The Dreaded “D” Word and the Hated “E” Word

Yep—here we are at a brand-new year. The pages are nice and clean and ready for whatever good deeds or questionable deeds to be recorded. With all the wonderful holiday foods and desserts, I am faced with the dreaded “D” word and even the hateful “E” word.  Oops, guess you’re maybe skinny and slender and hate desserts, so you’re not familiar with “Diet” and “Exercise.”

I know there are lots of us out there because the gyms are suddenly filled with guilt-stricken people like me. I will be walking and doing the stairs more now that my wonky knee is better. I think all us newcomers to the gym, lean on each other for support, because we tend to glance over at a chubbier person and think, “Not me, Buster–I’m that lean, skinny thing, wearing the spandex and pedalling away on the bicycle.”  Well, okay—we can dream while we sweat off those extra pounds with the weights and pulleys and ellipticals and treadmills.

I don’t make New Years resolutions, but I will be curtailing the doughnuts, biscottis and dark chocolates for the next month or more. I figure that’s how long this enforced “D&E” will last. All those batches of butter cookies, mince tarts and almond cherry biscottis will be a faint memory–and darn it all, this was the Christmas I excelled at making them.

I always thought that to make this plan work, I would have to have a “gym buddy” to suffer along with me. Lucky me—I have two and we are all early-risers. So, no excuses not to meet at the gym because you always have 2 gym buddies to move you along. I’m hoping we will all last the month or more, at least, until we get into the routine of  gym workouts on our own.

One positive thought is that Chinese New Year will be much later this year—not until February 16th. In my foodie books, that means I have a month and a half before I can celebrate with the tasty pastries and feasts of the “Year of the Dog.”

Happy New Year, Everyone—I’ll be thinking of all of you as I’m rowing away at my rowing machine, strolling along on the treadmill, doing the elliptical thing. . . .  BUT, come February 16th, I will be indulging a little bit again. . . . .

 

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MERRY CHRISTMAS

I like wishing everyone “Merry Christmas.”  When I was growing up, this is what we wished everyone. I grew up in a multi-cultural neighbourhood and yes, there were kids who didn’t celebrate Christmas, but they did celebrate their own festivals that came on different dates. It may not have been Christmas, but my school buddies shared their “treats” with us–just as we shared ours with them. Chinese New Year, Hanukkah, Festival of Lights and many others—-these special holidays, coupled with the different foods and treats that came with it, were all that mattered to us kids. We were all in the  “learning mode” of acceptance and there was hardly any discrimination. Special holidays were fun because they embraced the cultural traditions within any family. That’s why, so many of my friends and I, share this same philosophy of acceptance to pass along to our children and grandchildren.

Today, responsible adults try too hard to be sure everything is politically correct but really, little kids don’t care unless their parents make a big issue out of it.

“Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” are safe and inoffensive, but I still like wishing everyone  “Merry Christmas” as I’ve always done. And no one, when I say it, have corrected me, but graciously accepted the greetings–returning it with their customary warmth of friendship. Perhaps times are changing, but for now, I will still send my “Merry Christmas” greetings to all my family and friends.

To all the loyal readers who popped in over the years; to all the new readers who have “discovered” my site–I hope you enjoyed what you read, had a chuckle or two and find yourselves returning to sample whatever topic I decided to blather about that day.

Thank you for all your comments, support, humour and honest opinions. I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, filled with the wonders and joys of the Holiday Season.  May 2018 be wrapped in the love of Family and Friends;  a year jam-packed with Happiness, Good health and hopefully, Peace.

 

 

 

 

Kids Still Say the Funniest Things

Kids still say the funniest things. I often wondered where they heard it or picked it up, right down to the appropriate mannerisms that little munchkins can imitate so well and then pick the right moments to say it.

My neighbour was telling me about the family stroll along the waterfront. They had ended with the walk along the concrete path that ended close to the point where the cruise ships passed as they made their grand entry into the harbour. One ship had just glided by, its passengers waving at the small group excitedly waving back in welcome. Mavis’s older grand-daughter mused aloud, “I wonder where the ship’s going next?” And her 6-year old sister, with a roll of her blue eyes, replied, “Well, duh, obviously out to sea.” and as she strolled away, the smiles broke out on everyone’s faces.

