Ignorance is bliss but it’s time to face the truth of what things are and not what we want them to be. We’re only lying to ourselves, hurting ourselves and making the pain last longer when we remove the bandage slowly, instead of just ripping it off. We know the boat is slowly sinking but we are frozen with our fear; afraid to jump into the water, into the great unknown. It’s time to stop being afraid; it’s time to start facing the fear. Rip off the bandage and start swimming; toward solid ground; toward something real; toward something better.
The current pandemic has forced us all to live and work differently, and everyone (me included) is struggling to remain positive and optimistic. There’s so much that we’ve learned from all of this though, so I decided to make a list. Some items are short and obvious, while others have a deeper explanation that might just apply to me. Some might be the same as yours, and some might just be a bit weird.
The most important thing I’ve learned is that I am truly blessed in all of this. I could easily focus on the fact that I live alone, I’m socially isolated and lonely, but I choose instead to realize that I am still healthy, still employed, and I still have a home, and I still have food to eat. So many people have had their lives devastated during this pandemic, so I need to focus on how grateful I am to be in the position I am.
Here are some other things I’ve learned during this pandemic.
There are pros and cons to everything. With the pandemic, the pros are less money spent on gas and dry cleaning, less time spent commuting, and better work-life balance as we commit to the job itself and not the clock.
The cons are that there is less life-work balance. Wait! What? I listed that as a Pro, so what gives? I’ve had to learn to set firm time commitments (8 hours a day, or 40 hours a week or similar) to avoid working too much. Since I live alone, it’s too easy to get up in the morning and immediately sit at my desk with my coffee and start working, just as it’s too easy to check again before bed to finish something I started earlier.
I’ve learnt I can save money by not buying new shoes or dresses – where would I wear them to? By the time they let us loose, they’ll probably be out of style.
Everyone pities the person who lives alone, as families at least have each other, right? Well, with that larger family comes more exposure through each of their networks. Not everyone is taking this social distancing seriously (although most SAY they are).
I’ve learnt that everyone is feeling isolated in some way and I’ve learnt it’s important to reach out to each other, using the phone, messaging apps, and even video apps.
When you only have yourself for company, I’ve learnt that it’s important to like yourself. You have to consciously treat yourself the same way you’d treat a friend; be patient and try not to be judgemental. Forgive easily and focus on moving forward – the same advice you’d give your best friend. When talking to yourself, try to always be encouraging and helpful. Learn to have fun by yourself – crank the tunes, sing along and dance if you can.
This pandemic is dragging on so long, and I now believe we should have just bitten the bullet right at the beginning – nip it in the bud and be done with it! Because we didn’t do that, and because our government tried to not offend everyone, we are starting to feel as if this will never end. If we don’t get it together though, it never will. That’s taught me to do the right thing always, no matter how unpleasant and difficult that may be.
I’ve learnt that if I get up, dress up, wear makeup and style my hair, that I’ll feel better emotionally throughout the day. At least for now I can pretend life is normal. Shoes are optional.
I’ve learnt never to underestimate the healing powers of a dog. They are fairly good roommates, and are a good excuse to get outside for a walk at least twice a day which helps improve our mental states.
I’ve learnt that nothing beats homemade, healthy meals. I feel better, I’ve lost weight, and I’ve saved money. The couple of times I treated myself to restaurant or fast-food takeout, my tummy didn’t feel very good afterwards.
I’ve learned not to be drawn into conspiracy or political debates. It’s healthy to look at the funny aspects of the situation although I think that people who don’t socially distance or wear masks are idiots, but it’s a waste of time trying to reason with often unreasonable people.
I’ve also learnt to speak up to people in stores who are standing too close and demand that they move back 6 feet. Whether they’re 19 or 79. And if a store doesn’t enforce the social distancing policy, I will abandon my cart and flee the store.
I’ve learnt that there’s more safety in smaller stores where there may only be 2 -3 people in the store at a time. It may cost a bit more but since I’m saving money (see #1 above) I’m fine with that. Besides, our small, local stores need our help.
