How do you know when you’ve succeeded at something?
I used to think success equated money. I wasn’t very successful. I never made buckets of money because my focus was service. To be in service of others. Someone told me – I think it was my dad because it sounds like him, If you have to work anyways – it might as well be to further humanity. So I did. Except for that one time I hated my job. I work for a place that was about furthering their bank accounts on the backs of their employees and keeping them impoverished. I learned a lot there and took those skills elsewhere.
Now I get a feeling. I know that sounds hippy woo woo but its true. It is a happy and uplifting feeling that makes me smile. That is how I know I succeeded at something. Its as simple as that. When I focus on service to others I get that feeling. When I focus on pleasing others to further their goals, I get depressed.
The last time I was in the United States back in 2019, I visited Trader Joe’s. This is now the only reason I want to visit. I kid… I also really miss In and Out Burgers. Anyway, back to TJs, they carry this magical spread called Cookie Butter. It is not found here in Edmonton, or wasn’t recently until Freson Bros came to town. The hubs and I were exploring this new Edmonton grocery store that commits to supporting local and the carry other items that aren’t easily found in Canada – like fresh fruit in January. The baking section is on another level. Missing an ingredient? It is there. I swear. (Let’s pause this part of the story).
At Christmas, you may recall, I received Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz. She has a recipe for Speculoos Babka. I looked through the ingredients and thought – there is no way I can make that until I am back at Trader Joes. Queue the sad music.
The hubs and I we wandering the aisle and I saw this:
If you aren’t sure what Biscoff is, think back to your last plane trip and the package of cookies they give is Biscoff. It is my favourite cookie.
When I saw this on the shelf next to the Nutella I nearly lost my mind. As a bonus part to the day, lower down the shelf was a full package of BISCOFF COOKIES! (they are delicious but taste better at altitude like tomato juice does. Its a thing.
I remembered the speculoos recipe and knew this jar was coming home with me.
Out came the cook book and I went to work making the sweet dough. It is the same sweet dough recipe she uses for her cinnamon buns but your favourite sweet bread dough recipe will work here too.
I cut it in two and rolled into a rectangle measuring 10″ x 18″. I mixed 1 cup of cookie butter with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Mix it well and spread it over the prepared dough.
Then roll it as you would for a cinnamon roll or traditional babka. Now there is no slicing of the dough log in this recipe. Just twist it like this.
Place it into a greased bread tin and repeat with the other dough. Let rise until doubled in size – about an hour.
It calls for a crumble topping. 1 1/3 cup of flour, 2 tsp of cinnamon, half cup of light brown sugar, 12 tbsps. of melted butter. Mix together and you will notice it isn’t a usual crumb topping – its more like cookie dough. break it up into crumbs and sprinkle over the risen babkas.
Bake at 350F for about 65 minute – use an instant read thermometer to test. It should read an internal temperature of 185F.
It was so delicious. I highly recommend this one. I would also consider this as a cinnamon roll and forget the topping. It doesn’t need it because it is delicious on its own. If you give it a try, let me know how it went!
I think self-love is the most under-rated quality that you can possess. My ex never thought it was a good idea to have self-esteem. It made you arrogant and egotistical. I disagree. People who exhibit those qualities behave that way to build themselves up. They need constant validation. Loving yourself is the best gift you can give yourself. When you love yourself your well is full. Then you can give more of yourself.
I began looking myself in the mirror and said nice things to me. Sounds bonkers, I know, but hearing yourself speak truths is uplifting. I do this before bed so its the last thing I hear while I sleep in a effort to raise my vibration. Everything I say to me begins with ‘I am…’ It is very similar to saying a sankalpa during meditation except you say it so you can hear, not just think it.
I read once your soul doesn’t know the difference and will believe everything you tell it. Give yourself some loving kindness and try this before bed for a 21 days. Look yourself in the eye and repeat these:
I am kind
I am smart
I am beautiful
I am happy
I love you
I promise you will sleep better and little by little you will notice a difference in your relationships, your work and your general happiness. It takes time to undo the words and beliefs other people told you that you are. Remember, you are what you say you are. No one gets to decide that.
I also started throwing in I am wealthy because … the Universe is always listening.
