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Bake from a Family Recipe

Bake from a Family Recipe

Great food is part of the culture where I grew up. The best meals were homemade, traditional, simple, and absolutely delicious. Baked goods were included in the stream of never-ending tasty delights. My Nan made the best partridgeberry muffins. My other Nan made the best homemade bread. My Mom made, and still makes, the best scratch pancakes. No recipes were ever needed to create these baked treasures. Each treat had been made hundreds of times and each batch tasted better than the last.

The last time I lived at home full-time I was in high school. I’ve always been very close to my family even though we’ve grown accustomed to being separated by a few Provinces. When we do spend time together, we make a meal plan of the dishes we want to share. I decided a long time ago I wanted to keep a record of these special dishes and baked goods with me wherever I lived.

It’s been nearly 10 years since I started my family recipe book. The plain, black notebook started its life as my geology field book. I used the book on my first two paid geology jobs in northern and central Labrador. It was dirty, had bug spatters on most pages, and had a spine filled with small rock shards. I loved this book. After I decided to return to school to study radio and television after a summer working in geology, I couldn’t get rid of this notebook. I gave it a little scrub, removed the mineral and rock observation filled pages, added labels, and called it a recipe book.

I sat with my Mom and asked her about my favourite meals and treats. I needed to know more than just the recipes. I wanted to recall every detail of how to recreate my favourite foods I’d seen made many times before. But, just having the recipes on paper wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to feel like I was taking a part of home with me back to Nova Scotia. So, I asked my Mom to write her recipes in my book. I love my mom’s handwriting and seeing her writing on the page would always remind me where the recipe came from, home.

Over the years, I collected more recipes from my family. My Mom helped me dig out of the family recipe box my favourite recipes from my grandparents and aunts. My Dad wrote his recipe for my favourite crab ball. My brother, Chris wrote his recipe for my favourite dinner rolls. Each time I use a recipe from my slightly shabby book I find myself flipping through the pages just to read the recipes written by the people I love. Seeing their handwriting immediately makes me feel closer to them. Now, the book has recipes from my boyfriend, his Mom and even a few creations by my boyfriend and I.

Every year at this time I start to feel the Winter blues. My recipe book has given me one more tool to fight them off. I cook a meal or bake a family favourite treat for the family I have made with my boyfriend here. It’s a great way to spend a cold, snowy night at home. Thankfully, I have friends and co-workers who are happy to help eat the extra goodies!

I can’t finish this post without also sharing a recipe from the little black book of deliciousness. We’re not sure where this chocolate chip cookie recipe came from. I just know it’s the one my Mom made and the one I loved the most. Enjoy!

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

In 1st bowl, melt: 2/3 cup butter

Add: 2 cups brown sugar, 2 tbsp hot water, 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla extract (I added the vanilla to my Mom’s recipe)

In 2nd bowl, sift together: 2 2/3 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt

Add: 2 cups chocolate chips

Slowly combine ingredients of 2nd bowl into 1st bowl.

When ingredients are blended, spoon 1 tbsp of cookie dough for each cookie onto parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake at 375 F for 8 – 9 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheet on wire rack for ~4 minutes, then transfer cookies to wire rack.



Get Some Sleep

For nearly 2 weeks, I avoided any extraneous computer use. This posed a problem because I keep in touch with friends online, my job requires near constant use of social media, and I just enjoy plain old internet surfing. I was trying to clear my head space in order to get some sleep.

I love to stay up late. I normally fall asleep with ease, have vivid dreams I enjoy remembering, and wake up feeling rested. Occasionally, it may take me a little longer to fall asleep, but I quickly make up for the lost sleep the next night. For the last 2 weeks, however, I’ve been fighting for a solid slumber. Even after sleeping, I awoke not feeling rested and not energized for the day.

I have a small bag of ideas on how to fall asleep stored in my head at all times. I’ve either come up with them on a restless night or collected them from other people. The ideas are normally reserved for other people’s sleeplessness. In the last 2 weeks, I’ve tried them all, plus more. Counting up and down, counting various animals and objects, breathing techniques, writing on my bedside table notepad, relaxing scents, not eating near bedtime, drinking extra water, reading, not reading, watching TV, not watching TV, visualizing a single colour… and the list goes on.

After only a few days of not getting rest, I noticed a significant decline in my short-term memory, problem solving ability, and quick thinking skills. I didn’t feel like myself. Tasks and activities that I usually did without much thought took focus and concentration. My emotional responses to situations and people seemed out of whack. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to live with long-term sleeplessness.

Then, came sleep. Sweet, blissful, deep, restful sleep. I awoke one morning feeling like I had slept for days. I felt my eyes more open, my hearing sharper, my head clearer. My sleepy haze had cleared.

My boyfriend and friends asked me what was keeping me up at night. For the first time in my life, I had no clear answer to give. I still don’t. My best guess is a case of the winter blahs coupled with too many ideas and thoughts rolling around in my head at night. I’m just overwhelmingly happy that my sleep pattern has returned to normal. I’ve always known that sleep is incredibly important to our well-being. But, I’ve never taken my sleep seriously. Perhaps, I’ve been taking my good sleep for granted. No more.

