Category Archives: Informative

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.

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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!


 

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Remember the Golden Rule

If I’m going to be honest with you, I must admit I’ve never been much of a risk taker. Which doesn’t mean I haven’t taken a few bold steps in my lifetime. Like traveling 2000 miles (it was miles in those days) from my rather comfortable life in the “big city” to what some would say was a marginally habitable small metropolis (well it was in those days) located in one of the least hospitable climes of this rather large country of ours. Without any solid job prospects. In a very old car. On the cusp of winter. Ok. Now it’s starting to sound a little foolish to me. Or the time I went out on a limb and ordered a size smaller than I rightfully should have from my fav online retailer. In the end both turned out fine despite some moments of doubt and consternation along the way. But the truth is I am likely one of only a few people who resided in the “Gateway to the North” for 38 years and has never actually driven on snow and ice. And to save myself a trip to the mall I now only order what I know to be my tried and true size. Like it or not my inner self knows, and now so do you, that I am confidently risk averse. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Especially in times like these.

These are difficult times. Shallow as I may be I would never make light of the fact that the world, and hundreds of thousands of people in it, are suffering from what appears to be a disease that, to date, is beyond our control. When entire countries shut down to try to save their citizens we know we are in serious trouble. People are scared. They are scared to travel. Scared to go to a movie theatre. Or a sports event. As of today I’m guessing many people are scared about their financial future. And they have every right to be scared. Financial markets are suffering historic losses. Cruise ships are spending days travelling up and down coastlines waiting for a green light to dock. “Social distancing” has suddenly become part of our everyday vocabulary. People are dying. Most of them our cherished elders. And as if that’s not enough, Trump is still President. If there was ever a time not to take risks this just could be it. But even me, a confirmed non-risk taker, is a little flummoxed about what I see happening around town. 

Now I know it’s important to be prepared. For anything. Let’s face it. I live on an Island that is well known to have one of our earth’s cracks running right smack down the middle. So I have to have a kit for that. As would any reasonable person. It’s nothing over the top. Just a bag with some really important stuff should the lights literally go out. What I don’t have is five years worth of black beans, rice, chocolate chip cookies (even though they are my favourites) or 20 kg bags of flour. I mean how many loaves of bread can one person bake before little crawly things invade? But apparently I must be missing something as the last time I ventured into my local grocers (and I venture in quite a lot) many of the shelves were bare. It seems that people don’t want to risk running out of just about anything. And more than anything else they clearly don’t want to run out of Purell. Or, toilet paper.

I get the reason for wanting to have some Purell on hand. Who doesn’t need a little something to freshen up after touching the ATM or accidentally putting a hand on the escalator railing? Especially now when it is so important to keep one’s hands spotlessly clean. But anyone who has ever used any type of hand sanitizer must know that this is a situation where truly a little dab’ll do ya. One squirt and you can pretty much cover the territory. Those little bottles go a long way. Just imagine what a litre of the stuff will do. So here’s my advice. Next time you are standing in front of the shelf debating whether to empty it of its contents try to remember the golden rule. Because if you leave some for me I’ll be sure to leave some for you. That way, if either one of us happens to be unlucky enough to run out of the stuff, and it is most unlikely that either of us will, we’ll be able to come back and get some more. As for all the hoopla about the toilet paper, let me just say this is a respiratory illness and leave it at that.

Oh yea. Speaking of toilet paper. A couple of weeks ago we discovered we were running low. As is always the case we decided this warranted a trip to our local Costco where we could pick up our favourite brand and a few other items while there. Driving into the parking lot it seemed like just about any other day at the big box store. But as we approached the door I did notice that an extraordinary number of people seemed to have extraordinary amounts of toilet paper in their carts. Wonderful! I thought. There must be a sale on TP right when we need it.  Making our way to the back of the store, all the while succumbing to Costco’s dastardly marketing techniques, we arrived at a rather towering display of the tissues and much to our dismay, discovered there was nothing on sale. Nonetheless, we were in need so tossed a package into our cart.

It wasn’t until later that evening while watching the news that I became aware that I was one of the lucky few who managed to wrangle a pack because apparently everyone and their dog is worried about running out. My first reaction was “OMG! What was I thinking? Why the heck didn’t I pick up a few extra when I had the chance?” Then, as everyone should do at this stage, I sat back and thought about it. That package I managed to corral has 30 hefty roles in it. Should be enough for a good long while. I think I’m just going to risk it. Maybe you should too. 

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I love my RTV (with apologies to Dire Straits)

Ok. I’m just going to come out and say it. I still love reality TV. Surprised? I didn’t think so. And I get it. Must not seem like much of a stretch for a self-proclaimed shallow person to confess to whiling away her time watching real people, in the best case scenarios sing and dance, and in the worst, lie and cheat to their perhaps worthy, perhaps not, opponents. I mean what could be more relaxing than sitting in your warm and comfy den, munching on a bowl of low-fat, organic, non-gmo, gluten free, and I’m guessing kosher, Boom Chicka Pop (with real butter) while watching 16 people share a rather meagre bowl of rice topped with a protein that just moments ago was crawling beneath their feet? Or tagging along in Costa Rica as Mike and Henry amicably manage to reconcile their very different expectations and settle upon, what turns out to be the winter home of their dreams.

But make no mistake. Even I have to admit that not all reality TV is created equal. I long ago gave up on what is now known as the “Bachelor Franchise” when I tired of the rather poor outcomes, not to mention the not so questionable morality of the whole thing. After all, the break-up rate of made for TV couples compares only to that of those “forever” junior high romances that last until your “one and only” shows up at school wearing a terribly mismatched ensemble and you realize you could never have children with someone who mistakenly thought orange and red was a “thing”. And honestly, I never watched the Kardashians or any of the Housewives because, well really, who cares? After all, not a one of those people have “outplayed, outwitted or outlasted” anyone. And none of them have ever been winners.

Now I know the world isn’t made up entirely of shallow people but I must not be the only fish in this sea. These reality shows are a lot like my family. They have longevity. Take Survivor. Now starting it’s 40th season we first found ourselves watching a naked guy inappropriately prance around in front of some rather shocked and dismayed teammates, not to mention millions of viewers, over 20 years ago. I’m guessing a lot has happened to you, I know it has to me, over the past 20 years but not a lot has happened to Survivor. Other than the addition of a few twists and a hidden idol or two, Survivor has pretty much stayed the same. People come to an Island, walk around in their underwear, play a few games, make some plans that work and some that don’t, most get voted off the Island, miraculously having found the rest of their clothes, and depart with a few bitter or less frequently, encouraging words for their remaining tribe mates. The last guy standing gets a million bucks. And this happens over and over again. Aside from that money thing, if I called you up and you told me your life was as boring as this sounds, I’d suggest you go get yourself a hobby. So the question that comes to my mind is why the heck do people (including me) continue to watch? You can only imagine that trying to answer this question has required more than a little introspection on my part. And let me tell you, your guess is very probably as good as mine. But because I’m rather invested in this dilemma at the moment and you are most likely not, I’ll give it my best shot. 

Let me just say that the talent (or not) related shows are the low hanging fruit on this quest. First of all, for those who don’t know, there’s nothing new under this sun. These shows have been around forever. I mean who doesn’t remember watching Frank Augustyn make his television debut on Tiny Talent Time? And I’m pretty sure just about everyone can name at least one celeb whose first step on the ladder to fame and fortune was made on the Star Search stage. Still, over these many years, we seem to be captivated by the prospect of watching seemingly ordinary people’s lives transformed overnight. Perhaps there’s that little niggle that makes us think if they can do it, well why can’t we? Of course in my case I can’t sing or dance, I’m certainly no acrobat, have never performed a magic trick or been shot out of a cannon, so you won’t find me on that stage anytime soon. But I can watch others take the plunge. So I do. And apparently many of you do too. 

It might also be reasonable to surmise that viewers get some sort of satisfaction from figuring out which new house, beach bungalow, private island or “I just won the lottery” mansion that heretofore complete strangers will finally decide upon, having completed an exhaustive search of three, or at the most, four potential properties. I suppose the premise is that if I can’t buy a bargain island somewhere in the South Pacific I can, at the very least, live vicariously through those who do. And I am quite sure that most of us believe if we just watch enough people make incredible cupcake creations, that somehow, through osmosis, we too will soon be using our home kitchens to churn out these tasty delights by the dozens. Enough to keep us glued to the tube? So it would seem.

Admittedly I’m a bit more flummoxed as to why people continue to tune in as 16 or so complete strangers enter a house and agree to have millions of viewers watch as they eat, sleep, shower, fight, lie, cheat, cry and do who knows what else. Well we do know but we would never admit to watching. Honestly. Seems to me that most of us could just attend a family reunion for that kind of entertainment. Minus the “who knows what else” stuff of course. At any rate, not only is big brother watching us but clearly we have been watching Big Brother as it is now in its 20th year. Which brings us full circle to the people stranded on those islands. This time around Survivor has brought back 20 of its previous winners. But here’s the thing. At the end of what has been billed as a groundbreaking season there will be only one winner. And that means all of the other 19 winners will now be losers. Hmmmm. What time does that Kardashian show come on? 

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Next Please!

It occurred to me the other night as I stood outside waiting to get in to see one of my fav singer/songwriters that I spend a lot of time standing in lines. Some times for an hour. Sometimes more. Which made me think. If everybody just agreed to show up 45 minutes later we would all be standing here for much less time. And then I just started thinking about lines.

We’ve all been in them. Some short. Some long. Some excruciating. At the grocery store, the movie theatre, the bank, restaurants. And it’s not just the being there. It’s the getting there too.. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time in a traffic line trying to get to wherever it is you are going only to find a throng of people waiting to do the very same thing you want to do. Most often you wait. Outwardly calm, inwardly seething, until you hear someone say “next please” and realize that the mother with the rather exuberant toddler you mercifully let in front of you an eternity ago, is no longer there and it is, in fact, your turn to finally move forward and do whatever it is you came to do. And you hope against hope you can remember what that is.

Like you, I’ve been in my share of lines. All kinds of them. Anyone who knows anything knows there are lines that are well worth the wait and others that are not. There are lines that are fun and others that are not. And there are lines we want to be in and others that we would rather not. 

Like the line I stand in to pay my property taxes. Once a year, every year, I trapse down to City Hall, papers in hand, signed and ready to submit, imagining that I’ll be in and out having paid my dues (literally) in no time. And every year I arrive to find multitudes of like-minded citizens lined up to do the very same thing that I have decided to do. I mean what are the chances? It’s not like we called each other up and made a plan. How could we? Until this very moment I can honestly say that I didn’t even know these people existed, nor they I. So how is it that with all of us strangers heading to the same place at the same time, two of three cashiers have decided they no longer want to be where we are, leaving one lonely soul to work her way through, what at this point has become by anyone’s standards, a very long line. And to what end do we stand patiently waiting our turn? To hand over some very hard earned cash to a group of people who may, or may not, do with it what we think is reasonable to do. There’s no fun, no frivolity in this line. No friends to be made. It’s just a line one has to be, but doesn’t really want to be, in. But trust me. Not all lines are alike.

I’ve honed my line skills at some of the best. Like boxing day. What could be better than waking up long before the sun, piling on all (and I mean ALL) of your warmest clothing, jumping into your best friend’s car and plowing (again, literally) through the snow and ice to your nearest electronics store where you join what by this time is a very long line of people waiting in anticipation for the doors to open so they can possibly (depending on how close to those doors they managed to get) snag a deal on an item or two they failed to find under their tree. Did I mention that it’s also -30 degrees celsius? In case you don’t know, that’s the kind of cold that makes you forget you have fingers and toes. If you still do.  Surprisingly, this is a line-up you want to be in. People joking with each other, laughing (mostly at themselves for being there), sharing their hopes and dreams (as in “I’ve always dreamed of having an 40” TV (Come on! It was the 90s.) and I sure hope I”m close enough to get one”). Coffee and donuts being bought and shared among people who were complete strangers only moments ago. Stories told and retold. It truly is a wonderful bonding experience. Just thinking about it makes my toes start to tingle.

But even that pales beside the Mother of all lines. The one that will remain burned in my memory until I no longer have one. The Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Talk about lines. Honestly. I have taken trips that are shorter than the lines for the EFMF. Not only will you find yourself in an extraordinary line just to get tickets, you will also find yourself in a line that gets you a spot in another line. That’s right. You’re going to line-up to line-up. Now you would think this would be one of those laid back, folksy kind of lines, not unlike that one on boxing day, what with all the peace signs, tie-dye and flowers in the hair. Don’t kid yourself. There will be some bantering and bonding over your shared love of music. Maybe the sharing of a little something that makes the time seem to fly by. But after waiting 5 hours in the scorching sun for those gates to open nothing will stop your new found “friends” from bulldozing over everything in sight (including you) to secure their coveted spot on the hill. This line is not for the faint of heart. 

Now I know. Many of you are thinking “what decade is she from”? Who doesn’t pay their taxes online? And who in their right mind would line up to buy something? And what exactly were you sharing in that line anyway? More importantly, why would anyone line-up for anything? So the other day, finding myself in need of some assistance with my household electronics, I decided that rather than make my way to the bricks and mortar where I knew I would become one among many technically inept folks, I would ditch the line and give my service provider a call. A very nice lady with a rather calming voice answered and let me know a technician would be with me as soon as possible. To reassure me, she kindly mentioned that I was 57th in line and the wait would be a little more or less than 60 minutes. Just one question. Anyone got a little something to help me pass the time?

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