Monday, October 31, 2011

Coping with Stress

Whenever I am feeling particularly stressed, or the weather has got me down, I turn to my well-read copy of Simple Abundance for comfort. Usually I read my Simple Abundance in the bath. As all of you parents will know, that is often the only place you can get any privacy. Even then, I sometimes see shadows under the (locked) door. Don’t feel guilty. Tell them to go away, like I do. Surely you deserve this moment alone.

The warm bath water has restorative powers, and the quiet provides a nice opportunity to clear your head and set some priorities. Oh, and add some epsom salts for your sore muscles. I know you have them.

The October 9th Simple Abundance entry is called “Coping with Stress,” and there is a list of suggestions for doing so. I want to share some of them with you, because I know many people who are stressed right about now.

Cultivate gratitude.
Carve out an hour a day for solitude.
Keep your house picked up.
Don’t overschedule.
Never make a promise you can’t keep.
Allow an extra half hour for everything you do.
Create quiet surroundings at home and at work.
Go to bed at nine o’clock twice a week.
Always carry something interesting to read.
Breathe—deeply and often.
If it’s not delicious, don’t eat it.
Be instead of do.
Laugh more often.
If you don’t love it, live without it.
Don’t answer the telephone during dinner.
Nurture friendships.
Savor beauty.
Express love every day.
I love the fact that the author, Sarah Ban Breathnach, incorporates some ideas for your home, because we all know how the state of our homes can affect (and reflect) our state of mind. I also appreciate the advice about taking an extra half hour for everything you do. This is particularly applicable to parents, because those kids can take a remarkably long time to get out the door, and there is bound to be less threatening and yelling if we give them more time. As for the going to bed at nine o’clock, that takes care of itself, because I fall asleep whether I want to or not. And, I look forward to spending more time breathing deeply, enjoying quiet surroundings and nurturing friendships.  Just don’t call me during dinner.

A plaqued black and white Marilyn Monroe poster makes
a nice addition to the bath. I use a vintage
tea cup to scoop epsom salts (below).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Kids in the Kitchen

My darling daughter celebrated her seventh birthday this past weekend. She chose a party at the movie theatre and invited the girls from her class at school. Like many mothers, I am shocked by the types of parties that kids have today, the amount of money that is spent on them and the value of the loot bags. But that is a topic for another day.

We all know how important the selection of a cake is for our children. My daughter spent a great deal of time perusing a book called Birthday Cakes for Kids. All of the ideas in the book are relatively simple, thank goodness, because I have no experience with creating fancy iced cakes. She considered the options, debated them with her brother and finally decided on the Lollipop Garden Bouquet cake.

Keeping it Simple

To keep things simple on a very busy day, I used an organic chocolate cake mix and purchased some icing (although I found the ingredients absolutely frightening). Once the cake had cooled, the fun began. Both of the kids got involved with spreading on the icing, laying down some “soil” (blended chocolate cookies), putting on the candy and making “leaves” for the lollipop “flowers” out of green leathery candy. We added some gummy worms, emerging from the dirt, since it is a garden cake and Halloween is fast approaching.

Kids in the Kitchen

Although I have read many parenting and nutrition articles that tell us how important it is to get kids involved in the kitchen, I have to admit I am more comfortable doing things quickly and efficiently on my own. I try to involve them in baking whenever possible, but I have to bite my tongue when flour starts flying around the room. For the most part, it’s my daughter who wants to help, but lately my son (who is nine) has started to enjoy making tea, and he often makes me a cup. I always accept his offers of tea, even if I don’t want it, because he is so proud to do it, and his offering is a cherished display of affection.

So, as we decorated the cake, I tried as best I could to suppress the urge to “fix” their work. They couldn’t have been happier about the fact that the cake was loaded with candy, and my son pronounced it the “best cake I have ever seen.” We all had a quiet moment admiring it together before we moved on to the whirlwind of activities preceding the party.

