Look At MyFace.

How one comes to live on Nowhere Island.

Of many races; accepted by none. (Photo by D.A. B.)

When I look at my face, I see the plight of the indigenous Carib tribe, who, along with the Arawak, struggled to survive five centuries of European conquest and ravage. When I look at my face, I see Africans violently plucked from their home, brought to toil on the stolen land in heat the white man couldn’t bear. When I look at my face, I see my maternal grandfather and his brothers — teenagers, sailing from China to the Caribbean islands to escape communism, with no money and little knowledge of English. When I look at my face, I see my paternal, Italian great grandfather, living and dying by his work — his family crafting and building the churches and courthouses still standing in the Caribbean today. When I look at my face, I see his cousins who left the Azores for the plantations, as post-abolition labourers. When I look at my face, I see hard working people coming together to create a new life and home for themselves, sacrificing everything for their families and the generations that followed.

When I look at my face, I remember stories of how my grandparents met and how their love transcended social and racial boundaries of their time. When I look at my face, I am reminded of the greed of the powerful white man, who had no problem crossing those social and racial lines he created, taking what he wanted at the expense of an innocent baby, born much fairer than her sisters and sent away to hide the shame of what he had done. When I look at my face, I see the baby, now a young woman, brought back to the island to work. I see the scar on her forehead, the tell-tale symbol of occasional beatings by the black man betrayed — her fair skin, hair, and eyes a constant reminder of what that white man had stolen from him.

It is the judgement and discrimination from all races that cast mixed folks like me onto Nowhere Island, where one is of every race yet accepted by none.

When I look at my face, I see my history. I see the love, joy, struggle, pain, sadness, loss, and sacrifice it took to create this lineage. When I look at my face, I reflect on what set the tone for my adult life as a mixed-race Caribbean woman living in North America and I am reminded why we can’t live as one world, one people. You see, when I look at my face, I acknowledge the racism I have experienced from various ethnic groups living in North America. The racism I have faced from White people has been hurtful, especially when they feign ignorance, but when you are mixed like me, the pain is deeper and more disappointing coming from other ethnicities because you don’t expect or understand a racist sting from another minority. It is the judgement and discrimination from all races that cast mixed folks like me onto Nowhere Island, where one is of every race yet accepted by none.

When I look at my face, I remember my first day of University in upstate New York, waiting on the bus to campus when someone asked, “What are you anyway?” and when I responded with “I’m human…you?” it didn’t embarrass as intended, but encouraged more insensitive questions. “No, I mean, like…are you White or Black or Latina?” Nothing like the need for clarification to make the situation worse. “Yes, and more,” was my terse reply because I saw no reason to choose to be something I am not and so it was concluded by both black and white students that “she a Oreo”.

… in North America, it is apparent that you must be one race or another, so that it is easier for people to know what box to put you in.

Look at my face. Is it my responsibility to explain to anyone why I look the way I do? In the Caribbean we learn about the world in geography, history and social studies classes, yet many North Americans are comparatively ethnocentric when it comes to understanding who and what comprises the world in which they live. And while I am fine with inquisitiveness, I am better with polite curiosity about where I am from and what it was like to live there. Look at my face. Is it my responsibility to teach geography or anthropology to random strangers intrigued or off-put by my different appearance? Why is it my responsibility to define myself to anyone? I was not raised to be one race or another but to embrace all the culture, cuisine and traditions that were passed down to me by the many ethnicities that created the essence of who I am. But in North America, it is apparent that you must be one race or another, so that it is easier for people to know what box to put you in. Well, the box I check on the census form is OTHER because it’s the only option that applies to me. They might as well call it NOWHERE or NOTHING because that’s how that box on the form makes you feel in society. Look at my face. Can you understand it isn’t my responsibility to make anything easier for anyone, since I am the immigrant, trying to embrace a new culture and adapt to a new way of life? And for anyone thinking that I should have gone back to where I came from, know I would have if I could.

When I look at my face, I remember how refreshing it was to make friends with others who looked like me and had similar experiences. It was equally refreshing to find a few North Americans worldly or sensible enough to know the Caribbean was not in Africa or India.

Map of the Caribbean (stock image)

They knew, as in every country, people in the Caribbean do not spend the day aimlessly walking about in beachwear and flip flops. When I look at my face, I remember the frustration and boredom of sitting through unfortunate instances when some vapid, underexposed soul would be flabbergasted by my Oh-my-God- neat-accent and would try to get me to say words like boat, classes and answer to hear how oh-my-God-totally-wicked I sounded. I look at my face, and I remember how little I thought of every White and Black North American who thought I was entertained by their absolutely shit impersonation of my NOT Jamaican accent by the way, when they said, “Yeah Mon, Bob Marley! De ganja irie!” To some North Americans, every Caribbean island is Jamaica and in their shallow minds, the only thing the Caribbean gave to the world is reggae and weed. Some people (in many cases white people) can be quite trite, and they refuse to try and understand how their “innocent” comments come off as insulting.

I know that some of the teasing and bullying my children have endured in school and in sports occurred when I showed up at their events and they waved and called me Mom, tainting their presumed whiteness.

When I look at my face, I remember how saddened I would become when the racism hurled at me came from minority ethnic groups. I replay the insults like movie scenes in my head because those were the times I was made to feel tainted. I remember the two Latino guys in a Miami club who decided it was okay to call me coño when they realized by my schoolgirl Spanish, that I wasn’t one of them. I remember my first Black American friends ending our friendship when I didn’t want to pledge a Black sorority even when I told them I wasn’t interested in pledging any sorority! I look at my face and I remember the Asian woman at my teller’s counter growing furious, when, at her request, I explained my jade jewellery was my connection to my maternal grandfather. I remember her calling me hak gwai under her breath and her consequent embarrassment when I told her what she’d said, gave me the right to not serve her at my counter since to her, I was too dark-skinned to don articles of my Chinese heritage. I look at my face and shake my head at some North Amerian East Indians I have met who aren’t too comfortable that I know as much as I do about their festivals, culture and cuisine, saying that East Indian culture in the Caribbean is not as rich or pure as true East Indian culture. I beg to differ. When I look at my face, I chuckle when North American Italians vehemently deny that my surname is mine and not my husband’s because I don’t look like them. I look at my face and I see that I am my father’s daughter. His name is my name, and it is the name I will take to my grave because I am proud of my Italian ancestors’ Caribbean architecture.

I look at my face and I know that some of the teasing and bullying my children have endured in school and in sports occurred when I showed up at their events and they waved and called me Mom, tainting their presumed whiteness. I look at my face and I am saddened that even in a time when we stand up and fight for our human right to matter, I have women of colour judgementally commenting, “she upgrade” when I pass by with my husband and children. Upgrade from what? From whom? Is that how little some women of colour regard men of colour? Regard themselves? You can’t help who you love. I have no restrictions when it comes to the package love comes in and as far as I’m concerned, a sexy, attractive man comes in every colour. I never saw myself as someone who would marry but I married a man who loves me and our sons and treats us with dignity and respect. He is ever present; always supportive. We see no colour when we look at each other in our family — only love and I will never apologize for loving my man who embraces my culture and everything that makes me, me.

I look at my face and I shake my head when I think of my most recent encounter with the hate of racial discrimination. I discovered a group of Caribbean parents of children with autism who were on a news program to attract members. They wanted people who spoke the dialect and who applied the tools of our upbringing and culture to enhance our autistic children. I reached out on social media and in one day I was accepted and rejected by the group. It seemed that one member trolled me on social media, saw the profile photo of our family and decided we were not Black enough. I regard myself as having a nationality rather than an ethnicity and when I saw them on television, I didn’t see them as Black but as fellow West Indians who had that Caribbean twang, just like me. The Caribbean is comprised of numerous ethnicities. My roots are there, and I know everything about my culture, and like them, I too raised our son differently from other North American families affected by autism. For ten years, I ran a charity for autistic persons in his name, that continues to financially help many families affected by the condition and no one is turned away. With twenty-one years of raising my son under my belt, I could have been an asset to the group, and would have also benefitted from their experiences.

