Question 2 of 52

How to Encourage: Ronit's List of Compliments | Family Matters

What was the best compliment you ever received?

Like many people, accepting compliments is a tough job for me. So many people I know brush them away instead of embracing them. I was no exception. Then somewhere along the way I started saying ‘Thank you’. People who gave them felt good for giving it and I began to believe what these people were saying.

I hear ‘you are so creative’ a lot. Thank you, creativity is my bread and butter. One time, a man named Tiger told me my hair was beautiful and he asked if he could touch it. I am not going to lie, I swooned. But that wasn’t even the greatest compliment. I value brains. I like being smart. When I was diagnosed with a brain tumor (acoustic neuroma) I was petrified that I would lose what I perceive as my greatest asset, my critical thinking ability.

Years ago I was in a meeting with some friends and I came up with an idea. I was told I was ‘bloody brilliant’. I held this close to me. I don’t hear it often but when I hear ‘you are clever or smart’ something happens to me. It elevates my soul. I even get a little cocky (not cool – it can happen to the best of us). Hearing a compliment like that did something to me. I wanted to pay it forward. Now I make a solid effort to compliment and elevate people around me. I tend to focus on women because they hear superficial compliments all the time like ‘you are beautiful or pretty or that dress looks good on you’ or worse ‘you look like you lost weight’ (look, all weight related compliments are actually fat shaming – and fuck you- no one wants to hear that if they are dealing with an eating disorder so just stop it. It isn’t a compliment). We all know those ‘pretty’ compliments don’t mean anything. Well, not to me. I try to elevate others by complimenting them on problem solving, or creative solutions or even for being funny. A genuine compliment does something special to people. I like the way it makes me feel – so why shouldn’t I share that feeling?

Tell me the best compliment you ever received and stay healthy friends!

Edmonton Tourist: Horse Lovers Lane

Christmas break is more meaningful to me now then when I was teaching. I have limited time so I make the most of it. I am also not as mentally exhausted so I have more energy to do other things. If you know a teacher, remember to thank them. Their job was hard before, now it is nearly impossible.

After all the baking was done and the tree was put away, I decided my pal Cap and I needed to get out and explore the valley. It had been a wile because let’s face it, Albertans are not following the shelter in place rule. The malls are packed. The ski hills are packed. The skating rinks are packed. I just don’t want to be around people for my health. I thought Keillor Road might be a good choice.

There were people out walking but I am happy to report, those in groups wore masks. I probably came across 15 people total. I had my mask even though I am alone. It makes me feel better about talking to people – what does one Canadian say to the other on the street? Hello.

Cap and I parked at Whitemud park. The place was packed because everyone was at the toboggan hill at the Savage Centre. Very few were walking along the river. I chose this park because my pal Cap will stop everything he is doing to watch a horse on tv. I thought he might like to visit a few. The Whitemud Equine Centre is nestled between Fox Drive and the Whitemud Park.

We walked half way down Keillor road, which runs parallel to the North Saskatchewan River, before we decided to follow a path the took us through horse pasture. The centre is currently closed to the public, but it is city land, so I thought it would be okay to walk on the designated paths.

We approached the horse paddock and Cap stopped, looked and then kept sniffing. He could care less that there were horses, nothing like his behaviour when he sees them on tv.

We turned away and followed a path through another pasture that led to the centre’s main road.

Cap found horse tracks and dog tracks that seemed far more interesting. Walking down this road was lovely in the twilight hour. There wasn’t a soul around.

We cam upon an adorable sign that sums up this trail.

Ain’t that the truth. My daughter went to horse camp here and still asks for a horse every year for Christmas. She wants to board it here. She loves this road and is likely her favourite place in the city. That is the best thing about Edmonton, you can go for a walk in the valley and it feels like you are in the middle of no where. Yet I was only five or ten minutes from the University of Alberta.

I encourage you to explore some of the roads less traveled. It is peaceful and can do your soul a world of good.

Stay healthy friends!

52 Questions to get to know yourself better

Questions are the Answer - Reformed Journal: The Twelve

Good bye 2020. Hello 2021.

2020 taught me a lot of things. I upped my baking skills to a level I never thought could exist for me. I learned that being an introvert was lucky because my life didn’t change a whole lot with isolation and lockdowns. I missed traveling and exploring my city, province and country. I got to know myself better by the abundance of alone time.

But I still want more.

This has been an ongoing theme since I turned 40. There has to be more than this. When I feel this way, I know its time for more introspective work. I had been thinking about this for a while. What do I need to do to understand myself better or to find out what I want to do with the next half of my life. I need change.

