Category Archives: Informative

Are We There Yet?

Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash

I have to be honest with you. These past few weeks I’ve been feeling a little like the kid who sits in the back of the car asking repeatedly, and somewhat annoyingly, “are we there yet?”. And it’s not because I have to go to the bathroom or am feeling a little peckish and want to stop for a bite. It’s because I just want to get the hell out of the damn car that I’ve been in for way, way too long. Truthfully, it’s a trip I never wanted to take in the first place. Because who wants to embark on a journey without having the slightest inkling of when it’s going to end? Or, for that matter, where you’re going to be when it does. Which, if you ask me, is pretty much what we have all been on for the past year and a half. The thing is, now that it looks like we are approaching the end of our little sojourn and there is, as many are wont to say, a bright light at the end of this rather long tunnel, some of us are asking ourselves, what we are going to do now that we are “there”? And where the heck are we, anyway? 

As can be expected, there are lots of psychologists out there with lots and lots of theories about how people are going to act and react to the new found freedoms they are being doled out. In case you haven’t figured this out yet, let me quickly point out that I am not a psychologist, and rarely do I spend time developing theoretical constructs of why people don’t do or do, do what they do. But as an introspective shallow person I have a pretty good idea of what it is I do and why I might do it. Which explains why, at this stage of the game, I think it should be ok for me to add my voice to theirs and share with you my thoughts, and I’ve had quite some time to formulate them, about life after the pandemic. From a shallow person’s perspective.

Hand Washing. Let’s start with the easy stuff. I don’t know about you but I pretty much always wash my hands at the appropriate times, even before I was threatened by a global epidemic, and I expect I will continue to do so after it passes. Admittedly, I might not frantically search for a spot of sanitizer each and every time I leave the grocers or find myself accidentally placing a finger on the escalator railing to avoid losing my balance and crashing into the person 6 feet in front of me. Still, I suppose it will take some time to use up that 14 gallon bucket of “Germs B Gone” I purchased in the frenzy at the beginning of this whole thing, which means I’ll likely not give up this newly formed habit for quite some time. 

Going inside: With other people. I don’t know. The weather’s pretty nice right now so what’s the rush? Coffee on the terrace is lovely and those restaurant patios have expanded so much that there’s now more space outside than inside for most of them. Besides, I love inviting people over to my home knowing there’s no way they’re going to step inside which means I don’t have to clean for a day and a half before they get here. For now, I’m going to stick with the outdoor only regulations and cross that other bridge once there’s a bit of a nip in the air.

Concert and Movies: I should be more excited about this possibility than I am. I have to admit that I loved going to concerts, especially those intimate little coffee house venues where complete strangers come and sit at your table because you’re cool and they’re cool and the sweet smell of something lingers in the air so no one really notices how hot or stuffy or exceedingly crowded the place is. No wait. That was the sixties. Sorry. I seem to have lost track of time. Nonetheless, I think I’m going to hold off on these for a bit. What with my pandemic subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, Crave, Prime and something else I can’t remember the name of, it will be a while before I can afford a large popcorn and drink at the movies anyway.  

Baking: Well I baked a little before the pandemic and, like many others, I baked quite a lot during it but I am still not a baker. I know this because I was never good at science and I have come to learn that real bakers are. I was however, an English major which could explain why I am good at reading and interpreting recipes even though I can’t make up any of my own. Now that this pandemic seems to be coming to an end I intend to keep baking. But sadly, I suspect I will never be a baker. 

Wearing Masks: I know most of us, including me, are chomping at the bit to ditch these. They’re hot. They make our glasses fog up. And almost always, just when we thought we were ready to pull out of the driveway and be on our way, we realize we forgot a mask and have to run back into the house to find one. But before donating all of your carefully selected, colour coordinated masks to your local quilting guild for their commemorative pandemic project, think about this. When was the last time you had a cold or the flu? How much money have those of us who wear it, saved on lipstick? And how many times did you thank your lucky stars that your chit chatty neighbour didn’t recognize you and walked right by without stopping to share all, and I mean all, of the neighbourhood news. Think about it. And maybe do what I’m going to do and keep them on just a little bit longer.