In rejecting someone for their appearance, we miss out on the good they can bring to our lives.

I look at my face and that of my son’s and I am angry to have been treated in such a manner. I was particularly enraged when the organizer of the group insinuated that even with his very curly hair and light brown skin, my autistic twenty-one-year-old was paler than the other autistic persons in their group, and that I should try and join a South East Asian group or start my own.

In our family, the colour we see is love. (Photo by D.A.B.)

Tell me, how does a woman with a face like mine start a group for only mixed-race families affected by autism? Would I be able to tell someone in not so many words they were not able to join because they were too light or too dark? I would be ripped to shreds and shamed for doing what they had done to me. I look at my face and I realize that so many who stand up against racial profiling, have no problem profiling a mixed person like me. In rejecting someone for their appearance, we miss out on the good they can bring to our lives.

When I look at my face, I remember leaving the US somewhat bruised by the prejudice I had experienced, wondering what to expect as I drifted on a sea of isolation further north to Nowhere Island. Back in 1988, Canadians in the major cities were more exposed to people of different ethnic backgrounds and while I felt more comfortable living there, I was acutely aware that racism ran deep under a cloak of Canadian politeness. I look at my face and remember how tough it was to be cast onto Nowhere Island. I look at my face and I know how uncomfortable and lonely it is to not really belong. Over the years, I made friends and acquaintances and I was outgoing when I wanted to be, but I never compromised who I was and so I never really fit in to North American society. Visiting my home over the thirty-four years of living abroad, I found myself on Nowhere Island there too. Things had changed drastically in many ways while the things that needed to change, stayed the same or had gotten worse. Never loving the idea of living abroad and not able to leave for numerous reasons, I learned how to find my groove on Nowhere Island. When I look at my face and reflect on the whole-lot-of-life I have lived between my twenties and now, I am grateful I stayed true to myself. When I look at my face, I know and love who I am. I am a mixed-race Caribbean woman, living in North America, raising North American children to have an awareness of the world while loving and embracing who they are. My husband and I have raised them to be kind, generous, respectful, non-judgemental, and loving human beings because they are our gifts to the world albeit one which still does not readily accept them.

When I look at my face, and I think of my disposition at this age, I realize that I might not be able to change the world, but I don’t have to subscribe to its bullshit double standards and hypocrisy. I am comfortable with myself and I have the courage to counteract racism, sexism and injustice with strength and dignity. I choose to surround myself with a handful of people who share my values. I don’t need popularity. I don’t need to fit in or be cool because I already am all of that for myself. I adhere to the priciples of a dear, admired friend in my homeland. She demands to be treated with the respect and dignity she readily gives to others and she will not form an opinion of anyone based on the colour of their skin. This is her living truth and she is the example I look to when injustice and racism blinds me with anger.

I look at my face and today I happily see it reflected more often in media. The media has blindly and rudely starved society of diverse representation for too long. I like that people are demanding to be seen, heard, respected, and not judged. I am happy that people are not going away quietly, because neither am I. We all must stand up for our rights and dignity, yet while I applaud anti-racist movements, I see that our society is one with irony abound. We are racist but we still want bits and pieces of the very people we hate– non-White people dyeing their hair blond, White people plumping their lips with collagen, or baking in the sun and at tanning salons to get brown. Curly haired people straightening their hair and straight-haired people curling theirs… Is anyone truly satisfied with themselves? While one can argue that we all have a right to express ourselves, a part of me sees people of all races trying to change the things they dislike about themselves because somewhere along the lineage, someone pointed out that aspects of their physical features were not good enough.

In his excellent article, The White People in the Comments, (pub. in Level, Medium) Steve QJ says “Misguided anti-racism already makes genuine anti-racism look ridiculous”. He says that “the enemy of anti-racism is racism”. Think about that for a minute. If you are fighting for your rights, is it wise to assume that eveyrace but yours is against you? Should you cast off a person’s support because of the colour of their skin? Revisit the history of the Underground Railroad. Enslaved people trying to escape to freedom did not refuse the help of the abolitionists, some of whom were White. We must be mindful that messages we deliver of anti-racism must not be fuelled by the racism that might be burried deep in our souls. Steve QJ makes this point when he refers to the present-day absurdity of the uproar of the press and social media with regards to the translation of Amanda Gorman’s poem The Hill We Climb. Ms. Gorman chose International Booker Prize winner, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld for the translation into Dutch, however when some Netizens and reporters felt that Rijneveld was not “unapologetically Black and female” like Gorman, they felt it would be better to withdraw from the project than be embroiled in an unnecessarily difficult situation. I look at my face and I recognize that though we may raise our fist in protest, equality will never be achieved if we fail to take a moment to look around at the different faces surrounding us, supporting the quest for solidarity. Racism will not end if we hold grudges. Racism will not end if we cannot forgive. It will not end if we judge or hate. We must forgive those who hurt us so we can heal and when we are healed, we can cure others by our example. To end racism, we need to shed the racism within ourselves.

I look at my face and at fifty-four, I am still living on Nowhere Island, descended from many races, belonging to none and watching humanity react to itself and I realize I only have control over my own actions. I have always been in the OTHER box and even as society claims to change, I always will be. And I while I still don’t belong anywhere, I fit perfectly into my mold, living my truth in my beautiful, brown skin with my crazy combination hair. In his piece, Steve QJ asks, “What does a world without this ridiculous prejudice look like?” I don’t have the answer, but I would like to think it looks like my face, your face, and every face. He wonders “how do we get there as quickly and painlessly as possible?” and again, I am not sure we can, but maybe we can start by helping and getting to know each other. Maybe we can stop ridiculing and judging each other and making ignorant assumptions about a person who doesn’t look like us. Maybe we can start by mindfully choosing our words so as not to be insulting. Maybe we can get there by freeing ourselves of the racism within us and raise the next generation of humans with the positive qualities so vital for humanity. Maybe we can end this ridiculous prejudice by utilizing the power of love to eradicate the weakness and fear that is hate. We must accept we can agree with someone who doesn’t look or sound like us and should we disagree, we must not assume it’s because of race. Humans do not like change, and we are a species that tends toward making things more complex than they need to be, so I am not quite sure we can live in a world free of prejudice.

A world without racism starts with simple acts of love, kindness and acceptance and as Steve QJ so brilliantly and simply states, “If we are ever going to live in a world where we stop judging each other by the colour of our skin, WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TO STOP JUDGING EACH OTHER BY THE COLOUR OF OUR SKIN”. The solution to worldwide racism is a simple one. Racism is learned. Being racist is a choice and I believe if each of us chooses to eradicate racist thoughts, actions and vocabulary from our lives, dare I say, it can end.

Unravelled

Crocheting. After 21 years, it is back in my life, every stitch unhooking my mind from things that weigh me down in a day. Hook in right hand, yarn in left I am on automatic, chain linking, waffle stitching, blanket stitching and cross stitching, every fragment of my life back together in the hopes of making something great…something comfortable that makes others smile. Hoping to make something of a story with this life of ours that will result in something beautiful.

