Baking with Gram

Those were the days.  You could lick the spoon, clean off the beaters and no one ever said “No!  You’ll get sick from raw eggs!”.

I used to spend a month every summer at my grandparents house in the Lake of the Woods region.  They would take us to the beach, fishing on the lake, blueberry picking and I loved it!  Now that I have 2 kids of my own, we travel there every year to visit their great-grandparents.  I look back fondly on those days and hope to be able to create memories that my boys will cherish, too.

Some of my best memories of those summer days are the times I spent baking with Gram.  She taught me how to make pies, cookies, muffins, and butter tarts.  I remember her original cookbooks, all worn, yellowed and sometimes sticky; the hand-written recipes for some of my favourites.  The coloured Pyrex nesting bowls and the well-worn wooden spoon.  She always wore an apron and made it all seem effortless:  mixing the ingredients, timing the baking, even the cleanup.  I would help measure and stir and then lick the batter off the spoon, mixers and out of the bowl!  Delicious goodness.  (I still prefer uncooked batter to the finished product and my recipes never seem to make a full batch!)  I was never told to “just eat one” or “save some for later.”  It was pure pleasure!

Over the years, I collected Gram’s recipes and must admit, they are still my favourites.

Now that I have kids of my own, we often bake together: muffins, banana bread, cookies, weekend waffles or pancakes.  But only recently have I given them the utensils to lick clean!  There’s a lot of deep breathing involved as I’m not as patient as my Gram was – the flour all over the floor and counters, the fingers always reaching or grabbing for something – but I try to relax and enjoy our time together.  It’s great to have home-made treats for lunches and snacks, knowing love was an essential ingredient.

I hope my boys will look back fondly on these times spent together or at least think of me when they order pancakes at a restaurant or buy a muffin to go with their morning coffee!


Green Olive Baked Chicken
January 16, 2012, 2:21 pm
Filed under: books, family, food | Tags: , , , , , ,
Cover of "Off the Shelf"

Cover of Off the Shelf

Simple and delicious! 

This is one of my easiest go-to chicken recipes adapted from Donna Hay’s “Off the Shelf:  Cooking from the Pantry”. I like the variety of flavors and colors combined with simplicity, easy clean-up with the bonus that my kids will eat it, too!

I’ve copied her actual recipe here and added a few notes of my own – sometimes you just need to improvise!

  •  ¾ cup pitted green olives (kalamata olives are great, too)
  •  1.6kg whole chicken (or skinless, boneless breasts)
  •  4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  •  ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  •  2 tablespoons lemon zest (or lemon juice if you’re out of fresh lemons)
  •  250g cherry tomatoes
  •  sea salt and cracked black pepper
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400F. Soak the olives in cold water for 5 minutes to remove excess salt. Drain. 

Divide the chicken into 8 pieces (or ask your butcher to).  Place the chicken in a baking dish, skin side up (I usually have skinless breasts) and put a piece of garlic under each chicken portion (or 2 if you like garlic as much as we do).  Combine the olives, parsley, lemon zest, tomatoes, pepper, salt and olive oil and spoon over the chicken.  Bake for 45 – 55 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through.  Place on serving plates and serve with drizzled pan juices.   Serves 4.

Last night we served steamed green beans and mashed turnip on the side, but we often have a steamed vegetable and couscous, rice, or oven-roasted potatoes. 


“comfort, satisfaction and familiarity”
September 9, 2011, 8:34 pm
Filed under: books, family, friendship, ideas, kids, life, marriage | Tags: , , , , , ,

My book club’s recent pick was “One Day” by David Nicholls which was met by mixed reviews from our group.  According to a recent interview (in the July issue of Chatelaine Magazine), the author says the book is “an epic love story, a bittersweet comedy about lost chances, a tribute to friendship, a book about growing old and what changes and what stays the same, and a satire about British society between the ’80’s and now.”  

Over wine and cheese we discussed the book and there were two camps:  one group who felt the book fell short because the characters lacked depth and the reader “didn’t care” about them, the other group was moved by the characters who, admittedly underdeveloped, made them think about their own lives and relationships.  I belonged to the latter group.  I enjoyed the book.  No, it wasn’t the most amazing feat of literary genius, but it was written well enough to keep me interested.  Perhaps, it was the journey of the two main characters that kept me reading on.  I wanted to know how their lives turned out, what became of them.  

