Tag Archives: friends

Hey Mr. Starbucks!

Warning: Some people might think this is a teeny, weeny bit of a rant. Could be.

I don’t have to tell you that 2020 has been tough. So tough it’s driven this shallow gal to bake. Don’t get me wrong. I love baking even if I’m not really a baker. But how much can two people eat (you don’t have to answer that, it’s rhetorical) so, every once in a while, we venture out for our afternoon refreshment at what has become “our” cafe. We sit on the patio (of course), physically distanced but not out of earshot of our fellow coffee drinkers, and spend time watching, talking, listening and just taking some time to pretend there’s no “new normal”. The sun shines down on us and, if it doesn’t, the well placed heaters do. We’ve been doing this for quite some time now and expected to be doing it for some time longer until last week. Last week we were advised that, like many others these days, our cafe is closing. For good. But please don’t shed a tear for the owner. This is no local barista trying to make a go of things in hard times. This is Starbucks. And since it’s kind of hard for me right now to write my shallow blog, I figured I had nothing to lose by voicing my concern to the rather large corporation who would like us to believe they have our best interests at heart. I’m sharing this with you mostly so I can share it with them too


Hey Mr. Starbucks. Remember me? I’m the one who wrote you a while back about the not so great renovation you did at our local cafe. That’s right. The one where you removed all of the comfy chairs, replacing them with rock hard subway seats, I suppose to remind us that while you don’t mind if we sit for a bit we really should be thinking about where we need to be next. It’s the same one where you removed almost all of the tables that seat more than two people because, and I can only surmise, who needs more than one friend? Oh yeah. Just in case we decided it might be nice to wile away an hour or so in the sun on that wrap around patio you have, you managed to take away many of the tables and chairs out there in the fresh air too. You remember that, don’t ya? 

To tell you the truth, it worked out ok, mostly because all of us “regulars” managed to find other places to enjoy a cup o’ joe. Some with you, some without. Me and my guy? Well lucky for us we found another one of your cafes to frequent. And even luckier, at this one the sun shines down even brighter during our afternoon repasts and we have been able to make a slew of new “Starbucks’s friends”. You know what those are, right? The people we meet and chat with each afternoon, even though we don’t know their name. The new place has become our place. Which, I understand from your mission statement, is what you folks are all about.  You know. “Human connection”. “Enjoyment at the speed of life”. “Always full of humanity”.  “A break from the world outside”.  Your words, not mine. So I have to ask. What the heck are you thinking?

Before I go on, there’s something you should know. I don’t write a lot of letters these days so a second one to you is kind of a big deal for me. But here you go again. Messing around with a good thing. So what choice do I have? Yes, I know I’m a shallow person and this might not seem like that big of a deal to other people.  And I know there are bigger things to worry about right now. Like everyone else, I’m more than a tad worried that the new guy (or perhaps I should say the old guy) won’t be able to pull this one out of the hat and, even if he does, the old old guy will kick and scream his way to an undeserved victory. With the help of his rather unsavoury cadre of friends. I worry too about how the world has been impacted by the pandemic. How, even when this whole thing is over (it will be over, right?) things will never be the same. Or worse perhaps, they will be. And for all those who have lost loved ones, lost jobs, lost homes, and perhaps hope, I worry about how they will ever be able to put their lives back together. But just because there are big things to worry about doesn’t mean the little things aren’t important too. So come on man!, (to quote the new old guy) Why on earth would you pick this of all times to close down our very busy, very robust and very important shelter from the storm? 

Now I get it. This particular cafe of yours hasn’t had a facelift for some time. Some would say it’s even a little long in the tooth. The chairs are worn, tables are slightly wobbly and the floor (if you don’t mind my saying so) could use a refresh. But none of that really matters to any of us. Because this place has become exactly what you had hoped it would be. A place to connect, to gain a sense of belonging, to share a laugh, greet old friends and meet new ones. It is, as you suggest, a haven from the worries outside. Not to mention a good neighbour. Because every time we visit we spend a little time and money at the surrounding, mostly locally owned shops. A pound of butter here, a little red fife flour there. It all adds up and makes life better for everyone. So here are my questions for you. Where do you think the kindly, elderly couple, one in a wheelchair the other with a walker, will go for their afternoon outing now? What about the lovely, older ladies who meet on the patio every Tuesday at 2 pm because they live in the area and can no longer drive? Or how about our dear friend and his dog, who loves to bask in the sunshine, while the three of us solve world problems? Have you really thought this through? Have you reflected on how this will impact the community? Your community? One that you have been a part of for the past 16 years? Tell me. Have you thought about us? Because the ways things are going, we’re not going to be thinking about you for very much longer.