Photo: Daniella Barsotti

I have so many things I want to make with this yarn and hook of mine. Things that I hope will bring joy to someone else. I hope these ideas blossom into cherished items that people could look upon from time to time and remember I made it for them out of love and the best of intentions. And while creating to give is the goal, selfishly I yearn for that rhythmic, peaceful mindlessness that accompanies this craft that my younger self snickered at as being very “Carmencita and Mrs Ramirez”, aka an old lady thing. Hmm…from time to time I think youth is really wasted on the young and while I would give anything for the eyesight of my teens and twenties, I doubt that I would have had the patience for crocheting as a young person. While it is easy to learn, there is so much that can go wrong, oftentimes only revealing itself the further you get into the project. When I was young if I invested a great deal of time in something, I would only be satisfied with a positive result. Wasting time was not an option for my younger self and I would have quit rather than restart a project. For me it would have been perfection or bust. When I started crocheting at 32, I was filled with joy because I was pregnant with all the time in the world to crochet for my baby. I was happy to take all the steps necessary and I was open to making mistakes and learning from them because I wanted to make something special for my child. I made blankets, a scarf for my husband and even a little jacket and hat for my baby to wear as a matching set. Love and hope fuelled me from one project to the next and it was blissful. I put down the yarn and hook the summer after my 35th birthday. Life happened and I needed both hands and a focused mind and then the second sweet baby came, and I only happened upon my crochet tools when I was searching for something or cleaning something, always vowing to get back to it. And now I am back, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

To me crocheting is the one craft that gives you infinite chances to redeem yourself. Since my epiphany to make a hockey-watching blanket for two, I have made so many mistakes. The first mistake was at 6 feet by 2feet in when I realized I could not talk myself into thinking that I could straighten my twisting blanket. The stitches were too tight and so, after 3 weeks of work, I pulled the working yarn and unravelled it to the very first chain stitch and started again with a plan – make 12 to 14 large squares, each a little different in pattern from the next and join them together to form one big blanket for two. I am re-learning how to do this craft and I am prepared to unravel and re-do and re-work a piece because I know I have undertaken a big project that I want to see through and while this blanket for two is going to be perfectly imperfect that’s okay because it will keep my husband and me warm as we sit together watching the sport we love. It will connect us and make us happy and it will have a purpose in our lives. It just has to be good enough for us to become part of our story.

Crocheting is a timely metaphor for what is happening in my older son’s life during this pandemic. Adam is my big 6ft 2-inch blanket for two. He is a cumbersome project that would cause even the most skilled crochetier to flounder and quit. He is a beloved project that is never-ending with facets of his personality and behavior that is greater than me and everyone involved with him. He takes time, patience, hopefulness, tolerance and acceptance that can only be fuelled by deep and endless love. He requires perseverance, energy, strength, resilience and did I mention time…lots and lots of time along with an abundance of creativity and an ability to have short- and long-term foresight. If I let him, my son Adam can be a life-long project and I find myself wondering if that is best for either of us and if tying off the yarn and ending the project no matter what it looks like is what I need to do.

But I can’t give up. It’s Adam. He has always been my big, complex project. With all the success and all the mistakes I’ve made raising him and all the tears of sadness and joy I have shed over him, I am far too invested now to walk away from him, as this thing that is inside him scorches us with its fiery breath. Helping him battle this demon means advocating for him behind the scenes, I am still, on the daily, intertwined in his intricate life; still designing a platform from which he can successfully launch …. again.  I’ve stitched his world together before and it has unravelled before, but not like this. As my son reacts to the isolating restrictions of a poorly handled pandemic, his mind sinks deeper into what I see as a sort of unique madness. Nothing in his world makes sense to him, yet he can remember all the steps required to physically navigate our topsy turvy world – this world in which I promised to meet him halfway if he would just trust me, take my hand and allow himself to be a part of what it had to offer. The world has unravelled, and he is barely hanging on to its frayed ends. Confused and desperate to control the things that are happening in his life, he stitches his day together with pain, sadness, and anger. But medication, like yarn is forgiving. I am forgiving. I understand his mental illness more than ever. Autism, the most miniscule of Adam’s issues at the moment, is a neurological condition with attached comorbidities like depression, anxiety, OCD, ODD and or personality or mood disorders and distinguishing among them all to try and treat them is like trying to diffuse a bomb with a blindfold on.

 Nothing that has happened, nothing that he has done is Adam’s fault. Not his father’s, not his brother’s and though as the vessel that carried him and nurtured him, I want to blame myself, it is not my fault either. And so, I roll the unravelled tentacles of yarn back into a ball and I twist its frayed ends between damp fingertips so that it can be functional again – so that it can be manoeuvred through the fingers of my left hand and be known as work again, and hooked and linked whole by my right. This blanket for two meant for his father and me is symbolic of my unravelled son and his frayed nerves. Like the blanket, putting him back together will take time. Some days there will be great progress and there will be days where chunks will be unravelled and I will have to step away, re-group and start linking them together again, perhaps with a less fancy stitch. I have learned that the most basic of stitches are the strongest especially when you are working on a big project and once it starts coming together you see that often; they are the most beautiful. Simplicity equals purity and there is nothing more beautiful than the purest version of anything. I have crocheted eight 20 by 20 inch perfectly imperfect squares of red and white, each slightly different from the next. I have eight more to go and it could take me days, weeks or maybe even months, but I know by the end of the year, as much as I will unravel and re-work this big blanket for two, I will be able to count on the integrity of the yarn the way I count on Adam’s integrity and he counts on ours, and that of his support team. And once every fibre is stitched into place and my project becomes the blanket I envision; I will wrap it around his father and me the way we wrap our love around our son.

It will take a long time for my son to crochet his life together –much longer than it took to unravel and longer than it did the last time he came apart. But we have crocheted before and we have more experience this time and we know to expect the unexpected. We have learned that every project is different and not every stitch is the right one and that the most intricate ones take the most time and patience. There are days when I work on this blanket, I go for the most complicated stitch because I know if I am in the right mindset …if I work slowly and carefully, I can create not just a beautiful square but one with a pattern so unique, that it will be outstanding … that square will be the one that ties all the perfectly imperfect ones together. And so, I retire to my comfortable spot with my yarn and hook, so close and yet so far from my son. I designed the plan; I picked the players, and he is in the best possible hands. Over time, the effects of the pandemic will wane, and the world will be able to offer my son what it once did – his life as he knew and loved it along with all his expectations of entering adulthood. Holes will be filled and patched, walls will be rebuilt, and the sun will rise and cast aside dark clouds. He will find the balance between moving towards independence and the kind of relationship he wants with us. Twenty-one is as good a time as any to rebuild one’s life and I will simultaneously stitch this blanket together while I wait and watch in hope. My son wants and needs the space and time to find peace and wade his way through this swampy depression that is trying to drown him. I cannot be with my son physically, but I am with him in spirit and I hug him with my heart and because he dwells in my mind, I feel like I am there with him for every leap and stumble along the path to healing. I’m here…we are all here. We are his family and as long as there is breath in our bodies, we aren’t going anywhere.  And so, I sit and I crochet, stitch by stitch, every fibre… waiting, hoping and loving until he feels whole and ready to be held by us again.

Photo: Daniella Barsotti

Covid-19: Revealing What We’ve Become and Why We Need to Change.

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Everyone agrees that life in 2020 is a big blur. Last week was long. Monday dragged into Tuesday and the rest of the days slid into each other like thick gooey gravy. There was much of the same when it came to news about the Covid-19 pandemic except that certain cities and regions were heading into lockdown again with the number of infected cases increasing rapidly. Nationwide, red zones were popping up like mushrooms and provincial leaders were caught in the middle of the tug of war between small business owners, certain to lose everything with another lockdown and the medical professionals calling for immediate action in order to save lives and to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system.

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The 2019 coronavirus

This is pandemic news. This is pandemic life. The world is being attacked by an enemy it cannot see, only feel. It is the one thing we all have in common right now, no matter what square footage of the planet we occupy, and it is showing us who we are.

This pandemic has shown the good, the bad and the ugly sides of human beings. There is a lot of good. People who are putting their safety and health on the line to care for the sick and most fragile hold a special place in my heart. I am proud of others not on the front line, who find ways to support local small business who supply the goods we all need while we hunker down at home. I respect those who have made the decision to go out only when necessary and the people who wear masks without fail or complaint. I admire those who respect the arrows on the floor of the grocery aisles that allow for less crowding and contact while shopping, and the people who sanitize their hands and shopping carts prior and after use. They are all a part of a greater good. These people are the ones who do the small unselfish things to keep the most vulnerable of the species safe. It’s the least anyone can do yet somehow, many people can’t and, in some cases, won’t.

I understand that Covid-fatigue is a thing.

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Covid-Fatigue is wearing us down.

