I Finally Figured it Out!

I love baking. I don’t think I have to tell you, at least those of you that know me, that these are  three words I never thought I would utter. And if you don’t believe me, just ask my children. They are the ones who suffered through the late evenings when I was compelled to at least attempt to fulfill my duty as the “muffin mom”. You know. The one who must provide muffins for the entire class on an appointed day which, from what I can recall, was the third Thursday of each month. Honestly, I have tried to block this whole episode from my mind because here’s what would happen on the rare occasion when my husband, who was by any measure a very competent baker, was not available to take on the task. 

First let me explain that the school my children attended was full of men and women whose lives were dedicated to ensuring their families would never be subjected to anything that resembled what we have all come to know and love, junk food. And in this case, you should define “junk” in the broadest sense of the word. Consequently, it meant that muffins entering the classroom were not only to be devoid of common allergens like nuts, or peanut butter (something I could of course understand and get behind) but also had to exclude that most basic of all ingredients, white sugar. In addition oil had to be replaced with something less toxic like homemade applesauce, and it goes without saying that chocolate chips were strictly forboden. All of which were the only fallbacks I could rely on to make something even remotely edible emerge from my oven. So typically I would do my best to put together ingredients that would be acceptable to the most discerning folks, sample the results, and then head to the nearest 24 hour supermarket (the only place that would be open by the time I was done) to pick up a couple dozen of whatever they had left at that time of night. Preferably with bran. At that point, all that was left to do was remove the packaging, place the muffins in a couple of heritage looking tins (a gift from my Mother) and read my kids the riot act should they be foolish enough to breathe a word of this to anyone.

Now my lack of baking prowess comes at no surprise, at least to me. Simply, I wasn’t from a baking family. Perhaps it’s because I have three brothers who were raised in the day and age when boys only entered the kitchen to eat. Or maybe it was because my Mother, who was very good at very many things, was definitely not good at being a baker. My earliest and only memory of baking with my Mom was the one day, a long time ago, we shared space in the kitchen to demonstrate to the rest of the family that, given the chance, we could make a cake and maybe eat it too. We were wrong. I will admit that my Mom’s turned out slightly better than mine but, from what I recall, that wasn’t saying much since I have a vague memory of banging my little cake on the counter in an attempt to break off a slice. But why dwell on the past when the future holds so much promise. 

I’m not sure I can pinpoint the exact date and time my metamorphosis took place. Well maybe I can but I’ll save that for later. What I do know is that when we moved to this little Island we now inhabit full-time we were blessed with what by most standards is a fairly large kitchen with ironically, a rather large island and a great big oven. Even I knew that this was every baker’s dream. The only thing missing were the tools required for the job and, of course, the baker. The first was an easy fix as I rushed to my favourite store to purchase what we all know is the quintessential baker’s appliance, the stand mixer. I was pleased to be able to acquire this tool in a lovely blue which matched my colour scheme. Because who was I kidding? I knew this would be a mostly decorative device. And it was, until one day a couple of ladies from my walking group suggested we get together to make some rugellah. At my house. Well why not I thought. I have the space, I can get the ingredients and most importantly, I have a heretofore never used, colour coordinated stand mixer. Let me just say, the rest is history.

To make a rather long story just a tad shorter, from that day forward I never stopped baking. Now I bake muffins and loaves, cookies and brownies and, believe it or not, even bread! (Well to be fair, I’m going to try to bake bread today). Some of what I bake is great, some is ok and some is best delivered to the ducks. But good or bad I just love baking. And apparently, now that we are all responsibly staying in our homes, so does the rest of the world. I know this because a day doesn’t go by when someone I know (or portend to know) doesn’t post a pic of a delectable treat they have spent hours slaving over a hot oven to make. And that gave this shallow gal an idea.

