Monday, May 31, 2010

Add Essence

My mother tapped the recipe. "We're out of oatcakes," she said. "I served the last of them to Bertha. One more thing to do." She sat there for a time, looking tired, feeling the corner of the page made from blue striped wallpaper and staring at the recipe as if wishing would make the oatcakes appear. My mother's recipe was easy, really. It called for:

a quarter pound of butter
a quarter pound of sugar
three tablespoons of golden treacle
one teaspoon of almond extract
and half a pound of oats

I call it my mother's recipe, though she may have copied it from somewhere; she was always copying down a recipe. But this one was not cut from a magazine, or copied from the newspaper, as she did, by rubbing wax paper over newsprint to collect the words and then rubbing the was paper on a page of the scrapbook, transferring all those little black newsprint letters. This recipe was in her handwriting: "melt butter, sugar, and treacle, and add essence. Take off the fire, add oats. Mix well, pour into a greased baking dish, and bake in an oven with a moderate fire for half an hour. Let cool. Cut into squares."

"Add essence." By this she meant "add almond extract," but when she made oatcakes she did add essence, her own essence. When I made oatcakes, they didn't taste anything like my mother's, though I followed my mother's recipe to the letter. They tasted good enough, but they tasted of my essence, not my mother's. There are no two cooks that can make the same dish; you'll find that essence in one and not the other. Or the essence in each is just different. I don't know. But you'll know the essence of a good cook when you find it in a dish. You'll just know. It was there in my mother's cooking.

from The Cure for Death By Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

This is exactly how I feel about my mom. There's just something about her cooking that can't be duplicated. I have several of her 'tried and true' recipes, the ones that she now just does from memory. But no matter how hard I try, I just can't make them the same way she does. She definitely puts her own essence into her cooking.

More Mad Love for Stacey Tookey

Mad Love for Stacey Tookey

Monday, May 24, 2010

In search of the elusive shut-eye

My efforts to get more sleep have been completely derailed. Last night, I went to bed at 4am. Ethan woke me up at 7am. Yes, that's correct, folks... I got a measly 3 hours sleep.

According to this BBC article I'm "12% more likely to die over a 25-year period than those who [get] an 'ideal' six to eight hours".
Hmm. No thanks!

So, in light of this recent news, I've been doing some additional research into sleep and ways to encourage my body to catch more of those elusive Zzz.

So, here are 10 things you need to know about sleep.
1. Bath Before Bedtime. A hot bath has been a much-quoted remedy for sleeplessness for years, but how does it work? The body's normal core temperature is about 37.4 degrees Celsius. You might think that raising this temperature in a hot bath is what tricks your body into feeling sleepy. In fact, it is the cooling down that occurs when you get out of the bath that facilitates sleep. It is only recently that the drop in body temperature has been recognised as a trigger for sleep. If you're having trouble sleeping, try having a warm bath about an hour before bedtime.

2. Insomnia. Insomnia plagues people in huge numbers, and once the body has asserted an erratic sleeping pattern, it can be very hard to break. Sleep restriction therapy is one potential method of breaking such patterns. A sufferer is restricted to spending less time in their bedrooms, whether they sleep or not. But it's not easy, as Professor Colin Espie from the U of Glasgow Sleep Centre explains: "People with insomnia will typically spend longer in bed to try and catch up. What we do with sleep restriction is drastically reduce the amount of time they spend in bed. That's a difficult thing to do." The aim of this treatment is to make the subject so tired that their body will be forced to re-establish a normal sleeping patter. If you're struggling with insomnia, a sleep restriction therapy programme is definitely an option to consider. The key is to stay in the bedroom only to sleep, and always get up at the same time each day. Consulting your GP is always a good first step towards tackling insomnia.

3. The art of Napping. The nap can be a great way of boosting energy levels, as long as you observe the rules over when you nap, and for how long. Naps are most effective when taken in the afternoon between two and five. The optimum nap durations is 30 minutes. Your body will naturally resist attempts to nap between seven and twelve o'clock in the morning, and between six and eight o'clock in the evening.