I found a list of questions to ask yourself. This set of questions is meant for kids to develop a stronger sense of self and a positive self-esteem. I read through them and you know what? I think I could benefit from these questions too. I thought about answering a question each week but if I am doing it then there might be one or two people out there who would like to ask themselves the questions too. Each Wednesday I will post a question and lets see where this will take us shall we? Hopefully by the end of 2021, we will all have the new vaccine and life can resemble something a little bit different from 2020.

Maybe we can discuss what we learn about ourselves. I hope you join me next week. Get yourself a journal and a pen or pencil. I image we will know ourselves a whole lot better this time next year.

Stay healthy friends and Happy New Year.

Bake Club: English Muffins

English Muffins

There was a lot of discussion at our house about Christmas brunch. We typically have some sort of egg dish. My daughter and hubs prefer a Benedict style fare. My daughter rather have regular bacon and the hubs likes back bacon (Canadian bacon to the rest of the world and no, we call it back bacon not Canadian because that is weird). My hubs like an English muffin base – very traditional and my daughter thinks they are dry and tasteless. They are, she isn’t wrong.

Then one day I was watching Stump Sohla, a series on the Babish Cinematic Universe (BCU). This series is a convoluted way to show off Sohla El-Wally’s unflappable skills. Babish makes her spin a wheel and she has to do what it says. This episode was a one-handed boozy brunch. She make an entire brunch with one hand. It was pretty amazing, but what caught my eye was how simple English muffins were to make. Well….”They look so easy to make!” said the hubs. I gave him an evil side eye and went back to watching. They did look fairly straight forward. It never occurred to me to make English muffins from scratch.

There isn’t a list of ingredients when you watch the video. I rewound it a few times and I came up with the following:

  • 200g of milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. of sugar
  • 1 packet of yeast
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of melted butter
  • 200 g of flour (this wasn’t enough for all the milk – I added another cup)

I whipped the egg with a fork and added to 200 g of milk. Then all the dry ingredients went in. I used instant yeast rather than blooming regular yeast. I didn’t warm the milk – I would have if I was using regular yeast. (warm the milk to 115F add the sugar and egg, give a mix then sprinkle the yeast over top and wait for it to bloom – get bubbly.)

I used my stand mixer with the dough hook. When it mixed it was just like pancake batter. This was never going to be a bread dough. So I added an other cup (almost) of flour and added it in slow additions until the dough was climbing up the hook and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. This took about five minutes. I greased a bowl, placed the dough in it and covered with a lid (damp towel, plastic wrap – whatever you use) and placed in the fridge over night.

By morning it had doubled in size. Letting is ferment overnight builds the flavour. I divided the dough into four pieces and dived each of those into 2 – to give me eight portions of equal size. (None of mine were equal, just putting that out there. I don’t claim to be an expert, just a curious gal who wants to be a really good baker.)

I took each ball of dough and (do not add flour) placed it under my palm. I made a claw with my hand and moved my hand in a clockwise motion with the ball rolling around my claw as if in a cage. (Does this even make sense?) It tightens up the protein strands to give a tight crumb. It is science people.

I dusted two fry pans with cornmeal and placed each dough ball on the meal to prove. I sprinkled more corn meal over top. Now. I didn’t use enough on one pan because the English muffin stuck to the bottom. Sprinkle generously.

I let them sit for about 30 minutes until they puffed up.

Place on the stove over medium/medium low heat and “fry” until brown on the bottom. This took about four minutes. Do not add oil. Just the cornmeal should be in the pan. Flip them once the bottom is brown and let the other side brown up. The internal temperature should read 200F. Get an instant read thermometer. IT IS THE BEST THING I EVER DID! I bought this one – I didn’t spend much and it has upped my baking and cooking game.

Let these pillowy puffs of delight cool on a wire rack. Split them with a fork and sample one to check for poison ( my dad always used that line on me. I thought he was saving my life, but he was just eating the extras because food is too delicious to share).

If you are wanting to complete the Eggs Benedict recipe. Molly Baz did a video that changed my life and turned poached eggs into a regular delicious occurrence in my home. Ina Garten does a hollandaise sauce that is perfection – my pal Laurie shared this secret with me. Thanks Laurie! Many links will lead you to Food Network and endless loops of crest commercials without actually allowing you to watch the video. Skip it and just read the easy recipe. My tolerance for crappy programmers is at an all time high this morning. So don’t mind me, I am burring my nose in Duchess Bakeshop cook book where I am learning the fine art of lamination. Stay tuned!

Stay healthy friends!