Perhaps at this point I should mention that while I love to bake I’m by no means a baker. What that means is I don’t have a clue about the chemistry of baking. I don’t know what baking soda does, or why I have to add salt, or whether or not I need to bring my eggs to room temperature, and if I do, what difference that might make. Hence the only thing I can do is follow a recipe to the letter. Let me tell you, I’m no Auntie Fanny (get well soon!) when it comes to culinary pursuits. So here’s my idea. Since we are all home and we are all baking maybe you could take some time to share your fav delights with all of us. And since I already have a blog with a small but loyal following, I am more than happy to volunteer my services to compile and post any that you send to me.  If you know my email address send them there. If you don’t, you can post them in the comments here. And if you can figure out any other way to get them to me, well you can do that too.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not converting the shallow blog into a baking blog. No way. It just occurred to me that after all this time I have finally figured out a way to get other people to write this thing for me. Come on! You must know by now that even bakers can be shallow.

Tagged , , , , ,

Never Hug A Stranger (Revisited)

A rather strange thing has been happening over the past week. Well at first I thought it was strange but now that things have turned a corner in this world I suppose it isn’t. As you may or may not know, WordPress (they are the guys that let me write and publish this blog and to whom, in the next few days, I will once again send my 24 bucks) lets me see how many people are reading my posts and which posts they are reading. Now as you know I have a small but loyal following and I really appreciate that many of you actually click on my posts when I post them. I don’t want to bog you down with technicalities so suffice to say that typically a new post will generate views for about 3 or 4 days, with the majority coming in around 3 to 4 minutes after it goes live (as they say in the biz) and waning fairly significantly thereafter. As time marches on it is not unheard of, but rare for anyone to revisit a post from the past and to be honest, I’m pretty ok with that. I mean I don’t even revisit them so why would anyone else? 

But this week things have been different. This week, much to my surprise, there has been a veritable flurry of visits to a post I wrote quite some time ago. These hits (that’s what we bloggers call them) are coming from all around the world. Now I don’t want to blow my own horn but I’m pretty used to having my posts read by people living in places like Canada, the U.S., Britain, Switzerland and Australia. I mean I even know people in Australia so it’s not too much of a stretch to think they might give me a read once in a while. But when my reader map (yes, WordPress has that too) starts to register hits from countries like Bahrain, South Africa and Iraq well that’s when I take notice. That’s when I think something must be up. And when all of those hits are on the same post I gotta figure it’s more than a coincidence. Especially when that post is titled “Never Hug A Stranger”. If you happen to have a little time on your hands and missed it way back when, or if you just want a little reminder, feel free to take a look. The title speaks for itself. 

Now I’m the last person to indulge in self-aggrandizement because I know that people look for any port in a storm. So I’m pretty sure that my new friends from around this globe are not actually seeking the advice of a shallow person. But indeed, that’s where they landed, albeit through no fault of their own. And while I am wont to ask anyone to heed my advice or to suggest they adopt any of my idiosyncrasies this is the one time I suggest you do. While I’m never one to say “I told you so” and hindsight, as we know, is 20/20 somehow this time I sure seem to have hit the nail directly on its head. One day, if you insist, I’m sure you will be able to hug again but for now your only job is to flatten the curve. If need be send virtual hugs to everyone you know but keep those arms by your side. Chances are they won’t span the six feet you’ll need them to anyway.

There’s just one more thing. When all of this passes, and it will pass, please do me a favour and ignore my advice for just a bit. There are many, many people who are literally risking their lives to save ours. Health care workers, first responders, truck drivers, bus drivers, journalists, government workers, grocers, and a whole host of others. All of them, each and every one, deserve a hug from you, so go ahead and make both your days. With permission of course. And while you are at it, give them one from me too. 

Stay safe and be well!

Tagged , ,

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. 

Tagged , , , , ,

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? 

Tagged , , , ,

Misery Loves Miserable Company – Or Does It?

This might not be a shallow blog. I’ll let you decide. 

Those of you who have stuck with me over the many, many years of this blog will know that I don’t indulge in what has become a yearly tradition of making promises that are, unfortunately, most often destined to be broken. Even so, I have always resolved to be as honest as possible (although it’s not always possible) with my readers so here’s something you might not have imagined about me. Hard as it might be to believe, I wasn’t always at the top of my alma mater class which, I confess, is putting it mildly. It’s not that I didn’t like university. It’s just that I liked other things better. Like sleeping. Or spending ridiculous amounts of time in the cafeteria drinking coffee. Both of which may have been the result of having an extra draft or two (afterall, they were only two bits) the night before. Admittedly, things picked up in my later years, but those first year courses. Well let’s just say I’m a little short on the details. Except for one. 

If I had to guess, and the odds are not that great given I’m about 48 more years down this road of mine, I would say that the reason I found myself sitting in a lecture theatre surrounded by 400 budding psychologists was that it was the only available course that fit my schedule, meaning I didn’t have to be “up and at ‘em” before noon. Also I had heard the professor had a wicked, dry sense of humour and a guy who thinks brain stuff is funny can’t be all bad. Beyond that, I must refrain from making any judgements about the course because I can’t honestly say I remember much. Not much, but I do remember one thing which has stuck with me through the years. What our professor explained to us, and what I remember like it was just yesterday, was that while it is common knowledge that “misery loves company” what we might be surprised to find out is that misery actually loves miserable company. At the time it was quite a revelation. One which I have come to think about more than I perhaps would like over the past few months.

Let me backtrack just a tad. If you’ve been reading lately, (and granted I haven’t been writing much lately) you’ll know that 2019 has not been a stellar year for me and my family. There was the passing of my Mother in August, the Cat in September and my Aunt in October. And just when we thought we were out of the woods, because we all know that good/bad things happen in threes, we discovered, much to our chagrin, they actually don’t. Nope. Without getting into too much detail, that husband of mine decided to bring a little more excitement into our lives, and suffice to say, I spent much of the first week in December travelling to and fro from my home to the hospital. While things are now looking up I learned almost as much from this experience as I did from that old prof of mine. About people. And their miseries.

So we’re sitting in the rather sterile basement of the “other” hospital in this little city of ours, waiting for what I think is the third CT scan of the week. Knowing how these things can go I’m ready for a longish wait, having plugged a couple of extra hours into the meter and packed my Mother’s very well stocked Kobo which, I might add, I have made quite a dent in over the past few months. I’m pretty much minding my own business when in walks another couple who, I surmise, are there for the very same reason we are. Now I’m not really one to make idle conversation with complete strangers, especially in a rather uninviting environment, but I’m not so callous as to ignore their presence altogether. With that in mind I raise my eyes from my book (which btw, I’m quite enjoying) long enough to flash a welcoming smile and toss out a polite hello. One hour later I have been apprised of not only her husband’s current unfortunate health situation, but also of her own, those of her daughter, her grandson, her son-in-law and I’m pretty sure the neighbour who lived beside her before the neighbour who lives beside her now. 

But here’s the thing. Call me shallow but the truth of the matter is I really don’t want to hear about other people’s problems simply because I have some of my own. Honestly, I would rather talk about something wonderful going on in your life. A lovely trip you have taken. Perhaps a good meal you shared with someone you love. I’ll even listen to stories about your grand kids and their rather dubious accomplishments. I promise when things get back to normal in my life I will be glad to talk about your mother-in-law’s persistent bladder infection or your sister’s upcoming knee operation. You can tell me all about the adverse reaction you had to some plant-based supplement you decided to take on the recommendation of your herbalist. I’ll be happy to listen to any and all of the problems you have. Just not right now. Because now is not a good time for that.

Later in her life my Mother who I know loved me very much, would say this, in the nicest way, whenever I called to complain to her about an ache in my shoulder or a pain in my back. She’d say: “I have enough of my own aches and pains, I don’t really need to hear about yours”.  I didn’t always get it then but I get it now. She was right. Misery actually doesn’t love miserable company. And if you ask me, that professor of mine could have learned quite a lot from my Mom.

Tagged , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: