Wednesday, June 27, 2012

bitter sweet

Twice a year, I get that bitter sweet feeling.  I usually get this feeling at the beginning of summer...and at the end of it.

When I wrote this, I was sitting by an open window…and feel the cool breeze of the early dusk begin.  There is a distinctive smell and sound.  The street is fairly silent…a few pleading bursts from children asking to stay up just a little bit longer, as they reluctantly head to bed before the last day of school.

The temperature in the air is cool with a warm undertone which is relatively the same temperature at both bookends of the summer.  Cooled evenings as a reprieve from a long hot day. It’s also that feeling of calm (before the storm?)

Both the beginning and end of summer marks an unusually reflective time for me.  At the beginning of the summer, I usually reflect on the past school year, and wish it would stay the same for just a little longer.  Especially if the kids had a good year…and both of them did!  Amazing friends to play with, wonderful doting teachers and a good mix of academic and social accomplishments.  I don’t want things to change, and deep down, I want to keep things status quo.  

Maybe this marks another stepping stone towards become adults.  This is the bitter sweet end of the school year for me.  As much as I look forward to the lazy days eating ice cream and enjoying the laughter and bliss with my children, part of me doesn't want to rock the boat, as they thrive in their routine.  Will they like their teacher next year?  Will their friends be in the same class?  Will they feel the same sense of accomplishment or would they be frustrated with the ever so increasing difficulty of the academic requirements as they go up one more grade?

At the end of summer, I usually reflect on times spent as a family.  Did we make it to that park?  Did we set out to see everything that summer has to offer?  Did they enjoy their time with me?  Did we waste the summer away, or did we make the summer memorable?  Did they learn anything...not in an academic way, but in a more important way...did they learn any new life lessons?

I guess I will have to brave forward and find out...that's what parenting is all about... learning to navigate the bitter and the sweet, and to find a happy balance between both.

Sweet Tarts
(adapted from Anna Olson's Raisin Butter Tarts)

I love the mix of the tartness of the raisins, the sweetness of the sugar filling and the buttery pastry.  A wonderful balance of textures and flavours...this is apparently Anna Olson's (celebrity pastry chef) signature dish.



  • 21⁄3 cup (575 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp (20mL) organic sugar
  • 1 tsp (5mL) salt
  • 1/2 cup (125mL) unsalted butter (Anna Olson used 1 cup of butter, but I like to add vegetable shortening to make the crust more flaky in texture).
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable shortening
  • 2 Tbsp (30mL) cold water
  • (The original recipe calls for 1 egg...I omitted the egg and didn't find a major difference).


  • 3⁄4 cup (175 mL) dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3⁄4 cup (175 mL) corn syrup
  • 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp (5mL) white vinegar
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) organic Thompson raisins


  • Combine flour, sugar and salt. 
  • Cut butter and shortening into small pieces and add to flour, mixing until dough is a rough, crumbly texture. 
  • Slowly add water, mixing until dough comes together. 
  • Shape dough into 2 logs, wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
  • Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C) and lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin. 
  • Lightly dust a work surface with flour and unwrap pastry logs. 
  • Slice each log into six pieces. 
  • Roll each piece to about 1⁄4 inch thickness and line each muffin cup (I use either a fork or my fingers to create a ruffled pastry edge).
  • Chill lined muffin tin while preparing filling.
  • Whisk sugar, corn syrup and butter in a bowl by hand until combined. 
  • Whisk in eggs, then vinegar and vanilla. 
  • Sprinkle a few raisins in the bottom of each muffin cup and pour filling over the raisins. 
  • Bake tarts for 5 minutes, then reduce oven to 375 °F (180 °C) and continue baking until butter tart filling starts to done, about 20 more minutes. 
  • Cool tarts in the tin and chill before removing, but serve and store at room temperature.

Serves 12.


Friday, June 22, 2012

dole it out

It's funny how sometimes when you witness something, how a flood of emotions are triggered, bringing back a moment of time in the past.  

Yesterday I saw a video of an elderly woman, a school bus monitor, being bullied (outright, harassed!) by elementary school children.  Yes, elementary school (12 and 13 year olds, not high school).  I'm not sure if I am more naively shocked at the language that these children used or the fact that they could be so brazenly cruel to an elderly person. (the video is here...warning, it is quite disturbing) 

This video brought me back to a time when I was in elementary school, when I was taunted  because of my ethnicity.  I remember one incident that haunts me, still today, when a boy who was a couple of years older than me decided to use my head as a punching bag, when I sat in front of him on the school bus. 

I can't help but wonder how one childhood moment can shape (or scar) the way I feel about certain things with my children today.  Although my children do not take the school bus (for logistical reasons), I think deep down inside I was secretly glad that they were out of the boundaries for school busing.  I always imagined that what happened to me would happen to them.  

Conversely, I try to ensure that my own children are conscientious of other children in their classroom, ensuring that they are sensitive to the differences of others, and to respect those differences.  I try to model respectful behaviour, and never ever tolerate spiteful and cruel behaviour.  

I don't know if children in today's society are really taught that.  With the feeling of entitlement, along with the technological abilities to humiliate someone at such a broad scale, I think now more than ever, as parents we need to really teach the youth of today that you treat others how you want to be treated, whether it's online, or in person. That those actions can haunt you or someone else for the rest of their lives (and haunt you years later if it's on the internet). 

