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.

 

 

RAM

The Edmonton Tourist respectfully acknowledges that we are located on Treaty 6 territory, a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Blackfoot, Metis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway/ Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, and many others whose histories, languages, and cultures continue to influence our vibrant community.

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Who remembers visiting the Royal Museum of Alberta as a kid around Christmas and riding the moving sidewalk to get a glimpse of the Teddy Bears? That was one of my favourite memories around this time of year. My family would clamber into the vehicle and we would go to the museum, visit the poinsettia display at the Muttart, go say ‘hello’ to the donkey at City Hall and then spend the evening driving around the city looking at lights. This usually happened the Sunday before Christmas, but not always or it was spread out over the season.

The Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) is back open and in its new location after a long hiatus of collection transfer to the new site downtown. It is a beautiful facility with lots of light and collections I have not seen before. I purchased a Mammoth Pass for $35.00 which I think is a steal. I can come and go, checking out the different galleries including the features that rotate on a regular basis. After spending the day on Monday, I realize you need at least two days to see the Human History gallery and the Natural History gallery. I spent 4 hours in Human History and didn’t read it all. I plan to take my time with RAM over the next few months and really explore it. My grandpa always read every single word in the museum and it was painful to go with him because I just wanted to see stuff, not learn about it. He never went through it fast enough.  I am ready to learn about the history now so I find myself reading more.

RAM has some random exhibits in the Human History Gallery that seem odd. Newfoundland junk food? A mechanical horse that I used to ride when we went to Safeway? Beekeeping and Edmonton Oilers history? There is a lot of my childhood in this museum. It was cool to take a trip down memory lane. These weren’t the only artifacts that were interesting.

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My ChatterBox attended with me and she laughed about my things being in a museum. She is now a second-year University student and studying the history of things and stuff. I have learned so much from her. We looked at the Indigenous displays including the Residential School display and this opened up a conversation. We sat down in front of the Metis exhibit and discussed what it meant for her family and how things have changed and what it must have been like for her grandfather attending Convent School, while it wasn’t a Residential School for him, we suspect it was part of the genocide movement to remove all cultural history of his Mother, Grandmother and his Aunt. My hubs said his dad never spoke of his cultural history so in that respect the Church was successful in eradicating a culture. The bottom line is we don’t know what her grandfather went through. He may have been fine but he may have suppressed it. We also talked about the importance of reconciliation.

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What I know is this, you cannot expect generations to assimilate into our white culture after the past they experienced. These children were removed from their parents. They did not grow up with their mom tucking them into bed and kissing them goodnight. This is Blood Tears by Alex Janvier 2001. One the back side of the canvas, he wrote his memories and feelings. It is raw and hard to take in. I was shaken.

Having spent 10 years at Blue Quills Residential School, Alex Janvier shared his experience on canvas. He shows us the things he saw, experienced, and felt. We see a dark figure, a cross, a leg, a fish, a scared figure with his hair cut off, and a jumble of colours. The yellow paint may signify hope, light, escape.

 

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When people say, ‘why can’t you get over it?’ all I can think is it is easy to say it, its difficult in practice. I don’t want anyone telling me when I should be ‘over’ the sexual abuse I experienced. They don’t know what I went through because it wasn’t their experience.  Feelings just are and how they are managed is different for everyone. If the First Nation’s leaders are asking for things so their people can move forward, I don’t think its unreasonable all things considered. Part of that is, stop idolizing racist men of the past. Acknowledge their role, provide a complete picture to understand the history. It can’t be easy walking past a statue that is revered knowing that person tried to eliminate you from history. It says people today still don’t care. I think people today don’t understand. Reconciliation is part of that conversation to understand. Canadians need to listen more and talk less. RAM provided the space for the conversation to start. Is it perfect? Nope. Is it a start? Yes. 

Check out RAM and get that conversation started.

 

 

Bear Grease and Gingerbread

Nostalgia is hitting me hard and I find myself thinking about the good old days. My Little Gram and my Grandpa W. have been in my thoughts a lot lately. I think about visiting them and where they would sit so we could talk. I now own the sofa my Little Gram would sit on. I would sit on the floor playing solitaire or at her knee while she taught me something important, like counting to 100 or a new card game or even just telling her about my day. She always had time for me. Even when she was sick in bed, she would hold my hand and listen to me talk. She was one of the absolute best people in my life. She taught me to take the time to be present with the people who mean the most to you. Be kind, be polite and always say yes when asked if you have a minute.

When I think about Grandpa I can smell ink and tobacco. I think of flannel and some made up story he was trying to convince me that was true. I knew when he was teasing me because he would smile like he swallowed a canary and his eyes would get all sparkly. He taught me about making great kites and how to identify birds. He made things so extra. That is a trait I get from him. If you want a shed, make it an edifice. If you make a birdhouse, make it a condo. Go big or go home. Add details that are hilarious and creative. Hide Easter eggs that only you know about. Do nice things for yourself because you deserve it.

Since I have been on this nostalic kick, I have been reviving recipes from my childhood. I made meatloaf and goulash. I think about fried macaroni in bear grease because grandpa said it was good. I pulled out my gram’s Ginger Sparkler cookie recipe. My uncle called them Molassios but he was wrong, they were Ginger Sparklers. The first time I saw the recipe it was in a faded and yellowed cookbook from the 30’s. It was a publication Robin Hood flour put out. Gram made these cookies every year at Christmas time and I can tell you they are the best when dunked in tea. I made a batch last week and they lasted 3 days. They were the very first cookie I ever made for my children. My son loved them and could eat an entire batch in one sitting. He prefers chocolate chip to these, but he never complains when these cookies fill the jar on the counter. One bite of these cookies and I am back having a tea party at the big round table at my gram’s house on Evergreen Street. I would go there after kindergarten and we would have tea and cookies. Sometimes digestive biscuits and cheese and sometimes ginger sparklers. The conversation was always divine.

Because I love you, here is the old Robin Hood flour recipe. If you love yourself, only use butter, not shortening or margarine. This recipe doubles well and freezes beautifully if you need to hide them for Christmas.

  • 1 cup (250 mL) butter
  • 1 cup (250 mL) packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup (50mL) molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups (500 mL) Robin Hood  All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) ground ginger
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) baking soda
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
  • ½ cup (125 mL) coarse sugar
  1. reheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg. Beat well.
  3. Sift flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl. Add to butter mixture. Beat until mixture is well combined.
  4. Roll dough into 1” (2.5 cm) balls. Roll into sugar. Place on prepared baking sheets about 2” (5 cm) apart.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes ( I bake for 10 minutes to get the perfect chewy/crispy combination) Cool for 2 minutes on baking sheets; transfer to cooling rack to cool completely. (Or eat before they cool – warm cookies are a gift!)
  6. Dip in Red Rose Tea (steeped for 4 minutes) with milk for the authentic Little Gram experience.

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The Shift

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I am feeling a shift. I feel better than I have in a decade. I am excited about things I haven’t been enthusiastic for in years.

I think it is because I have meditated for 700 consecutive days and the payoff is finally happening. When I say ‘payoff’ I mean that zen optimism those yogis promise you. I am beginning to feel it.

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I want to decorate the Christmas tree. I haven’t been excited to that in forever. Last year, that time I died (my daughter calls it that. I was sick and in the hospital with organ failure. No adults around except my 19-year-old daughter and she stepped up. She nurtured me back to health and I love her more than I thought remotely possible.) I sat in a chair looking at things as if I saw them for the first time. There was a shift of consciousness.  I became aware of things I had no idea about. Some things were validated and somethings just plain ol’ felt good.

I got out of bed this morning and baked cookies. For those of you who knew me as a young mother, I was a baker. I baked everything from scratch including bread. I canned vegetables I grew in my garden, I made dinners from real food not processed or packaged, I picked fruit and made jam. I sewed things including enough quilts for my family never to be cold again. I made Halloween costumes from scratch. I painted, I sketched, I played the piano, and I sang. I read everything I could get my hands on and I loved to spend my days with my children. We would play, explore, learn and try new things. I did all those things. Then one day it stopped.

I became more tired. I made friends with the wrong kind of people. I fell into a depression cycle. I had to go back to work. I worked on a team filled with assholes. Seriously – some of the cruellest people you would ever meet. It is a dark time I don’t think about anymore.

About a month ago, I began to feel the third shift. The second one was ‘that time I died’.

I work with one person who makes me remember how creativity is supposed to feel. Feeling that good at work is fun. There is no other way to describe it. I felt this way at work once before. It was on a team my very first year teaching. I was naive enough to think teamwork would always feel this way. HA! Not so, it took 30 years to find that synergy again. Then I found my ‘people’ at work. One person who we can chat about anything from cooking to books and everything in between.

I continued to meditate every day because I loved the peace and calming feeling after my sessions. If I have a bad day or a few days, I continue to meditate. The sour feeling comes and goes quickly. In the old days it would last forever, now its done in a few hours or a day at the longest. I have learned to lean into feelings. Allow them to come, I experience them rather than stuff them down and then I am happy again. Meditation has truly changed me.

I have baked for three consecutive weeks. Strange since I hadn’t made cookies in a year and that was only because I made them for my son as a Christmas gift. It was one of the few things he asked for. I bought a new rolling pin. An embossed pin that will make pretty cookies. I have planned out my Christmas baking list. The last time I made one of those I was living in my old house.

I am writing again. I have submitted short stories for publication at different magazines and I entered the CBC Reads prize. I am working on my 4th book. Maybe this will be the one I publish? Its currently in edits. It is a long process to get a finished product.

I am planning out vacations again. I want to visit my parents when they travel to the states. Just me and them. No kids, no siblings and no husband. Just me and my mom and dad. I don’t often get them all to myself. As the eldest child, I had to share them with everyone. Not this time. I want to have a memory of just the three of us.

I am reading again. I used to read 50 books a year. This year I am only at 25 for the year. But I read because I want to not because I think I should.

I plan things so my children will want to spend time with me. We went for dinner Friday night and I love how they make me laugh. We rented a cabin in the mountains a month ago and went hiking to some waterfalls we had never seen before. Sometimes we just watch Doctor Who or the Good Place together. Yesterday we all sat on my new king bed chatting with my mom who is in England today.

Since my meditaion journey began, I now believe in signs or nudges. That flash of impulse that compels you to try something or go somewhere. Do it. I like to believe its the universe showing me the right direction. Out of the blue 10 minutes ago, I received a link to this from an old friend. She saw it and thought of me, so she felt she should send it. Its what I needed to see today. With the added benefit of knowing someone you care about is thinking about you. Thanks, Chicken Hawk!

I have been looking up old bloggers that I used to read. They had stopped writing or a long time and now they are back at it again. It feels like the perfect introvert reunion. Visiting with old friends without having to have a face to face conversation!

I am making dinners again! With the hubs retired, I have been lucky enough to come home to dinner ready for me after work. Lately, on weekends, I feel like cooking. Today I am making soup. A big pot of chowder and some fresh biscuits to go along with it.

This shift is feeling good. Meditation is a big part of that but so is staying in the moment and focusing on good things. I often wish people a Happy Birthday with a ‘Do all the fun things’ as an add-on. But you want to know something? Always do all the fun things and your day will be much better for it.