Social Distancing: I’m pretty sure my comfort zone has always been somewhat wider than most so this one might not be as problematic to me as to some of you. I mean what’s the big deal about a few extra inches between friends? It won’t be difficult for me to keep those one or two extra steps between us for a little bit longer. And by “little” I mean into the foreseeable future.

Hugging: Last but not least, and I would be remiss if I left without mentioning it. I know this has been a really big deal for a good portion of the population. Me? Well to know me is not to hug me so perhaps my perspective on the return of the hug is a little skewed. Let me just say this. There’s an old adage that claims “Father knows best” and I’m starting to think that if everyone had listened to mine we might never have found ourselves in the backseat of this car in the first place.

Regardless of how you do it, as you step back into the world please remember the wise words of our own Dr. Henry. “Be kind, Be calm, Be safe“. And as my Dad would say, whether we were in the car or not, “Take it easy“!

Tagged , , , ,

It’s Just a Survey, People!

I’m not sure whether you know this or not but a very long time ago I worked for the government. That’s right. I was a servant of the public and let me just say I have the utmost respect for those who still are. My job, somewhat ironically, was finding other people jobs. In good times it was a relatively simple job, in bad times it was a bit more complicated but either way, it was always a pretty busy job that took up most of my time during the day. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there wasn’t a little bit of slack. A few moments to gossip with my workmates about the latest scandals. You know. Some tongue wagging about who was going out with whom, and who knew, or perhaps more interesting, who didn’t know. And I’m certainly not going to deny that I may have played an extra game or two of Bejeweled on the computers set up in the lunch room for that very purpose (I told you it was a long time ago). But most of the time you could find me sitting behind my desk, welcoming each and every one of the people who were counting on me to help them out of what was often a rather unfortunate situation. So it was a busy little job. Which is why a recent news item baffled me just a bit. 

Bear with me now as I just need to backtrack here. Last week, like most everyone in this great country of ours, I received my instructions for completing the census questionnaire. It wasn’t a big surprise. After all, there have been a multitude of commercials on the TV reminding me that this very thing was going to happen and it would be my responsibility, as a good citizen, to do my duty and answer all of the questions asked. Those advertisements even went as far as explaining the importance of doing so as apparently, the programs and services you and I might access in the future depend on the answers we provide. Since, at the moment, I’ve got nothing but time on my hands, I figured I could spend a few of my precious minutes helping those who run this country figure out how to do the right thing. Honestly, that was motivation enough for me so one afternoon, after working on my jigsaw, I sat down with a coffee, a computer, the instructions and my guy, to get to the task at hand. Because that’s all I really needed. It all seemed so straight forward. At least that’s what I thought. 

You can imagine my surprise when, while watching the nightly news, I found out that someone, somewhere in those hallowed halls of Statistics Canada, decided there was a little something else we all needed to rev up our engines. It seems that we needed playlists. And not just a few. Many playlists. Each with many, many songs. Music to accompany the completion of the 2021 Statistics Canada Census. Now I don’t know about you but as much as I wanted to have a chuckle about this, I found myself overwhelmed by the number of questions that began swirling in my head. Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem becoming apprised of the many wonderful Canadian musical artists whose talents add so much to our lives. And if being part of a playlist means a few extra shekels for those hard working artists, in what we all know has been a really difficult time, you can count me in (swidt?). But I was still left wondering what in the world Statscan (that’s what we call them around here) wanted me to do with this treasure trove of Canadian music. Was I supposed to get up and dance once I figured out how many people other than myself lived in my house?  Break out in song because I was actually able to remember where my ancestors lived before they landed in this great country of ours? Recount the days of my youth as I listened to Trooper belt out “Raise A Little Hell”? Or perhaps wallow in a little self-pity as Ms. Murray crooned “Snowbird” reminding me of what I wasn’t this past winter. What exactly was this all about? And when did Statscan become the cognoscente for the Canadian music scene throughout the ages.