I'm still trying to navigate the "right" way to teach my children about society and relationships with others...I sometimes find myself trying to figure that out myself!  However, one thing for sure, I will make sure they learn that if you spew garbage, that you will get garbage in return.   If you behave respectfully and honourably, you will be treated that same way.  If you're going to dole it out, you better accept the same in return.

Hopefully, with the heat in these first few days of summer, I hope this season, the only thing I have to worry about them doling out, is a cold treat like this.   

Pineapple Dole Whip
(adapted from Group Recipes)
This turned out more like a cross between ice cream and sorbet.  The taste was very similar to the original Pineapple Dole Whip (at Disney) but the texture was a little more icy.  An ice cream maker would definitely make this more creamy.
  • 4 cups of finely chopped pineapple and 2 tbsp. of pineapple juice (or two 20oz cans of DOLE crushed pineapple) 
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup organic sugar (powdered/icing sugar would do well too).
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped
  • Dice fresh or drain canned pineapple: reserve 2 tbsp. juice. Set aside.
  • Place pineapple, lemon juice, lime juice, sugar and reserved pineapple juice in blender (or use an immersion blender), and blend until smooth.
  • Pour into two 1-quart freezer zipped bags. 
  • Store bags flat in freezer. 
  • Freeze 1 1/2 hours or until slushy.
  • Stir pineapple slush gently into whipped cream until slightly blended in large bowl.
  • Return into the ziplock bag and place in the freezer until completely frozen, about 1 hour.
  • Cut one corner of the ziplock bag, and "pipe" the frozen treat into bowls, for that "swirl" effect.

Friday, June 15, 2012

happy father's day

It's funny how sometimes certain "Hallmark holidays" can bring the craziness out of people.  Rushing around to get gifts, cards and organizing to get together to celebrate a "holiday".

I'd like to think of Father's day as something more than celebrating the role of being a father.  Everyone's definition of a father's role is different, although strangely enough, all the father's day cards have things like golf, sports, bbq's and sailboats (how many men sail?) that are supposed to represent what being a father is really like.

For my husband, I'd like to see a card that takes us back to the feeling of when we first found out we were going to be parents.  The anticipation.  The unknown.  The strangely existential feeling that we're never going to be alone anymore....whether the kids are in the house, or in our heart when they "fly the coup".  The sheer joy.

The life altering moment when our children first arrived...part adrenlinen, part euphoria...that complete feeling of exhaustion, but at the same time, the feeling of not wanting to go to sleep.  To capture every moment.  To reassure that everything is and will be, alright.  To hold on to our children tight, forever.

I know those sentiments are often found in Mother's Day cards...I know though, that a lot of Dad's feel the same way too.  I've often used photographs instead of cards (or gift card holders as shown here), to evoke those emotions.  So, to my husband, this is a kiss from one of our kids....

...and to all the Dads out there, this Sunday have a...

Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

exercising my options

In New York, Mayor Bloomberg is currently trying to pass a by-law that prohibits the sale of sugary drinks (like pop, sports drinks, sweetened tea or coffee) in large cups or containers (more than 16 fluid ounces).  Public health officials applaud his move as a step towards fighting obesity, while the general public appears conflicted with allowing the government to choose what they are allowed to consume.

I'm not sure if banning sugary drinks is a solution to obesity.  I often think, especially in our economic state, that our decisions are greatly influenced with price and greed.  When someone purchases a 32 ounce soda, I question whether they were truly motivated by how thirsty they were, or if their purchase was more motivated with the logic "Look at how much you can get for so little!"

It's really about moderation.  And it's difficult to practise moderation when your choices are so limited and the cheap prices are so tempting.  At the movie concession stand, why is a 32 ounce soda cheaper than a bottle of water? Why are there a dozen variations of candy and fried foods, but only one or two options of healthy choices , if any.

Wouldn't it be nice to have, now and then, an alternative?  When we go to the movies, I often try to sneak in healthier snack options, like oatmeal raisin cookies or banana bread (shh...don't tell!).   When I bake my own snacks, I have the ability to choose the amount of sugar and salt that goes into my food, and can add healthier ingredients.  I think the biggest problem, especially when you go to a venue like the movies, is that there are so many options for junk food, but such little, pricier options for healthy foods, and sometimes we can forget that although it may appear cheaper to pay for the oversized soft drink now, in the long run, what price do you really pay (with your body) when you drink a 32 ounce soft drink?

Maybe instead of a ban on sugary foods and drinks, how about regulating the price of healthy ones?  Lowering the price of healthy, organic foods, while implementing a health and education tax on items with artificial ingredients (MSG, nitrates, dyes), or contain an excess of 2% of the daily intake of salt and sugar, so food producers don't find it economical to mass produce inferior quality foods.   Maybe that health tax would pay for the damage you put into your body every time you eat nitrate-filled, cancer inducing foods, and the education tax could go towards educating proper nutrition in schools.  And the freedom of choice is still still want it,  you can pay for it.  

Healthy food should be more affordable and accessible.  Think of it...what would happen if there was a price reversal at the movie concession stand? Charge $1 for a 16 oz bottle of water and $3.99 for a 32 ounce soda.   I wonder what people will order then?  Until that happens, I think I will continue to sneak in some healthier options, like these oatmeal raisin cookies.

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
(makes approx. 24 cookies)

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Stir in the oats and raisins. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  • Bake 10 to 12 minutes until light and golden. Do not overbake.
  • Cool for 2 minutes and store in airtight container.