Edmonton Tourist: Local Shops

How is everyone doing? Trying hard to keep things as ‘normal’ as possible? Would you do me a favour? Please stop.

Christmas is less than a month away and I am slightly happy about no hustle and bustle, no shopping malls and no pressure to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Although I stopped with most of that nonsense a few years ago, there are still some holiday traditions I really enjoy but the pressure of all the other stuff was getting in the way. Normally, the hubs and I take one day and get all of the shopping done. We make a day of it. Go for breakfast, decide the order to hit the shops (we always have a list of what to purchase before we go), hit the shops, have a relaxing lunch with a festive libation, hit more shops if necessary and then go out for a delicious dinner. We have done this since the kids were small. My mom would take the kids for the day. It was lovely.

This year is quite different but it’s not. We didn’t have large family plans last year, so obviously we won’t this year. Christmas shopping is not quite the same because I have been intentional about who receives my money. I read a stat that made me think carefully about where I spend my money.

This made me think. Part of what I love about my city are the small shops that fill different communities with vibrancy. Who doesn’t love strolling along Whyte Avenue or 124 street? Who doesn’t love the tiny bistros and restaurants that support local growers? Is it easy to hop on the internet and shop Amazon. At least be more intentional and buy from Canadian box stores. But since you are shopping online anyways…. did you know most local shops take online orders and will deliver? With all of this in mind, I took to my Instagram stories yesterday and posed this: Tell me your favourite small and local business!

And you did.

The side benefit was I found new businesses! I ordered from a few and now my Christmas shopping is done. A lot of activity was happening yesterday, people were sharing, businesses were sharing, people were buying, businesses were selling, everyone was happy. It was a very fun day. Let me share with you a few that I think excel in their customer service and products.

  1. RSS Designs by Riyaz Sharan. I heard about this local artist from a friend and neighbour. I went to the artist’s page and was blown away by the images he has created of local landmarks. His Red Chairs at Elk Island hooked me in. I went to his online store and made two purchases for Christmas. I am so excited to gift these. He offered shipping but I opted for local pick up. I will get these tomorrow.

2. Glass Bookshop Owned and operated by two locals who focus on Canadian writing with special attention paid to LGBTQ2SIA and IBPOC writers, as well as the independent publishers who help to produce their work. They take orders for more mainstream and best of all? They delivered to my porch. Their communication is personal and helpful. My books were coming in at different times and they were prepared to deliver when each one arrived. I said save your time and the environment, and waiting until they all arrive. These are lovely humans, and I like to shout from the rooftops how great this book shop is. Now, they don’t just cater to Edmontonians, they will ship a book to you wherever you are. I found them most helpful with my Indigenous education. Bonus – they have a podcast because who doesn’t love nerding out to books?

The had me at the brown paper bag…

3. CraftyBones She is a fiber artist specializing in crochet and woven pieces. I purchased two items and requested a third custom piece. Shipping is available but because she is local, I have made arrangements for pick up once the pieces are complete. I am very excited to see these pieces too! I even ordered myself one. I had a comment from a follower who told me she bought something after I posted because it was exactly what she was looking for. I love it when that happens.

4. The Royal Bison Who doesn’t love a good artisan craft show? The Royal Bison moved theirs on line this year with the 12 days of Royal Bison. Each day a different medium is featured – but you can buy anything any day. Today the feature is Art + illustration, yesterday it was ceramics. It is a lovely curated selection of local Edmonton and Alberta artists.

5. Daisy Chain Book Company You might know I like books. This used to be a book truck showing up at farmer’s markets and festivals. She turned it into a shop during a pandemic. It is located on High Street in the space that used to be my favourite quilt shop. It is downstairs and charming. She sells new and used books – think Powells but smaller. I love everything about this place, the owner, the happy decor, the selection, kindness and the book community that is growing out of it. You can also order online and she will ship it to you. I have an out of print book on her list that she is keeping an eye out for. Fingers crossed it comes to her. I love this place.

6. I.M. Collective This is a group of indigenous artists who create and sell unique items. They have their online Christmas market happening right now on facebook. I found them at the City Market a few years ago. The work is beautiful. I especially like “Kookum approved” Who doesn’t want their granny approval?

7. Majesty and Friends Located in Highlands in the most adorable shop selling hilarious and quirky gift items. They also have an online shop – honestly – I have come to love shopping from the comfort of my chair. The daughter bought the infamous Fuck You Kenny mug from here. And I like to buy the cards but there is a infinite amount of fun things to purchase. Great stocking stuffers.

