Category Archives: wellness

Who knew we could all bake so much?

My social media feed has gone from various memes of silly behaviour and random family updates with the odd video of dishes that have melted cheese and bacon… to a stream of cinnamon buns, cookies, sourdough, cakes, doughnuts… well, and then about 4 pm it’s virtual happy hour but that’s another story altogether. Who knew so many people liked to bake things from scratch?

baking montage (2)

I know many of us are getting tired of being cooped up at home, not able to go out for coffee or go to the gym. The routines for most people of being at school or work most days have evaporated. It was a fun holiday for the first few days, but now that our bottoms are numb from days of binge-watching all of Netflix and Disney+, we feel like we need to accomplish something. Anything.

I wistfully pondered the concept of buying a Masterclass membership to follow Gordon Ramsay on his journey to teach me sauces, pasta making and all other manners of cooking a beautiful meal. But then the reality of keeping the money to pay the bills that will come while I’m still not using those skills to make any more money came crashing down around me. Besides, I don’t need the added pressure of him yelling at me.Gordon Ramsay yelling

However, this is no time to wallow, we need to keep our spirits up. So, here’s a few fun baking friends I found out there who can help us stay positive. Perhaps I ought to have tempered these links with home workouts, so we don’t all end up looking like couch potatoes? Nah; for now I’ll stick with walking the dog more often.

Borough Market Bread Ahead Bakery in London rose to the occasion quickly (pun intended). They started hosting live cooking demos on Instagram, featuring many of the classic recipes from their Baking School cookbook. Very educational if you’re into bread products. The videos only stay up in IG Stories for 24 hours but they are replaying them through April, and you can get the ingredients on their website. You can also buy a copy of their full book, or the e-book they created for these recipes.

If you have kids, you might want to look up the hashtag #KitchenBuddies . Jamie Oliver’s Buddy_Oliver Kitchen Buddiesson Buddy started doing IG videos as well, and together he and his dad are encouraging families to cook. Jamie has also done some posts offering recipes with what you have on hand, like pasta made in just a few minutes with only flour and water. I offer a link to his recipes online which is quite extensive.

If you want something more formal, I stumbled upon a resource through a site I’ve mentioned before that is rich with foodie info. The Kitchn’s Cooking School offers 20 lessons, starting with knife skills. They include links to recipes that help you practice what each lesson teaches, and different skill levels for you to choose. It dates back to 2014 but all the information is timeless.

Millionaires-shortbread

Want something more decadent? How about something called Millionaire’s Shortbread ! I first had this in Scotland, and being a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander tales, I was overjoyed when it was included in the Outlander Kitchen batch of recipes (and what a good batch it is, too – I can vouch for many of them personally). This one takes a bit of time as one layer has to set, but we’ve got plenty of that these days, don’t we?

David Lebovitz cocktail

In case you’re put off by the pressure of having to cook more, already cooking all meals and not being able to eat out at the moment, well then how about a cocktail? David Lebovitz, our foodie friend in Paris, has just launched a cocktail book and to celebrate he;s been offering recipes as part of his virtual happy hour, live on Instagram. There is also information on his website.

However you are managing, I do hope you’re taking time to enjoy meals at home. Pull out those dishes and table linens that you never have time to find. Make hot chocolate from scratch for the kids. Have a nightcap if there is a bottle of something suitable in your liquor cupboard. When we get back to the crazy pace of what we called normal, we can look back on this and say, “Wasn’t it great when we had all that time to share?”

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s the end of the world as we know it… and I feel fine”

Road Runner the end

That R.E.M. song lyric keeps playing through my head. I heard it on the radio during a comedy show doing its best to make light of the current state of world affairs. It sums up nicely the surreal nature of world affairs at the moment.

I remember the song coming out in the 80’s, and back then a pandemic wasn’t even a topic for a sci-fi movie. (It wasn’t until the 90’s that we saw Stephen King’s “The Stand” and “12 Monkeys” using diseases as the villains in apocalyptic films.) Now of course, end-of-the-world scenarios have been played out with numerous plot-lines, and a sense of doom is much more pervasive in pop culture. That doesn’t make me feel any better, though.

toilet paper hoarding solutionWhat does make me feel better is remembering to laugh amidst the absurdity of this new reality. Watching the silly people fill their shopping carts with toilet paper, Hubby and I calmly proceeded through the store stocking up on perishables. Being people who cook real food on a regular basis, we have a running stock of canned food, pasta, baking supplies.

I am happy I began a new sourdough starter (great series of videos through Northwest Sourdough if you’re interested). We also have our Tower Garden which allows us to  have fresh herbs and lettuce indoors even in winter. If we won’t be working in the next short while then I might as well be busy cooking!

support localMy heart goes out to all my friends in the hospitality biz right now. People are scared  to go out at all, and many health officials have said they should avoid any contact except with people they know. Dining out is way down the list of reasons to disregard the advice, and staying in hotels is even scarier for most.

I’ll do my small part here and say please do your best to support your local businesses.  Corporate chains have a much larger capacity to weather any kind of business storm, and this one is a doozy. Your neighbourhood bakery, butcher, greengrocer, coffee shop and even restaurant need your help to stay afloat.

If you aren’t comfortable going out or can’t, consider buying gift certificates to local places. They won’t expire, so you can use them sooner or later. If you can get out, then do. Follow necessary precautions and don’t panic. Remember these are your neighbours, the businesses you trust to help you live well. They will be doing their best to maintain that relationship, and they are hoping you will, too.

kindness to do listOnce you’re back home, relax. Catch up on those things you’ve been meaning to do but forgot with all the hustle and bustle of regular life. Board games with the kids, reading a book, creating that photo album, contacting a far-away friend… there are all kinds of activities on that “never got ’round to it” list we all have. Not to mention all those recipes you have bookmarked?

Oh, and don’t forget the humour. The Sirius comedy channel, YouTube videos, a funny movie on your streaming service… or even a funny book. I humbly offer a few of my favourites below.

the muppets group pic

  • Stewart Maclean’s Vinyl Cafe, a classic CBC radio show
  • Ellen’s “Relatable” comedy tour, on Netflix
  • for something kid-friendly (although I still love them) – any of the Muppet movies or episodes of “The Muppet Show”
  • if you want a funny read, try a classic and read something from Erma Bombeck 
  • for those not minding a bit of naughty British humour, Ricky Gervais’ bit on the funniest leaflet ever made

 

Whichever way you manage to spend your days, remember there are plenty of quotes to keep us going:

“Just keep swimming.” – Dory, Finding Nemo

“There’s no place like home.” – Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

“It will be alright in the end so if it is not alright, then it is not the end.” – Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

And for us foodies:

“Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” – Peter Clemenza, The Godfather

Me and my Arrow…

Ninteen years ago today, I got up with my best pal and went for a coffee. It was a big day, and she knew it. After all, she had been a big reason for the day being so important. If it hadn’t been for her, I might not have embarked on one of the best decisions of my life.

We had a glorious walk in Stanley Park to start the day, and later she sat beside me as I wrote my vows. That afternoon she was there too, all decked out, as I set out to form a new life. I’m so glad she was there. One always wants one’s best friends to be a part of momentuous occasions as well as everyday life.

You see, my best friend enabled me to get a first date with the man who would be my husband. We did a double date, us two girls with him and his best friend. I knew right then there was something special between us. We all stayed close and became a kind of family for many years.

Today I have another best pal, as the one from all those years ago is gone now, but her spirit lives on. We walk every morning, and most evenings too. She reminds me every day to stop and smell the flowers, take in the moments that make life special. She listens to my ramblings and supports me through thick and thin.

Can you guess who I’m speaking about? It’s my Chocolate Labrador Retrievers. The one from nineteen years ago was named Satchmo, as she was a great singer of the blues and a lover of life. Her successor is Ella, the queen of jazz (and a friend of Satchmo’s in another life). Both of them have been the best companions anyone could ask for, and they helped me to be a better person.

Satchmo & I at Lake Louise in 2001

Ella & me selfie Knox Mtn 2014

  Ella & I on a morning walk

Satchmo was the dog I had when I met my hubbie. He had a wonderful Doberman Pinscher named Paul (after Paul Simon – do you see a theme with our pet names?)

Our first date was to take our dogs for a walk, something that immediately endeared me to this man who seemed an unlikely candidate to hook up with for the long term.

His dog was very well-trained, as they both went to school to learn about training assistance dogs for people in wheelchairs. I was told to hold a chestnut in my hand for a while on the walk and then Hubbie threw it in the bushes down the slope to the beach. “Find it!”, he said to his Dobie.

Paul leaped over the edge of the slope and crashed his way through the brush. When we reached the bottom of the hill we saw his trotting back towards us, looking very proud. He sat ramrod straight in front of us. “Thank you”, said Hubbie, with his hand out. Paul spit out the chestnut, which had been marked with an x for verification. How impressed was I?!

 

It took almost 3 years for us to tie the knot, going through the trials and tribulations of life along the way. But our dogs were there with us – I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

When Satchmo went blind from a congenital defect at age 8, Paul helped her walk straight by nudging her on the sidewalk and he protected her in the park when we saw other dogs. They became soulmates just like Hubbie and me.

And now, almost 22 years after that first afternoon walk, having shared memories across the country and back with two more dogs and a little girl who is now married, we are still going.

I am so fortunate to have experienced so much love. Even more fortunate to have found my soulmate with whom to share all that love. But more than anything, I am grateful for the Brown Girls in my life – they have taught me how to love and live well, and given me more love (and laughter) than I could ever have imagined.

There is an old Harry Nillson song called “Me and my Arrow”, from a movie called The Point. I remember the tale and the song, every morning as I walk. I try to cherish those friendships appropriately.

Here’s to living the life your dog expects of you.

All Ears

Easter is a beautiful celebration, full of colour, warmth and love. The decadence of spring signifies the transition from the bleakness of winter just as Easter brings the end of Lent. People seem to breathe more deeply at Easter.

