Before I had courage to set boundaries and before I am who I think I am – not who you tell me to be, my boundaries were weak. I let people lie and gaslight me, I let people take advantage of my good nature and worst of all, I gave more chances than I ever should have. I allowed people to treat me like garbage all because I wanted to belong and I wanted friends to want me and value me. I was looking in the wrong places. I let myself down.
July 7, 2019 I snapped. I had had enough. I drew the line in the sand and walked away. I grieved for a while but mostly I reflected on the state of my mental health and began to enjoy the peace in my life.
I don’t regret anything I did for a minute.
I realize that all of events of my life led me to that moment. Choosing me was the best thing I ever did and I am glad it didn’t happen too late. I have years left to enjoy this new found freedom. I have purged former friends and family from my life. I now have a circle of friends and family who I can trust with my life. I know they have my back. They are reliable. In the end, I conjured up covenant that Indiana Jones would have chosen and chose wisely.
Boundaries are more powerful than I thought they were with the added bonus of being a set of blueprints to map out my day to day life. It took a friend telling me what I didn’t want to hear. A punch to the gut and she was right. She is the friend everyone needs. She will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. I even said no at work. I was off for the weekend and received a message asking for a file. I had worked overtime every day that week. I said no – I would get it Monday morning or they could ask xxx who was still working. They apologized and said Monday was fine. The world didn’t end, I wasn’t fired and I could continue with the relaxing start to my weekend. I promptly turned off my phone.
Boundaries are a beautiful thing and that is what makes me strong. How about you?
What does it feel like when someone recognizes something you worked hard to do?
Satisfying. The end.
Kidding… I can write a bit more on this topic
I used to draw a lot. The hours I spent at my desk, alone in my room drawing was astounding. I transposed images. I would look for the detail and copy them exactly. I didn’t have tons of talent to come up with something on my own, so exploring graphic design didn’t work out so well for me. But I could take an image and duplicated. If any of you know what career that could lead to, please drop me a line. Any rate, I would take these images and show my dad. He was always amazed and proud. He often encouraged me to show people my portfolio when they came to visit. It made me feel good.
I was never the athletic child and in a world where all the funding goes towards that, or you are judged by size of your body, having arts as your talent was pretty frustrating. I often felt inadequate. But art and academics came easy to me. Easy doesn’t mean it didn’t take effort. When I worked hard at something, I often heard “but it’s easy for you” or “but you are good at that”. Hell yeah I am good at it because I put effort into it. To be recognized for it was another level.
My dad has always been stellar at encouraging me. His enthusiastic response helped me pursue activities and achievements without fear. People will often shoot you down rather than build you up. It is just as easy to be a cheerleader than a discourager. So when you get recognized for the effort, it is a great feeling. Who doesn’t like that? It sure doesn’t happen often.
I like to take a page from my dad’s book, lead by example. Offer the complement. Tell someone you see their work. Show people you appreciate their efforts. If we all lifted each other up, the world would be a better place.
I have never made a pinwheel cookie until yesterday. It wasn’t easy but completely manageable. Yesterday wasn’t a very good day overall and maybe that is a contributing factor. I haven’t been sleeping, I feel tremendous stress at work, I have cabin fever like I have never experienced and am fantasizing about living in a six bedroom house ALONE. I don’t have a six bedroom house now…so why one where I am alone? I have no idea but the past year has taken a toll on all of us and I am really feeling it. Where some people want to socialize – I want to feel isolation. This may lead to a drive in the country later today. If I don’t come back it’s because I found the six bedroom home in the woods and live there now. Back to cookies and why this wasn’t easy with my crankiness aside.
There are many steps to this cookie. I am more of a cream and dump kind of cookie baker. Give me a basic butter cookie and toss in things like chocolate, nuts and fruit – you have yourself my favourite kind of cookie. But, working my way through cookbooks is part of the challenge. Learning new skills, trying new ingredients, is all part of growth on my part. So here were are.