The Jaded Cook

In Mitten Strings for God, Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, author Katrina Kenison notes, "The media tells us that cooking is drudgery. What better way to sell more fast foods and heat-and-serve dinners than to convince us to stay out of the kitchen? Or at least to get in and out of there fast! But children know better. They are drawn instinctively to the warmth of the hearth and the magic doings that go on there. If you have become a jaded cook, just hand over your wooden spoon to the nearest child and ask for help…They are delighted to offer their services, for they know, of course, that cooking is play. Best of all, though, it is play that results in something good to eat. Surely making food from scratch is one of childhood’s simplest pleasures—and the source of a great sense of accomplishment as well."

She adds, “If we go about our own tasks with joy and mindfulness, our children grow up knowing how to take pride in their work. They will come to love the challenges life sets before them, rather than avoiding them. If we make light of the chores that must be done, children learn that work can be play.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Edna Staebler’s Cape Breton Scones

There must be something about the fall weather that’s making me focus on food. I’m ready to put the fireplace on and cuddle up under a soft blanket with a cup of tea and some sweets. Well, actually I always think about food, but I felt I needed some kind of an excuse for writing about scones two times in a row. Today’s scones are from More Baking with Schmecks Appeal, by Edna Staebler. I came across this book, as well as another Edna Staebler book, Cakes and Frostings with Schmecks Appeal, over a decade ago in a discount department store. Boy am I glad I did.

I have since made many wonderful desserts from these two books, including a delicious frosted banana cake that I tend to produce for special occasions. What I love about these books, besides the recipes of course, are the introductions to each recipe, written by Staebler herself. Edna was a Canadian author who wrote cookbooks based on Mennonite home cooking in the Waterloo, Ontario region.
She died of a stroke in 2006, at the age of 100! I would say this bodes well for those of us with a sweet tooth. One of my favourite entries is Edna’s introduction to a recipe for  “Coffee Cake With Rolled Oats.” Here it is:

I made this tempting creation for a visiting male; he preferred three drinks of rye and ginger. I didn’t invite him again. The topping with coconut flakes was irresistible. I ate three pieces.
Finally, last month, I decided to make the recipe for “Cape Breton Scones.” Both of my parents are from Cape Breton, and, as I have mentioned before, my grandmother, who lived in Cape Breton her whole life, was a great baker. Staebler’s introduction to this recipe is: “And these are some good,” anyone in Neil’s Harbour will tell you.

These scones were so delicious, served warm with a little Earth Balance margarine and raspberry jam, that I decided to make them again today.

Cape Breton Scones

by Joann MacDonald
Cook Time: 10 to 12 minutes
Keywords: bake bread snack dessert vegetarian nut-free raisins tea party Canadian

Ingredients (12 scones)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp organic sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ½ cup sour cream or vegan sour cream
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp soymilk


Preheat the oven to 425 °F.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and stir in the raisins.

Beat the wet ingredients together in a small bowl with a fork.

Add wet ingredients to the flour mix and stir together until dough forms.

Toss on a lightly floured surface until no longer sticky and knead a few times.

Cut the dough in half and form each half into a 6-inch circle with a slightly rounded top. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Cut each circle into 6 wedges.

Place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet (on parchment paper if you like).

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Waste Not...

A couple of weeks ago, I bought some soy creamer for a recipe. Trouble is, as the creamer’s expiration date approached, I still couldn’t recall what recipe I bought it for. I figured it was from Carla Kelly’s  Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale, because I had just recently bought that book. So, I scanned the book quickly last night and found a recipe using ½ cup + 2 tablespoons soy creamer. That would use up a substantial amount! Otherwise, I’d end up throwing the soy creamer out and feeling guilty about it.

I decided to make cranberry scones, something I have never made before. I have sampled them at high-price coffee houses, of course, but making them yourself is so much more inexpensive, and the whole family gets to share. That’s something my daughter will appreciate when she gets home from school today!