Miquelon lake is the provincial park of my childhood. Dad would take us here during summer break as long as we did our chores before hand. It was only a 40 minute drive from our house in Sherwood Park so it was an easy destination that gave all the beachy vibes of a destination vacation. That’s a lie. There are no palm trees or crystal clear blue water. It is a swamp in the middle of the prairies, but that’s not to say the place isn’t lovely – its beautiful for what it is. Miquelon Lake is not trying to be a lake in Ontario or an ocean beach. It is a lake on the prairies.
I have cabin fever an many of you do too because this place was packed. Filled with loud music, people singing off key, people yelling and the smell of hot dogs in the air. It wasn’t the tranquil respite I was hoping for.
I hadn’t been here since my niece went missing on the beach. Spoiler alert: we found her 20 terrifying minutes later playing in the trees close by. Before that, I would bring my kids here just like my dad did years before. Its a good place to build sandcastles. Back in the day you were allowed to swim in the water but in recent years the lake has been receding and is now leaching salt. Chalk it up to climate change. I suppose it won’t be the place I take my grandkids to swim and that’s a shame.
In elementary school, we would come on overnight campouts. I learned orienteering here in the woods, and was taught about the different ecosystems. I studied beavers and their lodges, watched loons and blue herons. It was the wilderness in my backyard.
It still is those things but its also a picnic destination. Captain and I went for walk along the beach and it is quite a distance now from the parking lot. Where the water began in the 70’s is now beach grass and sand extends past where I learned to swim.
We headed north into the group picnic sites and walked along some trails before heading back to the car. I couldn’t hear nature, just loud music. I might be that old man who yells at people “Get off my lawn!”. The park is still lovely. There are plenty of picnic spots. The campground was full for a weekend in April which is unusual but 19C is an invitation to enjoy the beginning of summer here in the Edmonton area so who can blame them? I too was searching for nature now that spring is here.
I don’t think I will come back for a long time. I will leave it for families who are picnicking and playing frisbee. Maybe when my grandkids come on the scene we will come for a picnic and a hike in the woods or bring the telescope because this place is a protected night sky reserve.
My next destination will be definitely be the road less traveled.
It is the measure of self-worth or personal value.
Back in University I took several mandatory courses on self-esteem. My prof. was Eva Roche. I learned a lot from her. One class she invited all of us (40 ish?) to her home for breakfast. Her house was perched on Strathearn Drive overlooking the valley and downtown Edmonton. She shared this home with Senator Doug Roche. It was a strange but lovely bohemian home with the living quarters upstairs to take advantage of the views. All the walls were lined with book cases filled with books from floor to ceiling, except the living room. It had two chairs in front of a large picture window and a sofa with a soft yellow throw. I have no idea why I remember this home in such vivid detail, but I do.
Eva asked us to bring a lemon. There was food laid out on the long farmer’s table. We only had to bring a lemon. So I did. We ate, toured her home, visited with each other and finally she asked us to join her in the library. It was the largest room about 15′ x 15 ‘ square but there were no chairs in this room. We stood around the perimeter and she asked us to place the lemon on the floor. We were to think of the lemon as ourselves and place it where we felt we fit within the group. I was asked to go first. I placed it left of the centre. I didn’t not see myself as the centre of the group.
What followed shocked me. People were placing the lemons around me so by the end I was in the centre. I always felt invisible. I never was the centre of attention but I always had a kind word for people. I also would notice when someone was felling left out or alone, I would approach them so they would feel connection. The feed back I received was I was confident, compassionate and kind. True, I did see myself like that. I wasn’t the most popular but I was the reliable, kind person of the group. The most interesting part of this social experiment was the most popular person was on the outside. She didn’t feel connected. She arranged all the fun stuff to do and people loved having this social director of the group, but she never felt connected. Never being a popular person, I never thought about how it must feel. She did all those things to gain a connection and she never felt worthy of it. This shocked me to my core. After that day, I made more of an effort to connect with her. We finished out the program as best pals until she moved back to Nova Scotia.
My self-esteem took a hit living with a man who mentality and emotionally abused me. He would say things like ‘your mother doesn’t love you.’ or ‘if it wasn’t for me, you would have no one.’ He separated me from my friends and family. I was alone and disconnected. I broke up with him once, only to be sucked back in by his ability to manipulate my family. One day he said, I don’t want to have children with you because you would insist on giving them self-esteem. He spat it out as if it was a bad thing. I looked at him and it was if a glass wall shattered. I saw the sad boy on the outside wanting to connect with someone. Making me like him was his way of connecting. That was the day I began plotting my exit. I tried a few times to leave but escape is hard when you can’t articulate to friends and family why you need to leave. I didn’t fully understand myself until years later after endless journal entries and visits to my therapist.