It is essentially cabin fever and yes, we are all a little tired of staying home. As a mother of sons who were hoping to launch their adult lives this year, I know how frustrating it can be to have your young life on hold. It is also hard for the elderly, many of whom have been cut off from friends and family and much enjoyed activities because of Covid-19. It is more tragic to hear that those who have died of Covid-19, have died alone. The novelty of staying home has worn off. No one is looking for their fifteen minutes of pandemic-on line fame anymore. The live-streaming of varying abilities of musical talent and the endless walking in support of this or that during the pandemic, is over. The endless posts of sourdough bread creations are no longer interesting. It’s over. It’s over because we all want this pandemic to be over. But breaking up with Covid-19 isn’t easy. It wears you down. And when you’re weary from the state of your life, you might stop caring and choose to live dangerously. In our small city, our numbers are extremely low and convincing people that remaining at home will keep them that way is getting harder for our municipal government. Young people are having bonfires and parties in remote areas

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remotePeople are ignoring the advice of health officials

and older people are tired of being told what to do to stay safe. In the summer many of them (sans masks and distancing) could be seen gathering at outdoor events they were accustomed to attending before the pandemic. But is getting tired of our situation a good reason to be reckless? I am starting to question if there are indeed more good people on this planet who abide by the rules. Are there instead more selfish people in the world? Is it ignorance or arrogance that is driving this selfish, uncaring attitude about going against the pandemic protocol?

I look at the news and see the rising numbers and I am beginning to think that there is less good in the world than bad and I find myself examining people’s behavior and I’m disappointed by what I have come to realize. I also wonder if Covid-19 was not a respiratory virus but one that presented with vomiting and diarrhoea or worse, if it was similar to Ebola, would people stay home, stay distant and wear masks without issue? I feel that too many people perceive Covid-19 as a bad cold or just a threat to the elderly and no matter how many stories you hear about the virus also killing younger people, there are still so many who have decided to shun pandemic protocol. And while those who choose to “take their chances” and venture out to weddings and parties and social gatherings, doctors and nurses are reduced to tears every time they pronounce a covid patient’s death.

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When day after day, there is nothing you can do to save them.

I believe we have evolved rapidly as a species. Too rapidly. With convenience comes laziness and selfishness. Many of us rarely sacrifice anything to get what we want. We point, click and it appears at our doorstep. We have all seen progress change our behavior and no one can deny we live in a world society where bigger, faster, stronger, easier, and better have created the desire for more in all of us. It is reflected in what we buy, what we needlessly accumulate and what we waste. There is an attitude of “someone else will do it”, “it’s not my problem” and live in a bubble where tragic things happen to “other people”. Everyone is out to make a fast buck, and it does not matter who or what we inadvertently step on to get what we want. Humans seek the most attention from each other all day, every day. With the existence of social media platforms and new ones popping up everyday, our species has managed to turn something that is great for connecting us with each other into a way of hurting each other and ourselves. So, instead of occasionally connecting with each other, we are on every day, sometimes chatting, sometimes judging what someone has posted, sometimes downright spewing hate and cyberbullying each other. We are on our phones so much, there is a muscular-skeletal condition called Postural Kyphosis, which is basically a hunch due to our neck and upper back posture when we are on our phones.

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Looking down at your phone much?

Just think what humans are going to evolve into to adapt to our lifestyle. I wonder if C-section numbers might increase as women’s bodies are unble to adapt to allow for the safe entry of our future little hunched-back babies.

It’s not only our abuse of social media that is to blame. Social media is just one example that illustrates the degeneration of our species’ character. Long before cyber connectivity, we were crushing each other and the planet to get what we want. We’ve taken land from indigenous peoples and suppressed them for generations. We’ve turned a blind eye to the poisoned water and deplorable living conditions we would not accept, but they have had to endure for years.

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The Neskantaga First Nation has lived under a boil water advisory for 25 years. They have been evacuated from their homes in the thick of the pandemic with no clear knowledge of when they will be able to return.

We’ve torn down forests, polluted the ocean, and expanded our habitat by infiltrating and displacing animals from theirs. We plough over wildlife daily

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We’re still doing this …

with our cars and have over fished and hunted animals to the point of near extinction. Child labour, cheap labour, longer hours of labour, deplorable labour conditions — we step on those less fortunate by paying them very little so we can get a lot. Our factories have puffed noxious gas into the air we

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…and this. Wonder why our health is declining?

breathe and because money speaks the language of politics and economic success for a select, powerful few, we still drive cars that rely on gasoline. What we have lost along the way is respect and honour for ourselves and others. And we are all guilty. Think of a time when you failed to return a grocery cart to the collection rack. Regardless of the signs pleading for customer compliance, did you leave it on the curb, or in the parking space beside yours? Were you careless because it was it too cold, too hot, or too far for you to walk the cart back to the designated area? Was it because despite the weather, it’s the cart person’s job to gather the carts wherever people have left them? This is an example of our laziness and entitlement. I was raised to respect and follow rules and to return what I’ve borrowed in a timely manner. I was taught that in order for a business to keep their costs and the cost to their customers down, they relied on us to do simple things like, return the cart to it’s station in the parking lot. Now, we pay anywhere from a quarter to a dollar to use carts as incentive for us to return them so we can get our coin refunded, yet, if you walk along the river, you can see at least three stolen and abandoned grocery carts rusting in the water. When I’ve slipped up or dabbled with the idea of being lazy or selfish, I always came back to how my parents raised me, especially if I was in the presence of my young children. When you have children you have to present the best of yourself and teach by example. If everyone checks themselves and stop doing little selfish things every day so much will change for the better in the world.

The Covid -19 pandemic shows how little human beings care for each other and the planet. The pandemic is telling us we have taken too much for granted. When there is a sale, or in keeping with the times, the threat of a lockdown, we hoard. We always want the most for ourselves which is not necessarily the best for ourselves. When we are uncomfortable, we complain that rules about mask wearing, physically distancing, and queuing for goods infringe upon our rights and freedom. What right? The right to be ignorant

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and selfish and get others sick? What freedom? The freedom to spread this virus just so we can be with our friends? I feel we crumble easily in times of struggle. We flounder without our conveniences. I look at our forefathers who lived through war, financial depression, and widespread pandemic but they put their heads down and did what they had to do to get through the tough times. There was a sense of duty and responsibility that they had that I have trouble seeing when I look around today. I think they had a greater sense of honour and respect than we do and much of what we have today is due to the sacrifices they made for us way before many of us were born. They made do with what they had and were very careful to not be wasteful. They were more polite, mannerly and generous than we are and while they did have their flaws, if we could adopt some of their qualities, we might learn how step out of our singular little worlds for a moment to look around and see what we can do to make another’s life better. We have a chance at making our planet a better place for everyone and everything on it. A few years ago, I decided to change the way I do things in my life. I challenged myself to pick one thing and do it differently and do it better. Whether it was choosing more sustainable products, donating more regularly to the food bank, donating gently used clothing instead of selling them — there was always something I could do better to make myself less of a problem and a part of the solution. I challenge you to do the same. It’s not difficult and it wells up feelings inside of you that you didn’t know you could experience. Tomorrow is Monday. Monday is a day when we put plans into action. So…Watch the news tonight and decide to use your power to make a difference, starting tomorrow. Decide to change so collectively we can help each other cope. Decide to be kind and lift others not push them down. Decide to speak out against corruption and the catering of politicians to the select, wealthy few. Decide to fix what is wrong on the planet so that it can sustain life. Decide to do more than wave a hand, shrug, or utter a prayer. We must DO. And it is so easy to DO. Easier than NOT doing. DOING is fun and heart warming and it makes you feel good about yourself in a way social media cannot. Respect others and think beyond yourself and raise your children to do the same. Keep the golden rule in mind every day because we are not alone. We share our homes, our communities, our countries, our planet. We share it. Act like we share it. Decide to not always be first. Accept to not always be right. Understand that no person is more important than another. We all share hard times. This pandemic is a hard time for everyone. Follow the protocol so we don’t make it harder for others who are more vulnerable to this disease than we are. Learn to cope and help other’s cope. Your phone can be used for more than just shopping or taking a selfie or posting a video that starts off with you saying, as usual, “So guys… um… I just wanted to share this crazy, amazing thing I found about with you ….” Use your phone to check in with a friend or loved one. Have a text chat or a verbal conversation. Don’t just talk, LISTEN. Let’s be MORE than what we have become. We can be MORE. We ARE more. Let’s all be better HUMANS, because every one of us absolutely can be.

