They say that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. That makes sense. There were people who shared difficult times with me, people who helped me and who helped shape me into the person I became, people that I was able to help in some way, and people who will remain in my heart forever, even if they’re gone.
I envy people who are still close friends with people they went to school with; how you must trust them like family. Sadly, few people in my high school would even remember me. It isn’t totally my fault though – at sixteen I had to leave my foster home suddenly and the next several years are best described as a nightmare.
Thinking back over the years, I’ve come to realize that I lose people. For no particular reason except that life moved on and we lost touch.
It’s easy to lose people. One of us moves away, gets a new job, starts a new relationship (ever notice how some people forget their friends when they’re in a relationship? That’s a post for another day though). We have every intention of keeping in touch, getting together, remaining friends. Life moves on though and we look back and think, “Wow! Has it really been that long?” A year, five years, ten years, twenty years.
Some friends are meant to be though, and your paths with cross again. That was the case with my elementary school friend, Susan Hayman (now Holbrow). I used to walk by her house on Beechgrove Road every Sunday on my way to St. Joseph’s Church. She started coming with me. That always confused me because she wasn’t Catholic – she didn’t HAVE to go to church. She even came to summer camp with me one year – and shortly after that her family moved to Fullerton California. We wrote to each other for awhile, but the letters eventually dwindled. I’m so happy to see her whenever she visits Canada, and one day I will visit California.
Facebook has helped me to reconnect with some other high school friends, including a special one, Karen Robbins. These friends – Karen in particular – knew me best; she knew the difficulties I faced when I was sixteen. Even after I left my foster home, we stayed in touch, lived together for awhile, and then we lost touch. I searched for her for years, to no avail. I still remember the day she connected with me on Facebook – I literally cried.
My biological parents are gone. My foster parents are gone. My foster sister is gone. I am not close with my biological siblings. Sometimes I feel all alone in the world. That’s when I start thinking of the people I’ve lost and I ask myself why I allowed that to happen.
I think we all mean to stay in touch, but life gets busy and distracting. I have to do a better job at reaching out and just say “Hi, how are you” to keep the connection going. I’m going to challenge myself to write a list of people I know that I don’t want to lose, and my resolution for 2022 will be to strengthen the connection.
There’s a reason we met, and I don’t want to lose any more friends. If you’re reading this and think you might be one of the friends I haven’t stayed in touch with – please don’t hesitate – reach out and keep in touch. Don’t let me lose you.
I made a decision today to carry around a notebook with me everywhere, to motivate me to stop for a few minutes every day and write something – anything. Writing helps me to focus which in turn helps me to calm down.
So, I set about gathering all my notebooks and assembling them in the order in which they should be used. Then I did something different today – I put the best ones on top. I’m going to use those ones first. That’s quite different for me – I’ve always saved my best things for special occasions but I’ve just decided that every day is special and I’m going to use the best ones first.
While I was making this decision, I had a memory of my mother. She was feeling the blues one day and it had a lot to do with getting older, so while I was visiting, I took her shopping. One of the things we bought were pretty underwear. I told her just because she was getting older, and just because she was not thin anymore, was no reason not to have pretty underwear. Even if no one ever sees them, YOU know you’re wearing them and that can make you feel better.
Years later when she passed away and I was clearing out her house, I opened her underwear drawer. There were all the nice pretty underwear – still new and never worn. Knowing my mother she was saving them for a special occasion.
That always confused me, because when I was a child I remember her once saying that life is short, eat dessert first. I don’t know when that changed for her, but I know that I have a tendency to save things for a special occasion as well – whether it’s a notebook or underwear or my fine china.
Today I decided that being alive is a special occasion, and when I die I hope the only empty notebooks will be the cheap ones. The good ones will all be filled with my writing. And I hope that my underwear drawer will be filled with pretty underwear; none of it new and unworn.
When I entered the workforce in my late teens/early twenties, the fight for equality was just starting. When I think of where we are now, it seems almost unbelievable how far we’ve come. Women entering the workforce now have almost no idea what it was like in the 70’s.
I’m going to relate a couple of situations that I experienced back then.
The first situation was when I got a part time job pumping gas. There were no self-serve gas stations back then – attendants pumped your gas, checked your oil, and cleaned your windshield. You never even had to get out of your vehicle to pay; attendants came to your window to accept payment. I was hired by the guy on the evening shift. I looked like a young lad – short and thin, when a very short hair cut. Until you looked at me up close, which the owner did one day. He felt it was unsuitable to have a “girl” pumping gas and I lost my part time job. Funny how it because suitable when self-serve gas stations opened. (Interesting fact – did you know consumers were promised cheaper gas by pumping it themselves? Funny that never happened, isn’t it?)
A similar situation happened when I got a part time job as a DJ. The owner of the disco company reluctantly “allowed” me to play at weddings and parties, until one night they were stuck and needed someone to cover in a club. Then it became my second full time job. When the owner went on vacation, the vice president of the company promoted me to area supervisor and I started helping to install discos and train DJs. Until the owner returned and was very upset about that turn of events. When I lost that job, I went to New York City and ended up employed by Juliana’s Sound Services in Manhattan, a predominantly female DJ company.
The Good Old Days?
When I started working in an office, dresses or skirts were mandatory. There were rules – so far below the knee, so far above the ankle, no bare midriff, no halter tops, no going bra less (I always wondered how they tested for that). When tellers at the Bank of Nova Scotia were given the right to wear slacks to work, it wasn’t long until most women were given the same right. The first step towards equality.
Outside the office, women were discriminated against as well, in the increased cost of products and services. Let’s take razors as an example. Razors for women were more expensive, despite being almost identical. The only main difference is the handles were pink. Must have been expensive pink.
Besides products, services were more expensive as well. The one that irritated me the most was dry cleaning. The cost of dry cleaning for women was almost 30% more. It irritated me so much, I started to lie to my dry cleaner. Here was a typical conversation when dropping things off:
“2 men’s pants, 3 men’s shirts, 1 dress.“
“These are women’s pants.”
“No, they aren’t. They’re my brothers.“
“No, the button is on the other side.”
“Ha! I wonder if my brother knows that.“
“This is a woman’s shirt”
“No, it isn’t. It my husband’s.“
“The buttons are on the wrong side.”
“Wow, I guess my husband didn’t notice that.“
“The material is really soft too.”
“Yeah, he likes soft materials.“
Staring war ensues until he gives in.
But I hated having to do that every time I had to drop off dry cleaning.
Equal doesn’t mean looking the same
It’s worth mentioning that my shirts were not the frilly kind. I’ve never been the frilly type – in the 70’s and 80’s I was too busy believing that emulating a man would help my career and let me be taken more seriously. So, you have to picture me in white business shirt, short hair, and tailored pin stripe suits with padded shoulders. No frills.
By the 90’s, friends were calling me a feminist. No, I’m not a feminist I would say; I’m an equalist. Why should I be treated any different. If a man had a rough day at work and stopped by a bar to relax with a drink on his way home, that was acceptable. But for a woman to do the same was not. If a male manager raised his voice to a staff member, he was “authoritative” (considered a good trait at the time), but if a female manager did the same, she was a “bitch” or maybe it was “her time of the month”.
I now realize that I’m more than an equalist – I am a feminist. As all women should be. It’s amazing how far we’ve come. We can do the same jobs, we have the same rights, and those who feel that a woman’s place is in the kitchen are quickly becoming a minority.
But we’re not there yet.
So, what made me think about this now?
Actually two bras.
I bought two bras at a Giant Tiger store in Sutton, Ontario. Signs around the store hanging from the ceiling said “Don’t try clothes on”, so I tried them on at home, and they didn’t fit.
When I went to return them, I was told I couldn’t. It was “unsanitary”. It was a young lady, who told me that they were like underwear. I had an email from Giant Tiger’s head office, stating that “Bras, and swim tops such as tankini and bikini tops are not to be classified as undergarments and will be refunded.” The sales clerk phoned the manager, who said I could return it “this time only”.
I’m not trying to slam the store. This Giant Tiger store actually does a lot of good in the community, and I love Giant Tiger. I love the one in Newmarket, in Stouffville, in Lindsay, and the two in North Bay. But here we have a store that hires predominantly pretty young women, who tell me that returned bras (still on hanger with all tags) have to be thrown out when they’re returned because they’re unsanitary.
Despite being a franchise, I was told they could make their own rules, that they didn’t have to follow the rules of their head office. I think they should read their franchise agreement again. I’ve seldom seen one that includes that clause.
I asked why they were considered unsanitary – I’m way too old to be a lactating female. What is the difference if a man returns a t-shirt? What if I returned a t-shirt that I tried on without a bra? No answer.
Because there is no answer.
There are still those who feel that it’s acceptable to have different standards and rules for men and women.
There are still those who believe that it’s okay to pay women less than men, or to deny them promotion opportunities because they might take time off to start a family.
There are still those who feel it’s appropriate to treat a woman as sexual object – the sex trade illustrates that.
In the Euro 2021 beach handball games this year, the men’s team wore shorts and tank tops. The Norwegian women’s team wore thigh-length elastic shorts during their bronze medal match against Spain in Bulgaria, to protest against the regulation bikini-bottom design. They were fined 1,500 euros total ($1,700) for “improper clothing”. Women are required to wear midriff-baring tops and bikini bottoms “with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg” and a maximum side width of 4 inches, according to International Handball Federation regulations.
There’s a growing movement to cancel Canada Day celebrations this year, in light of the recent graves discovered at the residential schools and the reminder of that terrible part of our history, when children were removed from their homes on reserves and sent to schools. These schools were nothing less than re-education centres, run by a few organized religions, predominately Roman Catholic. It was, in fact, cultural genocide and many children were abused and died of various causes, their unmarked and undocumented graves only recently discovered.
I’ve thought long and hard about whether we should be celebrating Canada Day this year, even taking into consideration the fact that some of my ancestors were Aboriginal.
Every country in the world has shameful events in their past. In our multicultural country, many of our citizens come from countries where exploitation, torture, and genocide are still happening. Our local newspaper just published an article about a refugee from one such country.
We cannot change our history, but we can change how we respond to the tragedies that are part of it. By coming together and recognizing our strengths and our weaknesses, we are demonstrating what it means to be Canadian. As Canadians, we must not cover it up, but bring it to light and find a way to reconcile what has happened with who we are today.
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.