Our discussion led to talk of marriage, kids, passion and divorce.  The following paragraph was discussed:

“No, this, she felt, was real life and if she wasn’t as curious or passionate as she once had been, that was only to be expected.  It would be inappropriate, undignified, at thirty-eight, to conduct friendships or love affairs with the ardour and intensity of a twenty-two-year-old.  Falling in love like that?  Writing poetry, crying at pop songs?  Dragging people into photo-booths, taking a whole day to make a compilation tape, asking people if they wanted to share your bed, just for company?  If you quoted Bob Dylan or T.S. Eliot or, God forbid, Brecht at someone these days they would smile politely and step quietly backwards, and who would blame them?  Ridiculous, at thirty-eight, to expect a song or book or film to change your life.  No, everything had evened out and settled down and life was lived against a general background hum of comfort, satisfaction and familiarity.  There would be no more of those nerve-jangling highs and lows.  The friends they had now would be the friends they had in five, ten, twenty years’ time.  They expected to get neither dramatically richer nor poorer; they expected to stay healthy for a little while yet.  Caught in the middle; middle class, middle-aged; happy in that they were not over happy.”

Hmm . . . “life was lived against a general background hum of comfort, satisfaction and familiarity”?  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  I’ve had this conversation with several people now and it seems that being “comfortable” has a negative connotation?  I appreciate comfort – my favorite jeans, high heels that don’t give me blisters, our sofa. 

My husband and I have been together for only 10 years and with two young children, we don’t have as much time alone together and at times life can seem dull and repetitive.  Sure, the excitement level is different now, but I don’t have the energy or inclination to live like I did at 22!  But I’m happy.  We have a nice, comfortable, home.  Our boys are healthy.  We’re healthy.  We get to see family and friends fairly regularly.  We take vacations.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Love Notes Over Time

It’s all too much!
August 7, 2011, 2:27 pm
Filed under: books, family, ideas, kids, life, organized, work | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

As Leonardo da Vinci said, “He who possesses most must be most afraid of loss.”

We’ve all known or heard of someone losing everything they own in a fire or natural disaster; there are even those people who inspire us with their story of selling everything they own to live on less.

Until last weekend, I had lots of projects to work on and boxes to sort – I knew where they were and had an idea what was in them – but then one of the pipes in our basement developed a leak.  Thankfully it wasn’t a flood.  We only had to pull up the carpet and baseboards to dry out the floor, and in my sanctuary (the one room in the house, where “my stuff” is safe from little hands) we are going to have to rip up the flooring and dry out the subfloor.  And one thing leads to another.  Now that the floor is being ripped out, we know the right thing to do would get rid of the subfloor and pour concrete to avoid potential mold issues.

It takes a lot of time and energy to get and stay organized and I am one of those people who knows where everything is, but the item I need is often hard to access.  I enjoy a lot of activities including biking, skiing, running, but I also like to sew, paint, make jewelry and take photos.  I am addicted to magazines; I love to collect articles, decorating ideas and recipes.  In addition, I have 2 children who are developing interests of their own and creating a massive amount of “stuff” that is taking over our storage area.

So . . . we have spent the last 3 days packing, sorting, and moving everything from our basement into a storage pod.  Along the way, I’ve tried to follow Peter Walsh’s advice in his book “It’s All Too Much!” (which breaks the house down room by room and gives practical step-by-step process for decluttering). We’ll be hosting a yard sale next week with the items we no longer need and I’ve already finished one of many “projects” that was taking up space (literally and mentally) for 2 years! 

I have found myself exhausted and overwhelmed this week, but am optimistic that this process will be liberating.  All I needed was some motivation.  Destiny perhaps?

Excellence . . .
July 7, 2011, 7:50 am
Filed under: books, family, fitness, ideas, kids, life, organized | Tags: , , , , , ,

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

I received this quote via email this week and thought it was a good reminder.   Sometimes we forget how much practice goes on behind closed doors when we see others excel . . . I keep reminding my oldest son that practice is the only way to get better at writing or learning to read, or even his favorite sport.  I also need to keep this in mind while I’m working on my “40 Before 40” post – perhaps some new habits are needed . . .

If you’re looking for something to read while on vacation this summer, a great book on this topic is Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.

Perfect Passwords
June 6, 2011, 2:30 pm
Filed under: books, ideas, life, organized | Tags: , ,

You know how every time we do anything related to technology you need to enter a password?  Log onto your computer, use your cell phone, pay the bills, purchase through a website?  How many passwords do you have to remember?  And how often do you have to change them?

I am so excited by a comment I read in The Happiness Project (by Gretchin Rubin) that I must share it!   If you subscribe to the belief that what you focus on is what becomes your reality, then I think you’ll be excited, too.  A strategy to stay mindful, from page 245: 

“I later changed my passwords to a goal I’ve been working on, or an achievement I want.  They become a constant reminder of my goals, my dreams, of what I want to achieve.  It’s basically the same idea as surrounding yourself with reminders of your aims, your dreams.  Or repeating positive thoughts in your mind.”

This ties in nicely with my annual resolutions . . . now I need to match my goals and passwords!

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