About Me

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What I am: Complicated. A mom. A wife. A thinker. A seeker. A 'musician'. One of the volunteer executive directors of a niche music festival. An administrative business owner who set up shop in a senior's condo. Oh the stories!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Dreaded Lunchbox

Ah, the end of June is here.  If there is one thing I am even more excited about than the approaching summer holidays it is this...  No. more. lunches.  For two whole months!  Can you believe it?  It's the most wonderful time of the year.

School lunches are the bane of my existence.  “Oh Tracy,” you say. "There are certainly worse things such as global warming, civil unrest, The Real Housewives of Anywhere..."  I have but one thing to say to you...I hate lunch.

Even back in my own school days, I hated lunch.  Face it, food in a bag which has festered in a locker for 3 hours is something only the dog can get excited about. Really great and different lunches weren't invented when I went to school.  On top of this, my mom was a bit of a health food nut, so I would be eating yet another tuna on brown, gazing longingly at my classmates' lunch, wondering why I couldn't dine on cheezies, twizzlers or cupcakes.  Frankly, the only thing I looked forward to was when my mom didn't have time to bake bread and we got to have the ultimate...bread from the store!  It was referred to by the most hilarious made up name: boughten bread.  Do you remember boughten bread??  It was such a treat!  I would even eat one of those shiny, quivering squares of ham if it was between two pieces of McGavin's white bread!

On most occasions though, I would open the fridge and stare into it, hoping the lunch ingredients would assemble themselves before my disinterested eyes.  When they did not, I would shout, "THERE'S NOTHING FOR LUNCH TOMORROW!"  It was then that I would get "The Speech."  The Speech consisted of the history of what my parents had for their school lunches.

 "What do you mean there's nothing for lunch? You don't know how lucky you are! Do you know what we had for our school lunches??" 
(I did know, but it was Too Late. I had opened Pandora's Lunchbox)
"Lard Sandwiches, that's what!  And there were none of these fancy Happy Days lunch kits...noooo. We carried our lunch to school in a Lard Pail.  If we were lucky, there was enough lard left over to make a dessert...that's right, lard with molasses on top.  We were happy with our lard and never complained!" 

(Okay, I made up the last part, but it's not really a stretch. )  Sometimes The Speech would end there, other times it would continue on to describe how hard it was to get to school, uphill both ways, carrying their horse on their backs.

I started out with much enthusiasm with my own kid’s lunches. I cut out sandwiches with heart-shaped cookie cutters, I skewered grapes and cheese onto toothpicks, I baked teeny tiny muffins. I even packed little notes that said, I love you! Have a super day!  I was so cute I annoyed myself.  It was all well and good until I packed the first banana of the school year.  “Mooooom  my whole lunch tastes like the smell of banana now!!”  And so it began.

After so many years, consistently trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat 5 days a week, 10 months a year becomes a chore.  After a while, the rabbit appears taxidermied, and is missing an ear or two…even with the ever-so-helpful magazines staring at me from the grocery store checkout: Healthy and Fun Lunches Kids Will Love!  Oh shut up, Martha. Have you met my kids?

My daughter has rejected every lunch food produced in North America.  See, she will LOVE something and eat nothing else for six weeks, then she will declare that she HATES that very thing and never look at it again.  This is usually after I have bought a truckload of it.  The boy is a bit easier, he eats anything but hotdogs and asparagus. If only I could get him to bring home his thermos before it becomes a scientific experiment.

Yes, Martha, walk a mile in my robe and slippers.  You’ll be in the closet with a half bottle of Chardonnay faster than you can say, “Lunchtime!”   Cheers to my holiday from lunch!!

Of course, it's due to the consumption of lard.  Listen to your parents, kids!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

The Ruby Tree

If you've been keeping up with this blog, you know Sir Landscape-a-Lot and I have been working hard lately.  K-tel was all out of Insta-Yard, so it looks like we are going to have to create this chunk of property old school.  With all the dreary, dripping weather this spring, we haven't been able to step into the yard without sinking ankle deep.  Now, after a few days of blessed sunshine, it's great guns. 

Gardening and yard work are good for the mind.  It's peaceful, thinking time for me.  As we have tackled this project, I've been thinking a great deal about my mother-in-law, Ruby.  Ruby passed away a couple of years ago, having reached the great milestone of 90 years.  It was with Ruby that I planted and tended to my first vegetable gardens. 

Ruby was very calm about things, she never really got in a flap about much (unless you were to run off to Vegas to get married, then she had something to say!) This serenity probably came about from having 17 kids.  No, that was not a typo.  Yes, one family, all from the same husband.  She really was something. After having that many kids she saw it all and probably realized that things just weren't worth getting so worked up over. 