When a South American thrush flew onto Canadian soil a few days ago, all the avid bird-watchers wondered aloud what made the warm-weather bird venture into the cold, rainy, West Coast climate.  Five year old, Henry, brought the speculations to a halt, when he replied in a very adult voice, “Well, he must have bought a crap piece of GPS because a good one would have taken him to the right location.”

My friend’s grand-daughter, Anya, newly turned 8, had been taught at an early age not to answer the doorbell if it rang when no adult was home. Anya had a half-hour window, from the time she came home from school until one of her parents arrived home from work. A few days before, she had a birthday and received a pair of jeans from her Aunt Bee which had to be exchanged for something that wasn’t denim. Days later I met up with Bee and asked, “Hey, what happened with Anya’s birthday prez?”  Laughing, Bee said she had stopped by the house to give Anya her present but realized, after she had pushed the doorbell, that it was that half hour where doorbells were not answered.  However, Bee had caught the quick flash of her niece’s face at the window before quickly ducking out of sight. Bee rang the doorbell again. A voice from behind the door announced, “We are sorry we missed your call. Your visit is very important to us. Please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible.” With a straight face, Bee replied, “I’m sorry I missed you too as I have a very important parcel to deliver. I guess it just goes back to the store.” At which point, Bee smiled as she recalled how quickly the door flew open.

Kids, no matter what their ages, are definitely little sponges who soak up all the stuff their parents wouldn’t want them to remember or repeat. And yes, once they learn any forbidden word, it is repeated with great glee and gusto. I still marvel at my then 9-months old god-daughter, Natasha Elena, sharing Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” movies while napping on my lap. Who knew that her actively growing brain was busy absorbing.  “Scumbag” was not exactly a desirable word to add to her early vocabulary, but I still insist she did say “Mama” first.

There’s Something About Christmas

There’s something about Christmas that brings out the grouchiness  in normally reasonable people. Over the years, I’ve figured out a few things.  Grumbling loudly while standing in a postal line-up, doesn’t make the line go faster. If my cards don’t go out on time, my friends know they will maybe get a New Year’s greeting from me–or maybe, not at all. That has happened a few times over the decades and we’re still on good speaking terms.  Baking is a foregone conclusion—bake too early and it gets eaten; bake too late and it gets eaten. I’ve given up on fruitcakes since not a lot of people eat them these days because of calories, diets, allergies and goodness knows what-all. As for presents, I collect small things for stocking stuffers throughout the year–little kids and even big kids have the most fun with this.

I found that most kids are quite brilliant with their high-tech toys, but give them something non-techie and they find it a challenge.  I like puzzles—those metal or wooden things that you have to figure out the “key” to unlocking–usually a metal ring or a bar that looks deceptively easy to slip through or unloop or whatever, but doesn’t. I was watching the mental process of little faces and eventually bigger faces, frown and pout and do their best to solve the puzzle before anyone else. This may be construed as mental cruelty, but it really makes that old brain work. I think it burns off at least 2000 calories so that extra piece of shortbread or butter tart is actually feeding the brain.

Christmas is watching the little kids line-up to see Santa at the Mall. One little girl made me smile. She wasn’t more than 3 years old, wearing her pretty blue velvet dress and shiny party shoes. Her hair had a blue-velvet bow, pinning back some of her dark curls. She stood in front of Santa, a safe distance away and though he beckoned her closer, she shook her curls and said in a very clear voice, “No, thank you,  I don’t want to sit on your lap.” Her mother stood anxiously to one side and said, “Just for a moment, Ellie.  This photo will be for Nanna who’s too far away to come visit.”  The little tot firmly shook her head.  “No, Mommy. I’ll leave Santa some carrots for his reindeers, but I don’t want to sit on Santa’s lap.” Then she turned to walk away, but Santa’s voice stopped her. “Would you like to stand beside Santa so your Nanna would still have a photo of you?” The little girl paused to think about this. The end result was a delightful photo of Ellie, leaning slightly against Santa, with one tiny hand on his  knee and smiling for her Nanna.