I know I have only sctached the surface but I have other things I want to do today like bake mincemeat tarts and shortbread for Christmas gifts of my own. Just so you know, I am not sharing these because these shops are paying me. They don’t even know I am doing this. I am sharing because I don’t want to lose part of what makes Edmonton great. Support local.

Stay healthy friends!

#StacktoSackHunger : Shame around food insecurity

Back during the dark times in 1993, I went through a rough year struggling to put food on the table. I worked at a school where there was a lunch program and we could pay $5 a week for a hot lunch. It was a struggle for me to pay that, but that was usually the only hot meal I got that day. I would go home to my jar of mustard. The kitchen staff would sneak leftovers home with me or save the ugly bread and kitchen scraps for me to have at home. On Fridays I would drive to my mom’s house and have a really great meal. Often I would stay the night, eat breakfast and lunch before I would go to my grandma’s for a visit. If I was lucky – she would also feed me dinner.

I didn’t tell anyone I was this poor. It was embarrassing and shameful. I never even admitted it to my family, but obviously they knew.

Since then, I have been super sensitive and aware of what people eat. I have a food disorder around that now. I watch what people eat, I listen to their silent struggle and I feel the shame they are experiencing. It’s as if poverty is the owner’s fault. We all make choices that result in consequence. None of us have a crystal ball to see where that choice will take us. Some of us are lucky and some of us are not. I make it a priority to help where I can now because for the grace of God go I…

This year I have been extraordinarily fortunate. When the lock down came, I was sent home armed with technology that afforded me to continue my work and keep receiving a paycheck without any reductions. I watch friends and family lose their jobs, worry about keeping a roof over their heads and struggle to keep food in the mouths of their children leaving them – the parent last on the list.

There is a food challenge going around. #StacktoSackHunger. The premise is to take the food you stashed away in the spring when the supply chain was uncertain, stack it and share it on your social channels, then take that food and donate to your local food bank. The Alberta Motor Association has made it easier for us by setting up donation bins at every one of their locations across the province. They have even set up an online portal to donate monetary funds that go directly to the food bank of your choice. I have chosen to do both. #StacktoSackHunger and donate money because $1 = $5 worth of food to a food bank.

This is my stack and a rare selfie of the Edmonton Tourist

Plus I am donating money to FillOurFleet.ca because I am all about Albertans helping Albertans. When you are hungry, you cannot think about much else. Do your neighbour a solid and give this year. I hope you are happy and healthy this year. If you need help please reach out because people actually want to help – there is no shame in letting them.

Stay healthy friends.

Bake Club: The Plan

This is not a black a white photo. 25 cm expected by the end of the day!

It has been quite the week! Watching the election from across the border has been exciting. There will be HUGE ramifications for my province and I laugh as I imagine our premier squirm a bit. His plans will be crushed. All of this makes me so happy today – you could even call it JOY. I have SO many good things happening right now.

My furnace died last week and we were without heat for a week. But the new furnace is so quiet and efficient, it makes me happy.

Work has been stressful. As an event strategist during a pandemic, you can imagine the challenge BUT – Our philanthropic campaign may be the best one yet because we had to imagine new ways of doing something. Coming together as a team has ensured our best creative ideas will be front and centre. I can’t express how excited I am to be apart of it. Do I feel like I am on fire and my desk is on fire and I am floating down the river in a dumpster while its on fire? Heck ya! But Come December 18, I think it will be feel good to relax and see the campaign success behind me.

My oven died in September. The thermostat didn’t shut off and nearly burned the house down. The new oven has a PROVING SETTING! It has easy clean and the inside is BLUE. It is super pretty AND it has convection bake – I tried it and it baked the best peanut butter sandies.

I AM ON VACATION FOR ONE WEEK! We are expecting 25 cm of snow today. It is really pretty outside and the first snowfall always puts me in a Christmassy mood. I am making a list of Christmas baking I want to do. I don’t know if I will get to it all because I AM ON VACATION but I think I will get to a lot it. Having a list makes shopping easy for future visits. Here is the plan:

  • Grandma’s Butter tarts (I wrote to my aunty and she sent me the recipe. These beauties were always made on November 11 – so the family tradition will continue!) This recipe makes EIGHT DOZEN. Obviously this is for sharing…
  • Shortbread cookies
  • Grandma’s Date Squares/Chews with hot pink frosting
  • Mincemeat Tarts (for those who don’t know – they aren’t made with meat – its fruit and a UK thing)
  • Sugar cookies decorated because that is how my aunty did it.
  • Lassy coos (or rather Ginger Sparklers but Lassy Coos is the family name for them)
  • Honey popcorn – this is my recipe I figured out after testing various combinations because Disneyland sold honey popcorn at Pooh Corner and It was the best thing EVER.
  • Gingerbread people – I make these with ribbon strung through and names written on the bellies. There are a couple of new babies in my life so I will make these for them and their sibs.
  • Brownie Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip cookies
  • Nanaimo bars. I have never made these before but what the heck? I learned to make a ton of things this year. what is one more?
  • Magic bars – my mom made these at Christmas and I always loved them. I have never made these either, never to late to try new things.
  • S’mores – this will be a blog post on its own because I have an idea….