She must have really wondered what kind of nut job her son had gotten himself tangled up with because I was probably out in the garden with a ruler, measuring seed depth.  I am rather flappable and was very concerned I was doing things all wrong. I was so worried about taking these fragile plants out of their little containers to transplant them.  Surely they would die before I actually got them in the ground!  I was convinced that there was a secret to all of this gardening stuff that I, as a young wife, did not know.  My mother always grew a fabulous garden and she seemed to dedicate most of her summer to it, so I thought it must have taken great skill and knowledge.  Why didn't I pay attention as a dreadful, disinterested teenager??

I asked Ruby a whole bunch of questions before I even got started.  She would just calmly say, "I don't know, just put it in the ground, it'll grow."  She gave me a few hints and tips, but she mostly taught me that it wasn't rocket science.  I believe that what she was trying to communicate to me was that we've been doing this for generations.  Just trust, and learn along the way.  When I think back to this time I spent with her, I'm filled with appreciation for this lesson.

At Ruby's funeral service, my parents gave our family a most beautiful gift.  They placed some money in the sympathy card, indicating that we should use it to buy a tree for our new yard in Ruby's memory.  Well, we bought the Ruby Tree this weekend; a beautiful young Pembina Plum, which bears ruby red fruit.  We chose a fruit tree because Ruby was practical and like us, she loved fruit desserts. We are planting an orchard of sorts (as much as you can have an orchard on a tiny city lot!) and we now have a plum, a cherry, and two apples.

Jaxon helped me plant these ones. It's quite appropriate because he seemed to be pretty special in Grandma Ruby's eyes.  He was her last grandchild, number 55, I think.  She couldn't always remember his name (who could blame her) so she took to calling him The Boy.  That name has pretty much stuck.

 I've never planted fruit trees before, but I believe in what I have learned.  "Put them in the ground, they'll grow."  Thank you Grandma Ruby.

The Boy getting ready to plant the Ruby Plum

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Guest Blogger

Hey folks,

There's this funny blog I like to follow called All Fooked Up.  Guess who is today's guest blogger?! Check it out, and thanks Lynn! http://allfookedup.com/go-ahead-amuse-me-tracey/

Follow me on Twitter:  @talk2tr
That is all.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Father's Day CORNBREAD!

When I first started Tracy Takes the Cake, I had in mind that the blog would be mostly about food; the recipes I love and the ones I want to try.  My kitchen would become a gathering place. I would grow the fruits, vegetables and herbs right it my backyard.  The Food Network would certainly be calling. What the hell was I thinking?  I can't take a photo to save my life and I never have the ingredients I need so I always have to go the the store before I can finish a recipe. I don't have the patience to babysit you people every step of the way!!

When I cook or bake, I make a hell of a mess.  I don't lovingly select my ingredients, lay them out on the counter (try to find a spot) and photograph them.  I'm usually rifling through the fridge or cupboard trying to locate the next ingredient. "Kids! Where's the butter??? I just bought some!  Is someone eating it straight from the fridge??" Hands dripping with batter or coated with flour, I'm opening cabinets with my foot or closing doors with my hip. It's hard to actually take a picture of the finished product because, while I'm off to find the camera, the kids are usually hoovering the baked goods straight from the pan.

I've learned that "I love to cook" doesn't necessarily mean "I can do a food blog".  I'll leave that to people like my friend Renee who is realllly good at it.

Once in a while, though, bad pictures or not, I'll throw a cooking experience at you.
It will usually be tied to a Meaningful Event.  Today's Meaningful Event is Father's Day and the star of the show loves cornbread.  This is mostly because it gives him a reason to shout "CORNBREAD!" in a really loud voice using his 'American accent'.  Think Yosemite Sam.

Neither of us grew up eating cornbread, it's not very Canadian at all, but I've made it a few times and it has become one of Norm's favorites.  It's for special occasions only, like Father's Day, due to the astronomical carb count. It's a sweet variety I've adapted from one or two recipes that I found on the interweb.  It's dead easy.  Read the frequently asked questions that follow.

 Norm's Favorite "CORNBREAD!"
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup cornflour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup white sugar 
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup oil (I use grapeseed oil, but will try melted butter next time)
  • 1 cup frozen peaches and cream corn kernels

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix flour with...mix dry ingredients.

Next add your egg, milk, oil and corn. Mix well. (Would you really have to say 'Mix well'? Would someone not actually mix it?  Recipes are weird.) Grease an 8x8 inch pan and fill with batter. Take an artsy picture with a tea towel and some measuring spoons.

Bake aprx 25 minutes or until edges are golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Serve warm with butter, if you can find it.


Q.  Can I make a healthier version of this?
A.  No. Just eat it.  You can run up and down the stairs later if you want.

Q.  This doesn't look like traditional cornbread.  Would you like to know how to make the
      traditional kind?
A.  No.  I'm Canadian and you're not the boss of me.