Check out the article to check out the rest of the list. Happy sleeping.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Snow day in May

I enjoy taking Lilly and the boys to the dog park. It's such a great time for her to socialize with other dogs, and even if the park is empty, it's big enough that she can go exploring through the brush and trees. Yesterday, Ethan decided to stay home with Andrew so I took Rueben and Lilly to the park. It was such a beautiful day, so sunny and warm. I was pushing Rueben in the stroller along the path at the back end of the park, when I looked up and noticed that the air was thick with cotton - so much cotton that it really looked like it was snowing. Thank goodness neither Rueben or I suffer from allergies or we would have been done for! After circling the path, we met a lady with her dog and she informed me that what we were seeing was cotton like fibres from flowering oak trees. Even Lilly noticed that the ground was covered with an unusually fluffy white substance. Following a trail of scent was impeded by her constant sneezing. It was quite funny to see. "Silly dog"! as Ethan would say.

Lilly enjoying the real stuff!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I used to make smoothies all the time, at all hours of the day and night. When I was pregnant with Ethan, I would pour them into martini glasses to give them an extra special touch, and to make me feel like I was not missing out on any girly drink action. Well, yesterday I broke out the blender and whipped up a batch for me and the boys and boy were they good. Ethan and Rueben gobbled it up. And why shouldn't they? They're so healthy, delicious, chock full of goodness and so easy to make. I litterally throw stuff into the blender and push the button and it always comes out great. Here's my go-to recipe.


1 banana
2 large dollops of plain balkan style yogurt (or whatever you have)
1 handfull of quick oats (or whatever you have)
1 tsp ground flax seed (or flax oil)
1 tsp psyllium seed husks
1/4 cup soy protein powder
about 2 cups frozen berries (I use blueberries and strawberries)
splash of milk

throw it all in a blender and blend until smooth.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hey SPUD! van: TGIF!

Friday is a busy day at our house what with garbage collection, recycling collection, and our SPUD delivery day is Friday as well. Ethan runs to the front windows when he hears the city trucks coming to collect our trash, but he especially LOVES to run to the front window to wave to our friendly spud! delivery driver. He is such a great little helper, helping to carry in our spud bins, opening them up with excitement to see what groceries we got this week. It's such a great way for him to learn about fruits and vegetables and be able to name them. (How many 3 year olds do you know who know what sun chokes, rhubarb and beetroots look like?!)

We have our spud settings arranged to deliver only locally grown produce which means only within 600 km. As much as I love how great it is that we are supporting our local farmers and reducing our carbon footprint, I gotta say, it has been really boring opening our bin to see the same old familiar winter crop of veggies. Really, how long can one go on eating potatoes, leeks, beets, onions, mushrooms, and sprouts week after week?

6 weeks ago, we started seeing rhubarb in the bin, which was a welcome addition. I LOVE rhubarb, and contentedly busied myself making rhubarb ginger jam, stewed rhubarb, a rhubarb berry crumble and even rhubarb rosemary daiquiris. But lo! What did I find this morning when I opened up the spud bin but two bright red, plump, delicious looking tomatoes staring right back at me. Could it be? Yes, spring is really here which means summer is right around the corner.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cold front

Ugh... why is it that as soon as I decide to instigate some positive changes in my life, it all goes to pot on account of a cold. I really feel as though I've been clobbered over the head... not to mention my will to maintain said healthy lifestyle changes have taken a beating too.

I'm trying to exercise more, I'm tryin to get to bed earl(ier), I'm trying to eat more healthy food (the one area where I can say I am absolutely achieving my goal). So why now? Why do I get what feels like the mother of all colds. Is it to really test my resolve? Now when I need sleep and rest more than ever, perhaps this is a way to make sure that I really stick with my new bedtime and routine.

Coming down with this cold is helping me to remember that I really need to listen to my body more. When I'm tired, I need to sleep. When I'm hungry and feeling a little weak, I need to eat and nourish my body. When my head is cloudy and foggy, it's time for some fresh air and a little sunshine. And when all I want to do is lay down and veg out, I can do that too. Tummy down on the carpet surrounded by toy cars and trains is Ethan's favorite way to play anyway.