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Baking With Spoons

A friend of mine shared this story the other day, and it’s something I’ve thought of every day since.

If you’ve got a few minutes, I encourage you to go read it. If not, I will fill you in!

It’s something called “The Spoon Theory,” used to describe what’s it’s like living day-to-day with an illness. What it’s really like. I mean, we all know that sick people are tired and weak all the time, but it’s still hard for a healthy person to wrap their brains around that. Trust me, I know, I used to be a healthy person too.

The author of the story explains it as such: each day we wake up with a certain number of spoons. Each activity we do over the course of the day costs us a spoon. So a healthy person can hop out of bed and easily not use up a spoon until they arrive at work. Whereas it requires one spoon for a sick person to get out of bed, one spoon to shower, one spoon to find a pair of pants to wear, etc, etc. Basically, small things that we all do over the course of the day aren’t as easy for some people as they are on the rest.

What really interested me about this story is not how it influences the perception of healthy people, but it gave me something to refer to as I used up my spoons over the course of the day. It put into words something that I hadn’t yet been able to explain.

Each day, I wake up with a certain number of spoons. That number depends on how long ago my last chemotherapy was, how well I slept the night before, or how many spoons I have left over from the day before. I never really know how many spoons I’m waking up to, so how many I have to use up for the day is always a surprise.

On days where I have a lot of spoons, I’ll go for walks, visit with friends and family, go to a restaurant. Some days activities require more spoons than others though. I may wake up with 8 spoons, but walking the dog could take up 5. So I’m left being stingy with my spoons for the rest of the day.

One of my favourite ways to use my spare spoons? Creating in the kitchen.

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My family are always at me for using up my spoons in the kitchen, but it’s how I choose to use them! Maybe they are just annoyed I don’t use my spoons doing dishes…

I’ve been baking exclusively with apples since apple picking last weekend. Here are some recipes to share:

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Apple Crumble Bars using this recipe. Shortbread cookie base and crumble with a just-tart-enough apple filling. My Nana loved these and they are great with a cup of tea!

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Apple Butter, naturally. I based it off this recipe using a dozen apples and half a cup of pure maple syrup. It took about 7 hours of simmering to get it really thick. I ended up with four jars, three of which I gave away. One of which I kept so I could have apple butter on pork.

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Finally, Apple Oatmeal Muffins! Made in a mini muffin pan because I still don’t have a regular sized one. I based my version off of this recipe and subbed the flour for whole wheat, the oil for almond butter, and the buttermilk for almond milk curdled with one tablespoon of lemon juice. If I were to make these again I’d add more cinnamon, more almond butter, and more apple! Otherwise, they’re great slathered in some homemade apple butter.

All enjoyed next to a purring cat…

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My mom and I have traded dogs for a few days. We finally diagnosed why Buster wasn’t feeling well and I can’t care for him until he’s better. Cashew the cat strongly dislikes Buster, but for some reason loves Archie the poodle. Cashew has come out of hiding to rub up against Archie and purr loudly in his presence.

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Archie in turn is scared of other dogs, but seems to be okay with the cat. I think the two of them could actually be great friends.

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It’s all very entertaining to watch go down as I stand in the kitchen using up my spoons in an apron stained in applesauce.

If I were to add my own twist to the spoon theory, it would be to mention that I don’t think it’s exclusive to sick people. Everyone has a certain number of spoons to use up over the course of the day, just not everyone has so many or uses them up so easily. So while I’m recklessly using mine by chopping up a gazillion apples, might I suggest you use some spoons doing something you love today too. Perhaps eating funsize candy bars? After a week of mostly rest, I’ve got a few spoons to spare, so I’m changing out of my peejays and into my spy costume. Happy Halloween!

Sick Body, Healthy Body Image

Yesterday I stepped on the scale for the first time since being discharged from the hospital. Over the four weeks I was in hospital, I lost around 7 lbs. Not an unhealthy amount for the time I was in there, but a lot for a person who spent the majority of their days lying in bed. The nurses and doctors weren’t concerned. When you have cancer, weight loss happens. Yesterday I noticed I’d lost even more weight, bringing my total up to 10 lbs. And I’ve been eating a lot since being discharged!

I’d been trying to shed a few spare pounds for months. One would think this would come as a pleasant side effect of being in the hospital and on chemo. But it’s not. I don’t want to lose weight. I am terrified of looking sickly.

Over the years, I have worked really hard at improving my self-image. Throughout my original weight loss and efforts to eat well and exercise more, I really learned to love and appreciate my body. Even when I gained some of that weight back, I could still look in the mirror and like who was looking back at me. Not a lot of women can do that, and that ability was one of the qualities I was most proud of. It took many years to get to that point.

But cancer has thrown my self-image for a bit of a loop. I’ve learned it is one thing to look out of shape, and something entirely different to look in the mirror and see a legitimately sick person looking back at you. Thinning hair, tired eyes, dull skin, shallow cheeks. That is an image I am not ready to deal with.

Mind you, after only two weeks into treatment, I definitely don’t look sick. Hell, I probably won’t ever look that sick. Because, you know, the cancer is shrinking, and I am technically getting better.