I watched Claire Safitz’s NYT Cooking video on how to make this cookie and found that to be the same as reading her instructions. For a change, there is no discrepancy. Yay Claire! She likes this cookie for Christmas because she doesn’t like decorating and this is a self decorating or interesting cookie with the green. I probably wouldn’t make this cookie all the time either but save it for a fancier time because it looks good – it tastes fine but it’s not sweet. You get the sweetness from the nuts and a bit from the the outer ridges.
This cookie is a shortbread cookie. The almond white layer would be a great cookie on its own but it pairs nicely to the pistachio layer. I used almond flour – a new ingredient to me. The almond extract takes it to a new level. I divided it into thirds and set 1/3 aside for the pistachios. I rolled it out measuring 12″ x 8 “. Measuring is also new to me. I have a ruler in my kitchen now and all dough is rolled to the perfect thickness. All my baked good were too thin. I have the hang of this now! I rolled it out and popped it into the fridge while I made the pistachio layer.
I keep pistachios in the freezer because of the high fat content. This prevents the expensive nuts from going rancid. Honestly, I practice this with all my nuts now. Everything in the freezer, label and dated. I ground up the nuts in my food processor and added them to the reserved 1/3 of the almond dough. I think you could sub cashews because it would taste wonderful but you wouldn’t get colour variation. Then I dropped spoonful’s onto the chilled pre-rolled dough.
Using my offset spatula, I spread it out leaving a 1/2″ boarder. Not going to lie, this was not easy and very fussy. I let it chill for 30 minutes.
No came the hard part. Rolling this into a log. I started with the edge closest to me but the almond dough just tore and crumbled. Then I thought to use the parchment as if I was rolling sushi on a mat. Boom – this mad a huge difference and I used the parchment to help put it into a tight log.
I wrapped the log in the parchment and let chill for another 30 minutes.
I rolled the log in sugar. Don’t miss this step. I didn’t have sanding or turbinado but it was still fine, and honestly these cookies need the extra sugar. Then the instructions said to cut in half and continue cutting in half until you have 32 pieces. I trimmed the ends first to give it an even start.
I laid them out on a baking sheet fairly close together and baked them for 20 minutes at 350F. They don’t spread but you need to give them room for the heat to circulate.
These cookies need a cup of tea or a glass of cold milk but after a day the flavour improved and I found myself really enjoying these. Her full recipe can be found here.
Food processor is useful for chopping pistachios. Obviously it can be done with a knife.
2/8 cup shelled pistachios (3.2 oz /90g)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter(6 oz /170g), cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (3.7 oz / 105g)
What is your favorite thing to do? How do you feel when you work on this activity?
I don’t think I have a favourite activity. I think I have a top five. My mind flits from one thing to the next depending on my needs and mood of the moment.
Meditate – I begin each day sitting in silence for at least 30 minutes. When I need to postpone it for later in the day my brain doesn’t function as well. It is as if I skipped coffee. After meditation, thoughts are focused, feelings are calm and peaceful and I have a general confidence that I can do anything.
Reading – I read anywhere from 45 – 50 books a year. I prefer character driven stories. I can relate better to women authors than men, but will read both. If the book doesn’t capture me by the first chapter I will likely not stick with it. I read more fiction than non-fiction and if I had to choose between TV/Visual Media and books, books win.
Baking – I love the tactile nature of baking. The feel of a well kneaded bread, the smell of excellent vanilla, the mouth feel of silky custards and creams and the taste of perfection when they all come together. My favourite thing to bake would be cookies but a great loaf of bread is up there. I love a good baking challenge. This past Christmas I received two cook books. Duchess Bake Shop by Giselle Courteau and Dessert Person by Claire Safitz. I am slowly making my way through all the recipes. French patisserie techniques are so satisfying when you get it right.