Okay, that is a long list. But I am not spending time with friends and family this year for Christmas. I will fill some tins and do a drive by porch visit.

I have a whole week ahead of me to do ONLY FUN THINGS. I can’t wait. I will let you know how the baking goes and tell me what your Christmas plans are going to be.

Meanwhile, things are looking up. Stay healthy everyone!

Edmonton Tourist: Emily Murphy Park

I tried to wander around Emily Murphy Park Saturday morning but I couldn’t find a parking spot. This is arguably one of my favourite river valley parks because it is secluded and there is a kick-ass fire pit hidden within the park. I am not divulging the location, even today when the park was slammed with people my beloved firepit stood alone – hidden waiting for me to return (or my pal because I told her about it).

from 2011

While going through my archives, I realized I never visited this park as part of the Edmonton River Valley Park series. Cap and I made our way down to see a huge party at the shelter. No masks, no social distancing….so I guess in two weeks we will know the outcome. I took a photo of Emily Murphy herself (in bronze) and thought briefly about first wave feminism. Don’t @ me about how terrible it was these famous five women didn’t consider bipoc in their quest to be know as people. That is why it is first wave. The ones who came first to open the door and suggest the world could be different. Super flawed but most people don’t consider others, they only think of themselves. It’s up to you to change that. Don’t like it? Do something.

I circled the park. To the south the road is closed because of the Groat Road construction. That is a shame because that way leads to the trails along Mayfair Gold Course and into Hawrelak Park. The photos below are from 2011. The park hasn’t changed.

To the east the trail was clear. That path takes you into Kinsmen Park, The Walterdale Museum, the Highlevel Bridge and the Walterdale Bridge.

Sitting on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, Emily Murphy Park feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. The University of Alberta is up the hill. Downtown is across the river. But it feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. That is what I like best about Edmonton’s River Valley Park system. It feels like wilderness in the middle of the city. Where else can you live and be surrounded by wildlife one minute and head for the coffee bar the next?

This shows the park in all her glory when the park was empty on a Friday night in 2011.

When we left the park, we headed for Government House. I wanted a view of the valley and about 500 less people. I will save that story for next time.

Edmonton Tourist: Queen Elizabeth Planetarium

Have you ever been to the planetarium? Not the Space Science Centre, the Queen Elizabeth Planetarium located at Coronation Park. It was the first planetarium in Canada and I used to go all the time when I was a kid. I remember sitting in the blue velvet seats (I have know idea if they were or not, but that is how I remember them) and staring at the white lights on the ceiling called stars.

I learned abut constellations and gained enough knowledge that I would pick them out in my backyard and name them. I still can. It was something my grandpa and I would stand in the back yard and we would point them out to each other. My brother was looking for UFOs and I was looking for other planets. Grandpa would always point out Cassiopeia – the W in the sky. He told me it was God’s initial W. It stood for Warren, Grandpa’s last name – implying he was the divine. If you knew my grandpa, you would know he was a giant fibber, all in fun, but a giant fibber just the same.

Stargazing was a huge favourite pastime of mine – still is to some extent. I am not a rabid fan like the hubs but I enjoy it on a crisp fall night. I remember coming here with my class for field trips and with my cousins with my grandma. The place seemed huge but I loved gazing at the stars from the comfort of the chairs. I remember the building being larger, of course I was a kid so everything was larger.

This building is supposed to open soonish – hard to say when since there is a pandemic, but soonish could mean next year. They did a marvelous job on the inside. I took a peak and the restored architectural design is quite lovely, even the bust of Her Majesty looks grand.

Trying to find this place from memory was tricky. I have walked to it from the Space Science centre, of course we have parked at the building when I was a child, but trying to drive to it wasn’t as straight forward as I expected. The building is in a back alley of sorts now. Behind Ross Shepherd High School. It is directly across from the sports field. I found it eventually and walked around the building. The mosaics are still located in the front of the building which is now the back. The front faces the park and the back of the building is the parking lot. It doesn’t matter, it creates a grand entrance.

I am glad the City of Edmonton preserved it. It is a true historical gem.

Stay safe and healthy friends and get out to explore your town.