My interest peaked, I decided to delve just a little further into what exactly was going on and it was a fine thing to discover that our government wanted us to “experience the different facets of Canadian culture through the sounds of our celebrated musical talent”*. (Statistics Canada) Certainly a laudable endeavour, although since we do have a Ministry of Canadian Heritage I had to wonder if it was perhaps a bit misplaced. But digging a little deeper I also found that this rather extensive undertaking was also about time. That’s right. Time. You see, in Canada there are two types of census forms. The short one, that we all keep our fingers crossed we receive, and the dreaded long one that we don’t. Since we only get one and not the other it can sometimes be hard to discern which one we received. And, as a result, how long it will take to complete. Statscan has now come up with a way to help us out. We are told the short one will take only a few minutes. And the long one? Apparently about seven or eight songs from one of the playlists. Which only opened a whole other can of worms for me. Like which seven or eight songs? And wouldn’t they have saved a whole whack of time and energy by just telling me how long it would take in, oh I don’t know, minutes maybe? 

As a shallow person I’m not prone to judge others but I do have to wonder whether there’s someone walking the halls of Statscan with not quite enough to do. I know there are no more Bejeweled computers in the lunch room and maybe no one really cares much anymore about who’s doing what with whom, but surely there’s something more important to be done than putting together playlists for those of us who are dedicating, at most, a half hour of our day to complete a survey. I mean, it’s just a survey, people! Point us in the right direction and we’ll get it done. And if you really can’t find anything else to do, maybe give me a call. I know it’s been awhile but I might have a few tips I can share with you on how to find another job.

*Statistics Canada. “2021Census Soundtrack.” 2021Census Soundtrack, 2021, https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2021/ref/soundtrack-bandesonore/index-eng.htm. Accessed 12 May 2021.

Tagged , , , ,

I Love your Mask

Photo by Anton on UnsplashYou bet it’s been a while. There’s something I have to tell you which, given your own circumstances, you may not know so you’ll have to trust me on this. It’s not all that easy writing a shallow blog in the middle of a pandemic. Don’t get me wrong. Even in the midst of this disaster, there remain ports in the storm. Places where you can escape reality. Suspend your disbelief for a little while. Glimmers of a time that may seem a lifetime ago. Like Hallmark which, in the midst of all the current chaos, has held up their end of the bargain by releasing one love fest movie after another. I mean who doesn’t want to escape reality for a couple of hours watching a handsome young Prince fall in love with a beautiful, albeit common woman, against the better judgement of his most ardent protectors. Sure there’s a little turbulence along the way but it’s all hunky dory in the end. Like that would ever happen in real life. Or a young photographer who is chasing mythical waterfalls but literally falls head over heels in love with a very grounded and handsome, in a rugged sort of way, trail guide. Sure these remarkably familiar flicks can get a tad tiresome but fortunately Hallmark has now come out with their own vintage wine which, I am pretty sure, means they acknowledge we will need a little “somethin’ somethin’’” to help us get through their Spring season, not to mention this seemingly everlasting pandemic of ours. Hallmark aside, what I am saying is, while our world has not become entirely bereft of these refuges, they are about as difficult to find as hen’s teeth. And I only put it that way because apparently it is possible to find a hen with teeth. 

Now I’ve said this before but, in “Shallow Be My Name” fashion, I’ll say it again. Shallow people have feelings too. We can be happy or sad, empathetic, sympathetic, sorry, confused even surprised at times. Pretty much the whole gamut of emotions just like everyone else. Because like everyone else, I am heartbroken each time I turn on the TV, or read the paper, or wake up to the news on the radio to learn that more people than we had ever imagined have become sick and died from this virus. Who would have thought that one year later we would learn that the worst case scenario would not be the worst case. But here we are. Many of us isolating in our homes having not seen friends or family for what seems to be an eternity. Spending our precious time figuring out who can see/hear us and who can’t as we fiddle with technologies that we are led to believe are “user friendly”. We just haven’t figured out who those users are yet. It’s been a long haul for us all but, as they say, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. It’s true. Someone said that on the news just last night. So we hope. And are hopeful. In the meantime, it never hurts to try to put a smile on one’s face.