Travel – specifically standing in or sitting beside the ocean. This doesn’t mean I like a tropical beach holiday – I don’t. I like a west coast rainforest stormy ocean best. More specifically, Tofino, British Columbia and Chesterman Beach. When I need to recharge, I stand in the ocean and let the waves wash away my woes. It rejuvenates me and is the first thing I do when I arrive. The hubs goes off exploring while I stand in the water for hours before dinner. I cry, I laugh and let the water welcome me back.
Deep conversation – This happens most days before dinner. My children and I chat about books, art, politics, science etc. They are both well read and bring insightful thoughts to the conversation. It is a relief to not have to talk about people or things, the type of conversation many people chat about. Deep conversation with others is something I am always looking for and rarely find. When I find it, I treasure it.
If I had to pick one thing from this list, what would it be? A vacation in Tofino while attending a baking workshop with deep conversation and a great book after standing in the ocean while meditating?
If only one, meditation would win because of the way it balances my life and brings me peace. But all the others are tied for second.
Last year I gave Basically’s recipe for focaccia a try and it was the easiest bread I ever made. It was crispy and chewy but salty. Bon Appetite likes very salty food. Flipping through Dessert Person by Claire Safitz, I found her version of focaccia. I thought it would be great with the soup I was making for dinner. It’s been -35C to -40C for a while and a hearty vegetable white bean soup just soothes me.
I watched her video to see how she made the bread first. I never got the stretch she did because her recipe made it seem like pancake batter. That was just too runny so I added more flour. Then I got the stretch…ish. I no longer have high hopes for this book. And quite frankly, I am finding it disappoints. I really wanted to love this book. I don’t think it was tested enough or maybe the Canadian ingredients and measurements are just soo different. For example, she said two tablespoons of kosher salt or 17g. I weighed out the salt. One tbsp. of Canadian kosher salt was 19g. If this isn’t the biggest reason to buy a scale, I don’t know what is. I shutter to think what it would have been like if I didn’t weigh it. So my Canadian baker friends, weigh everything for an American recipe.
I followed her instructions and rested the dough for 10 minutes before mixing again. I am skeptical that this was necessary but I did it anyways.
I poured the olive oil innto a bowl (use a big bowl, I under estimated.) then put the dough in the bowl for its first rise.
I used a damp towel to cover and let it sit for an hour – this sucker over flowed the bowl!
Then it went onto a half sheet. 13″x 22″ Do not used anything smaller or put it into a large pan, the type you use for lasagna or a sheet cake. This sucker is going to be big! I put it in the fridge over night, covered with plastic wrap. In the morning I let to come to room temperature before drizzling oil and toppings. Dessert person recomends garlic and olive oil. Her book says potates and rosemary. I know what I like so I used Mozzarella Fresca, its herb infused oil and tore Kalamata olives.
Not everyone in my family is an olive fan, so I only put them on half the bread. But sprinkled the entire pan with flakey salt.
It smelled so good.
I baked it for the allotted time. and it came out crispy and chewy, light and fluffy in the middle. I don’t think I will every make any other focaccia recipe again. This one was amazing and the hubs raved about it with every bite making those hilarious yummy noises.
I think the recipes in this book are hit or miss. So far I have baked two recipes that are stellar. The rest are fine or problematic for this Canadian baker.
Here are the ingredients and I recommend giving the video a watch.
Ingredients: 1 (1/4 oz / 7g) envelope active dry yeast 6 cups bread flour (24oz / 780g) 2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.6oz / 17g) 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (5oz / 110g), plus 1/4 cup for topping plain focaccia and more for oiling hands Optional toppings and Flaky salt, for sprinkling the top.
Write about a person you admire. What qualities do you have in common with this person?