It took a long time to get back to understanding my self-worth and personal value. I can still see people who are looking to connect. I sometimes try to connect but I get easily pulled into their emotional turmoil so I have set strong boundaries. It took years to get here, so I am cautious who I let into my circle because I want to avoid being sucked under again. But mostly it feels good to be comfortable in my own skin.
I see a light at the end of the tunnel. My first vaccine shot happened on Thursday and I felt euphoric. Then I went home and back to work. Whomp whomp….
This past year I have felt some really big emotions and I don’t have anywhere to put them. The world is on fire and I have to pretend it is normal as I proceed with fulfilling my regular duties. Only nothing is normal and stuff feels meaningless. All of this has heightened my stress levels. I often feel like a caged animal who is afraid to leave the safety of the cage.
My meditation practice is suffering, my sleep is suffering, my body is suffering and my outlets are limiting. I realize you are all feeling the same as me in varying degrees because as much as we are similar we are also unique. Staying positive and hopeful is becoming increasingly difficult. Its been 13 months, I suppose the big emotions are normal. The mundane life I am leading is just that… mundane. I don’t find purpose or passion in anything I do lately. In an attempt to rectify that, I took myself for a walk in the woods.
Normally a walk in nature is the first thing that cures what ails me. With my trusty pal by my side, I normally come back refreshed. Except that didn’t happen either. I find it increasingly hard to find a spot that is devoid of people. WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DISTANCING! I took myself to Miquelon Provincial Park thinking the river valley would be packed on a warm spring day (19C!). I wanted it quiet. I wanted to sit and hear birds, wind through the tall grass, leaves crunching beneath the feel of animals and all I heard was loud music, bad singing and shouting people. It was the farthest thing from restful. I wanted a peaceful respite from covid life.
The 40 minute drive there and back was nice. I quietly contemplated life and where I see myself in two months and even a year from from now. My answer was – not this. I have been here before. Not this is the basis for I want that. But first you have to know what you don’t want to get what you do want.
So what do I want?
I want my second dose at the 6 week mark – not four months down the road.
I want to sit in nature and hear nature.
I want to work on one project and give it all the love it deserves.
I want freedom to be spontaneous.
I want my values to align with everything I do
I want people to understand that kindness will get you everything you need.
I want everyone to value honesty
I want a life where I don’t need a vacation to escape from it.
Who are the other people? My friends? My coworkers? My family? My extended family? Strangers?
Everyone sees me differently. I use vulnerability to connect with people. Some people view that as a ploy for me to further myself. Some people view that as a safe quality – it makes them feel comfortable around me. Those are the people I like. They are like me. I learn from those other people. I learn some people don’t want to be around me. Maybe I make them uncomfortable by holding up a mirror and they don’t like what they see. Or maybe they just don’t vibe with me.
My point is, it is none of your business how people see you. It is their business. Just keep on being your authentic self and things will be fine. It is stressful to pretend to be someone else so you get people to like you. Get over that. Find your people. Be yourself. Do nice things. Be good to you.
At my house, we are heading into birthday season. It kicks off with my mom’s birthday in March and ends with my dad’s in May. In between there are nephews, sisters, best friends and my two kids. We used to have parties in the before times. Now we bake layer cakes, give two layers to the birthday person and save one for us so we can eat it virtually together. My daughter requested a confetti layer cake but shares her birthday week with two of her best friends. She wants each of them to have a layer….with money baked in. Then she will deliver the cakes and together they will Zoom chat, eat cake and likely watch a movie or play a game together. This is what quarantine birthdays part II look like. Her first one was sad and lonely, now we have the hang of this together alone business. Maybe next year will be different?
I pulled out my Dessert Person cookbook by Claire Saffitz. She has really good cake cake recipes. Her Almond Poppy Seed is stellar. So I thought I would give her Confetti Cake a try.
In my head this is a pink cake, but when I read the recipe and look at my photos – its white. Weird.
The recipe calls for three 9″ round cake pans. I have two, but I also have a 9″ spring form pan. So I used that as well since this was not going to be a three layer cake. Grease – I used Pam – the pans then cut a 9″ round of parchment for the bottom of the pan and give that a once over with spray as well. Set these aside.
This cake uses the reverse creaming method. Nothing about this method is typical to cakes but it makes a superior moist cake with a tight crumb. I will forever make cakes this way from now on.
