Delighting in December

Posted on Dec 1, 2011

Delighting in December

Chocolate has long been touted as a “cure-all” for any form of despair in my family. Need to experience feelings of love and adoration but don’t have a warm body to cuddle? Eat some chocolate. Have a bit of a headache that just won’t go away? Chocolate will, in most cases, cure it. Lying in a sick bed and need something to warm you up and make your day that much better? Grab some hot chocolate…or have someone bring you some (even better!). Need something to comfort you when you’re just feeling out-of-sorts? Grab something nice and soft and smooth like…you guessed it: CHOCOLATE. It’s the best thing to pick you up when you’re feeling…meh.

Deep breaths. Count to ten, Jennifer.

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Things That Go Bump in the Night

Posted on Oct 29, 2010

My favourite book as a child was about a family of bears who wander through the woods behind their house. They venture between the rocks, around the lake and up Spook Hill, where they encounter an owl who howls loudly (mimicked extremely well by my father at the time). The bears turn tail and run all the way, down Spook Hill, back around the lake and between the rocks…home through the window to their bed in their well-lit, completely safe home. I’m not sure if it was the howling, the suspense or the running home that grabbed my attention, but something in that book did. It grabbed me and held onto me virtually every night for many years of my childhood.

Last night I was awakened by a similar howling, coming from Leith’s room. I slowly emerged from the warm, comfortable sleep in which I was indulging and lay there in the dark, wondering what the noise was. I heard another long howl and my feet immediately hit the floor. I wasn’t quite awake when I found myself beside Leith’s bed, gazing down at my loveable son who was crying his little heart out. I bundled him up in his blanket and sat down with him in my lap and rocked him back and forth, whispering to him over and over that he was going to be okay.

After a few minutes he had calmed down, was heavy and warm in my arms and ready to go back to his bed. I tucked him in, said good night and went back to my own room. After about two minutes the crying started again – not as loud or as determined as before but still plaintive and heart wrenching. He stopped on his own this time but I couldn’t sleep anymore so I got up, put on my slippers and padded to the kitchen.

What do you do at 3 am when you can’t get back to sleep? I don’t find that the old warm milk trick does anything for me. A nice hot cup of peppermint tea is more my speed…and something sweet on the side to fill my belly enough that I can get back to sleep. Luckily, I keep some tidbits in my freezer for just these occasions. Slices of dessert bread or cookie dough, in small packages, ready for the oven; awaiting me when I need them most. All I have to do is turn on the toaster oven, pop one of these little beauties in for a few minutes (about as long as it takes to boil water for a cup of tea). Soon I’m seated, wrapped in my ruby red chenille throw, sipping my tea and munching on something sweet.

It calmed my nerves and obviously Leith’s as well because he didn’t wake again over night. I am still not sure what it was that woke him in the first place. The howling noises I made while reading his favourite book over and over? Another cold? Missing his father? Who knows. But he slept – much like a baby – the rest of the night, as did I after having my small, sweet treat and a few sips of tea.

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A Perfect Kiss

Posted on Oct 22, 2010

Oftentimes even the simplest of fares can convey a sense of comfort, a feeling of joy and add a certain amount of contentment to your day. Merely the smell of something baking in the oven, a hint of nutmeg or the tang of ginger is all you need to make you feel warm and placated after a long day of rain and chilly wind beating against the windows of your home. In fact, the scent of baking is supposed to enhance the beauty of your surroundings to such a degree that most realtors insist that you perfume your home surreptitiously with cinnamon, orange, vanilla or apple when you are showcasing it to perspective buyers.

These smells are, to some people, aphrodisiacal. The aromas of vanilla and cinnamon, as perfumes, have proven themselves over and over again in so many contexts over the years. Women, men and children stop me in the halls at work and insist that I must have cookies in my pockets (and every so often I do). I got into a car with a friend recently and she told me I smelled like Cocoa-Puffs (personally I think she might have been a bit "koo-koo for cocoa puffs"). My old boss used to search my desk drawers when I was at work, assured that there had to be piles of Rice Krispie Squares hidden in there somewhere.

These sweet, slightly musky scents have never had an adverse effect on anyone I’ve met and I don’t even really notice them anymore until someone else points them out to me. I also don’t wear vanilla or cinnamon perfumes, but rather oils, which have no alcohol base to it; making it much more subtle and less annoying than regular perfume (I am actually allergic to regular perfume).

Blending cinnamon and vanilla in proper quantities in desserts is something I love to do. You get the bite of the cinnamon and then the long, smooth slow sweetness of the vanilla. It’s like the perfect kiss.

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Friends…or Food…?

Posted on Oct 15, 2010

Growing up I was terminally shy. I hid in my mother’s or father’s arms, even around family and close family friends. I stammered and stuttered and tried over and over to edge myself into society. It never took and I spent most of my younger years simply not talking.