What are Bacon Bunnies You Ask?

My husband’s favourite childhood breakfasty snack

I was reading a post by Kate Bittman called Here’s the Dish to Cook When You *Really * Don’t Want to Cook, which was a wonderfully warm piece about a simple treat her dad used to make her called the Egg in the Hole. It was toast with a just-runny-enough egg embedded into it and it looked tasty and comforting. I liked the post and I commented to her that it was nice to see someone have such a fond childhood memory of a simple treat that satisfied not just the belly but the soul. I told her it reminded me about how my husband, boys and I feel about his mother’s comfort treat, Bacon Bunnies. So, Kate messaged me back and asked, “What are Bacon Bunnies?” and so, I figured I’d post this to answer her question.

Bacon Bunnies are the bacon, cheese, toast version to her Egg in the Hole. It was a simple breakfast snack my mother-in-law would make her kids. My husband made them for me when we were dating and as soon as our boys could eat solid food, he made it for them and it has maintained its status as a James family favourite breakfast/brunch snack. First of all Bacon Bunnies don’t look like bunnies at all. If you ask why they are called Bacon Bunnies you will get the answer, “Cause that’s what they’re called. They’re Bacon Bunnies. They are cute,”. Fair enough. You don’t have to have a reason for everything. Some things just …are.

They definitely do not look like bunnies

Bacon Bunnies are the simplest of the simple when it comes to ingredients and preparation. You need a few slices of bread, each cut into 3 strips, a strip of your favourite cheese on each strip and a strip of cooked bacon. The bacon should be cooked just enough that they would crisp up in the oven but not burn. It takes about 10 minutes in the oven…maybe? and that’s it.

This might hold the active teenager for a few minutes.

The baking sheets are brought out of the oven and the smell of bacon wafts through the house prompting the thunderous hooves of man-children who make their way to the kitchen to devour them in what seems like seconds. We went from making maybe making two baking sheets of bunnies to making four sheets (depending on how many man-children are at home) which is pretty much a loaf of bread, otherwise there would be none left for my husband and me.

Bacon Bunnies are certainly not a healthy snack but it is a happy snack. There is some nutritional value to them if you really analyze the ingredients, but it’s no quinoa salad nor is it supposed to be. So, here’s to all the Bacon Bunnies and Egg’s in the Hole or whatever makes you smile when you reflect happily on your childhood! They may not be the most nourishing combinations but they certainly nourish the soul! They are simply little traditions that taste great that make you happy. And as I see it, the world could do with a lot more happy.

#23

TOM……

THANK YOU….

FOR BEING MY TRUE FRIEND…..

Me & Tom -2018
Photo by Stephen Attong

MARRIAGE CANNOT EXIST WITHOUT FRIENDSHIP……

Photo by Stephen Attong

Photo by Stephen Attong

FRIENDSHIP GROWS DEEP ROOTS AND LOVE BLOOMS AS DOES TRUST, FAITH AND JOY. AND WITH YOU THERE IS SO MUCH JOY…..

SO MUCH LAUGHTER…..

SO MUCH NONSENSE, WEIRDNESS AND LUNACY ALL THE TIME….

….. ALL THE TIME…

ANTIGONISH 2018

THANKS FOR KEEPING INSIDE JOKES ALIVE ….

THE GIANT YELLOW BAG

FOR ALWAYS PRETENDING TO BE A SHARK OR SOME RANDOM SEA CREATURE WHEN WE ARE IN A POOL…

AND FOR TRYING TO STEAL YOUR SONS’ THUNDER (medals…team gear…you really need to get on your own team)

IN SPITE OF THE INSANITY, WHAT AN HONOUR IT IS TO SPEND MY DAYS AND NIGHTS WITH YOU….

FROM DAWN ….

LABADEE, HAITI

TO DUSK….

CHRISTMAS 2019

ANYTIME…..ANYWHERE….ANYHOW…..

THANK YOU FOR CREATING THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING WITH ME…..

CALGARY, ALBERTA – 2006

WE MADE THIS ONE……

JOHN-ADAM, MONTREAL , QUEBEC
JAN. 2000

AND THIS OTHER ONE…..

LOGAN, 3 MONTHS – EDMONTON, AB 2002

AND THEY ARE PERFECTLY OURS…..(even though they were really, really, big)

Photo by Stephen Attong

WE MADE NICE ONES, DIDN’T WE?… THEY ARE WELL MANNERED, GOOD, KIND AND GENEROUS YOUNG MEN…. WHO PUSH THE ENVELOPE AND DO NOT SLIP AWAY QUIETLY WHEN THEY SEE THAT THINGS ARE NOT RIGHT. THEY STAND UP FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVE .

JOHN-ADAM AGE 5 – BANFF, AB
JOHN-ADAM CROSSING THE COUNTRY – SPRING 2007
HUFF ESTATES – CIRCA 2010
JOHN-ADAM’S 5TH BIRTHDAY
JOHN-ADAM AT HERITAGE PARK – CALGARY, AB 2003

THANK YOU FOR COOKING WITH ME….

FEEDING THE HUNGRY BEASTS 2018
CORDINATED MOVES LIKE A DANCE
Photos by Stephen Attong

AND FOR BAKING BECAUSE I WONT….(I’m not a baker)

HE BAKES EVERY WEEK WITHOUT COMPLAINT
(he really likes it)

THANK YOU FOR THE TECH AND THE MUSIC….OH, THE MUSIC…FLIPPIN FANTASTIC!

THEY ARE HOME COMFORTS THAT MEAN SO MUCH TO BOTH OF US.

THANK YOU FOR GOING ON THIS PARTICULAR JOURNEY….

OUR SWEET JOHN-ADAM

FOR TRUSTING MY JUDGEMENT ALONG THE WAY – TRUSTING ME TO TAKE CARE OF THE MAJORITY OF IT, WHILE YOU WORKED. THANK YOU FOR MAKING IT SO EASY TO TRUST AND BELIEVE IN YOU WHEN YOU SAID IT WAS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT.

THANK YOU FOR STAYING ON THE JOURNEY ….

AND ….

SEEING IT THROUGH!

IT DID TURN OUT ALRIGHT…

(to quote Fall Out Boy…yes, I said Fall Out Boy)…. YOU DRAIN ALL THE FEAR FROM ME….

Photo by Stephen Attong

I LOVE THAT YOU STILL REACH FOR MY HAND.

THANK YOU FOR TEACHING ME TO LIGHTEN UP AND UNLEASH MY INNER CRAY-CRAY…..

APPARENTLY MY CRAY CRAY IS TRYING TO DO A SHARK BITE…ALWAYS …

THANK YOU FOR WORKING SO HARD AND BEING SUCCESSFUL.

THANK YOU FOR FOR BEING THEIR FATHER ….

FOR TEACHING THEM, GUIDING THEM, COACHING THEM, BEING THERE FOR THEM AND LOVING THEM. THANK YOU FOR BEING THE EXAMPLE OF THE MAN THEY ARE EACH SUPPOSED TO BECOME

THE COUNTY MARATHON 2015 WITH JOHN-ADAM
GOING TO SEE THE WORLD JUNIORS WITH LOGAN

THANK YOU FOR CONCERTS ….

WAITING FOR ONE REPUBLIC
JOHN-ADAM’S FIRST CONCERT AS A TEENAGER 2015 – THE SCRIPT @ MASSEY HALL

AND FOR MAKING A FLYERS CAKE FOR PENGUINS FAN ON HIS BIRTHDAY

THANK YOU FOR MY FRONT GARDEN ….