These scones feature a hint of allspice, which I can only stand in very small doses, so I put in only half the amount called for. The recipe calls for fresh or frozen cranberries as well as dried cranberries. We are out of dried cranberries at the moment (having used them all to sweeten our salads), so I used some raisins instead. All in all, I’d say the experiment was a success. The scones have a nice, buttery consistency, without the use of butter. I will enjoy them with some Earth Balance spread.

Now for that organic salad mix that expires tomorrow…

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thanksgiving with Nonna

Everyone should have an Italian mother-in-law. Seriously. Unless your own mom is Italian, of course. As a vegetarian, clearly Thanksgiving is not about turkey for me. Fortunately, my mother-in-law is a genius in the kitchen, and prepares everything from turkey (for other folks) to eggplant lasagna to homemade gnocchi to veggie balls and breaded tofu for Thanksgiving dinner. At other times of the year, she even prepares lasagna made with rice noodles and tofu to satisfy not only the vegetarians, but also those in the family who have sensitivities to wheat. She also dresses a salad like nobody else (lots of olive oil and salt) and makes tons of veggie side dishes (all of them tasty). My children have told me that I can’t cook like Nonna, and I tell them, “You know what, I’m okay with that. Not too many people can cook like Nonna.” I wish I had lots of photos to show you of Nonna’s food, but I was too busy eating it. I got one photo of her lovely fruit platter and one photo of leftovers we will be enjoying for lunch today. While I was writing just now, I heard my son exclaim, “Oh my gosh, the pasta, I can’t stand it. It’s too good.” I think I better go before it’s all gone!

Some of Nonna's biggest fans, above and below

a special guest enjoying a plum from the fruit platter

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fitness Fuel

I talked before about how motivating exercise can be. I like to exercise first thing in the morning when my energy level is highest. Unfortunately, I am not always hungry right away in the morning. So, I have concocted a pre-gym smoothie recipe to fuel my exercise endeavours. It's also great to give to the kids to prepare them for a busy day at school.

I also wanted to share with you some more songs from my workout playlist. I'm still looking for more suggestions for when I tire of these ones!

"Sabotage" - The Beastie Boys
"Everlong" - Foo Fighters
"Welcome to the Jungle" - Guns N' Roses
"Freedom" - Rage Against The Machine
"Bad Moon Rising" - Creedence Clearwater Revival
"Paint It Black" - The Rolling Stones
"Just Can't Get Enough" - Depeche Mode
"Big In Japan" - Alphaville
"Been Caught Stealing" - Jane's Addiction
"New Sensation" - INXS
"Keep The Car Running" - Arcade Fire
"Hungry Heart" - Bruce Springsteen
"Wild Flower" - The Cult

Linking up to Lifeologia's Potluck Party and:

Pre-Gym Raspberry Smoothie

by Joann MacDonald
Keywords: blender beverage breakfast raspberries
Ingredients (1 serving)
  • 1/2 cup juice (I like to mix orange and cranberry)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk or other milk
  • 2-inch chunk frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 scoop Vega Whole Food Smoothie Infusion (for protein and greens)
  • 1 Tbsp veg DHA oil (because I don't eat fish)


Blend and enjoy!
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Monday, October 3, 2011


While I do love the summer, there is something about cool weather that seems to renew my energy and inspire me to head outdoors. Over the years, my husband has often complained about my sudden urge to walk on days when snow swirls around us and wind whips our faces.  I came across a poem recently in my grandmother’s tattered blue poetry book that reminds me of how beautiful fall can be. While today was grey, dismal and rainy in my area, there are beautiful October days to come. It’s about time for a long walk in the woods, I think.

October’s Bright Blue Weather

O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October’s bright blue weather.

When loud the humblebee makes haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And Golden Rod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When Gentians roll their fringes tight,
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields, still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers, hour by hour,
October’s bright blue weather.

O suns and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October’s bright blue weather.
Helen Hunt Jackson

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