I spent several days thinking about this one. I don’t have one person I admire, but there are qualities I really admire in people. This isn’t the first time someone asked me this question. Five years ago after I helped a teammate complete 500 miles, his wife sat across from me a peppered me with questions like I was interviewing for a job. At the time I thought it was odd, only learning later this is a cultural difference between Americans and Canadians. We use small talk to find commonalities and then talk about those. Americans (in my experience) will ask pointed questions – like a job interview – to find out more about you. One of the questions she asked me was ‘who was my role model?’. Then asked ‘to be successful do you think you would ever move to New York City? Again, weird. I am Canadian with zero desire to be an American or live there. I like the idea of having a winter home at Big Sur or on Maui but move to a place that is devoid of nature? No thanks. I suppose it boils down to how you define success. Success to me embodies those qualities I admire, not financial worth.
Speaking to her I realized I don’t have a role model. I do live my life to be a good example for my children. How can I expect my offspring to behave in a certain manner when I don’t? I live my values and when I find someone else who lives theirs, I admire that.
Last summer during the big BLM protests, the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen (BA) went through a very turbulent time. I loved BA. I followed the videos, read the magazine, did the BA baking challenge to enhance my baking skills. Then it came out that Conde Nest (the parent company of BA) and BA were practicing racists. One of their staff members called them on it and asked for their resignation. Sohla El-Waylly called people on their shit and demanded change. She didn’t expect change so she was prepared to walk. But walking was scary. Her chef husband Ham was laid off earlier in the year due to Covid-19. She was supporting the family. If she lost her job, they would have to resort to plan B. Living in Jersey in the Father-in-law’s basement. She and Ham talked it over and decided living counter to your values does irreparable damage. She took the leap and watched BA crumble because all of the BIPOC chefs also left and some white chefs left in solidarity. Meanwhile, Sohla was offered a column with Food52 and NYT Cooking, a video series on Babish (where she gets over a million views each episode – suck that Conde Nast) plus five different cookbook offers. She accepted one and it will release 2022. How is that for landing on your feet?
I admire the risk she took. The unknown is scary but compromising values makes life unbareable. I worked one place and was forced to compromise my values day one. Day two I was actively looking for another job. It took a bit and my soul was sucked out almost completely (dementor style) but the horizon was so much better.
I learned that making choices out of fear is the worst possible thing you can do for you and the people who love you. These are the qualities I admire and I try to live them everyday:
Advocate for the oppressed and the underdog
Lift up people around you
Refuse to compromise your values
Choose love over fear
Love yourself because you matter
My friend reminded me over Christmas that you are no good to people if you don’t put on your oxygen mask first. Take care of you and then you are able to help others. You can’t give from a dry well.
So no, I don’t have one person I admire. I admire qualities in people. There is a long list of people in my circle who live their values and refuse to compromise. When you say no to someone and they get angry, that doesn’t mean you should have said yes. Stand by your values.
I am not sure this counts as baking because it bubbles away on a stove top making a grunting sound but its made with a sweet biscuit dough so I think it counts. Traditionally it is called Blueberry Grunt and is a long time Canadian Maritime treat with unclear origins. Some say Arcadian and some say Newfoundland but the recipe can be found in all the maritime provinces. I was invited to a Newfie kitchen party in my 20’s and had it then. I have been making it since but as usual, I stray from tradition. I use whatever berries or rhubarb I have in my freezer. Last night it was smoothie leftovers of strawberries and blueberries.
Five cups of frozen berries into a large saucepan with a lid. Add 1/2 cup of water and one cup of sugar. To that I add the juice of half a lime and all the zest from the lime. Essentially this is jam. Bring it to a boil, cover with lid and reduce to a simmer while you make the sweet biscuit dough.
My mom bought me a Danish whisk for Christmas and I had never seen one before. I did some research and learned it was for heavy batters like bread, muffins and quick bread batters. It claims not to over work the dough and keeps raisins from hiding in pockets of dough. It binds everything together without streaks of flour and there are no wood spoons to clean off all that tough batter. I put it in my baking drawer next to my rolling pin. When I was pulling out my measuring cups and spoons, I decided to give this whisk a try.