I am dying a little more each day until the time when I am no longer No longer sane no longer safe no longer here Until the day when I will be someone else somewhere else and no longer me here I can’t tell you how to find me or where to find me because I don’t know where there is but when you find it you’ll find me there and no longer here.
The tradition of breaking bread has always related to people coming together and sharing a meal. It’s a ritual of communion and friendship.
I began the quest to learn to make bread when I was in my 20’s. Everyone told me that it was impossible to explain the texture of bread dough – that it was something you had to experience. Since I didn’t know anyone who made “real” bread, I signed up for a Saturday bread-making workshop in Don Mills, Ontario and there I made a perfect loaf of bread. While others couldn’t explain the texture to look for when kneading bread, I can. Tug on your ear lobe. That’s it. Seriously – that’s the closest thing I’ve found.
Having made the perfect loaf of bread, I promised myself never to do that again. That is a LOT of work and I don’t have strong hands or wrists. So I bought a bread machine. While I detested the texture of bread machine bread, I used it for many years to make the dough, which I then shaped and baked traditionally.
When the pandemic of 2020 hit us, everyone started making bread and if you search the internet, you’ll find thousands of recipes for No Knead Breads. I played with some of those and experimented with different yeasts and rising times. For Christmas, I decided to make a Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Artisan loaf. It took me 3 variations to come up with what I feel is the best.
Artisan bread should be soft and airy inside, with lots of holes and crevices. The crust should be crispy and golden brown. I tried to hold true to that while I added in the savory flavours of roasted garlic and herbs.
The list of ingredients is at the bottom of this post, but I wanted to walk you through my process.
Roasting the garlic
I like to use a medium sized garlic with at least 8 to 10 cloves. I cut off the top to expose the cloves and drizzled olive oil on top and sprinkle a bit of kosher salt. It’s roasted in a small covered baking dish, but since I don’t have one, I used a Pyrex bowl and covered it with tin foil. It worked perfectly. I baked it in the oven for 45 mins at 400 degrees F. until the cloves were soft and golden brown. Then I took it out and let it cool before using.
Proofing the yeast
Most of the recipes I found had the yeast mixed in with the flour. I like to proof my yeast. It only takes a few minutes and I’d rather find out at this point that my yeast is not good, before I use it in the bread and be disappointed with the results.
I use active dry yeast and instant yeast interchangeably. I’m currently using two types of instant yeast – Fleischmans, and British Class. The latter is finer and performs better, but Fleischmans is easier to find in Canada. I found the British Class in No Frills by the way.
I start with warm water – around 100 degrees F. If it’s too hot, you’ll kill the yeast. The warm water helps activate the yeast faster. In a large bowl (preferably glass), I add 1-1/4 cups of warm water, 1 tsp of sugar, and then sprinkle 2-1/4 tsp of yeast on top. I stir it all together and wait 5 to 10 minutes, until I see the bloom on top.
Then I know I’m ready. While I’m waiting, I mince up the roasted garlic so it will be ready.
Add in the seasoning
When I see the yeast bloom, I mix in the salt, rosemary, and garlic. When substituting dry rosemary for fresh, remember that dried herbs are stronger, so only use a third. In this recipe, I added 2 tsp of dried rosemary, but you can substitute 2 tbsp of fresh if available.
Mix in the flour
When measuring flour for the bread, do not pack it down in the measuring cup. You want the flour to be light a fluffy. I stir my flour and then gently spoon it into the measuring cup. Add it to the water in whatever way works best for you. Some people prefer to mix the flour in a little at a time, others prefer a mixer with a dough hook (which I don’t have).
I use a Danish dough whisk, which does a great job mixing the dough and scraping the sides of the bowl. When there’s no more dry flour, you’re left with a wet, sticky dough. This is often referred to as shaggy dough. I drizzle the dough with 1 tbsp of olive oil, and roll it around so the oil covers it all.
We’re ready for the first rising. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a draft free place to rise. You can use a tea towel to cover it, but I find it takes longer to rise. Since it’s winter at the moment, my house is a bit cool, so I put my bowl in the oven. Even though it’s off, it is draft free. I let it rise for around 1 to 1-1/2 hours. What you want is for the dough to double in size. If you’re in a hurry for the dough to rise, leave the oven light on while it’s in there.