AND MY BACK GARDEN TOO.

THANK YOU FOR BEING ANNOYING, ODD AND STRANGE…

THANK YOU FOR HAVING SO MANY INTERESTS. YOU HAD A GOOD RUN AT BEING HAMMOCK MAN …

UNTIL YOU DECIDED TO BE GRIDDLE MAN, CONQUERING OUTDOOR COOKING.

THANK YOU FOR PERSISTING WHEN YOU ARE MOST TIRED, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO STEAL A MOMENT TO RELAX (and have a lil’ lie down)

FIRST TIME FATHER

THANK YOU FOR MAKING MILESTONE BIRTHDAYS SPECIAL AND FOR THE ANNIVERSARY GETAWAYS, GREAT AND SMALL….THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A ROAD TRIP WITH YOU!

THANKS FOR THE VACATIONS AND ADVENTURES – YOU WORK SO HARD TO MAKE SURE YOU GIVE US ALL THESE WONDERFUL THINGS, YET THE TRUTH IS, YOU ONLY HAVE TO WAKE UP EACH MORNING AND SAY HELLO… BECAUSE YOU ARE ENOUGH FOR US AND WE LOVE AND APPRECIATE YOU.

THANK YOU FOR MAKING ME FEEL BEAUTIFUL AND CONFIDENT AND MAKING ME FEEL LIKE A WOMAN…A BETTER WOMAN.

YOU MAKE LIFE MORE INTERESTING AND SPECIAL…

THANK YOU FOR ASKING ME TO BE YOUR WIFE…

AND FOR THE HOMEBREWED COFFEE EVERY MORNING….

AND FOR SAYING I DO ALL OVER AGAIN.

10TH ANNIVERSARY – VOWS RENEWED – MAUI 2007

FOR THE PATIENCE AND THE LOVE…. YES…I KNOW…

THANK YOU FOR LOVING ME AND US….

YOU ARE THE LOVE OF MY LIFE… I LOVE WATCHING YOU WHEN YOU WALK INTO A ROOM. I LOVE HEARING YOUR VOICE. I APPRECIATE YOU AND YOUR ARE (according to Phoebe) MY LOBSTER.

AND I BELIEVE IT IS IMPORTANT TO SAY THESE THINGS NOW AND EVERY DAY SO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I CARE AND HOW I FEEL ABOUT YOU.

MOST OF ALL, YOU ARE MY “BEST-GOOD-FRIEND”, (Bubba)

AND TO CONTINUE IN THE IMMORTAL WORDS OF FALL OUT BOY…(yes, them again)

YOU ARE THAT ULTRA-KIND OF LOVE YOU NEVER WALK AWAY FROM. YOU’RE JUST (one of ) THE LAST OF THE REAL ONES.

I’M INCREDIBLY LUCKY AND BLESSED TO HAVE FOUND YOU (under a plastic coconut tree) AND I AM TRULY HAPPY. I HAVE BEEN HAPPY FROM THE MOMENT WE MET. WE HAVE KNOWN EACH OTHER MANY, MANY A HAIRSTYLE ….AND THROUGHOUT ALL THOSE HAIRSTYLES, YOU’VE MADE, AND STILL MAKE ME HAPPY AND I AM HONOURED YOU CHOSE ME TO LOVE. NOTHING COMES CLOSE TO THIS LOVE WE SHARE OR THIS FAMILY WE’VE RAISED. IT’S STILL AN INCREDIBLE RIDE. NEVER BORING. STILL SPICY. WORTH EVERY SECOND. HAPPY 23RD MY LOVE. I LOVE YOU. YOU ARE THE ONE. YOU ARE THE BEST. YOU ARE MINE. I AM YOURS. ~ “elephant shoes”

AND BECAUSE I AM CAPABLE OF A REAL QUOTE …..

LOVE YOU ~ YOUR DANIELLA

Cooking in the Time of Covid 19: Thanksgiving Lasagna

Thanksgiving has come around and Covid-19 is in it’s second wave in parts of Canada. Families have been discouraged to mingle beyond their immediate households to prevent community spread but somehow, Canadians have a way of making the most of what can be done during trying times and they did enjoy the long weekend albeit low key. I am Trinidadian and Thanksgiving is not a holiday celebrated in the Caribbean but having gone to school in the U.S and calling Canada home for 32 years, it’s a holiday I have learned to cook and eat my way through just like any other. My husband comes from a family where a traditional holiday meal would be prepared. For Thanksgiving and coming to think of it, Christmas too, his mom would prepare a turkey, stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes and either brussel sprouts or broccoli or green peas with cranberry sauce on the side. While my mother-in-law always did a good job on the turkey, (I have only made a turkey once in my life and take my hat off to all who do) not one of the 4 in our household is in love with the bird outside of a turkey bacon sub. Since turkey is such a big bird and not beloved chez nous, over the years I have subsitiuted it with roast beef, cornish hens, or chicken and side dishes that ranged from a wild rice and vegetable medley, seasoned corn on the cob, garlic bread, some kind of jazzed up pasta dish or interesting and flavourful potato and if Adam has his way, it is boiled for 5 minutes then generously seasoned and baked for 20 minutes until crispy. If Logan has his way, the side would most definitely be sharp, cheesy Trini macaroni pie. Tom, on the other hand is just happy to have anything but turkey, however I have spent all the years I have known him dissuading him from his desire for Thanksgiving pizza. The childhood bland pallette does rear its odd head in my husband from time to time and I know for a fact if he weren’t married to me, A, would have had his way and B, he would not have woken up his taste buds the way he has over the 28 years of eating from me and my family. My man eats it all, from callaloo to curry but the turkey is a no go. In his defense regarding pizza, he has perfected fire oven pizza to the point of gourmet so maybe I’ll bend next Thanksgiving , weather permitting and we shall have his excellent fire oven pies.

So, what did the James family have for Thanksgiving this year? Well something from The Chef Show on Netflix, of course, and we gave thanks with a HONKIN’ MEGA LASAGNA! We watched the episode about 3 times and Tom watched it again to make notes and we showed it to Logan to psyche him up for the meal, not that he ever needs psyching up for meals. Adam has moved away from pasta except in the form of Macaroni pie so he swung by and picked up a meal of garlic bread, meatballs with a side salad that I made for him and cinnamon muffins he baked himself. With him taken care of, Tom and I excitedly went about preparing our dish.

The twist for us making this Lasagna was the sauce, which was a tomato sauce with the ricotta melted into it. That was the sauce for the bottom of the baking dish and to drizzle throughout the layers. We also had to make a rich red tomato sauce made with ripened tomatoes, garlic and seasonings that we used throughout the layers and on the very top what we like to call the lid layer.

Another difference for us was the meat. Instead of a meat sauce, this recipe calls for ginormous meatballs that you pre-cook then dice and spread over the noodles on each layer so it makes for a chunky dish that is flavourful and cheesy with that rich garlic and tomato tartness that makes you smile with satisfaction with every bite.