Which brings me to what I want to talk about today. Masks. We’re all wearing them. At least I hope we are. Here’s what I would like you to do. Think back to when this whole thing started. You remember. When you were lined up for toilet paper and finding Lysol wipes was like finding a needle in a haystack. Which, I understand, is slightly more difficult than finding a hen with teeth. But I digress. Think about masks back in the day, as some like to say. The first thing that’s likely to come to mind is not actually being able to find any. Hard to imagine these days but there was a time when you couldn’t snag one of those blue puppies for love or money. Not even quite a lot of money. They were simply nowhere to be found. If you did manage to find any, you guarded them with your life, because it was your life they were guarding. Admittedly they weren’t pretty but they worked and we could get our hands on them if we really tried. And then this happened. 

I first noticed things changing while watching Ms. Pelosi in those United States of America. Can’t say when for sure but I do recall one day remarking that no matter what she wore she had a mask to match. A little blue in her jacket, a little blue in her mask. Florals complimenting florals, plaids enhancing other plaids. I should have known something was afoot right then and there. Next thing I know my fav clothiers were adding masks to their repertoires. It now appeared that I could order a mask/sweater combo. I was beginning to realize there was an apparent need for me to acquire a more diverse mask wardrobe. From that moment on the whole “masks as a fashion accessory” just exploded. No longer were we satisfied with the two pieces of a bikini. Now we were offered the trikini designed to cover our most and least private of parts. It wasn’t long before I noticed there were walls of masks available at my local dispensary, everything from solids to florals, understated to overstated, lbm (little black masks) to full out, rhinestone adorned, velvet evening masks. Seemingly there was no longer any excuse for a fashion faux pas when it came to masks.

Perhaps however, the most telling experience I had was standing in line at the grocers. A young woman at the next till called out to me from under her mask. At first I wasn’t quite sure what she was saying, what with the mask and all affecting my hearing. Had I accidentally cut in front of her? Was my milk leaking onto the floor? Did I somehow mistakenly pick up the non-organic zucchini? Did she like my new hat as much as I do? Nope. It was none of those things. My new friend was complimenting me on my mask. She loved the design on my mask and she just wanted to let me know. Hmmmm. Masks as a fashion statement. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s not all that difficult to find those refuges in this storm of ours.

 

Tagged , , , , ,

I Am Not A Baker – Coming Soon

As you can well imagine it has been rather difficult to write a shallow blog during this pandemic. Admittedly, the impact of COVID-19 has not (yet) had a major effect on my life. To be brutally honest, it has been frighteningly easy for me to confine myself to my home and to connect with others primarily through Zoom, Facebook, Google Hangouts, Skype and that old fashioned mode of communication, the telephone. Yes it’s true, I still do have a landline. Sure it’s been hard to give up my grocery shopping habit. Thursday used to be a big day in our house what with the delivery of all the flyers. Now it’s one trip, in and out, sales or no sales, and I thank my lucky stars I am able to continue to stock my pantry with what I need. But I am painfully aware that for many life has taken a dramatic downturn financially, physically and emotionally, and I do not for one minute want to minimize the sadness and suffering our friends, family and those we do not know, are feeling right now. Our world has turned upside down. Everything has changed. The most common and perhaps accurate description I’ve heard is “it’s just weird”. I think there is some consensus that at any moment Mr. Rod Serling will step out of the shadows to pronounce we have now entered “The Twilight Zone”. Unfortunately it seems we are binge watching the episodes. 

The thing is, as a retired shallow person, writing my blog has actually occupied a fair bit of my time. There’s the thinking about what to write, the writing, the procrastinating, more writing, the online Bingo games in the middle of the writing, the editing (yes, I do edit), the searching for and finding an appropriate pic and finally, the putting the whole damn thing into WordPress. And without all of that I have to admit I’m a little lost. Normally I’d manage to wile away a few at the local cafe but in the “new normal” there’s only so much time I can spend encouraging my broccoli and cauliflower seedlings to “keep up the good work” as I sip my tea in my own backyard. Fortunately a couple of years ago I discovered that not only do I like to eat my cherry cheesecake, I like to make it too. Me and Doug Ford. Who would have thought! 

Yep. It’s hard for even me to believe that the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is think about what I might bake. Well that’s not exactly true. The first thing I do is go to the bathroom but you don’t want to hear about that. And now with little else to occupy my time, these days all I want to do is bake. Got a recipe for Beer Bread? I’ll run down to my local speakeasy and grab myself a brew. Morning Glory Muffins made with Red Fife flour? Got a pantry full of that. Cookies? Just give me a sec to source some organic, fair trade semi-sweet, dark chocolate chips. Never mind there’s only two of us to devour all of these goodies. The pandemic has awakened my baker within. There’s only one problem. 

While I love to bake I am the first one to admit that I am not a baker. And I know this because I spend inordinate amounts of time watching real bakers bake on baking shows. The ones where they compete against each other to see who can construct a cake that recreates most of downtown Manhattan, including a proportionately correct replica of the Statue of Liberty, while incorporating chili powder and olives, the “secret” ingredients concocted by their particular panel of sadistic judges. If you have never witnessed this spectacle you must. What you will quickly discover is that these people are master’s of their trade. To say they know what they are doing is tantamount to saying the Pope believes in God. Or Trump lies. But I digress. There are no measuring cups here. No teaspoons. No tablespoons. Not a hint of a written word anywhere. You won’t see these guys checking the old cellphone to decide if it was one egg or two. They just know what they are doing. Or watch Mary crush it in her kitchen. Now I love Mary but I need to know how it is that she can make a three course meal which includes a delectable desert, without ever getting one teeny, tiny speck of oil, or a little smudge of flour on her always fashionable and never protected, frock. For goodness sake. Even her hands stay clean!

As you can guess, nothing like this happens in my kitchen. And I have to think this is the case for many of you, especially those who have recently become part of the pandemic baking craze. So I’m starting a new blog. For people like us. The ones who find themselves wondering how it came to be that there was still an egg on the counter when all things were said and done. Did I take out an extra or just forget to put this one in? Who check our measures not twice but many multiple times. Who follow instructions to a tee. Who know that a 15 minute prep time will somehow mysteriously expand to about an hour and a half. Who didn’t know what the heck Red Fife flour was until last week. It’s the truth about baking. For those of us who bake but are not bakers.

Don’t worry. It’s not the end of the shallow blog just the beginning of something new.

I Am Not A Baker. Coming soon. Watch for it on WordPress.

Tagged , , , ,

This is Not a Baking Blog!

First, let me thank all of you who answered my call for baking recipes. You have no idea how much you have helped me out. It’s not that I plan to bake all of the goodies you sent on. It’s just that you have saved me countless hours of sitting and staring at a blank screen trying to think up something to write about. The thing is, most of my inspiration for the blog comes from my day to day encounters with the world. I never know what might trigger this little brain of mine to come up with an idea. It could be a funny saying on a t-shirt. Or a casual conversation overheard at my local cafe. Perhaps a conversation with my hairstylist which, you will note, I am no longer referring to as my “hairdresser” having been duly corrected for that apparently outdated reference. In the past, even watching deer munch on my tulips could spark my creative juices. 

These days there’s no chance that any of those things are going to happen, although much to my chagrin the deer are still feasting on my flowers. Because it is unlikely that I will be able to read whatever it is you have to say on your t-shirt from six feet away. And it’s pretty hard to eavesdrop when there are no cafes to eavesdrop in. Of course it goes without saying that having a chit chat with my stylist is out of the question, regardless of the fact that both he and I would like nothing better than to get together at this very moment. Nope. These days you’ll find me sitting peacefully in the backyard, waiting for my fine feathered friends to drop by for a little refresher in my recently installed water feature. Or, and I know this will surprise you as much as me, having a few words with the seedlings we have planted, in the likely false hope of one day being able to reap what we have sown. And while watching birdies in the bath is quite lovely, it just doesn’t generate much material for this blog. Which is why I turned to my very kind readers for help.