When the dough has doubled in size, turn the bowl upside down onto a floured surface. This dough will be a bit sticky so sprinkle a bit of flour on it so you can work with it. Don’t punch it down or you will lose the bubbles in the dough. Fold it in half and keep turning and folding it until it’s no longer sticky and it’s stiffer and resembles a dough ball. It’s usually around 5 times. Place the dough, seam side up onto a sheet of parchment paper, place in a bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
While you wait for the dough to rise again, place your dutch oven into the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. If you don’t have a dutch oven, use a large pot with an oven safe handle and a good fitting lid. My oven takes about 30 mins to reach 450 F.
Baking the bread
Lift the parchment paper and gently place it with the dough ball into the preheated pot (carefully – don’t burn yourself). Those seams will create the lovely crevices at the top of the loaf. Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes. The steam inside the pot makes the bread so soft inside yet crispy outside. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and keep baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaf of the shade of golden brown you love.
Carefully toss the loaf out of the pot onto your counter or cutting board. Let it cool and resist temptation to cut into it for at least 10 minutes.
1 head of garlic
1 tsp olive oil
salt to taste
2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1-1/4 cups warm water
1-1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dry rosemary (or 2 tbsp fresh rosemary)
8-10 garlic cloves, roasted and chopped
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp olive oil
Cut the head off the garlic to expose the cloves and place in an oven proof baking dish.
Drizzle olive oil over the cloves and sprinkle with salt.
Cover and roast for 45 mins at 400 degrees F.
Remove and let cool.
Stir sugar and yeast into warm water in a large mixing bowl and let sit 5-10 minutes until the yeast blooms.
Add in the salt, rosemary, and roasted garlic.
Add flour to the bowl and stir until all the flour is mixed in, using a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl. The dough may look rough and shaggy.
Drizzle olive oil all around the dough, turning to coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a draft free place to rise (I place in the oven). Let rise at least one hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Place the dough on a floured cutting board. Sprinkle the top with flour to make it easier to work with.
Pull and fold in the sides until the dough becomes relatively stiff. Shape into a round ball.
Flour a second bowl and place the dough seam side down into the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
Place an oven proof pot or casserole dish into the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. When the oven reaches temperature, carefully place the dough, seam side up, into the pot and place in the oven.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid after 30 minutes and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Remove the bread and let cool approx. 10 minutes before trying to cut it.
This bread has no preservatives so it will go stale quickly. Here are some of the ways I use it:
Warm it slightly in the oven to bring back the crispy crust.
Slice and toast for an exceptional artisan sandwich with your favourite ingredients.
Cut into cubes, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes for homemade croutons to use in salads and soups.
Slice and let the bread dry out then toss in a blender for savory bread crumbs.
I don’t usually post recipes but this one has been asked for a few times so I thought I would share. This is not a recipe site though, so I don’t have an easy print button for you. Luckily, this recipe is easy to remember.
This recipe has become my go-to dessert when I need something quick. It might be because I’ve been invited somewhere at the last minute or just found out company is on the way. The recipe can be easily doubled.
If you object to anything made in a microwave, stop reading now. This is pretty much the only thing I “cook” in a microwave.
4 medium tart apples – I use Granny Smith apples – peeled, cored, and thinly sliced.
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tbs flour
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tbs of maple syrup (optional and to taste)
2/3 cup of old fashioned oats
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbs cold butter.
Toss the apples with the flour, sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon and put in a greased 9″ pie plate or baking pan. Drizzle with the maple syrup.
In a separate bowl, mix the oats, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture is crumbly.
Sprinkle the topping over the apples evenly and cover with wax paper.
Microwave on high for 6 or 7 minutes, until the apples are soft. Each microwave is different so find what works for yours.
That’s all there is to it. Serve with whatever you want. Enjoy.
Every now and then, I find myself needing to vent about a recent event that has irritated me. It doesn’t matter if you care or not but you’re more then welcome to add your comments or even share any recent pet peeves of yours in the Comments.