I have no words. This was the easiest batter I every put together and the texture was beautifully smooth and supple. It came together fast – I’d say twice as fast as if I used a spoon or stand mixer. It’s heavy and feels good in my hand. I highly recommend picking one up to add to your kitchen gadget collection.
I used the whisk to pull together 2 cups of flour, 2 tbsp. of butter, 2 tsp. of baking powder, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 cup of milk. Drop spoonful’s of dough over the simmering berries and let it bubble away for 15 minutes with the lid on and no peeking. You will hear grunts and sputters but that is normal. RESIST the urge to peek. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Let it sit for a while because molten fruit juice will blister your mouth – just speaking from experience. Eat it warm. Adding a sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary to the simmering berries is a way to elevate your game. Cinnamon can be a nice addition too. This basic recipe can benefit from different herbs and spices or is excellent on its own.
This keeps well in the fridge for a few days but do yourself a kindness and heat it up before you eat it. The best cold winter dessert ever.
Let me know what you think! And stay healthy friends!
When you’re feeling confident, what emotions do you experience?
How do you define emotions? This is hard for lots of people. I eat my emotions so I don’t feel them. Well, not so much anymore but eating disorders come back to haunt you and then boom, you are back in the game again.
I think the answer is happiness and joy.
When I do something because I feel confident, it brings true joy. Confidence is about trusting yourself to do what your intuition tells you to do. When that occurs, magic happens and there are sparks of joy and happiness all over the place. I feel really good about it. I felt joy a few times this year. It isn’t a permanent state of being and don’t try to make it that way because it can feel common place. It shouldn’t feel common, it’s special.
I walk around fairly confident in who I am and knowing my abilities. Being comfortable in my own skin took a while but I am there. When I add abilities and use it to complete a project and all goes well? I feel joy.
At some point in the beginning of 2020 I was watching a video series on dough lamination. Alex the French Guy Cooking breaks things down to the molecular level to understand the science of baking. At the time I thought “that looks really hard and complicated, I don’t think I could ever do that.” Fast forward to December 2020 and there I was telling myself I can do hard things and make croissants. A year earlier I didn’t have the confidence. Now I trust myself in ways I didn’t before. It took two days, but I made perfect croissants. They were light and crispy on the outside, tender and flakey on the inside and I could have sold them in a fine French patisserie. I used the recipe from Duchess Bake Shop. Followed all six pages of steps. and the result?
Oh yeah……….. I felt on top of the world. I called my mom and showed her (thanks facetime) I shared it with my friends on Instagram and call my best baking pal to show her. I felt pure joy, happiness and elation.
Confidence is one of those things you have or you don’t . The more you measure your success by your standards, the more you will feel confident. I don’t need outsiders to give me confidence. I need things to work out how I envision them and have it meet or exceed the standard I set. It sounds lofty but I don’t set unrealistic standards because I love the feeling of doing well. Am I wrong about the definition of confidence? Maybe, but it works for me.
What about you? What emotions do you feel when you are confident?
I love bagels. Claire Safitz posted a a how-to video on NYT Cooking. It was a recipe from her new cookbook Dessert Person. Only it wasn’. She is a liar. Well…. It wasn’t the same recipe and this caused me stress because I felt like I was doing something wrong. I watched the video then read the recipe. I decided to follow the recipe in the book because so far – the recipes were fantastic. I figured I had nothing to lose. Except I had some issues, complications and problems.
The first one was finding barley malt syrup. No luck. It might be because I am in western Canada, or it might be because its a pandemic, I could not find any. The recipe did say molasses would be a good substitute. I had that – no problem. I used 100% bread flour as directed. My yeast was now a year old – and in my freezer. I had doubts.
I made everything like she directed and the dough was stiff. I had to let it rest a few times along the way just so I could knead it. If I had used my mixer like directed in the book (the video advised not to use my mixer) I would be shopping for a new stand mixer. The dough was that stiff – and very dry. Her video showed a shaggy but definatly wetter dough – ‘Add more flour as needed’ ummmmm Okay – sure it is dry here on the prairies but for the love of all things delcisious – not that dry!