I’ve made a pledge to myself that I’ll protect my sleep. I’ll guard my rest because it’s the most important ingredient in making my day a great one. No more caffeine after my morning coffee, more time spent with my own thoughts before my head hits the pillow, no more thinking about things beyond my control when it’s time for sleep… just a few of the protective measures I’ve told myself before but never fully followed. I’m also going to book myself some pampering and relaxation at the spa. It can’t hurt!

Sleep well!

Plan a Vacation

Lake Arenal, Costa RicaFebruary, 2013 will be a big month in my life. If all goes to plan I’ll be spending one week of that month on a dream vacation in Costa Rica with my boyfriend. We’ve talked about this vacation for years but something always came up to delay the planning process. Car repairs, buying a house, friends getting married, and other life events big and small kept us from setting a plan in motion.

We’ve never been able to take a spontaneous vacation. Finances and having to book time off from work far in advance has turned us into planning machines. I still find the lack of spontaneity annoying sometimes, but we make do with short weekend road trips to get our “last-minute” fix.

No more delays. Last month we finally said our plan out loud to each other, our family, and friends and that made it official. It’s amazing how saying something out loud really does make it feel more real. I have way too much fun making spreadsheets and have already made several detailing how we’re going to save money, book flights, pick a hotel package, take tours, and indulge in some great food and spa time. It’s only one week, but we’re going to make the most of it!

I realize we are very fortunate to be planning for any vacation at all. There is a real possibility that come 2013 something may come up giving us want to delay our plans again. However, I’m confident that won’t happen again. Before last month, Costa Rica was just a dream. Now, we have a savings fund just for the trip, a dog sitter lined up, spreadsheets filling the “My Documents” folder on my laptop, and 1 full year to make it happen. Planning for this vacation has made us more financially responsible and it’s put a smile on our face each time we discover something new we want to do on our trip.

No matter the location, length, or cost of a vacation, I’m starting to learn the planning stage offers benefits long before you hop in the car or on a plane. We had set a goal of traveling to Costa Rica before, but we weren’t realistic in our planning. Now, we’re giving ourselves plenty of time to achieve every goal on our list. Each small success brings us one step closer to our dream vacation.

Whether it’s camping, a night at a swanky motel in your own town, or a rainforest getaway, just start planning! You’ll have fun discovering how great it feels to set a plan in motion and maybe how delightful spreadsheets are too.

Be Inspired by Someone Else’s Creativity

I’ve been a lover of Etsy for years, but only recently tried making an Etsy Treasury. I warn you now, once you start,Ā  you won’t want to stop creating these beautiful sets of products themed by colour, style, mood, texture, pattern and so on. My first Treasury list was made only 8 days ago when I needed inspiration for a handmade home decor idea. (Purple by Melanie Sampson on Etsy)

I grew up with a deep appreciation for handmade things. Both sets of my grandparents did incredible work with their own hands and I was always encouraged to be creative as a child. Now, I find myself drawn to items with a story. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by so many creative people in my life. I don’t think that’s happened by accident.

Most creative people I’ve met say they draw inspiration from others. I also seek and draw inspiration from creative family, friends, people in my community, and now, strangers on the internet.

After I created my first Etsy Treasury I received messages from artisans I featured, and these people no longer felt like strangers. Looking at, admiring, or purchasing a handmade item creates a connection. Letting other people and their work inspire you allows your own ideas to grow and continue the creative cycle.

Send a Postcard

I’m home sick today and didn’t hear our mailman arrive as I normally would have. On a typical morning, as soon as I hear him coming up the front steps, lifting the top of our squeaky mailbox (must fix that), and dropping the mail in, I’m running for the front door.

I love mail! When I was a kid I happily claimed the junk mail as my own. Back then, I thought receiving mail meant I was growing up, I was connected, I was somebody. I cherished writing letters to friends in other towns and within my town. My friends and I would compete to see who could make the most interesting homemade envelope. (My favourites were made from torn out magazine pages.)

Though, not all the mail I received was so welcomed. I learned around that same time that calling a 1-800 phone number was free, so I began ordering free samples and brochures from all over North America. Vacuum cleaner videos, vacation brochures, samples of hand creams, applications for technical schools in the southern US, and much more. 6 to 8 weeks after I started making calls, my parents let me know that I didn’t have to call every 1-800 number I saw. It was back to letters and postcards for me.

I still love to send and receive letters and parcels. Years ago, I made the switch to paperless billing to both save on paper and to ensure only fun mail arrived at my door. This morning, our mailman delivered a postcard from my older brother, Chris. After spending the morning in a feverish haze, I couldn’t help but smile and tear up a little because the front of the postcard was a picture of my parents he had taken while I was home for the Christmas holidays. I read the short note he had written and then noticed the postmark. It read, “sent from the Canada Post mobile app.” I giggled because my “snail mail” was sent from an iPhone. Amazing.

Today I learned technology has finally caught up to traditional mail. So, grab your mobile phone and send someone a postcard. Thanks, Chris! ā™„

Step 1: Try Something New… like a blog

Welcome to my Guide To Being Amazing. If you’re living at peak amazing capacity, you’re clearly from the future and have read all my forthcoming blog posts.

If you’re still trying to reach your peak level of amazing, welcome! I am also on a journey toward amazing. I have stumbled upon many amazing things between the time I was a newborn and now. Every day I continue to find new sources of amazing. My goal with this Guide To Being Amazing is to share these amazing things with you.

Let’s learn, try, and live amazing things together.

– Mel