Now let me just say one thing before I go on to share with the world the wonderful bounty you have bestowed upon me. Make no mistake. This is not a baking blog. Yes, it has recipes. But that’s it. Unlike most of the baking blogs I have happened upon lately there are no heartwarming stories. Not a word about how the smell of cookies wafting from the oven brings back fond memories of coming in from the cold, finding a freshly baked batch cooling on the window sill, enticing little fingers to steal one away even though dinner was just moments away and appetites were going to be spoiled. No recollections of spending countless hours in the kitchen with the young ones, measuring, stirring, offering up big bowls of leftover icing for all to enjoy. No tributes, no histories, no videos and no links to Instagram or Twitter. No scrolling ad infinitum through picture after picture, ad after ad, to finally find the list of ingredients for what you have now forgotten you were going to bake. No tips or tricks. No substitutes. Clearly, this is still just a shallow blog. With recipes. So without any further ado, here they are. Your recipes. In no particular order. Thank you!


Madarin Orange Cake

2 cups flour
1 ¼ cups of sugar
2 ¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cans (11oz) mandarin orange sections. Separate juice from orange sections.

Put all ingredients in bowl and beat well using juice of oranges. Fold in orange sections. Pour in a 9 X 13 greased pan. Bake at 325°for 35 minutes (in my oven it often takes 45 minutes to bake evenly).  The cake should look dark when it comes out of the oven. Cover with a clean dish towel and let cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz of cream cheese
¼ cup of butter
½ tsp vanilla
¾ cup of icing sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter. Add icing sugar. Add vanilla at end.


Passover Cookies (I’m sure they’re good other times too!)

2 egg whites
3 cups of sliced or slivered almonds
1/2 cup sugar
Mix sugar and egg whites.  Add almonds.
Drop by the teaspoonful on parchment covered cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Open oven door.  Shut off oven and let cookies stand in oven for 10 minutes.


Buttermilk Blueberry Lemon Scones (I made these today. They are delish!)


Molasses Crinkle Cookies (Ok, this one looks a little historic)

3/4 c butter
1 c brown sugar
1 egg
4 tblsp molasses
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 c flour
2 tsp soda (I’ll assume this is baking soda
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger

Cream butter and gradually add sugar. Blend in 1 egg and molasses. Add dry ingredients, mix and chill one hour. Shape into walnut sized balls, dip in water, then sugar. Place sugar side up on greased sheet. Bake in preheated 350 oven for 12-15 minutes. Cool on rack.


Auntie Didi’s Chocolate Cheesecake (This one is also a tad historic and a little less specific than you might be comfortable with. I’ve taken the liberty to share it because it’s sooooooo good!) 

1 package of chocolate wafer cookies (you might find them in the baking section of your grocer)
2 large packages of Philadelphia cream cheese
1 large package of Dream Whip
Icing sugar
Margarine (couple spoons)
1 can of cherry pie filling

Crush wafer cookies (save about 15 of them) and combine with margarine (I bet you can use butter) to make the crust. Cover the bottom of a springform pan with this mixture.
Whip the Dream Whip
Whip the Cream cheese with some icing sugar. You’ll have to figure this one out for yourself.
Fold together the cream cheese and Dream Whip.
Place 13 – 15 wafer cookies around the perimeter of your Springform pan.
Pour in cherry pie filling.
Add cream cheese/Dream Whip mixture
Let sit in fridge overnight.
Crush a few more wafer cookies and sprinkle on top. (Looks like you don’t use them all for the crust) 


This one comes from “down under” notably from one of the best bakers I know. Sorry everyone else!

Orange Meringue Cookies


And of course, the recipe that started it all!

Ina Garten’s Rugelach!


 

Tagged , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: