My logo/gravatar

My Aunt Karen has been reading my blog and thought a comment or two might have gone astray because she saw another woman—and I thought maybe she saw my gravatar. Then I realized I couldn’t put a pic of my gravatar in my reply, so here is a post all about it. Is this what you saw, Karen?

My sister Juli designed this logo for my cookie-making business—My Beautiful Cookies—in 2001. I had a website designed, a magazine cover featuring my cookies pulling in business, and all systems were a go when Graydon, then 8, was diagnosed with leukaemia. I cancelled the orders for cookies that I had already taken—thank God I hadn’t cashed any deposit cheques—and that was the end of that. But, I still make the cookies (see post for Feb. 18 and Feb. 26), and I use this extremely cute illustration for my gravatar. Thank you Juli!!!

Between fourth and fifth chemos

Things have been pretty low the last week, or rather, I have been pretty low. The first week after chemo, I lie low, which this week was spent baking and decorating my fancy cookies for Valentine’s Day for Luka’s Grade 8 class.

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I could see signs of what they call chemobrain in my making of the cookies—funny, because I thought chemobrain was going show up in my writing (one of the many reasons I decided to keep this blog). But in the kitchen, making the cookies I have made anywhere from three to six times a year just for the family, not counting wedding, anniversary, party and commercial orders, I screwed up over and over again. I burned two full trays of cookies (I have NEVER burned two trays in one baking session, ever), made the icing in the wrong order, ran out of red colouring paste, and made more must-eat cookies with poor planning/execution of icing. The poor planning was Icing 101 mistakes—letting icing sit until too set to do wet-on-wet techniques, forgetting what I was actually intending to do with certain designs, and crummy execution—I blamed that on the burning hand-foot syndrome and the fact that holding the icing bags and exerting uniform pressure was difficult. Anyway, making the cookies took far longer than it ever had, but I planned for that by spreading the work over more nights.

On Friday the 14th, I send Luka off to school with his 25 cookies with all his classmates’ names on them, plus bagged cookies for his teachers and his bus driver, and I bagged up and boxed up cookies (that took far longer than it ever has before too—I actually had to write who and how many cookies so I could stop counting and recounting) for my favourite group of people—my coworkers and colleagues at CAMH, and went in with all three kids at 4:30 on the Friday of a long weekend. What seemed poorly timed was actually well-timed, since there wasn’t a full office the visits were easier, and people were very relaxed since it was a long weekend coming up, and I of course had applied my makeup skills from Look Good, Feel Better and donned my utterly fabulous wig, so I looked barely the cancer victim.

The second week knocked me flat. Part of that was my fault, because I had to make a trip to Stratford to take my dad to medical testing and an appointment in London, and did the 450 km within 24 hours. The following day, I had volunteered to work the pizza lunch at Luka’s school, because by the Wednesday of the second week of my chemo schedule I’m usually feeling pretty good. I was feeling good, so I went, and met some really nice parent volunteers, then came home and paid for my activities with a real bout of fatigue.

For the next four days, all I did was sleep and cough and stumble about the house. If I sat for any length of time, I feel asleep. If I stayed standing, I was OK. Problem was, I couldn’t stand for too long. My feet were still burning, despite pills and cream, and my fingers and thumbs had started blistering and peeling, and I was miserable and hurting. Since I couldn’t stand a lot, I sat, and when I sat my head would loll to one side or the other or even back, and I was asleep. Add in hideous dreams and waking myself by screaming out (and terrifying Luka, who is nearby all the time), and it was a bad Wednesday to Sunday, with the exception of birthday lunch for my tireless father-in-law, or ex-father-in-law, which seems ridiculous since my in-laws have remained steadfastly in-laws despite the breakup of their son’s and my marriage nine years ago. That lunch was wonderful, and thank God at a buffet so I could test out my mouth sores on teeny samples of many dishes and figure out what I could actually eat without pain. Brilliant idea. And yes, I ate well!

Suffice it to say, I am glad that was my last of those two chemo drugs because another of the same cocktail would lead to even more intense side effects, and I don’t need that!

Valentine’s Day cookies

Luka’s friends in Grade 8 have been asking him since Halloween for our fancy cookies, which I missed making at Halloween and Christmas because of lack of interest and concentration on my part for making my beautiful cookies (damn that cancer). Those cookies have been a tradition for my three kids to bring to their classmates for special occasions for 17 years now, and it was very important for me to get my baking act together and make these. One of the girls in his class still has a photo of her cookie from last year on her phone, and made Luka promise that the cookies this year will have each student’s name on them just like last year.
So, without further ado:
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A hello from Abu Dhabi

These are the cookies I made for Deepika, starts because she was the bright light in our shared office, and she never failed to make me laugh. They have raised the question of whether I have time to make the Valentine's cookies I always do this week...

These are the cookies I made for Deepika, stars because she was the bright light in our shared office, and she never failed to make me laugh. They have raised the question of whether I have time to make the Valentine cookies I always make…

You know how you always say, when a friend moves away, “Let’s keep in touch!” and you do, for a couple of weeks, and then the emails pile up, and you get busy, and the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Well, I sent a hello to a former coworker who had moved back to Abu Dhabi last year, and guess what? I received a hello back from Deepika. What a huge adjustment she has made! From the breadwinner for her children while here in Canada, she is now not a lady of leisure, as we may call it, but “alma de la casa, translated from Spanish as ‘soul of the house,’ ” she writes. “I’ve started Arabic and golf lessons.  I’m teaching yoga once a week.” She has also joined a ladies’ club that meets for coffee in the morning. Their theme the other day was Love and Chocolate, and she said, and I quote: “Apart from all the cakes, chocolates and cocoa drinking chocolate there were heart-shaped cookies too, but none as good as the ones you baked for me.”

Awwww….

With Valentine’s Day approaching fast, I have been going back and forth on whether I have time to bake the fancy cookies I always do. There’s no doubt that I am busy enough this week that I won’t miss making them, but the question that dogs me is “Will Luka miss them?” So I asked, and he said, “Naw. It’s OK, I have chocolate hearts to give out, remember?” Of course I remember, I bought them. There was a twinge at the thought that machine-wrapped candy could replace hand-baked and -decorated cookies, but hey, I’ll take some saved time this year.

After a couple of seconds, though, he says, “Wait a minute. Don’t we make those cookies every year?”

“Yes.”

“So, they’re a tradition, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, we have to make them.

Traditions are a major fixation for my little guy these days. So, that was decided.

And back to Deepika. When I wrote her back, and asked if she’d mind if I wrote about her in my blog, I also asked her if she’d want the recipe for the cookies she liked so much. She wrote back: “Thank you, but no thanks for the recipe.  I love to eat, but I could never take the trouble.  It’s too much work for me.” And she reminded me of a gift I made for her—a bracelet, for which I let her choose the beads. “I love the bracelet, please mention that too. I chose the green colour as the colour green signifies growth and if you want to get all mushy you can say how friendship should bloom,  and  something creative like a blog posting should come out of it.  Right?”

Yes friend, you are right!

Hallowe’en: a few new tricks!

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Hallowe’en was fabulous! We did several things differently this year, and all of them worked out, surprise, surprise.

1) I waited until THE NIGHT BEFORE to buy the chocolate candy. Gummy things and white-and-orange-and-black lollies I picked up weeks ago, but since we usually always eat the mini chocolate bars way before Hallowe’en night and have to buy fresh supplies for the big night, I went to the store Thursday night. Score!

2) Ever since Tessa started going out for Hallowe’en at age 2, I took the kids out and Hubby (ha! I’ve never used that word before, but I’ve just spent hours cruising around parenting blogs, many of them in the States, and everyone calls their husbands Hubby or Hubs, so even though mine is an ex now, I’m trying this sobriquet on for size) stayed home to hand out the goodies. Since Hubs moved on, Tessa and/or Tessa and Graydon took Luka out and I stayed home handing out candy. I don’t know why exactly, but I don’t like handing out the candy. I love seeing the little ones in their costumes, and telling them how cute they are, and giving the 15-year-olds a hard time (but not too hard, since I prefer they collect candy than drink beer in the park or behind the school). But mostly I think how fun it was when I took out my kids. So, I put out three bowls full of candy and a bristol-board sign saying please take one of each and leave the rest for the other goblins.