Purolator is a courier service owned by Canada Post. I’d love to complain to them directly but after being on hold for an hour on the phone, together with my inability to find an email address for them, and having received no response from @PurolatorHelp on Twitter, I have decided to turn to you, dear readers, for sympathy.
I ordered a desk online and it had been shipped via Purolator. I won’t even go into how Purolator takes 3 times as long to deliver things compared to other courier companies; I’m just going to vent about the delivery experience itself.
The day it was delivered a Penske truck pulled up and a very healthy-looking young man rang my doorbell and explained he had a delivery for me but it was too heavy for him to lift off his truck and he wanted me to do it. I’m NOT young (and I’m not saying how old I am – suffice to say MUCH older than him) and I have a bad back, so I explained that I was unable to assist and offered him the use of my dolly. He said he already had a dolly but it was too heavy to lift from the truck to the dolly.
I told him I thought it was being delivered by Purolator and he explained he was with Purolator (I think maybe they’re contracting out jobs, who knows). I finally said if it’s too heavy for you to lift, and since I’m unable to lift for you, I guess you’ll have to take it back and explain you’re unable to deliver due to the weight.
I think that confused him, but I wasn’t about to have a staring contest with him at my door, so I reiterated that he only had two choices – lift it off the truck himself or return it saying he was unable to deliver it, then I closed the door.
Five minutes later I heard noises outside my door and he had just finished putting the large box on my porch. The young, healthy man who had said the package was too heavy to lift off the truck to his dolly, had managed to bring it to my front porch, sans dolly.
So what was the problem? Was he really unable to deliver it? Is Canada Post outsourcing to incompetent individuals, or was this one individual so lazy that he tried to get an older, injured lady to do his job. What would happen if he was delivering to somebody in a wheelchair or walker?
Companies that take orders online for delivery take note – FedEx and UPS are willing to work harder for your business than a company like Purolator.
Lying broken on the floor trying not to feel the pain of all my bruises and deep lacerations. Trying not to open my eyes so I won’t have to see all the carnage I allowed and the damage I caused, Keeping my eyes closed so I won’t have to look at the accumulation of scars from every day of my life. Lying still and waiting to find the strength to rise above and continue on despite my wounds and all the scars that are invisible to see.
This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person or place is unintentional.
“I don’t know who I am” the young boy said.
“Why? Do you have amnesia? Do you remember your name?”
“You don’t understand. Nobody does. “
“Listen kid, I do understand. You might be making things more complicated than they need to be. You’re still a kid – you have lots of time to figure out who you are. Hell, some of us are still trying to figure it out in our seventies. There’s no deadline, no quiz at the end. You figure it out as you go along and until then, just be you.”
“That’s the point, I don’t know who I am, I’m different from other people.”
“That’s the beauty of the world – we’re all different. Yet we’re all the same. Just be yourself – focus on being who YOU want to be and never mind trying to fit other people’s idea of who you should be.”
“I get teased at school and called name. Once I got beat up on the way home. The girls understand – they treat me like I’m just one of their girlfriends, but I get picked on almost every day by bullies.”
“Bullies are bullies. They act that way because you threaten them – by being different. That’s where racism comes from and all those religious wars throughout history. Some people think different is bad. Bullies will pick on people for being too short, too fat, too black, too anything that isn’t like them. Heck, in some countries they have a vendetta against people with red hair.”
“You’re not like most people your age. Most of your generation is the worst.”
“I always thought racism and hatred was a learned behaviour. Can you believe I never saw a black person until I was 11? Tells you what kind of community I grew up in. I wasn’t racist though – mostly curious. I was the same way when I met my first gay person when I was 20. I was curious. I never understood why people got so upset at others being different. They always say put yourself in other people’s shoes. Well, how would we feel if we were white in a predominately black country and we were treated that way.
“Treat others as you would like to be treated. That’s what my mother taught me. She didn’t say only if they’re white, and tall, and thin, and blond, and straight.
“And let me share a little secret with you kid – the most famous or successful people are those who dare to be different, who embrace who they are 100%, that rise above the others. Those bullies at school? Most of them will end up being losers in life. Look at Gandhi, Mandela, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Howie Mandel, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ruth Bader-Ginsberg. And that’s just a few.”
“Yeah but they weren’t gay. I wish I wasn’t gay.”
“And I wish I wasn’t 72. Wish all you want but you are what you are. Sometimes you just don’t have a choice. I used to wonder about that; whether people were born gay or whether they chose to be gay, or even if something happened to make them gay.”
“What did you decide?”
“I decided it didn’t matter. I decided to accept people as they are. As long as it doesn’t affect me, why should I care? Live and let live and all that stuff.
“Besides, being gay isn’t the end of the world. Look at musicians like Elton John and Freddie Mercury, CEOs like Tim Cook, chef Ted Allen, and let’s not even start talking about designers like Giorgio Armani and Adolpho. Do you really want to be like everyone else? Or do you want to be happy to be completely yourself. Spend your time figuring out who you are and be that. Don’t waste time trying to be like everyone else.”
“I guess you do understand, sort of.”
“I don’t need to understand. I just need to accept people for who they are, like you should. And start by accepting yourself – as you are. And anytime you need reminding, here’s my name and number. Call me. I’ll listen.”
This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person or place is unintentional.
The summer had drawn to a close, much like the remnants of my previous life. I had spent the hot, humid days packing up my house in Georgia and moving across the country. It wasn’t quite like “Go west, young man”, more like “Go anywhere but here, young woman”, and so I’d gone north, to start again.
I was starting this leg of my journey alone. I’d lost my husband, Bryan, in the early spring from COVID-19 and it has taken me this long to manage all that I had to deal with – the estate, the funeral, selling the house and buying a new one. Somewhere else. Somewhere without Bryan. Somewhere without memories.
I was an only child, and I lost my parents six years ago. Bryan and I had never been blessed with children, so after he passed away, I realized that I was truly alone, for the first time in my life.
The days were getting shorter now and the leaves on the maple tree in in the front yard of my new house were turning a vibrant shade of orange. I’d missed that, living in Georgia – the changing of the seasons; the changing of life. Of losing one thing but gaining something new. Even the sunsets were becoming more vibrant, a rich mosaic to accompany the dying sun, followed by hauntingly blue hues of the rising moon. A flock of geese in V formation flew overhead, heading south, honking out their farewell message.
Life was changing, there was no doubt about that. From Georgia to Boston, the scenery was as different as day and night. Fall was a season of preparation – since the beginning of time, the turning of leaves has signified the start of winter preparations. My ancestors gathered supplies to get them through the long, cold winters in northern Quebec, chopping wood for wood stoves, making quilts, salting meat, and preparing jars of preserves to sustain them. They even saved pig fat for oil lamps and candles to light the way on those dark cold nights.
I have been gathering and preparing as well. I have gathered all of my strength and seldom allow myself to wallow in self-pity. I’d left behind a career in corporate finance and taken a chance on opening a small gift shop. I know it’s going to take some time to feel at home in my new community, but I have an idea that might help me get to know the people in my neighbourhood.
With Hallowe’en approaching, I’ve overheard people talking about how nervous they are about letting their children go out trick or treating, so I decided to open my shop as a drop off location for treats. I’ll use my own gift bags and create little grab bags for different ages of children, and then instead of having to go door to door on October 31st, parents can bring their children by the shop to collect a gift bag full of treats from all their neighbours. That would also let parents go out with their children instead of having to stay home and shell out.
I’ll need a costume of course, something memorable. I just remembered I had a serving wench costume that I haven’t worn in years. I’ll wear it this year while I’m serving treats to children and spiked hot chocolate to parents. That will be memorable, right?
Bryan and I had loved Hallowe’en, and we’d always made our front yard look like a cemetery. We used to go to parties dressed like famous (or infamous) couples – Sony and Cher one year, Bonnie and Clyde the next. Continuing the tradition this year will be a great way to remember my time with him, bittersweet though the memories will be.
Time to get busy – there are flyers to make and then drop off at the houses in my community so people will know what I’m planning. This will be a great way to meet my neighbours!