I set it out to rest and rise – nothing. Okay – so my yeast was dead. I kinda expected that. I made everything the way the book advised. left it overnight, did a float test – it did not float – even after the suggested warm up time of 15 minutes. No floating. I popped them into the boiling water and when they floated after 3 minutes – I pulled them out and set them on a rack.
I sprinkled sesame and flake salt on them and baked for 15 minutes as directed. a few got a bit dark but they baked up nice. Cutting them was a another story – hole LEE! These suckers were tough. They were super chewy but SO DAMN DELICOUS!
Okay – I will try again but with new fresh yeast.
I tested and proofed the yeast – so frothy!
Followed the book again – damn the dough is tough. I could barely knead it. It looked like dried up brains. I left it to rise and headed straight to google to do research. I watched her video again. She used baking soda in the boiling water – omits it from the book. Her dough was soft and pliable. WHY???? I did some more research and learned Canada has higher quality flour than America. Canada has a standard that requires it to be 13% protein. This results in higher hydration than their American counterpart. American flours vary from 8-13%. Their bread flour is 13% – the same as our all-purpose flour. WHAT THE HELL??? I then started watching Montreal style bagel recipes and found they used bread flour but had more water. The baking soda makes a softer crust – chewy but penetrable with human teeth and no need for a chain saw to slice it.
Summary: Use more water. Use baking soda. Use less bread flour because we don’t have enough left in the pantry.
This is what happened.
I mixed tablespoons of fancy molasses and 1 1/4 cups of 110F water. 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast and set aside until it foamed – about five minutes.
Meanwhile mix 2 cups of Canadian AP flour and 2 cups of Canadian Bread flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Whisk together and make a well in the centre. Whisk the yeast mixture and add to the flour. Pull it together with your hands – add more water as needed. I ended up using another 1/4 cup of water to get the dough to come together. It was soft and pliable like bread dough should be.
I did not add flour to the counter – I kneaded it until smooth. The one on top is the hydrated dough. the one on the bottom is Claire’s version (Canadian ingredients in an American recipe). I kept kneading until it was smoother.
I divided the dough into nine portions per batch. Rolled them into balls and let them rest while I did more research. No one – and I mean NO ONE including Fairmont’s famous Montreal Bagels let the dough sit overnight in the fridge. Claire says do it – I say don’t bother. So I got my pot ready. I filled the pot with about 4L of water – and brought it to a boil. I added molasses until it looked like strong tea. Montreal version use honey and a pinch of salt. I like the dark colour you get from the molasses.
I punched my finger through the centre of the dough ball. and stretched to get a 4″ring. I couldn’t do it with the 100% bread flour – it was too tough. (traditional Montreal Style – roll into a log and wrap around your hand. Pinch dough together.) I covered with a damp towel and put three into boiling water. These fellows floated! New yeast for the win.
After boiling for 2 minutes a side, I transferred to a rack with a towel underneath. Sprinkled with sesame seeds and salt. Placed them on a bed of cornmeal and repeated the process until one batch was ready for the oven. I baked at 450F for 15 minutes. Same as before but none of the bagels were too toasty this time. I think that had to do with the dampness of boiling correctly.
I repeated the process with the 50/50 flour bagels.
I let them cool and then did a side by side visual and taste test. Both were easy to cut – thanks baking soda. Both had a chewy texture expected from a bagel. Thanks bread flour. But my recipe was just that much easier to chew. PLUS it was a bit more tender and had a nicer crumb. the 50/50 is on the left. They puffed up more while boiling.
I had one of the 50/50 bagel for breakfast – lightly toasted with butter. Damn…. it was delicious. I froze half the bagels and will eat the other half for breakfast this week. I won’t be following Claire’s bagel recipe again – mine was really good. Next time I make bagels, I will find a Canadian Montreal Style recipe and compare that for fun.