I think the “Spirit of Christmas” resides in most little kids. Their natural delight in decorated trees and the many decorated houses gives those around them, a bit of the Holiday feelings. Taking a group of little ones to see the display of gingerbread houses made the adults “see” it through children’s eyes. Little kids have this innocence and pure spontaneity of the simpler things. Perhaps, that’s what we adults should do at this time of the year—think like a kid, relax and enjoy.

The scent of baking at home is a joy, not a chore to be done because it’s Christmas. The gift of giving needn’t be a nightmare pf shopping–a gift of your time is the best gift of all. Love and laughter should be freely given to family and friends and those alone, throughout the year—and shouldn’t be only at this time because it’s that time of  year. The importance of being together at Christmas seems harder to manage due to severe winter conditions in many areas as well as the costs of traveling. We are a nomadic group and it seems, for me at least, many of my friends and distant family travel in the summer, to be together. to share in making new memories.

Despite the worries over dinner or the anxiety over the “right” gift, just remember that all these weeks of sleepless nights lead up to one day which is gone in a blink of a twinkling  eye. Before you know it, it begins all over again with a new year.

My thoughts to myself for the day

My wise friend, Jane Wilson, posted these thoughts. . . . .

Box o' Ducks

  1. It’s very easy to talk about people without mentioning their names. Those who know them will know exactly who you’ve referred to, and a fair number of others will be certain you’re talking about themselves. Avoid talking about others at all costs.
  2. Those who care about us often make well-meaning suggestions for ways in which we can improve our circumstances or our state of mind. Sometimes we welcome the advice, but more often we feel as though we’re being told what to do. Always thank them for their advice, even if you have no intention of following it, and remind yourself to give unsolicited instruction only in exceptional circumstances, such as when someone is about to injure themselves.
  3. Laugh to yourself whenever you can.

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Doughnuts For Kids Part II

(A group of concerned Moms decided to hold a “Doughnut Event” to raise money for much needed playground equipment. Being a mini-United Nations kind of neighbourhood, the doughnuts presented as an international event as well. . .)

The next booth represented Holland, a country I always visualized as masses of tulips, a few windmills and tasty cheeses. I now add Oliebollen.  Oliebollens are like dumplings made from enriched yeast dough and cooked in a deep-fryer. They are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve, but can be bought at oliebollen street vendors in November and December, as well as throughout the year at fun fairs–much like the fairs where I can buy my mini-doughnuts in Victoria. Oliebollens can be made plain or have raisins, currents and apples added to the dough. Both kinds usually get dusted with some icing sugar before serving. The oliebollen I sampled was filled, after frying, with whipped cream and/or jam and had a hint of citrus flavouring. It is not a sweet dough as the sugar and various fillings provides the sweetness. I bought two more  and popped them into my bag to share with my Hubby.

The French booth evoked delicious memories of New Orleans and the enjoyment of warm beignets with cafe au lait at the famous Cafe du Monde. Considered a part of a New Orleans breakfast, these deliciously tender pieces of dough, deep-fried and dipped in powdered sugar are decadent and dangerous. I considered them dangerous because it takes significant self-control to stop at one beignet. The beignets were sold 3 on a tray. One tray plus one beignet went into my doughnut bag. . .two beignets went into my tummy. I paused for my cuppa coffee.

Pazcki, a sugared doughnut from Lebanon and Syria, is made from flatbread dough–pieces are broken off and flattened with a hole punched in the middle. These pieces are deep-fried and then dusted with sugar. In some households, these doughnuts are also called Zalabia. Most of my warm pazcki, except for a small bite, went into my bag. The bite I had tasted was wonderful. but I was beginning to feel stuffed and my doughnut bag was running out of space.