Mix all the dry ingredients (this includes the sugar – strange but true) in your stand mixer on low and mix to combine. Give the eggs a quick whisk with a fork to break them up then add it along with all the wet ingredients to the dry. Turn the speed up and let it go for a good two minutes. You are whipping it to incorporate air. This is what makes it fluffy.
Turn the speed up and let it go for a good two minutes. You are whipping it to incorporate air. This is what makes it fluffy.
It makes a big difference so set your timer. Then add one cup of sprinkles. I went to bulk barn. When you need a lot, buying in bulk makes sense.
The stars are my favourites.
Pour out the batter into the prepared pans. You can scoop, pour or weigh but try to get them even so they bake at the same rate.
Bake at 350F for about 40 – 45 minutes rotating at about 30 minutes unless you have a convection oven – then its fine and will bake evenly. Let them cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Cake need the pan to help hold its structure. pop them out too quickly and you get cracks or broken sections. Then lay them on a wire rack to cool completely.
While they are cooling make your frosting. This uses a pound of room temp cream cheese – the good stuff not low fat or it won’t emulsify. This equates to two packages of cream cheese (room temp) and half a pound of butter – also room temp. Cream these two together for a minute. Then add one pound of icing sugar, a pinch of salt and two tablespoons of vanilla. Cover your mixer with a clean tea towel and start mixing until everything is fluffy and combined. Chill this in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
I trimmed the layers so they would sit flat on the cake plate.
This is the chef’s snack.
Then place a dollop of frosting onto the layer, spread it around. It is at this point you add money. Wrap coins in wax paper or cling wrap – my grandma always used foil – and lay the coins around the first layer. Mix it up! Add twoonies and loonies or even wrap a fiver – but coins are super fun. Then add the next layer flat side up. Continue spreading the frosting across the top then the sides. Use a bench scraper to get everything super smooth.
I tossed more sprinkles on top but do whatever you like. My decorating skills are basic because it doesn’t interest me to go fancy – that is my sister’s job.
I did the same with the single layer but you could add it as a third layer if you wish.
This cake was delicious and reminded me of birthday cakes in the olden days before people started buying supermarket sheet cakes. I think that is why I thought I didn’t like cake. Store cakes don’t taste like anything good.
The single layer was plenty big. You could even wrap the layers and freeze. Frost them before you are going to eat them. I recommend watching her video first.
Here are the ingredients:
Butter for the pans
5 1/2 cups cake flour (23.3 oz/ 660g)
2 1/2 cups sugar (16.4 oz / 466g)
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (0.63 oz / 18g)
1 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.16 oz / 5g)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda 3 sticks unsalted butter (12 oz / 340g),
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (12.7 oz / 360g)
1/3 cup neutral oil, such as vegetable or grapeseed (2.6 oz / 75g)
3 large eggs (5.3 oz / 150g),
6 large egg whites (7.4 oz / 210g),
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1/2 cup store-bought rainbow sprinkles (3.3 oz / 93g), plus more for decorating
As we get deeper into these questions, they feel a little repetitive. Maybe that is the point. Keep telling yourself that you love you until you believe it.
I am comfortable being alone. In fact, I love it. I am an introvert. That doesn’t make me shy. Introvert means my energy is depleted in a crowd of people or when I am with energy vampires. Working from home during the pandemic has me living my best life. I like the quiet. I can get lots done and I don’t feel like someone is sucking the energy from me dementor style. I enjoy my own company and get my best thinking done alone.
I am a risk taker. People are not mind readers. You need to ask for what you want. This is risky and puts you in a vulnerable position. But it is helpful too. If I don’t want something I express that. If I do want something – I will say it out loud. Tell someone. They might be able to help. Tell the Universe. Nothing happens if you don’t do anything about it. Take a risk.
I am a dreamer. My grade one teacher Mrs. Long used to tell my parents I day dream too much. No I don’t. Stop blaming me because your class was boring. I used daydreaming to solve problems, think about what I want in the future or just put myself into a movie of my own making. It kept me out of trouble and I wasn’t bothering anyone. Lots of teachers were interesting and I would stay focused in their class. I can sit for long periods of time in stillness but my mind is super active planning out my future, coming up with new ideas or sometimes thinking about a scenario I wish I could have done different. I am learning from all of those scenarios. Dreaming is what makes the world better.
How about you? What three things do you love about yourself?