21. Surprises in the Garden

So, I’ve been a little remiss this week when it comes to my garden. I’ve been meaning to get out and clean things up all week. But deep down I think I knew I had so much to do out there, the few minutes here and there that I could have spent gardening, just didn’t seem with bothering.

That being said, it is a bit hard to ignore the veritable jungle the back “vegetable plot” has become. Well, mostly because melon vines are using my flowers as supports and are starting to grow out and onto the lawn ….

While we have harvested some cucumbers and peppers and tomatoes so far this season, and of course lots of herbs and kale, we haven’t seen much evidence of the “fun” things growing – and by fun, I am of course referring to the sugar pumpkins, cantaloupes, and watermelons chosen by my son to plant.

Well, tonight I went for a quick peek to see if there were any tomatoes ready for picking, and to check on my roses that are being totally overshadowed by said tomato plants, I found this!!!!

 

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Yup!  A lone watermelon!  The kids of course were desperate to pick it, but we decided to leave it on the vine and see if it will grow a little bit more!!!

20. DisneyWorld – Planning Can Make for a More Magical Trip

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Disney has come up a LOT as I’ve made my way through the the week.  Not that this has been entirely coincidental.  I did have my brief flirtation with the idea of a runDisney event  (although I’m not sure I’ve entirely abandoned this idea . . . anyone want to do one with me??) which of course would necessitate a trip to a Disney park.  I’ve had a few friends ask questions about going to Disney.  And then of course, there was the big decision the Husband and I had to make . . . would we keep the reservation we have for the fall, a reservation we made before we knew we were going this past spring, and which I hadn’t yet cancelled.

It’s no secret that I love Disney.  And I am convinced that anyone who’s come away from Disney not loving it is because they didn’t plan appropriately (depending on the ages of the people going on the trip, some plans need to be made, and these plans often need to be made at least 180 days out), because they over-planned (what’s that expression again – over-planning kills magic), or they simply didn’t know what it was they were getting into and the reality didn’t line up with their expectations.

Over the years we’ve been going to Disney World, I’ve fine-tuned the way I plan our trips.  And I’ve often been asked how it is I go about it.  Well . . . today, as I sat down to go through the preliminary plans I have for our trip in the fall, I thought I could share some of my ideas here – so that there is a more permanent/easily accessible repository for my tips.  So here goes . . .