3) We actually split our trick-or-treating between our immediate neighbouring streets and the streets around Luka’s school because he HAD to meet his friend for trick-or-treating together. I’ve always insisted the door-to-door was right at home base, but even though we were eight blocks away, we ran into seven or eight of his classmates that we wouldn’t have, so it was a great idea.

4) Instead of making the same sized cookies for all cookie-lovers, I found eight-inch pumpkin and spiderweb cutters this year, so Luka’s classmates got eight-inch cookies, friends and family got the usual four-inch ghosts and cats and bats, and my office mates got teeny little one-inch iced cookies, barely one gram of fat and therefore touted as fat-free!

More cookie pics:

QUESTIONS FOR YOU: Have you ever tried leaving candy at the front of your house? Do you think decorating fpr Hallowe’en has gotten out of hand?? Which job do you like best: a stay-at-home door-tender or watch-for-traffic minder? Do YOU dress-up for Hallowe’en????


Friday catch-up

Who made these fabulous thank-you notes? These are the thank-you notes I used in yesterday’s post, Things I Love. They are handmade by Nat, a Canadian mum living in Indonesia. She sells her cards and paper crafts on the Etsy website, a community where artists and artisans and crafters and thousands of creative types sell their wares. I asked Nat what being a mum in Indonesia is like, and this is what she said:

We have a baby boy, Ethan. He is almost 11 months now. Hiring a caregiver in Indonesia is not as expensive as in Canada. I took advantage of that, but of course it doesn’t mean that my baby is with her 24/7. I’m a SAHM and Ethan is with me almost 24/7. By hiring a nanny, it will give me an opportunity to work on my cards and rest when I need it. I do miss Vancouver a lot! It’s so hot over here that it’s not possible to bring him to parks. Instead, we go to Malls. But there is always pro and con in anywhere you live.

Nat’s Etsy shop is Adore by Nat. You can tell her heart is still in Canada by the number of super-fun snowmen Christmas cards she has already made. This is just a sampling. Buying from Etsy is not like buying from a store: you deal individually wih the artist, and it’s very easy and satisfying, and the prices, with no overhead to speak of, are great!

Happy birthday cookies! This is the tag designed by one of my sisters to accompany the fancy cookies that I made for Joyce’s birthday party. Joyce is the person who sent me a handwritten thank-you note, the subject of yesterday’s post. And below, you’ll see some of the cookies. Note the flower theme of cookies and gift card. Ahem! During the making and decorating of these cookies I had an avid audience of three little nieces and my Luka, and you have never seen such an efficient crew of icing-accident eaters. Every time a line went squiggly, or the icing had an air pocket, the offending cookie was wisked away, broken into four pieces and gulped before I could put down the icing bag.

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What’s on for the weekend, you ask? We are puppy-proofing the house. I have visions of everyone pulling together to make a puppy-safe home, but I think I will settle for a little less. My to-do list is in my head, and tonight, as we hang out and not work and watch a video or two, I may or may not post it. Either way, wish us luck.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Friday was a BIG day: focus on each kid!

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Cookies for Graydon’s school closing ceremonies—flowers, stars and ice cream cones—and initial cookies for my friend’s five-year-old Antonia’s birthday party on Saturday)

The Friday sked was jam-packed with special parental moments, so jam-packed that this post reaches you three days late! But it’s here…

Friday morning was the closing ceremony for the school year at Graydon’s school. Tessa and I attended, and it was a moving, entertaining and inspiring time—each student was called up and his or her teachers spoke about them, how long they’d been there, their strengths, their successes; there was a slideshow that showed the kids through the year, and then, lunch! A huge cake (what’s a party without one?), Continue reading