 

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To Wear or Not to Wear…Really, It’s Not A Question

<a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/medical">Medical vector created by freepik - www.freepik.com</a>I don’t know about you but when I was growing up there were plenty of things I was told to do, or not to do which admittedly, I ignored. Looking back, I now realize of course, that I wasn’t always right and while rules might be made to be broken I probably shouldn’t have broken all of them. To be fair though, not everything I was told warranted the same level of adherence. Let’s face it. There was a modicum of exaggeration to some of these admonitions. For example, the vast majority of us who ran with a pencil, scissors, or sucker in our hand never actually lost an eye. I’m not saying it never happened. I’m just saying that it probably didn’t happen as often as the ‘rents led us to believe. And there were those that simply turned out not to be true. If I have to be honest, and I am nothing but honest, my children turned out to be way less trouble to me than I was for my parents. And even though I made my share of funny faces, my face never froze in time which, now that I think about it, might not have been such a bad thing. And I don’t ever recall either of my parents turning around to go home just because we were making too much noise in the backseat of the car. Nonetheless, I admit that there was a great deal of good advice imparted to me over the course of my life to which I did listen. I mean I never jumped off a cliff just because all of my friends did and, as a parent, I do now understand all those things they told me I would when I had kids of my own. 

Now I’m guessing that as a shallow person this COVID-19 debacle has probably not bothered me as much as it has others. I hate to say it out loud, but my life hasn’t really changed. I was never much of a gadfly so sticking around the house for most of the day doesn’t really bother me. I still have coffee everyday between two and three, albeit in my backyard rather than my local coffee haunt. And there are a plethora of Hallmark reruns to watch every night, which is fine by me. Old, new. Doesn’t matter. You and I both know they’re all the same anyway. I did start writing my new “I Am Not a Baker” blog (yup, unabashed self-promotion) but I procrastinate writing that one just as much as this one, so there’s that. There is however, one thing I do that I can genuinely say I have never done before. I wear a mask. 

I might be shallow but that doesn’t mean I’m foolhardy. At this point in the trajectory of the disease it would have been pretty hard to have missed the message that wearing a mask actually does save lives. Mine and yours. I know. At the start of this whole thing there was a bit of a PPE frenzy and masks were legitimately hard to come by. But now, everyone and their brother has dusted off their old “Singers”, reacquainted with bobbins and spools and started sewing up a veritable storm. You can pretty much get whatever style and colour you are looking for. There are funky masks, camo masks, masks with adjustable ear pieces, designer masks, kids masks, masks that double as scarves, masks made by artists, masks reinforced with copper. Well you get the gist. There’s no excuse. Sure, masks are not comfortable. They’re hot in an already hot summer. They make your glasses fog up and your nose run. They hurt your ears. Most of all, we’re simply not accustomed to wearing a mask. But here’s the thing. A mask just might save your life. And maybe your Mother’s and Father’s lives. And the lives of people you don’t even know. To wear or not to wear a mask? Seems to me it’s not really a question. 

Okay. I know. I might not have convinced you. So, I haven’t done this for quite some time but thought, for those of you still sitting on the fence, perhaps a top 10 list of the best reasons to wear a mask might just topple you over the edge. So with all due respect to Mr. D. Letterman, here’s my kick at the can.

Top 10 reason to wear a mask in the pandemic

  1. You’ll save a bundle on lipstick.
  2. If you decide to rob a bank at the spur of the moment, and I’m not suggesting that you do, you’re dressed for the occasion.
  3. You can make funny faces at people and they’ll never know. And if your face does freeze, who cares?
  4. You never have to smile at people you really don’t like.
  5. People you are trying to avoid probably won’t recognize you.
  6. It’s a great excuse to go shopping for an outfit to go with your new mask.
  7. You can pretend you can’t hear what someone says to you because, well they’re wearing a mask too.
  8. If you’re lucky, people might toss some candy into your shopping bag.
  9. You won’t have to carry a sign at your next protest. Just print your message on your mask.
  10. The  very best reason to wear a mask? You’re gonna save a life. And it just might be your own.

As Nike would say, just do it!

(Image attribute: <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/medical”>Medical vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a&gt;)

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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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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.

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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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