This year with Earth Day following Easter I felt a certain symmetry. My reverence for life was reaffirmed in my love for our planet.

At Rabbit Hollow we have a natural affinity to Easter – bunnies are our thing. Beatrix Potter’s Peter is the perfect mascot, with a sense of spirit and (once learned) a sense of responsibility.

Rabbits are a good symbol for us – we are all about foraging, nibbling a little here and there, and enjoying the love and abundance of family and the community at large.

We don’t have the wild bunnies here anymore that lay around when we first moved in, but our friendly sentinels greet me daily in our garden. I honour their presence every Easter. How? Well, with chocolate of course!

(Okay, maybe a Peep or two for food measure)

Especially with it being Earth Day, I wanted to honour all creatures. Ella and I had extra outside time today. I planted more bulbs and watered the early seeds, all the while thinking nurturing thoughts. I was thrilled to see a coyote out midday, cruising the field, and we spotted two deer in the orchard. Everyone was making the most of the day.

This evening as we sat down for our tea and a wee treat, I turned to my Easter chocolate. Are you like me – feet first? My Foodie book of etiquette says it’s disrespectful to eat a bunny’s ears first.

It was a lovely day, a wonderful weekend. I look forward to more warm spring days, so the bees can keep working and the blossoms can bring fruit. There is much to do if we are to help keep our planet going, and the renewal of spring is the perfect reminder to inspire me.

May your garden grow well, may the sun warm your face and may you have time to stop and smell the flowers.

Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest. – Beatrix Potter

Warming the cockles of my heart

In honour of Hot Toddy Day, and because I plan to binge watch the last few episodes of Outlander tonight, I thought it fitting that I share a good recipe for the drink that is supposed to be the perfect cure for a dreary winter and the mood we often have to accompany it.

hot toddy

I am generally a fan of hot drinks on a cold day, and I do love trivia, especially as it pertains to food and drink. Toddies not only have a connection to Scotland but also to the American Revolutionary War, so they make a perfect fit with the Outlander story. Of course, some Outlander fans would say you don’t need a hot drink to warm up while watching such a sexy romantic tale, but well, better safe than sorry!

It is said that the first use of “toddy” for a drink was in India, where the fermented sap from a toddy palm was used to sweeten a cold drink in British colonial times. This recipe of a spirit with lemon, spices and sweetener made its way back to Britain, and it was the practical Scots who decided it would work well hot as a cure for the common cold.

Believing strongly in the power of preventative medicines, the Scots made the hot toddy a popular beverage. Their presence during the time of the American Revolutionary War (just like Jamie Fraser in the Outlander stories) was what brought the drink to North America. It is said the colonists liked the drink for liquid courage, but I think perhaps it might just have been to stave off the cold, damp weather.

I was a bit surprised a recipe wasn’t included in the Outlander Kitchen Cookbook, one of my favourite themed recipe collections. outlander kitchen cookbook(It contains so many other wonderful gems that I will use that common old Scottish phrase – “dinna fash” – if you’re thinking this makes it unworthy. On the contrary, I recommend it most highly for anyone with even a passing fancy for Scottish tastes and a love of history.

You can use the spirit of your choice to make a toddy, but here I’m offering what I believe would be the Scottish recipe. Lemons wouldn’t have been common in Scotland or America in the times of the colonists, but feel free to add a slice of lemon if you’d like a more worldly twist.

Spices too are adaptable; traditionally the slice of lemon is stuck with a few whole cloves before it is dropped in the glass, and a cinnamon stick garnishes the drink. If you’re feeling adventurous, a few pink peppercorns or a slice of ginger root can kick things up a notch.

I believe that a Highlander such as Jamie Fraser would have chosen a smoky, peaty Scotch like Laphroaig, but if your tastes are more mellow then perhaps a Glenmorangie would be to your liking. Feel free to experiment with different options. Just remember not to do it if you have to get up and drive afterwards.

Claire Fraser would undoubtedly have a stash of spices in her medicine kit, knowing the benefits of such things as cinnamon and cloves. With their time in the Caribbean, I like to think she might still have had a few treasures that could have helped raise the spirits of a toddy drinker, and perhaps eased the jolt from such a forceful libation.

As a last tip, I’ll offer a few tips on the vessel you use:

  • if you use a glass, put a metal spoon in the glass before you add the hot water. This will conduct the heat and prevent it from cracking.
  • if you choose a metal mug, remember it will conduct the heat very well – even handles can get hot, so be careful. It would be a shame to waste a good drink by dropping it on the ground.

 

SCOTTISH HOT TODDY

Instructions: Add 1 1/2 ounces of Laphroaig 10 (or another Islay Scotch) and 1 teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to a heat-safe glass. Season with lemon or orange, studded with a few whole cloves if desired, and a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon. Heat 3 ounces of water to a near-boil and pour into glass; stir until honey is dissolved.

Slàinte!

jamie fraser drinking

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