In total, this dish took us 2 hours from start to finish and that was because we don’t like using oven ready noodles. It was worth every second and it was a very delicious version of the way I make lasagna. We decided we aren’t huge fans of the meatball chunks so when we make this again, we would brown the ground beef and layer it with the sauce and we would use a bit more oregano in the meat. We are definitely keeping the fresh basil on the layers and the ricotta tomato sauce in addition to the red tomato sauce. We captured the recipe in photos and have included photos of the instructions Tom noted while he watched the episode. So whether you are like us and your tradition is to let go of tradition and try new and odd things, or you are looking for a variation on a HONKIN’ MEGA LASAGNA give this a shot. It is fun to make and tasty as all get out and there are enough leftovers to feed an 18 year old who is in hockey training camp and eats five meals a day. We also had enough to put into the freezer that we can have in a couple weeks when we don’t feel like cooking. It’s a perfect one dish meal that you can serve to guests as well (when having guests are a thing again) or if you are suddenly asked to do the catering for an event lol. The best part for us was the time spent in the kitchen. Tom and I cook together quite a bit but this was the first time we tried something new together. I was reminded of the moments my parents shared in the kitchen. My dad did more cooking later in his life but he was always the Special Holiday Helper in the kitchen. Mom would have it all under control and dad followed her instructions here and there, putting the ham, for example in and out of the oven, helping prep ingredients for the stuffing, garnishing dishes and of course making the drinks. You can’t do big Trinidad cooking without a few drinks. And as I manoeuvred about our oddly shaped kitchen(we will be remedying that) with the love of my life, I realized we are the same age as my parents when I remembered them cooking together. It made me a little nervous because I realized our ages – that middle age period where life starts to make you aware of your mortality. But, I was also really happy because it shows where we are in our journey. We have done so much together and we will do more and I hope even much more than that. As our sons launch into their adult lives we uninterruptedly get to have each other back and as much as I love going places with Tom, my absolute favourite moments are the simplest ones like making a special meal. Happy Thanksgiving Canada – ableit a more down played Thanksgiving because of Covid-19, it was warm and loving nonetheless.

I prepped meat with seasonings, egg and onion puree. The texture of the meat becomes squishy and gluey. Tom took care of boiling noodles and making the tomato sauce.
Garlic confit was added to the sauce.
Layering and the finished dish.

Cooking in the Time of Covid-19: Pandemic Pakoras

I always wanted to try ro make Pakoras so I made them during the pandemic because we have all this extra time now. So here is my take on Pandemic Pakoras. They turned out pretty good and didn’t last long which is the best evidence that something I made was a tasty success.

You need:

2 white potatoes peeled and grated

1 medium white onion peeled and finely sliced

1 medium egg and  1 1/2 cups chickpea flour

1/2 cup combination of chopped coriander,chives, garlic, thyme, parsley, cilantro and taragon.

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of sugar

2 teaspoons of curry powder and 2 teaspoons of salt

2 green chopped chillies and sunflower oil for frying

Literally combine everything slowly. Make sure the batter isn’t too wet …use extra chickpea flour if you need to, to dry it out a little. Make sure your oil is HOT and using something the size of a soup spoon, scoop some batter and slide into the oil and fry until they are golden brown and float.

I have hungry athletes so I couldn’t just make pakoras so I thought let me make a meal as a side dish for them lol. So using the Instant Pot I prepared some curried beef and chickpeas.

I boiled some rice and voila, dinner as a side dish for a delicacy lol just the way we like it in our topsy turvy family! try the pakoras and take them with you as you venture out of your home if you are able depending on where you live. It’s a pandemic but its summer, take the necessary precautions, stay safe and have fun before the seasons change. I’ll be enjoying the weather as much as I can in a safe way and I probably wont be posting too many more dishes for a while, but, I’ll be back, blogging away. ~ Daniella

 

 

Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Cooking with What’s Growing in the Garden.

The family took a break from cooking new dishes. Logan continued to cook twice a week, re-doing the recipes he was taught and perfecting them. The days in between were officially cheat days. Tired of cooking and baking everyday, we decided to support the restaurants in our community by ordering take out. It was a good three weeks of Tom framing and putting up a wall in the basement to make an enclosed office space for himself. He and the boys were also busy making me a new backyard garden bed and vegetable garden box, measuring, cutting, shoveling and hauling 8 yards of dirt.

 

While they did this for me, I gathered perennials at the local garden centres and binge watched Showtime’s “The Affair” (super comfy under a blanket with my hubby’s hoodie during the rainy chilly 2 weeks we experienced before it got super hot.

On our  hiatus from cooking, Hubby and I also went for walks and checked out the moon during the month of Ramadan. Having grown up in the Caribbean where we celebrate every culture that makes up the populations of the islands, I hadn’t really been as aware of the various cultural and religious holidays as I used to be since moving to Canada 32 years ago. But now, even in the smaller communities, people (including me) are more aware of the different cultural celebrations now that Canada is more diverse. This is a good thing. Canada isn’t perfect and we are not untainted by racial discrimination and other social problems, but Canadians as a whole, try to do better and try to evolve and this makes me very proud and comfortable living here.

Anyhow… when food was made at home during this time of hiatus, it was quick and simple with nothing left over. Here is one of the meals we made that was super quick and easy:-

Lemon Pepper Chicken

       

For this meal, I handed Logan a bag of thawed chicken thighs and told him to make dinner for the family. Chicken thighs are great because they are cheaper and even cheaper still if they are bone with skin on. If you aren’t roasting or frying the thighs maybe you will want the skinless boneless option but either way, its a great alternative to chicken breasts which are a drier meat and more expensive.

Logan seasoned the thighs with lemon juice of 1/2 a large lemon and lemon pepper seasoning. The lemon pepper seasoning I buy also has salt in it so make sure you read the label before you add more seasonings. Logan likes using onion, garlic, chives, basil, tarragon, parsley and thyme to season meat. With all the herb plants transplanted into the garden, everything but the onions was fresh picked. He brushed the baking dish lightly with olive oil and poured melted garlic butter over the chicken thighs and baked covered with foil at first (15 minutes), then he placed lemon slices and lemon zest upon each thigh and continued to bake them at 350 for 8 -10 minutes.

While the chicken was in the oven, he grabbed one of the Uncle Ben’s Wild rice instant dishes which microwave in 90 seconds and are a worthy side dish when you are in a hurry. We also had some corn hanging around in the fridge so he figured he’d boil them and use them as a side to complete the meal.

He mixed up some lime juice and voila (or wah-la as he used to say when he was little), dinner was served. Quick. Easy. Delicious. Da Boy Can Cook!

Cooking in the Time of Covid-19: Super quick and easy to prepare – Pasta Daniella

If you can figure out what is too much and what is too little; if you have a functioning tongue and can figure out what tastes bland or just plain bad, you can cook. If you can pay attention to what you have cooking, baking or simmering while turning your attention to another dish without burning everything; if you can multi-task even just a little, you can create a dish out of whatever you find in your kitchen pantry and fridge.

Every pasta dish I make up off the top of my head with whatever I can place my hands on in the kitchen is Pasta Daniella. Here’s what you do:-

.  

Boil pasta – any pasta you can put your hands on.

I found spicy Genoa salami, mushrooms, green onion, garlic onion, lemon, capers, green olives, Kosher salt, black pepper, oregano, thyme, olive oil and garlic butter. I chopped the veggies and squeezed in some lemon juice added the seasonings and a splash of white wine. I sauteed the seasoned veggies and spices in the olive oil. Next, I added the salami and then the pasta and shredded some Parmesan onto the pasta and tossed it all again.

.    

And here it is – prep and cook time maybe 1/2 an hour. Tasty and satisfying. Bon appetit!

 

Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Quick, Feel Good Food.

One view that has solidified for me since the world has been dealing with this virus is that we have to be happy. We have to home in on who we are, what we have and find happiness. We spend too much time planning to be successful, figuring out how to earn more, do more with our time and we pass that stress on to our children and grandchildren and it is a failing life plan that puts way too much emphasis on everything but happiness. If you know how to tap into the simple things that make you happy you wont spend precious days, months and years putting in time to a lot of useless and unfulfilling things that are supposed to lead to happiness, but never do. During this pandemic isolation, cooking has made us all very happy. Today I thought I would look at some of the quick and easy to prepare treats that made us feel good.

Throw Down Chicken and Cauliflower Tikka Masala

When my children were small, like all kids,they went through the occasional reject of the good food that you wanted in them and not on the floor, or on the table or in their hair. Like any mother, I too hid vegetables in pancakes and put stuff in wraps but as they got older and I revealed what they were gobbling up made for young men who have their favorites but pretty much eat any food of any colour and texture of any flavor and colour. So here is a dish that takes no time at all. I am going to tell you right away, if you want to do this from scratch, you can totally look up how to make the sauce but if you have a tight schedule or just a hungry family who can’t wait long for food, USE THE JAR SAUCE! IT’S OKAY. I recommend having Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken, Coconut Curry sauce and Pad Thai Sauce in your pantry. Today I decided on Tikka Masala sauce as I had thawed seasoned chicken and cauliflower which in my past recipe for fritters you found out that I have an over abundance of frozen cauliflower.

