 scoops nicely. Bake for 15 minutes at 350F.

They taste best warm out of the oven, or room temperature or frozen. These are good and yes there is a rum flavour to them. The alcohol bakes off so you don’t need to worry if that is something that concerns you. There is alcohol in vanilla too – that bakes off and you don’t seem to mind that so please refrain from harassing me about alcohol. I like it, now you know.

If you do give the a try, let me know what you think!

Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies with Butter Pecans

  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup of All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 browned butter
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 cup spiced rum
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 cup of raw pecans

Freestyle baking

I spent the week (when I wasn’t at work) processing my harvest. There is something very satisfying about seeing bags of fruit and vegetables flat packed in my freezer. Everything was orderly in my fridge freezer and that inspired me to tackle the pantry.

I have a walk-thru pantry. It was the number one reason I bought this house. Number two reason was more than one bathroom and number three reason was the view. Maybe reason number one was the view…whatever.

While in pantry, I found at least a quarter tonnne of David’s Tea, several jars of nuts and a packet of freeze dried raspberries from Trader Joe’s. We don’t have TJ’s here in Canada so that was from my last trip to the USA in May 2019. I repacked the tea and found a better location for it, I sorted the baking items and spices so I had a good idea of what I had and what I needed to replenish. I put the items I needed to use up on my counter. Plus I had some raisins that were a little on the hard side. Can someone please tell me why I have two Costco size jars of cinnamon in my pantry, bags of cinnamon from the Bulk Barn and one glass jar of cinnamon. I don’t even like cinnamon. That honour belongs to my family. They are all about apple pie and cinnamon, cinnamon buns and cookies with cinnamon. I like cardamom. Not the same but similar. No I don’t like all the pumpkin flavoured things out right now. They don’t taste like pumpkin, they taste like cinnamon and nutmeg. I love pumpkin. It tastes like squash because it is squash.

I looked at these things and came up with a plan. I pulled the spiced rum from the liquor shelf and soaked the raisins for about an hour. I took the raw pecans leftover from my birthday cake and deep fried them in browned butter. I would add these to my oatmeal cookie recipe that I love.

I found some nearly expired raspberries in the fridge. They were at the ugly stage where you cook with them and refrain from adding them as a yogurt topping. I added those to the freeze dried raspberries and decided to use up the buttermilk I had and make raspberry scones. I wanted to recreate a dry jar I received as a gift from my son’s girlfriend. One of those jars where you add the dry ingredients to some butter and milk then bake. Those scones were amazing.

Then I had 6lbs of apples that I picked yesterday after work and needed to process them them. So my daughter and I sat, peeled and chopped those, laid them out on a tray and now they are freezing before I bag them. There is nothing that frustrated me more than a bag of fruit that is frozen together in one giant lump. It’s nearly impossible to do anything useful with a brick of macerated fruit or veg. I packed up the scones and tried to freeze them in my fridge freezer. Nope, that was full of rhubarb, carrots, beans, zucchini, green onions and now trays of apples. I went to my deep freezer in my pantry and yikes. Nothing was going in there, so I cleaned that out too. There was expired things int there from 2017. Maybe older. I tossed that and discovered I need to buy meat. I have one steak and some stew meat. I am good for vegetables and fruit from smoothies though! I even have frozen cubed coconut.

The scones went in the freezer along side Grandma’s date squares. The rum raisin oatmeal cookies went in the cookie jar. The daughter made an apple pie that is in the fridge. Baking has gone from a stress reliever to a creative outlet for me. I am developing my own recipes from techniques I learned this spring. I was always a cooking freestyler and rarely follow a recipe for meals. Now my creativity is flying high with baked goods. Later this week I will share my new recipes because they were delicious.

Dang I am tired. I had a full day and should sleep well tonight. Hopefully… sleep has been elusive but now that my kitchen is decluttered, perhaps I will sleep well one again.

Stay healthy everyone!