  1. Disney World is ALWAYS busy.  If you want to go, and there are certain things you REALLY want to do when you’re there, plan your trip way in advance – as in more than 180 days in advance.  Once you know the dates of your trip, figure out which days you want to visit which parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT).  If you’re staying on Disney property, you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours – based on those, and the ages of the people you’re travelling with, this might affect the park you want to visit on each day of your trip.
  2. Once I’ve figured out what parks we’re going to visit on what days, I start slotting in my dining.  Because my kids are still little, I aim for one character dining experience a day.  That being said, I also prefer to have sit-down meals for dinner and choose restaurants for our evening meals accordingly.
  3. Once all that prep work is done, go to the Disney website 180 days before the date of your check-in and start booking your dining reservations.  If you’re staying on property, you can book reservations for the first 10 days of your vacation at the 180 mark.  If you’re staying off property, you need to book dining for each day at the 180-day mark for each of the days of your vacation.  Even when you book this early, there’s a chance you won’t get the reservations you want.  For example, Disney often offers a “Free Dining Plan” if you book a vacation during the later fall period.  Because so many people take advantage of this offer, restaurant reservations can be REALLY hard to get for the duration of the offer.  So be prepared to be flexible – and understand that, if you’re staying on property, you’re more likely to get the more difficult to obtain restaurant reservations for dates later in your trip than at the beginning of your trip.
  4. At the 60-day mark before you vacation, you can start booking fastpasses as long as you are staying on Disney property.  So, between the 180-day and 61-day mark, you can plan which rides you’d like to do on each of the days of your trip.  I’ve heard lots of stories about when and how fastpasses are released, but I tend to follow the general guidelines of booking them on the 60-day mark at midnight.  Again, you may not be able to get fastpasses for the rides you want on the days you want.  So be prepared to be flexible – and understand that, if you’re staying on property, you’re more likely to get the more difficult to obtain fastpasses for dates later in your trip than at the beginning of your trip.  (Yup . . . there really are advantages to staying on property!!)
  5. When you’re planning out what rides you want to do . . . certain attractions are ALWAYS busy – like Toy Story Mania in Hollywood Studios, and Peter Pan and the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train in the Magic Kingdom.  So it’s best to get fastpasses for these types of attractions.  If you’re travelling with little ones that HAVE to see their favourite characters, getting fastpasses for the character meet and greets is also a good idea.  It can also be a good idea to stagger your fastpasses.  For example, I often only book 1 fastpass for the morning, and book the other 2 in the evening – that way I know that I can bring the kids back to the park in the evening and still get on rides that they love.  Yes, you can book fastpasses individually once you have booked and used your 3 allotted fastpasses in a day – but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get fastpasses for rides or attractions that you want (the fastpass inventory for each ride declines throughout the day).
  6. While some of our BEST moments at the park have been un-planned, knowing that your dining and at least 3 attractions are booked for each day of your trip means you are guaranteed to have some fun every day you’re there!
  7. DON’T OVER-BOOK / over-plan your trip.  Plan to spend at least 2 days in the Magic Kingdom, if at all possible, and at least 1 day in each of the other parks.  Perhaps one of the reasons we love our Disney vacations so much is that we only tend to spend the mornings in the parks.  We are often back at our hotel for lunch, if not just after lunch.  We spend the afternoons taking advantage of the great pools and other amenities the hotels have to offer, and once we’ve finished dinner, we can often be found heading back into a park for an hour or two.  This allows the little ones to relax after a stimulating day at the park, and gets us all out of the parks at the busiest time of the day
  8. DON’T underestimate the need for a stroller.  Even my older one, who can walk miles in a day, will sometimes still want a place to sit (if we’re waiting for a show or a parade to start), or will ask for a short ride.  You can walk a LOT in a Disney park, and there can be a LOT of standing in lines, which can get tiring!  If you are determined to go it without a stroller, be prepared to take lots of breaks – the shows are GREAT for this.  I will also add here that strollers are excellent repositories for all the stuff you might need for a day in the park – changes of clothes, sunscreen, water bottles etc.
  9. Even if you don’t get all the reservations or fastpasses you want, don’t worry.  The beauty of a Disney vacation is that there really is magic everywhere you look, and especially when you’re least expecting it!

So . . . if you’re prepared to do a little advance planning, your trip to Disney World is sure to be a magical one!  And just in case you’re not convinced . . . check out these absolutely MAGICAL pictures captured during our last 2 trips to Disney World!

 

Now . . . why have I included an article about planning a trip to Disney in my #100morselsofjoy series??  Well, because NOTHING brings me more joy than thinking about & planning a trip to Disney!

 

19. In Which I Tackle Clutter

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As I looked around the house today, I wondered if it was possible to drown in clutter.  The family room seemed to be a respite, not for family members, but for random bits and pieces of the kids’ toys deposited there and forgotten over the course of summer.  My kitchen was piling up with forms, fliers, coupons, and all the other stuff of life that we get inundated in the weeks before school.  And then there are the bedrooms where too-small or season clothing needs to be swapped out for uniforms and more weather-appropriate items.

I stopped.  Took a deep breath.  And decided that the clutter would end today.  And then I looked around for where I should begin . . . I could tidy up the family room, but the lego bits need to go in with the lego . . . but the lego needs to be sorted (that’s been on my list for ages) . . . and sorting lego is going to take at least a day or two . . . which won’t allow me to make a dent in any of the other clutter . . . so I’ll start with the kitchen and clean up all the paperwork . . . but that will lead to filing . . . and my desk is a mess . . . and to clean up my desk will mean that I should clean up my little storage area . . . which means I should probably get out the binders and paper to work on the kids’ books . . .

Right.  So that went on for a few minutes.  And then I stopped again.  And set the kitchen timer for 30 minutes.  My most recent foray into running (I briefly considered doing a Disney half marathon earlier this week . . . possibly more on that subject later) has taught me nothing, if not that I can withstand pretty much anything for thirty minutes.

And so, I ran around and did as much as I could in those thirty minutes.  I was amazed at how much clutter I was able to deal with.  Sure, not everything is where it ultimately should be, but the dust is off the dirt, so to speak.  And if I can keep tackling all this clutter, in half hour stretches over the next few days, things should really start looking better around here!

Of course, as I was running around, I had time to reflect on both why so much clutter has built up, and how I might be able to stop it.  While I realize the two little ones will always generate a certain amount of mess, I can control the clutter that I create.  I can become more decisive.  I can focus on what I really love to do, not merely what I’d like to maybe try to fit into my schedule at some point in the future, and get rid of anything, be they possessions or activities, that don’t serve a clear purpose in my life right now, or the direction I’d like my life to take.

And in that moment, I was able to appreciate the clutter, and the little lesson it taught me today.

18. To Plant a Garden

As the Audrey Hepburn quote goes . . . which I know I’ve used before on this blog . . .

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”

The downside to being up north for so long was that my garden got a little bit neglected.  While The Husband took great care to make sure all my plants got the water they needed and that the lawn was well cared for, he has proclaimed zero interest in the tending to flowers and shrub aspect of gardening.  And so, with the heat we’ve had and all the lovely water The Husband gave them, my plants have all gone through, what I will politely term “a massive growth spurt”.  And yes, from that you can read into the fact that the tomato plants may be threatening to take over the entire backyard . . . the watermelons and cantaloupe are using everything they can find as props to climb upwards (including, but not limited to delphiniums) . . . my prized new climbing roses are duking it out with the pepper plants and cucumbers for climbing space along the fence (the roses appear to be losing) . . . and there’s the fact that the invasive weeds from a few neighbouring properties seem to be thriving in the absence of my obsessive removal of their runners . . .

While I did a quick tour around as soon as we got back on Sunday, I haven’t had time to go back and seriously examine what needs to be done (the above all came from cursory glance, so heave knows what I’ll find when I start rooting around) nor to get going on any of what needs to be tended to.

Today brought buckets of rain, and so, no gardening was undertaken today either.

But, after we got home from friends this evening, I had a few quick moments to wander around again, and check in on a few of my favourite plants.  Of course, most favourite rosebush did not disappoint.

But the knowledge that there is so much more to be uncovered, so many more things to see, so much wonderful work to be done has me quite excited . . .  So I will be going to go bed tonight, dreaming of tomorrow and the joys that I know I will find hidden in my garden.

 

17. Planning. Simplified.

image.jpegWith both kids off at camp today, I had a few moments to myself to sit down and start planning with my new pink (!) Simplified Planner.

Let me first say that I LOVE this planner.  I didn’t know it was possible to love a planner so much, if at all, until I started using this one today.

So what is it about this planner that is so great?  Well, in the “How to Use Your Simplified Planner”, the planner’s creator, Emily Ley, states, in a variety of ways, that we should be making time for what matters.

And then, before the actual calendar pages start, there’s entire page dedicated to a personal 2016/2017 “Bucket List”.  It was this page that I was working on this afternoon.  I’ve talked before about how I don’t do particularly well with goals.  But making goals in the context of the next year AND what is most important to me, suddenly seemed so much more logical . . . No longer was I simply making a glorified to-do list under the heading “Goals”; I was instead making actual, achievable goals that will further how I want to feel, and how I want our lives (as a family) to feel.

Now, for the calendar part of the planner.  I chose the weekly planner, not the daily one.  This is because I prefer seeing an entire week over a 2-page spread.  And because I plan to use this purely for my “me” time, so it won’t be loaded with family commitments etc.  For each day of the work week, there is a ruled section to write whatever you want, as well as a list section with 7 spots, and a box for meal planning.  I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to use each section, and may even end up using the meal planning box to plan/record workouts.  But regardless of how I end up using it, I love the flexibility it allows, and how well laid out it is.

For the weekends, there is just 1 1/2 ruled sections as well as a checklist to help prepare of the week ahead.

Perhaps I love this planner so much because it puts into a concrete form all the things I’ve been trying to achieve on my own (routines regarding meals, tasks, activities).  Or it’s the fact that it feels so amazing – if you’re a paper person like me . . .this is simply gorgeous.  But of course, it could be the fact that the entire planner is laid out in rainbow colours.

While you can order this from Emily Ley directly, it is far more economical from an exchange rate perspective, to order it from Indigo, which is what I did.

And on that note, I’m off to plan some more of my week!

16. Finding the Joy in Coming Home (when I’d really rather still be up north)

I did NOT want to come home from up north today.  Not one little bit.  I didn’t want to pack.  I didn’t want to put shoes on (I never wear shoes up north, unless I have to get into the car to drive somewhere, which doesn’t happen often).  And I didn’t want to put on my watch.  But the kids are signed up for camps that are too expensive to cancel, and so . . .I packed, put on some shoes strapped on my watch, got in the car, and made our way home.

Softening the blow as I walked through the front door of our house was a few packages of things that I had ordered while we were away.

First up was a box of fabric from Brenda Riddle at Acorn Quilt and Gift Company that I can’t wait to start turning into a quilt.  It looks prettier than it did online, and I’m so excited to get my hands on it!

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Next was a big box from the gap/banana/old navy – all those clothes that I was lured into purchasing during their friends and family sale last week.  I liked what I ordered . . . and I liked the fact that finding a home for the new things I bought means tomorrow (ok, maybe over the next few days), I can do some cleaning out of all of our closets!

And lastly, but certainly not least, was a brand new, PINK! Simplified Planner.  I cannot wait to sit down with it tomorrow, once the kids have been dropped off a camp, with a coffee and pen in hand, and start planning!  If you’ve never seen these planners before, they are AMAZING!  So pretty to look at, and laid out so well, you won’t use another planner again.  Oh . . . and just to be perfectly honest, I’m using this planner to plan out MY activities.  Not those for the family, or the kids . . . just things for me.  Like when I’m going to work on said aforementioned quilt, or clean out those closets, or work on the other projects I have on the go.

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And so, while I was sad to see our vacation time end up north, coming home turned out not to be so bad either!

15. Some Days Just Call For Cake

We awoke this morning to the sound of rain.  Pouring rain to be exact.

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So what do you do when you’re stuck inside with 4 kids ranging in age from 1 through 8?  You bake.  Among other things.  Like card games, board games, dress up, puddle jumping, swimming in the rain, movie time . . .you get the idea.

And so, we made my favourite vanilla cake.  And I happened to have one of my favourite helpers in the kitchen with me!

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And then we made chocolate frosting.  Again, because we have almost as many little ones here as adults, I used milk chocolate as the base for the frosting and added in some cocoa powder to make it taste a little more chocolate-y.  If you don’t have little ones, or you have little ones that like dark chocolate, go ahead and use whatever chocolate you like best.

This cake makes 2 9″ cakes, so it’s the perfect cake to make for a birthday.  And the frosting recipe will make enough to ice a 2-layer cake (with leftovers – which I just freeze and use up later if I make the kids cupcakes or sugar cookies that they can ice).  If you want to cut the layers in 2 (I’ve done this before), use 1.5x the recipe and you should have enough.  Just don’t forget, if you have little helpers in the kitchen with you, to let them lick the frosting bowl clean!  It saves little fingers attacking the frosted cake . . .

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My Favourite Vanilla Birthday Cake

  • Servings: 2 9-inch cakes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups buttermilk (or use regular milk with 1 tsp of white vinegar added to make it more acidic)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 cups AP flour

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and butter and flour 2 9″ cake pans.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.
  3. Add in the eggs and vanilla and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. Measure out the rest of the dry ingredients, and add half into the bowl along with 1/2 of the buttermilk / soured milk.  Mix lightly until the dry ingredients and milk are just combined.
  5. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and milk and mix well until all the ingredients are completely incorporated into the batter.
  6. Divide the batter into each of the 2 prepared cake pans.
  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean.

Milk Chocolate Frosting

  • Servings: Makes Enough to Ice One 2-layer cake
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 6oz of milk chocolate (I prefer Dairy Milk)
  • 2 cup of cold butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder (I prefer Camino brand)
  • 1 1/4c powdered / icing sugar

Directions

  1. In a bowl set over (not in!) simmering water, melt the chocolate
  2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a regular bowl using a hand mixer, add in the butter, cocoa powder, icing sugar, and vanilla
  3. Once the chocolate has melted, add it to the bowl holding the remaining ingredients.
  4. Beat the mixture until all the butter and chocolate are well mixed.
  5. Continue to beat until the mixture obtains the degree of fluffiness you prefer (I quite like a very fluffy frosting, so I let my mixer run for quite a few minutes.

*If your butter is soft, when you add in the chocolate, it will melt.  This is easily fixed – just throw the bowl int the fridge (or freezer if you want a really quick solution), and let it set up until the butter isn’t quite so melty and the mixture can be whipped

*I have found, after making this recipe on more than a few occasions, it works best if the butter is actually FROZEN before you start – I just slice it into pieces and throw it into the bowl.

 

14. Cottage Workouts II & Adventures in the Kitchen with My Son

This week has been HOT!  And HUMID!  Which has made working out HOT!  And SWEATY!

While we were treated to a few moments of gorgeousness while the sun rose, dark clouds were pushing in on the horizon, bringing with them the promise of rain.  And so, I decided to get up, and get going, and get running.

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Two minutes into my run, I was swarmed by bugs . . . big black ones . . . flying around my head . . . landing on my already sweaty limbs . . . attempting to bite me.  I ran for a few more minutes, alternating between trying to out-run the bugs, and wildly flailing my arms trying to shoo them away.  And still they stuck with me.  It was at this point that the doubts started creeping in . . . maybe I should turn back. . . maybe it’s too hot to be doing this anyway . . . what if i swallow one of these bugs . . . what if I end up with a million bites?

And I came dangerously close to just quitting . . . Until my rational mind shouted louder than my monkey mind . . . and I remembered how good I would feel when it was all over, how much I love the feeling of working out, and that despite the bugs, there was a lot to enjoy on my run . . . and my persistence was rewarded with a stunning view at the 1/2 way point in my run . . . and a lovely cool swim with my mom, not the kids, on my return.  Oh, and the best part . . . I set a personal best time for the run, finishing it a whole minute faster than I did last week!

In the event you’re wondering, my workout on Monday was this:

2km run to open then:

  • 50 Double Unders
  • 50 Kettlebell swings, 50 air squats, and 50 sit-ups
  • 10 Burpees
  • 40 Kettlebell swings, 40 air squats, 40 sit-ups
  • 10 Burpees
  • then rounds of 30, 20, and 10
  • 50 Double Unders to close

And on Tuesday, I did a modified version of a friend’s workout (she just might be superwoman as her version had double the number of reps that I did, and even doing just half the workout nearly killed me!)

2km run to open then five rounds of:

  • 11 Kettlebell swings
  • 11 push-ups
  • 11 burpees
  • 11 Kettlebell thrusters

And last night, I did a great, SHORT yoga class on Yoga Download.  You can watch the class on line, or through the podcast app on your phone (which is what I did).  It’s a great class in that it hits all the major muscle groups, in fairly quick succession, so you get a great all-over stretch!

Later this afternoon, I had the distinct pleasure of spending time in the kitchen with my son playing the part of my sous-chef.  We were in charge of whipping up a meal that, as this part of our stay up north comes to an end, involved singing up the odds and sods we had left in the fridge and the freezer.  We decided on making coconut rice (again!) and served it with a stir-fry of mixed bell peppers, bok choy that had been sautéed in olive oil with garlic and scallions, pan fried pork cutlets that had been sliced into strips, and shrimp sauteed in olive oil, ginger and scallions.  Our idea was that you could put the rice down on the plate, add on whatever you’d like, and pour some sauce on top (recipe for the sauce to follow).  I had a truly lovely time cooking with him.  He was capable enough to handle cooking the peppers and pork on his own.  He was an eager taste-tester of everything we made – including the slightly spicy sauce.  And he was engaged in learning how to make the things he hadn’t cooked before – like bok choy.

And in the end . . . it was a pretty good dinner.  And the upside, the fridge and freezer are almost empty!  Just in time for us to fill them up next week!

Sweet & Spicy Coconut Soy Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4 Tbs soy sauce / coconut aminos
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • crushed red pepper flakes to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp)

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, set to medium-low heat, combine all ingredients.
  2. Depending on the type of honey you use (raw honey vs a liquid honey), you may have to stir the mixture more frequently with a whisk until the honey has melted.
  3. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, and turn the heat down so the mixture comes to a simmer.
  4. Continue to cook until the sauce has reduced, and is the consistency you prefer (I left mine on the heat for about 15 minutes).  Serve over any dishes involving rice, shrimp, pork or chicken!

 

13. Where I Fell In Love With Baking & The Cookie Recipe that I Have as a Momento

In my first post in this series of #100morselsofjoy, I talked about the resort I grew up going to ever summer, and how all the owners of the resort were related, and how each one of them took care of a specific aspect of running the resort.  Well, while all the owners hold a special place in my heart, and my memories, my hands down favourite was Lillian.

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Lillian ran the kitchen – from that little room on the left with the white awning and flower boxes.  Every morning, Lillian baked.  And the smells that came out of that window could, and often did, make a person swoon.  Luckily, there were two ways resort guests could get their hands on Lillian’s baking; either you could put an order in for what you would like, or, you could wander down to her kitchen and see either what was just coming out of the oven, or what cookies she had packaged (on little styrofoam trays placed inside plastic bags and tied with a little wire tie) and stored in a large chest freezer.

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Yup.  That’s me (and the dog Rex that lived at the resort).  And right behind me . . . that’s the door to Lillian’s kitchen.  I’m about 5 in this picture, and I’m pretty much as happy as can be, because as soon as I’m done with my ritual patting of Rex, I know I get to go into Lillian’s kitchen and see what she has baking.  Even as young as five, I knew I wanted to know how she made such magic in her kitchen . . . and that when I grew up, I wanted to be able to spread happiness the way she did by making things in the kitchen.

As a young teenager, it became apparent that the resort owners were getting old and would be putting the resort up for sale.  My father, in a stroke of genius, asked Lillian if he could accompany into her kitchen and watch her bake.  She said yes!  I was on cloud nine.  I was finally going to get to see the inner workings of the kitchen where so much magic and so much happiness was created.

That experience, in that old cottage kitchen, with a woman who had been baking her entire life, is etched into my memory.  She had been baking for so long that she didn’t need a recipe.  She simply baked by feel.

Perhaps at this point I should note that while her cookies were out-of-this-world delicious, her “sticky” buns were even better – the secret she claimed being that she used maple syrup that had been made on the property.  And it was on sticky-bun day that I got to watch her bake (sticky bun day was Thursday, and resort guests were sure to put in orders for these as there were never any leftover to be put into the freezer for sale at a later date).

As the morning unfolded, I realized that my dad’s stroke of genius may have had more to do with attempting to obtain Lillian’s recipe for the aforementioned sticky buns and any secrets she might have had that made them taste so good.  Unfortunately, since Lillian could bake solely by feel, and didn’t need a recipe, it was difficult to pin down exactly how she made those buns (to this day, I’ve never been able to recreate them.  However, if you live in Toronto, and ever go to the Brickworks Market on a Saturday, there is a woman there who sells cinnamon buns that taste remarkably close to Lillians – her stall is in the north east corner of the market – they are laden with brown sugar and butter – and not the maple syrup that I prefer – but they are stupendously good nonetheless)

BUT, not all was lost.  She did have one recipe that she actually had written down, and that she was willing to share.  Luckily for us, it was the recipe for our most favoured cookie of all the cookies she made . . . it was a raspberry jam thumbprint cookie.  But the cookie itself wasn’t the traditional shortbread.  Nope.  It’s a brown sugar/oatmeal cookie with desiccated coconut mixed in.  A better cookie, you have never tasted.

And so, each year, when my family is assembled, I try to make at least one batch of these cookies for everyone to enjoy.  Today was that day.  It was another gloriously sunny day, and the perfect day for a picnic lunch, complete with Lillian’s cookies.

As the cookies cooled, I made myself a thick peanut butter and jam sandwich (strawberry) on freshly-baked white bread, a few sandwiches for the kids, sliced up some fresh veggies and lots of watermelon, and by the time the cookies were cool, we were ready for our lunch by the water.  And a better lunch, we could not have had.  Pure joy!!

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And that . . . in a nutshell . . . is where I feel in love with baking, and why I find so much joy when I’m in my kitchen and I hope, that by sharing this story, and this recipe, I can share some of the magic and happiness of Lillian’s kitchen with you.

Lillian's Oatmeal Jam Cookies

  • Servings: 80
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 cups lard (due to all the work I’ve done with the Coach, I just couldn’t bring myself to use lard . . .so I used butter.  Did they taste as good.  Yes.  But they also weren’t as crispy – was that due to the 100% humidity we had here today . . . maybe . . . so use whatever you have on hand/prefer to use)
  • 2 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups coconut (1 200g bag)
  • 2 1/2 cups oatmeal
  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • raspberry or strawberry jam (about 1/3 of a cup)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, using the Convection Baking option if you have it.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (although Lillian did all her mixing by hand in a big bowl with an equally big wooden spoon) cream together the butter and the brown sugar.
  3. Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix well until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  4. In a large bowl, measure out the flour, oats, coconut, baking powder and salt.  Add half of this mixture into the stand mixer and mix until just combined.  Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until everything is well mixed.
  5. Roll the dough into about 1″ balls, if not a touch larger and place on cookie sheets (no need to grease/line the cookie sheets.  Using  your hands, flatten the balls only the slightest amount, and using your finger, make a small indent into the top of the dough ball.  Into this little well, place about 1/2 tsp of jam (I use 2 teaspoons to get this job done).
  6. Bake for 8-12 minutes.  The cookies will spread and should crisp up nicely (unless of course you are making these in weather conditions that include 100% humidity!)

 

12. When You’re Graced with A Perfect Summer Day . . . Enjoy Every Minute of It!

Today was one of those absolutely perfectly perfect summer days.  The sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and there was just enough of a breeze that it didn’t feel overwhelmingly hot.  And what do you do when you’re gifted with a day like this . . . well clearly, the only option is to enjoy it.

Since it’s just me and the kids up north, I decided to take them on an adventure when they woke up . . . a breakfast picnic.  Who can resist biscuits and watermelon while you watch the sun rise?  Watching my little ones scamper across the rocks like mountain goats made my heart smile – I’ve always hoped they’d love this landscape as much as I do . . .and it looks like they just might.

After a quick change into swim suits and a gathering of all the things we’d need for the morning, including a picnic lunch, we headed down to the dock for some fantastic swimming, a little Shopkins Uno, and of course, some reading.  After lunch and more swimming, we had a short quiet time, followed immediately by more time down at the dock.

 

Snorkelling with granddad yielded some interesting finds . . . a few crayfish, some errant zebra mussels, and even an exploration under the dock.  And of course, there was lots of fun with our little boats!

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All too soon it was cocktail hour . . . really, who could say no to a light gin and tonic on a day like today?  And a super simple dinner of grilled sausages, raw veggies, and the most deliciously ripe tomatoes with fresh burrata cheese and basil.

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Yup . . . we enjoyed EVERY minute of today!!!

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