Monday, November 28, 2011

(Not So) Raw Food

For the first time ever, the book club gals and I decided to hold our meeting at a restaurant. We chose to go for Sunday brunch at Live Organic Food Bar, Toronto’s top organic raw food restaurant. With rain coming down outside, we all opted to warm up with food from the “Not So Raw” area of the menu, as well as a few hot beverages, like soy cappuccinos and loose leaf teas. The meal was creative, lovely and delicious and the company was outstanding. The only down side is, with all of the menu choices, including some ingenious desserts, we didn’t spend a great deal of time discussing the book…oops.

We all left with a desire to try making some raw food recipes of our own, and we added Live’s three recipe e-books to our Christmas wish lists.

We did manage to spend a bit of time discussing the (very worthy) inspiration for our gathering, Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes. We shared some favourite quotes, including one that comes early in the book, as the main character, Aminata, looks back on her life as a slave and laments the loss of her family. It's a poignant reminder of the special everyday moments we share with our children, and the fact that some people (even today) are deprived of the continuity of family.

“But nothing—not a man’s body, or a sip of whiskey, or a peppered goat stew from the old country—would give anything like the pleasure I would take from the sound of a baby breathing in my bed, a grandchild snoring against me. Sometimes, I wake in the morning with the splash of sunlight in my small room, and my one longing, other than to use the chamber pot and have a drink of tea with honey, is to lie back into the soft, bumpy bed with a child to hold. To listen to an infant’s voice rise and fall. To feel the magic of a little hand, not even fully aware of what it is doing, falling on my shoulder, my face.”

tofu omelet with potatoes and gluten sausage 

French toast with bananas

raw Black Forest cake

raw tiramisu

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Best Banana Bread Ever (and it's vegan!)

Even if you don't bake often (or at all), having a great banana bread recipe is a kitchen necessity. A warm slice of banana bread can turn a bad day around. (If your day really sucks, add a heaping handful of chocolate chips to the recipe!)

Banana bread is a treat, yes, but it's certainly healthier than other baked goods. There are bananas in there after all! I have been making banana bread for years, yet I have never truly been satisfied with any of the recipes. This recipe is what I was waiting for. It's simple to make and comes out reliably well each and every time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Personal Pursuits

Speaking of spending time with each of your children individually, my own mom spent this week visiting with her youngest child. (Yes, it’s me.) We did some shopping, watched my son’s basketball game, did some more shopping, went out for lunch at a new Mexican restaurant and watched my daughter’s tap class. We also attended a workshop at a garden centre, with hands-on instruction in the art of making winter urn inserts from fresh greenery.

My mom was reluctant at first—she hasn’t done the arts and crafts thing for quite a while. She (and I) recall a period when she was dedicated to perfecting her macramé skills. And, there were a number of other arts and crafts over the years. I also thought about the introduction to knitting class I took this past February and the scarf that I had abandoned at the halfway point. Inspired by our discussion, I have returned to knitting my scarf, just as the first winter snow arrived here overnight last night.

Sarah Ban Breathnach believes that each of us must carve out time for personal pursuits that bring contentment. “We’re afraid to hear the promptings of the woman who wants to learn how to draw, dance, raise orchids, re-upholster a chair, cook Szechuan. We might have to take a class or buy a book, a pad and pencils, a leotard, a plant, a fabric, or hoisin sauce. No time to be passionate, we have to be practical. Essential, uncompromised longings will have to wait until there’s more time: when the children are back in school, when Mom’s feeling better, when things let up at the office. How about an answer we haven’t heard before? How about, ‘My authentic passions will have to wait until I’m ready to admit that pursuing them is essential for my happiness?’”

In the end, as is often the case, my mom and I were both happy that we chose to attend the class and we enjoyed exploring our creative sides. We stumbled a bit at first, but, with help from the instructor, we were both pleased with our arrangements. And, even more important, we got to spend some valuable alone time together.
When I was taking this photo of my mom with her arrangement, she said, “Just don’t put it on your blog.” It's not the first time I’m not listening to her.

To be fair, I am including this photo of me with my urn arrangement.  I dislike being photographed as much as mom does.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Stealing Away

My kids spend a lot of time fighting with each other.  So, I spend a lot of time disciplining. With all the techniques I have tried, I have to say that separating them is about the only thing that works for any extended period of time (like greater than five minutes). If I can send one child in one direction (maybe for an outing with daddy) and keep one to myself, I enjoy the added benefit of getting to know more about his or her unique characteristics and desires. I am always surprised by how totally different their personalities are when they are alone. Suddenly, I realize, this is a complex little human with lots of interesting things to say.
This weekend, my son and I managed to steal away for an hour for a walk on and around the beach near granny and grampy’s place. We took pictures of each other and enjoyed some companionable silence, while he gathered stones and twigs and we both examined our surroundings.