I recognized the Churros and Sopapillas at the Mexican booth. I was told that sopapillas in New Mexico was used much like tortillas–to mop up beans and gravy. The one I tasted was of a dessert variety. As the quick dough pieces were deep-fried and puffed up, it was removed and drained from the hot oil, then tossed in a cinnamon/sugar mix. Three of these “little pillows” went into my bag to be enjoyed later. Churros are basically made from a choux pastry and deep-fried. The result is a very light piece of pastry, usually elongated and rolled in a cinnamon/sugar mix. Three churros went into my bag—oops, a bite was taken from one of the warm churros and it was fabulous, but I was really getting stuffed!

The German booth sold Berliners and Fastnacht. I recognized the Berliners as the familiar jelly doughnuts called “Bismarcks” at my local bakery. I was not familiar with fastnachts, which are made of yeast-leavened dough, traditionally eaten and enjoyed on Shrove Tuesday. Still warm, it was drizzled with a honey citrus glaze. And it went into my doughnut bag for later—much later . . . .

I saw my favourite booth representing China. “Uncle” Henry, an elderly neighbour  and his two sisters were making new batches of the Chinese doughnuts called Jian Dui–of which I was beginning to feel like one! Jian dui are fried bits of dough made from glutinous rice flour, filled with a red bean paste and rolled in sesame seeds resulting in small round sesame balls. The texture is crispy outside, slightly chewy and very tender inside. Three little balls rolled into my doughnut bag. . .

This event was a tasty adventure of sampling doughnuts from around the world. I was happy indulging my craving for doughnuts, but it will be a long time before I indulge again. The bakers had done a fantastic job to raise more than enough funds for better and safer playground equipment. I had a full doughnut bag to share with Hubby. I was assured that most could be frozen and reheated later.  Well, we shall see. . . .bombolone anyone? Or how about an oliebollen or a zalabia or a beignet or. . . . .?

Doughnuts For Kids–Part I

Doughnuts–I have a passion for doughnuts. Mind you, I have a lot of passions, but doughnuts absolutely makes it almost to the top of my List. The top of that list is my Hubby and the next is dark chocolate, so I guess that makes doughnuts #3. What brought on this profound appreciation for a fried piece of dough  just before Lent last year, was a concerned group of Moms, who decided to raise money for some new playground equipment. And being a veritable mini-United Nations kind of neighbourhood, the women decided that a doughnut sale would make some money since this would be the last bit of sweet pastry for awhile.

My idea of doughnuts was mainly what I’ve eaten at the Canadian “Tim Horton’s,” with the usual jellies, sugared. cinnamon, long-johns, crescents, twisties, etc. And of course at the fairs with the famous mini-doughnuts that rolls off a conveyor belt, dropped in cinnamon-sugar and scooped into a brown paper bag–still warm from the frying process. Large supermarket chains with in-store bakeries made their own version of traditional glazed, plump jelly filled mounds and twisties with an orange filling or pecans or chocolate. Well, let me tell you–my doughnut education was sadly lacking because I discovered that like pasta, doughnuts truly are an international food.

We were all handed large paper bags when we paid our entry fee of two dollars. You only had to follow your noses to the large room for the doughnut event; a room already smelling like yeast, cinnamon, sugar and chocolate. And the smell of fresh roasted coffee, brewed to mate with a fabulous piece of fried pastry.

My eyes were drawn to the first booth that sold Italian doughnuts.  I will now remember Italy as the land of  Bombolone and Zeppole.  Never again will I merely think pasta, pizza and wine.  Bombolone are Tuscan doughnuts and unlike other Italian areas that claims bombolone, the Tuscan version has no cream filling. It is best served warm and is a mound of deliciously light dough, deep-fried and dipped in granulated sugar. It does resemble a Berliner or jelly doughnut, but without a filling.

Zeppole, according to Wikapedia, is an “Italian pastry consisting of a deep-fried ball of dough, typically about 4-inches in diameter. This doughnut or fritter is usually topped with powdered sugar and may be filled with custard, jelly, cannoli-style pastry cream or a butter and honey mixture.”  The zeppola I sampled was slightly more dense than bombolone and not as sweet. It is the fabulous fillings that makes these doughnuts decadently delicious. I did eat a whole one but another zeppola and one bomboloni went into my empty bag.

(To be continued)