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
  • Print

 

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!!!

11. And Then There’s This One

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This is the one that adds sparkle where ever she goes, often quite literally depending on what she happens to be wearing.

She’s quick to hug, to lend a hand, or to just share her smile.  And she’s one of the main reasons I’ve been enjoying this slow-down in our schedules over these past few months.

My plunge into tumour-land when she was just four months old made for sub-optimal mother/daughter bonding.  As I’ve worked to resolve/overcome my emotions about that whole experience, one of the hardest things has been dealing with the guilt I felt over the way my time with her as a baby was spent – meaning I hated how the tumour was like a shadow hanging over us, when my early days with the Older One weren’t fraught with so much angst, or any angst at all (with the exception of the angst that comes with being a first time mom).

As I have been busily putting the whole tumour thing behind me, I’ve also been busily spending more quality time with my little one.  We had more walks home from school, more time cooking in the kitchen, more time just snuggling.  And we’ve had more little adventures – we may have had our nails done once or twice (complete with sparkly pink nail polish), we may have gone shopping for new dresses, and of course, we may also have purchased matching bikinis.

I keep saying to the Husband that I want to bottle this summer and keep it forever; it has been absolutely perfect in every way; and especially because I’ve had the un-harried, un-scheduled time to sit and watch as my little one is truly becoming her own little (sparkly) person, and to really cement my bond with her as her mommy.  And while I can’t literally bottle up everything that this summer has been, I can take photos like this one, so I’ll always remember it.

 

9. B-I-N-G-O

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Cottage season can be as ritualistic as the more traditional holiday times of the year, like Christmas . . . at least for me, anyway.  There are certain things that get done every day – like putting the Canadian flag up in the morning and then putting it to “bed” each night, a polar bear swim before breakfast, and a nature walk in the morning.

Then there are those other things that are done more on a weekly basis, like saturday morning cinnamon bun breakfasts, cocktails and appetizers down by the lake instead of on the screened-in porch, and visits to the local market.

And then there are those special things that only get done a few times a season, or possibly even as little as once in a summer.  Things like staying up late to roast s’mores.  Or making the big boat trip down to Henry’s for a fish and chip lunch.  Or making the little boat trip over to Gilly’s for a fish and chip dinner.

One of my most favourite cottage traditions as a kid was the weekly Bingo night that was held at a local church.  Prizes ranged from a can of cola (!) to actual cold hard cash.  Ten dollars to my ten year old self was pretty much the equivalent of winning the lottery.

While in town today to do a little grocery shopping, I came across a few silly little containers of candy and a variety of those little squish-em toys.  And it hit me. All the cousins were old enough to have our very own Bingo night.  And these would make excellent prizes!

After dinner, after all the dishes had been cleared away, and the table cleaned, and the floor swept . . . the bingo set came out of the games closet.  Each kid sat down with their own Bingo card and a stack of bingo chips.  And beside me, I had the bag of Bingo prizes.  While I think we defied the laws of probability in how many numbers we had to call before anyone got an actual Bingo, I have never seen happier kids.  And the smiles only got bigger as each kid got a Bingo and the chance to reach, with eyes firmly shut, into the big bag of Bingo prizes.

And as everyone drifts off to sleep tonight, the big question has been . . . how MANY rounds of Bingo can we play tomorrow night?  And if that isn’t a morsel of joy, I don’t know what is.

8. Today’s Photo of the Day

Since the day my son was born, I have taken (at least) one photo a day of one or both of the kids.  Over the past almost eight years, I’ve amassed a LOT of photos.  And I’ve had a LOT of grand plans as to what I’m going to do with all these photos.  Over the past few months, I’ve been chipping away at all these photos, choosing just one photo per day to put into annual albums for each of the kids, and for us.  As I’ve been going through all these photos, what amazes me is just how few family photos we have.  And I don’t suspect that’s any different for any other family.

So, when we do get a chance to have some family photos taken (other than at Disney, altho  that may explain part of my love for disney . . . ALL those family photos that get taken by the amazing memory making photographers around the parks), I get pretty excited.

Today happens to be one of those absolutely perfect Georgian Bay days.  The sun is shining and there’s a good breeze coming in from the north, the effect of which is to make the water look like it’s filled with sparkling diamonds.  The sun has been out all day, so the rocks are warm underfoot.  And there’s that warm scent of pine in the air.  In other words, I am quite possibly in heaven.  Today also happens to be my nephew’s first birthday.  And thus, a more perfect day for family photos, there could not be.

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And now that we’re back from our cocktail hour/photo shoot . . . the photos I like most of all . . .not the posed family photos that I was so looking forward to (altho they are great and at least one will be printed and framed).  Nope.  The candid shots of the kids, of my parents with the kids, and the selfie of the Husband and I.  Those were my favorites.  One day I’ll learn that the best things in life are unplanned. One day.

In the meantime, I have to find the strength to choose just one of these photos as my photos of the day for today!

 

 

7. Cottage Workouts

I could tell you that it’s seeing Jillian Michaels stare at me from the front of the current issue of Shape magazine that’s sitting on the coffee table in the living room of the cottage that has propelled me out the door each morning, yoga mat and kettle bell in hand, to squeeze in a quick workout.  But the truth is . . . I simply feel better if I can get in a little workout at the start of the day.

And while I will never forsake my love of the barbell, there is something equally entrancing about good old fashioned, super simple, metabolic workouts.  And the truth is, you don’t need much at all to get in a good workout when you’re far from home and far from a gym.  In fact, the only “equipment” I have with me right now is a skipping rope and a 16kg kettle bell I brought from home.

I started off my week, inspired by one of the WODs they were doing back at my home gym, All In One / Crossfit AIO – it was:

  • 2km run to warm-up
  • 42 walking lunges (holding the kettle bell), 21 kettle bell clean & presses & 21 sit ups
  • 400m run
  • 30 walking lunges, 15 kettle bell clean & presses & 15 sit ups
  • 400m run
  • 18 walking lunges, 9 kettle bell clean & presses & 9 sit-ups

Then I looked to my friend Michelle for inspiration . . . she shared a workout she had found on her Facebook page, which I modified a bit, but found to be absolutely fantastic!

  • 2km run to warm-up
  • 10 push ups, 10 sit ups, 10 squats
  • 25 double unders
  • 9 push ups, 9 sit ups, 9 squats
  • 25 double unders
  • 8 push ups, 8 sit ups, 8 squats
  • 25 double unders
  •  . . . and so on down through 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1

Next up, was a very simple body weight workout:

  • 2km run to warm-up
  • 3 rounds of
    • 5 burpees
    • 5 sit ups
    • 5 squats
  • 400m run
  • Repeat 3 times for a total of 4 rounds

And then today I tackled this one:

  • 2km run to warm-up
  • 5 kettle bell thrusters, 5 kettle bell swings, 5 burpees, 5 sit-ups
  • 400m run
  • 4 kettle bell thrusters, 4 kettle bell swings, 4 burpees, 4 sit-ups
  • 400m run
  • . . . and so on through rounds of 3, 2, and 1 ending with a 400m run

But, if I’m going to be perfectly honest with all of you . . .the absolute BEST part of these workouts . . . getting changed into a swimsuit as fast as possible, running down to the dock with one or both of the kids, and seeing who can get into the lake first!  Now that . . .that is absolute joy!!!!

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6. Perfect Endings to Perfect Days

Today was one of those absolutely perfect summer days. It started with a swim and ended with a swim and there was a whole lotta fun sandwiched between those two swims.

To be fair, the day wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows … There was a power outage, the well water system we use up here may have been contaminated as a result, and a dinner at our local fish & chips placed was forfeited given the hour long wait for a table (this may not seem like a big deal, and in truth it isn’t … But to the 7-, 5-, and 4-year old who had been looking forward to this dinner all day …)

But, we managed to laugh about it all and my brother outdid himself recreating fish and chips at home.

In the event you’re wondering how he pulled off this masterpiece of fried fish … We purchased som fresh caught local pickerel from the restaurant, chopped it into pieces making sure all the bones were removed, dredged each piece in all purpose flour (just put a cup or so into a bowl to do this), then dredged each piece in a bowl of beaten eggs (we used 3), and lastly dredged it through a bowl of Panko crumbs. The fish was then fried in a cast iron pan containing a generous amount of olive oil (several tablespoons) until the fish was cooked through. Delicious!!!!

After our after dinner swim, we were treated to this:

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5. When you want to freeze a moment in time

A few months ago, the little one requested matching bathing suits.  It wasn’t even a question as to whether or not I’d say yes . . . the only question was how fast could I get them shipped.  I’ve had them tucked away for a few months now, but as we were getting ready to go north, she asked for me to pack them.  And today, she came bouncing into my room and asked if we could please wear them this afternoon.  Yet again, it was no question as to how I’d respond.  What else can I say but I love this one with all my heart . . . I know these days of wanting matching bathing suits isn’t going to last long.  And I’m going to cherish every single one of them while they’re here.

Despite an afternoon of swimming, we also managed to get in quite a bit of cooking today too!  Another batch of biscuits were whipped up, and a few bunches of candy cane beets were roasted to go along with this unbelievable Tomato Corn Casserole from the Gourmet cookbook.

4. Reading On the Dock

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There’s so much about this photo that I love.  The first is that I had five minutes to get out a book and read for a few minutes while the kids and the Husband were swimming to a big exposed shoal just down from our swimming dock that they have whimsically christened “Goose Poop Island”.

The second is that I’m reading a physical book, not using the kindle app on one of my various devices.  I used to be a loved of physical books.  I could spend hours in book stores and loved nothing more than having a stack of unread books beside my bed.  But then the kids happened, and kindle became a really nice option; my books don’t get smushed/waterlogged/or otherwise damaged in my bag filled with water bottles and other assorted kid paraphernalia, I never have to worry about remembering to throw my book in my bag, and no matter what device I happen to have on hand – phone, iPad, computer, I can pick up wherever I left off.  But, prior to our camping trip, where charging devices wasn’t going to be easy, I made a trip to a bookstore and picked up a few actual books to take with me.  I only managed to get through one of them on the camping trip, so the rest of them have come with me and it seems like afternoons on the dock are the perfect time to get in a little reading.  I might not have read much of this book yet, but “The Admissions” is a page turner – one of those books that if I didn’t have kids, I’d be immersed in all day, not putting it down until it was done.

But I digress.  Back to what I love so much about this photos . . . third, and most of all, I love my new bookmark.  My little one picked it out for me at the bookstore the other day.  Despite knowing the name of the movie, and the names of all the other characters pictured on the bookmark, and not knowing anything about my One Little Word or this little project I’m working on, she handed it to me and said, “Look Mommy, here’s your joy”.

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