“We all know that children need some special one-on-one time with their parents,” writes Katrina Kenison. “But sometimes we forget that we parents need this kind of time alone with our children, too. And, unfortunately, when the pace of life speeds up, one-on-one time is often the first thing that gets squeezed out.”

Kenison adds, “Given our other obligations and the length of our to-do lists, it is all too easy to forget the good stuff—namely, how much we actually like our own kids as people, how much we enjoy their company, and how important it is for us to have fun together. Mothers can get so caught up in the caretaking that we may overlook each child’s need to be seen as an individual, with unique tastes and temperaments and gifts…Alone with our children, one on one, we have a chance to see and hear and accept them as they really are, right now, in this moment. We see them not in relation to their siblings, friends, or peers, or as a piece of the larger family puzzle—but as unique individuals, each with a particular destiny to fulfill on this earth.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Little Things

Tucked inside my grandmother’s poetry book, I found a smaller book of poems, called Little Things, by Dorothy Harrington.  Inside the back cover is this note: Copies may be procured from the author, Dorothy Harrington, Freeport Sanatorium, Kitchener, Ontario, At 50 cents each, postpaid.

I don’t know how my grandmother came to possess this now-worn little poetry book, but she would have found it meaningful. She herself twice spent time in sanatoriums, once for a year in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia when she was in her twenties. That time she had tuberculosis in her lungs.

In 1970, she was sent to the sanatorium in Point Edward, Nova Scotia for a couple of years. This time, tuberculosis affected various organs, including her brain. Doctors didn't think she would live and were certain she would have mental incapacities if she did
. But, she survived and was smart as a whip until she died in her nineties a few years ago. My other grandmother also spent time in a sanatorium as a young woman.

In the foreword to Little Things, nurse Alice E. Bingeman writes, “There comes a time in the experience of everyone, and frequently in youth, when life, with all its dreams, ambitions and desires, suddenly finds itself thwarted, and faced with uncertainty. The way ahead may seem long and weary, footsteps falter and hearts fear, but God in His great mercy, will provide sufficient strength to sustain you through this new experience…With renewed strength and hope you will march on, bringing new inspiration, courage and joy to others who will cross the same path, and knowing that you have crossed it successfully, will follow courageously in your footsteps."

It speaks to Dorothy’s strength that, whatever troubles she faced, she thought it fitting to publish 16 pages of poems celebrating life’s simple pleasures, like sunsets, a brass teapot and a deserted nest. She also paid tribute to her loved ones, including her mother and her son.
Little Things
The little things make life worth while,
As we travel on our way;
It’s the kindly word, and cheery smile
That makes the happy day.
It’s the helping hand, the word of praise,
That lightens the weary load;
It’s the light we put in the dullest days
That helps us along the road.
It’s the little things we do that count,
Like fixing the broken toy;
It’s the cup we place beside the fount
That brings some fellow joy.
It isn’t the gold or silver we give,
That mends the broken heart;
It’s our inner selves, and the way we live,
That play the biggest part.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cooking Skinny Bitch Style

I bought another cookbook. What can I say…it’s an addiction. This one has been well worth the expense, though. I bought it a few weeks ago and I have already made several of the recipes, some of them more than once.

It’s called Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook, by Kim Barnouin. I also have a copy of Skinny Bitch In the Kitch, which I picked up at a library book sale, but I never warmed to it. Something about all of the intentional swearing and the use of fake meats turned me off. But, I have so enjoyed this newer book that I might just give the other a second chance.
First, I want to say I don’t think there is anything particularly “skinny” about the recipes. But they are healthy, and they use mainly whole foods that are already on my shopping list. (I don’t know if almond milk is on your shopping list, buy hey, give it a try if it isn’t! ) I hate nothing more than a long list of hard-to-find (and expensive ) ingredients.

Butternut Squash Soup with Poppy Seeds
I did do some planning after I bought this book, though. I picked out a number of recipes from it and then shopped for the whole week.  Having a clear plan sure makes it easier when it’s time to cook.
Barnouin’s Banana and Cinnamon Muffins offer a new and delicious twist on the vegan banana muffin, with a crunchy topping that makes them look nice for company. Next time I’m going to make sure there is some company around when I make them, because they are best eaten the first day. The Coconut Banana French Toast was sweet and tasty, and my son said it tasted like “deep fried banana tempura.” He also liked the Coconut- and Almond-Crusted Tofu, which he called a “treat.” I have also made the Pumpkin Pecan Banana Bread (pictured at top). It was so yummy, I made it again (minus the pecans, so the kids could take some to school).

Coconut- and Almond-Crusted Tofu
with mango salsa
I am looking forward to trying the Spaghetti with Spinach in a White Wine Garlic Sauce and the Strawberry Cupcakes. If only someone could make them for me…

You can also get some great health and nutrition info at

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