An All-Canadian Treat

Everyone who knows me knows that I have a love/hate relationship with my mother. Don’t get me wrong, my mother is loving and wonderful; a teacher and mentor; smart, giving and understanding. She taught me how to cook and how to sew. She taught me how to stand up straight and how to stand up for myself.

One of the few things she never really taught me to do was to iron. I hate ironing; she loves ironing. Ironing is the bane of myexistence; ironing is the household chore she does the most often. I don’t so much as own an iron, she has a separate room dedicated to its specific use.

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Layers and Layers

In my life I have been extremely fortunate to have had some truly incredible friends. I can list them all by name and tell you in minute detail why they were so incredible if you want me to, but I don’t think you need me to do that. These amazing people have touched my life and my heart in ways I will undoubtedly never be capable of repaying.

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Catnaps and Coffees

Once upon a time, seemingly in a completely different life, I was an early riser. I was one of those much dreaded “morning people” actually. I would be up before the alarm had a chance to wake me, out of the house at some strange, ungodly hour and rather enjoyed being the first to arrive at work. Weekend mornings I never slept in or (God forbid!) took naps in the afternoon. I can remember myself on Sunday mornings long-ago, up drinking coffee at around 6am, planning the comings and goings of the day that lay ahead. Continue reading “Catnaps and Coffees”

Morons…. All of Them

Mothers are notorious for making their children look dumb. They are truly exceptional at it, mostly because moms are smart and children are morons. It is when these children are dumb and stubborn that you get into trouble. I happened to be one of those (dumb and stubborn) children. Seriously, are you even remotely surprised?

When I was in grade school my mom taught me to make Nanaimo bars. They were my first dedicated foray into the world of baking; they were a recipe I could pull off a batch of without too much fuss and they always tasted delicious. I would tint the middle layer of icing pink for Valentine’s Day, green for St. Patrick’s Day and purple for Easter. Sometimes I even added sprinkles or flavours. They were just so amazingly delicious and completely versatile. I would take batches of them to school dances, fundraisers, birthdays, picnics and end-of-school parties. I managed to do this through almost to the end of high school without any problems arising… without feeling like a right idiot, at least. Everyone loved them.

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Visions of Gingerbread Dance in My Head

I doubt that there is anyone out there who hasn’t heard about my over-active olfactory sense. Smells are such strong representatives of my most powerful memories that sometimes I find myself weeping over a whiff of a chilly autumn breeze or smiling maniacally after smelling my son’s sleep-warmed hair.

In fact, I just packed away a bunch of his way-too-small-for-him clothes and smelled each and every piece before folding it and packing it away in a box in his closet. I found myself in a puddle on the floor of his room with a yellow onesie pressed to my face, wishing he was still little enough to fit into it. Whoever said “they grow up so fast” was absolutely right, and I hate them for it.

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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

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.

A Perfect Kiss

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.

Friends…or Food…?

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?