I diced the seasoned chicken and set aside.Then I poured the bottle of sauce into a skillet. I added chopped onions and a clove of garlic and stirred it in and let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes. Next add the cauliflower and the chicken and fold in with the sauce. When the sauce has covered the chicken and the cauliflower, cover and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes.

The smell of this sauce is amazing. It’s inviting and there is spiciness and fruitiness and it is just a happy dish. Serve over Naan bread or rice for a satisfying meal. To quote my son Logan when I asked him how his meal was, “Loved it. Tasty and lots of good flavours and the cauliflower was a nice surprise. I thought it all looked like chicken!” It was a nice touch that is exactly how I got them to eat cauliflower in the first place. And there you have it, a hearty meal in just over 20 minutes, and why not take the shortcuts? You can add to it if you wish to make it more spicy or you can leave the sauce as is. In spite of the pandemic, we have a busy next couple of days with baking and planting and Logan has on-line presentations, we have webinars and Adam has schoolwork to catch up on.  I made this and stored it in the fridge knowing that I wanted to serve it to Logan for dinner the evening after and to Adam for dinner the following evening when he comes to pick it up. Tom and I will have it for lunch tomorrow. Nothing like a heat and eat dish that makes you smile. While this dish was simmering, I started my …

Cinco de Mayo inspired Buffalo Chicken Dip cups.

Last Monday was Cinco de Mayo and we had chili cups for dinner. It is more like a snack made with tortilla wraps and chili and that recipe will follow this one but I decided on this variation on Wednesday as this chicken dip is my husband’s favourite and I wanted to make it for him and we needed dinner anyway so while the Tikka Masala was cooking, I started on this tasty snack and turned it into a meal.

Cook 1 1/2 to 2 chicken breasts in a pot with salt, pepper, a 1/4 cup of water and a teaspoon of garlic butter. Once the chicken is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, put the chicken into a separate bowl and pull the meat apart. Add 3 teaspoons of sour cream and 2 table spoons of cream cheese. The sour cream and cream cheese should be enough to cover all the shredded chicken. If not, add a little more of each without making the chicken soggy. Add some fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and either red pepper chili flakes or a generous pinch of cayenne pepper. I also recommend adding a 1/4 teaspoon of the buffalo seasoning powder and a 1/2 teaspoon of the Hidden Valley powdered dressing for a really nice flavour.Shred a cup of cheddar cheese and set some aside for topping and fold the rest into the dip.

Add a generous dash of Frank’s Red Hot or equivalent and a decent dash of Buffalo Chicken sauce.This dip is all about intense, satisfying flavour. Cut up a stalk of chives or green onion. Save a bit of it to garnish the dip and fold the rest in. Lightly brush some tortillas with olive oil, Cut in half and then into quarters. Line the muffin pans by taking a quarter of the tortilla and pushing it into the hollow, oil side down. Put in a bit of the chicken dip and a little cheese.

  Then place another tortilla quarter on top the layer of cheese and repeat with a bit of the chicken dip and cheese. Place in an 325 F oven for 20 minutes. Tortillas will get slightly brown and crispy. Top with a dot of sour cream and cooked crispy bacon. Variation – Using Red bean and meat chili.

Logan wanted more than mini tortilla treats so I took some left over chili that Tom made a couple days before and put it in a wrap. I put some chicken dip in the other. Top with cheese,then fold and roll and wrap in foil and place in oven also at 325 F for 25 minutes as they need a little more time than the tortilla cups to cook.Place the rest of the dip in an oven ready container. Top with cheese and bake again for 20 minutes at 325 F or at least until the edges brown and the cheese bubbles. Top with bacon and the rest of the chives.

And here is my Buffalo chicken Dip end result. It made 3 dishes – buffalo chicken tortilla cups, a wrap and a moreish dip for tortilla chips. I wanted to make it for Tom because I know how much he loves it and usually we have left overs to heat up for later but we had nothing left. Not a scrap.

 

 

Tom’s Homemade Bread – We are now into making different kinds of bread. Here is Tom’s recipe for Basic Homemade White Bread. You need 1 tbsp margarine or butter. 1 tbsp shortening. 1 cup boiling water. 1 cup scalded milk. 1 pack yeast and 1/4 cup warm water. 1 tsp sugar. 2 1/2 tbsp sugar and 1tbsp salt. 6 cups flour. Makes 3 smaller loaves or 1 bigger loaf.

 

Here is how to do it – In a large bowl, place boiling water, scalded milk, margarine, shortening, sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm.Add 1 pk yeast to 1/4 cup warm water and 1 tsp sugar. Allow to foam up then add to lukewarm milk. Mix. Add sifted flour using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.

Knead bread on a floured surface. Place n greased bowl (with butter) and turn to grease surface. Cover preferably with a damp cloth and allow to rise double in bulk. Punch down to release sour fermented aroma. Divide dough int 3 equal parts. Roll out 1 part then knead and shape into a loaf. Repeat with other 2 parts of dough. Place in greased bread pans. Next cover with a damp cloth or cover with another bread pan and allow to rise double in bulk.

 

There is NOTHING like the smell of fresh baked homemade white bread. Nothing is as tender and soft and satisfying. It reminds me of my childhood and I still cut the first warm slice and smother it with butter. Mmmmmmm

Recipe for the cream cheese frosting I made for some box red velvet cupcakes I made :8 oz cream cheese softened to room temperature. 6 tbsp softened salted butter. 1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar. 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl (use an electronic kitchen mixer low speed until combined). Add vanilla and sugar and continue to mix on low  then mix on medium-high for 2 more minutes. Use a spatula to break up air bubbles. Immediately frost onto a cooled cake or pipe onto cupcakes and ENJOY!

The finished cupcakes. They were light, soft and tasty. I liked that the frosting was not heavy or overly sweet as some cream cheese frostings can be.

Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Bread, Cupcakes and Cookies

We are mostly cooks and not bakers.Tom is the more likely of the pair of us to bake as he likes the precision and accuracy of baking…it’s very scientific and that satisfies Tom’s mind incredibly.Once in a while we throw down a batch of cookies and cupcakes and loaves of bread and pies as a treat for the guys mostly as they aren’t training as hard now that we are in a pandemic and it satisfies the occasional sweet tooth craving they may have. Here, in the photo above,we see a half eaten apple pie that our younger son basically claimed as his own. The week before he claimed all of the pumpkin pie I made the week before. Missing from the photo is the cherry pie I made for my sister for Mother’s Day. Hid it so I could actually give it to her as a present bite free – lol. I make pies using frozen fruit which I boil into a chunky sauce and add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg or star anise. I used store bought pastry shells (because why not?) and my glaze is either honey and water, sugar and water or a beaten egg yolk. When I make cookies I use store bought cookie dough because I hate making cookie dough and add to it  – more fruit, chocolate chips of chunks, dark chocolate pieces or white, Skor bar pieces or almonds or some other nut just to give it my flare. I make cupcakes now because the storage is easier, easier to transport to the guy living in his own place and they usually take one or two at a time which is healthier than them cutting a huge hunk of cake with twice as much frosting.

That concludes the Quickies recipes. There are more but this is enough for one posting. I am feeling like we are coming to the end of our pandemic lock down but I think it will be a slow transition back. So I think there is a lot more time left to cook and bake and share. I think once we are back on schedule with life, we are really going to try and carve out the time to do more cooking and baking at home. We have proven to ourselves that we can and Logan is really learning to cook very well, so there is no reason why we can’t look at our schedules and set aside some time for cooking more than we had been before. Fingers crossed we will be able to resume our lifestyles gradually soon. Spend the time with the family well and stay healthy. ~ Daniella and family.