Q.  Can I freeze this cornbread?
A.  No.  There isn't going to be any left to freeze. Why would you want to freeze it when
      you can eat it?

Q.  Can I use all cornmeal instead of cornflour and do I have to put the kernel corn in?
A.  Well, you're all grown up now so I trust you to make those kinds of decisions yourself.
      God, you people are needy, leave me alone! 

See! I cut the top of his head off!

Happy Father's Day and Birthday, as well to my Dad, who probably wouldn't go near cornbread, but makes some of the best food you've ever tasted.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Words with Seniors

So, it's June already in case you didn't know. How the heck did that happen? I swear it was just the first snowfall and I was trying desperately to find two mittens that matched for each of the kids --  five minutes before school.  I have a theory that the people in charge of time are speeding things up. They are giving us less minutes in the day.  They didn't think we'd notice.  I'm keeping an eye on it.

June is a busy month at the seniors condo. Everyone is back from the south and have not yet left for the lake. Consequently, there are lots of people out in the common area by my office.  They stop in and have conversations with me and with one another outside my door. 

As I've noted, Seniors are funny people.  They don't mean to be funny, but they are.  I am fully aware that I, too, will be in the same boat as these very seniors who I like to poke a little fun at.  If you are a senior in my building, and you have somehow found my secret blog, this is not about you.  This is about some other seniors that I, er, volunteer with...in another condo...yeah, that's it.

Seniors, I've noted, are soo polite.  They'll always stop to talk when they see each other.  Often, there is not a lot to talk about, as in the conversation I heard the other day:
"Fred, I thought I just saw you drive away."
"I said, I thought I just saw you drive out of here."
"No, I just came in."
"Oh, did you come in through the underground parkade?"
"No, I came in through the parking lot and right here through the front doors."
"Oh, okay, well see ya."
"Yep, see ya."
 Sometimes, there is advice given:
 "Are you waiting for a cab too?
"Oh yeah, I have to go for physio for my hip."
"I think it's late."
"I did get hearing aids."
"Then why don't you wear them??"
"I am wearing them."
There are those residents who are 'real characters'.  I love them to bits, they make me laugh.  I don't think they really intend to make me laugh but talking to them gives me no end of amusement and of course, there are lessons to be learned: 
"Stacy, I got a new phone and I don't like it. It's too complicated. "
"Me: Why don't you call SaskTel? They'll send you a different one."
"Can you call them for me? I don't talk on the phone. I can't hear."
Lesson: If you're deaf, don't get a complicated phone.

There was a bit of an incident lately and some items seemed to go missing. I don't know how, everything is locked up there, even the dishsoap.  It's like Fort Knox with seniors instead of the handsome soldiers. One resident had some theories...and other thoughts...:
"You never know with people. It's probably someone's grandkids.  Kids are on all kinds of drugs to the Nine Yards nowadays.  People are funny, but you know, that's what makes the world go around.  I like watching the stories about the scam artists.  I was watching about what's his name the other night.  The knight that was from Canada and then he went into the States...."
Me: "Conrad Black?"
"Ya, Black. He was being interview by what's his name, the news guy on CBC..."
Me: "Peter Mansbridge?"
"Ya, Peter Mansbridge. You know, that Mansbridge he should retire and give someone else a job. Those guys, they get that job and they stay there til they're almost dead. That's why I say, Don't go into broadcasting..."

Lesson: Your kids might be on drugs to the Nine Yards.  I don't know what that means but check them to be safe. Do Not go into broadcasting! You'll end up almost dead just like Mansbridge. 

Technology is always an amusing subject:
"How do I get the internet, dear?"
Me: "You have to call the cable company; Shaw or whoever you like."
"No, I have that. How do I get this free connection?"
Me: "Ummm, you mean the public wi-fi? You just need to enter the password. Do you have a laptop or an Ipad?" 
"No, I don't have an Ipad. I have something better than an Ipad.  I can't remember what it's called now...oh ya, I have what's called a tablet, it's something tops. It's the top of the line. My computer guy told me about it"
Lesson:  Avoid the Ipad, get a tablet instead.  They are tops. 

I play a few old time country tunes for the seniors from time to time.  They are really appreciative and they love to talk to me about their musical experience:
"Cindy, I heard that you play the guitar."
"Yeah, I play a little bit, I guess."
"I got a guitar a long time ago.  I hardly even took it out of the case. It came with a set of instructions, but I lost them, so I never learned to play."
 Lesson: When you get your guitar, put the instructions in the same place you put the instructions for your toaster oven and your DVD player so you always know where to find them.
Cherish a senior today!  For the most part, they are pretty awesome!

Jordana at my desk being a goof on Take your Kid to Work Day.