Once I started cooking and eating the way that I do, somehow I became much more of a social person. Years ago you would have been hard-pressed to drag me out for a glass of wine, a bite to eat or a cup of coffee, unless you were the closest of friends or family. Even then it took a great deal of negotiations, imploring, insisting, pleading and whining on your part…if you were indeed up to it, and considered me worth it.

I’m not sure why that was, or why I’m so different now. My personality hasn’t changed drastically since then and I don’t think I’m much more interesting or approachable now than I was then. In fact there are aspects of my personality that are more closed off and difficult than before and my schedule is more compressed with a job, a small child, an away-all-the-time husband.

All that aside I am a huge fan of "going for coffee". I like to drink coffee as much as anyone, but I like to go for coffee even more. And if the chosen coffee spot happens to have good sweet side dishes then all the better. A very good friend of mine introduced me to this coffee and gelato cafe near where I work a few summers ago, and we went there often. The first time I went I had their caramel apple coffee cake and fell madly in love with it. I found myself craving it more and more until one day, without warning, the shop closed. No "moved" sign, no chance of reopening. It was gone. Since that day I have been searching for a recipe that would attempt to compare. Finally when I couldn’t find one that quite worked, I came up with one myself that is amazing.

AND…mine is actually better than theirs. This leads me to think, who needs friends when they can bake like this?

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Sweet Satisfaction that Can Be Yours

Posted on Oct 19, 2009

Oftentimes even the simplest of fares can convey a sense of comfort, a feeling of joy and a certain amount of contentment to your day. Just the smell of something baking in the oven, a hint of cinnamon or the tang of ginger or the warmth of gooey, flavourful chocolate is all you need to make you feel warm and placated after a long day of rain and chilly wind beating against the windows of your home.

Blending aromatic ingredients into lusciously dense desserts brings a smile to my face. Nibbling on said sweets the next morning with a hot cup of coffee by my hand makes for the perfect start to a cold, blustery, busy day that has no early end in sight.

Perhaps you can create your own magical and delicious desserts by entering this contest … and perhaps I can get you inspired with a little quiz right now, that comes with a prize.

As you know, I have a love for all things "flavorsome". So much so that I named both my cats after words found in the kitchen. If you are the fifth one to email me with the names of both of my cats you will win a gift basket (pictured at the side) the following helpful products:

– $50.00 CDN worth of Pillsbury Product Coupons
The Complete Guide to a Clean House (The MollyMaid Cleaning Handbook)
– Pillsbury oven mitts and apron
– Pillsbury Doughboy doll
– Pillsbury Doughboy desk clock
– Pillsbury Totebag

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Friendship, Sweet Friendship

Posted on Feb 20, 2009

Friends are amazing – long term friends, short term friends, friends you see only at work, friends you see once a year, friends of the family, friends who live close, friends who live far. “Friend” is one word that is really indefinable – it can expand or contract to cover any number of different people in your life at one time or another.

I generally tell people that I don’t have a lot of friends – life is easier that way, really. I don’t feel obligated to help a bunch of people move or to invite a whole lot of people over for brunch or even feel as though I have to talk to a myriad of friends on the phone or communicate with them via email. I have just enough friends – some whom I almost never see and some who I see on a regular basis. Some with whom I have a great deal in common and have known for what seems like forever and some who I am only still just getting to know. All of them are important in different ways and each of them offers me something that I can’t get from anyone else…whether they know it or not.

One friend who I don’t know quite as well as I would like is Kat. I know a lot about her and her life and her husband and her son, Max – pretty much all through her blog. But as far as friendships go, the two of us haven’t even scratched the surface yet, although I have a feeling we will in time.

Recently, Kat’s son Max was diagnosed with Autism, and when I first found out it was a complete shock. Max is only two months older than Leith…so you do the math I was doing in my own head. I know quite a bit about the Autistic Spectrum; I’ve met kids with the diagnosis and worked closely with them and their parents. That next week I searched my own still non-speaking child’s face for signs I had been hoping would not appear in any child. I was over-reacting and Leith soon after started speaking (I think he was saving his speech until he knew he could really irritate us with “WHY” and “CUZ” and “NO” and “BANANA CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS”) and there were no other remote signs. But Max didn’t get better. Max got worse.

Kat and her husband have ridden the storm with him and he is thankfully doing quite well now. Kat, on the other hand, is up to her armpits in legal mumbo-jumbo trying to get funding for her sweet child to have treatment for his diagnosis.

A few Christmases ago, Kat and I decided to do a “sweets exchange” with each other. My decadent Peppermint Bark for her tantalizing Cranberry Almond Bark (shown above). I have to say it was one of the nicest gifts I received that year and I savored each and every one of those delicious cranberry almond chocolate shards. Friends can indeed come in handy – especially friends like Kat.

Right now Kat needs some support…and couldn’t we all at one point or another? So if you want to support a friend, please go to Mabel’s Label’s and vote for Fickle Feline 2.0 (voting closes Feb 23rd at noon) to send this amazing mom of an autistic boy to Chicago so that she can continue to advocate for funding for Autism through her blog.

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