This will certainly be a new challenge for me. To learn to love my body even when it’s full of bruises from the needles and blood thinners. Even when my nails are flaking, my skin is dry, and the inside of my mouth has sores. To still want to treat it well when the room is spinning and it feels like someone is taking a jackhammer to my skeleton. To still appreciate everything my body does for me, even when the cells inside insist on growing at a rapid and deadly rate.

Never did I think I’d be upset to watch the scale go down when I once tried so hard to fit into my skinny jeans. It’s hard to resist from thinking that my body has failed me, even after all the work I put into it. But really, it’s all just a learning process of how to work with it, and still love my body despite all it’s been through. I can’t say I’ve tackled this hurdle entirely yet, but do know that I don’t plan on giving up on it.

This is why one of my big goals for the month of August is to increase my level of physical activity. Walking, light indoor cycling, stretching, light strength training. Nothing strenuous, but all things that will help my body prepare and stay strong for treatments. The other goal is to get dressed, do my hair, and put on make-up as often as possible. Even though I technically can, I prefer not to lay around in my peejays all day.

And just to prove to you that I am still eating well, behold, my Monday dinner:

That would be Spanish rice with chicken and veggies, and homemade cornbread with cheddar cheese. Who knows what sort of cravings I’ll have after my second chemo treatment today, so I wanted to make sure I got a good meal in beforehand.

For the Spanish rice, I used this recipe as the base. I also added smoked paprika, garlic scapes, broccoli, beans, leftover roast chicken, and subbed some of the rice out for quinoa.

Now, let’s talk about the cornbread.

I’ve been looking for a good cornbread recipe for a while. Most of them are too sweet for my taste. Many recommend adding creamed or frozen corn, but honestly, I don’t like the whole corn kernels in the bread. Others just have too much flour.

Instead I followed this recipe from Chef Michael Smith. I not only love him because he’s a Food Network host based out of the Maritimes, but also because none of his recipes have ever steered me wrong. Instead, this recipe has you cook the cornmeal in a milk mixture first. No flour, just a bit of brown sugar, and no clumps of vegetables. It was perfection!!! Oh, and clearly I made it in a loaf pan as opposed to a cast iron skillet.

After an amazing weekend of family, friends, good food, and feeling great, I am off to the hospital for chemo #2. Definitely scared, but today I’ve got my big girl pants on. With a bit of eyeliner.

 

Dreamy Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares

It doesn’t matter where I go, but any place I visit over the course of December has a tray of sweets waiting for me.

Squares and cookies that so-and-so’s neighbour or cousin sent over. Maybe it’s a catered Christmas party with a mountain of sugary goodies on display. If you’re going anywhere this month, chances are you’re showing up with a container full of sweet stuff in tow.

Christmas brings out the sugar fiend in all of us.

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Usually I ignore these trays unless there is something I “omgneedtohave.” I’ve had a billion sugar cookies in my life. I know what a date square tastes like. I can pass up on these treats pretty easily. But there is one square I will always go for. One I will seek out. One that I can’t just have one of.

Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares.

Long-time blog readers already know that I love marshmallows. Beyond the point that’s probably normal. Nothing, in my opinion, tastes better with marshmallows than peanut butter. Yes, fluffernutter trumps hot chocolate.

Despite my love for these fluffy treats, I have never actually attempted to make them. Rather, I would just anxiously scan dessert trays at parties hoping to see my favourite multi-coloured square.

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I went looking for recipes and found this one only has four ingredients.

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  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 (300g) bag butterscotch chips
  • 1 (200g) bag mini marshmallows

I ended up choosing this recipe in particular, simply because it had more peanut butter than the others. You can never go wrong with extra peanut butter.

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The first step is easy. Melt your peanut butter, butter and butterscotch chips together in a pot on low heat.

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Slow and steady does it. The more you stir, the more it melts.

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This is where your kitchen starts to smell like a buttery heaven.

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Let that mix cool for a little bit so it doesn’t melt the marshmallows. I’m impatient and perhaps did not let it cool long enough (ahem, three minutes). You’ll later see why letting it thicken up is better.

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Throw in your bag of multicoloured marshmallows. I know these are the fruity ones and seem like an odd choice compared to the regular white ones. But it’s not the same with the white ones. It just isn’t.

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Try not to jump in there and bathe with the marshmallows. It’s tempting!

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Once everything is coated and mixed, transfer it to a greased 11×13 baking dish and refrigerate.

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One of the commenters on the recipe said she put them in the freezer right away, then let thaw slightly before cutting and taking them out of the dish. I tried this method, leaving it in the freezer for an hour, then on the counter for 5 minutes or so. They came right out of the dish with very few bits left behind!

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You can see here where the warm mix sank to the bottom of the dish. I have a feeling if I let it thicken up, it would have coated the marshmallows more evenly.

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The final product is nothing short of amazing. Rich, buttery peanut fudge with fluffy sweet marshmallows. I can’t believe how quick and easy they were to make. Clean-up was a cinch too!

Now, if only I can keep my grubby little hands off them. They’re all wrapped up and ready to give away in the name of the holiday spirit. I highly suggest you add these to your Christmas treat list. For girls like me, who will be scanning the treat trays at parties for them ;)

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