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.


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:


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!


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.


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…


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.


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.


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!

Posted on October 31, 2011, in Baking, Cancer, Pets, Recipes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. It seems that you have a few more spoons to work with today. This is good. Happy day to you and yours.

    Anne WF

  2. A friend of mine shared the story about the spoons several years ago and I know it is something I can really relate to. I have CMV, and it does not act the way the doctors understand it should, so it has taken me years to figure out how to deal with it and how to try and stave off flare ups (which mean that my organs swell up, my entire body aches, and I can barely keep my eyes open or focus on anything. this can last for days or weeks depending on if I’m resting or pushing myself during the flare up and what I was doing leading up to the flare up). It has been 10 years since I was first diagnosed, and I still get caught by surprise, but after reading the spoon article and really keeping the concept in mind in my daily life I feel much more in control and in balance with my body. Now it is a matter of keeping the balance, but getting into more balanced/healthy eating and getting some form of exercise into my regular routine. I just keep trying to make baby steps that go in a forward direction. Slow progress is still progress.

    I keep wanting to climb into your photos of the animals to cuddle with them. I miss having a pet, but unfortunately my apartment is not really ideal for one so I have to make due with playing and cuddling with my friends’ animals when I see them.

  3. I read about the spoon theory a few years ago on (another) Susan’s website ( I do agree with what you said about everyone having a designated set of spoons to use throughout any given day, not just those who are sick. I’ve often contemplated that myself.

    Those recipes you cooked up look delicious. Happy halloween to you too!


  4. So true. I am a middle school teacher and often use up too many of my spoons by the time I get home from work. I just got married over the summer, and my husband learned right away that I need an hour of quiet when I get home before I hang out, converse, and be “normal” again.

    • I was sitting here at my middle school wondering if I had enough spoons left to grade the papers on my desk, drive home AND cook dinner. I should have known to be more careful with my energy today. Halloween in a middle school costs a lot of spoons! :-)

  5. Here’s to hoping that you have many spoons to start your day. Your food looks delish. I hope that Buster gets to feeling better soon.

  6. wonderful post! I’m going to use my spoons to get on the ground and play with Henry and Clara…I’m a lion and they run from me. Takes alot of spoons!

  7. Here’s wishing you lots of spoons!!

  8. I heard about the Spoon Theory over the summer from another thyroid patient – there is a huge following on Twitter which is interesting! I like the metaphor and think about it from time to time when I’m feeling really spent…which is a good reminder to listen to my body and stop expecting to do everything!

    Good luck on #8 this week. Hang in there – and as far as your last post about your blog changing, I’ll read no matter what/when/where you write about! Sometimes I worry that my blog is too downer or directed at having been sick or cancer “stuff”…would more people read it if it was just about food and fluffy stuff? Then I think about how that would definitely not be true to what I want to talk about and it doesn’t really matter. Basically, you do YOU. :)

  9. I guess we all have to decide what we think is spoon-worthy. In your case, cooking is, dishes are not :) (but for those who don’t get to play the “c-card” the dishes have to be included in the cooking spoon value…)

    There’s a joke about a dish running away with the spoon in there somewhere, but it is Monday and I’m not feeling clever enough to find it.

    Good luck this week Susan. I’ll be thinking about you!

  10. I love the spoon theory. It is a good thing for me to keep in mind to deal with chronic mono. Some days going to work is all I can manage. If I overdo it I know because I break out with shingles! I used some extra spoons this week by spending Halloween weekend with friends at a rustic cabin! Exhausting but so much fun!

    Hope you have a good week with plenty of spoons to spread around! Love the look of those apple shortbread bars. They would be good with some chai tea!

  11. Love this post … You inspire me all the time!

  12. That’s a good analogy about the spoons. I sure hope Buster doesn’t have anything too major wrong. He is such a sweetheart. I would enjoy using my spoons in the kitchen creating too. Whatever you enjoy doing is what keeps you feeling your best.

  13. I’ve not heard of the spoon theory, but LOVE it!! And love your twist on it too. Very true. This was a message I needed today, after having no power for 2.5 days due to a random snowstorm and I’ve been bitching about it to no end (shameful, I know. Hindsight…). Thank you for gently nudging me back into perspective. Much needed (and um, that apple butter looks so damn good!!)

  14. This really got me: “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.” That is SO true. Planning is often futile because we don’t know don’t know until we wake up how our day is going to go. Thanks for sharing this and the article about the spoons. Both are very insightful. Happy Halloween!

  15. oh my gosh.. that photo of cashew! great shot. the crumb squares look amazing, i have to try them. nice use of those extra spoons <3

  16. May your spoon collection grow and grow because you need to use less!!! And a HUGE AWWWW to the photos of Cashew!!!

  17. That’s my apple oatmeal muffin recipe!!! I have the giant GH cookbook and that recipe is in there, I THOUGHT those muffins looked familiar! I agree with you, needs more apples and cinnamon, I wasn’t as impressed with them as I have been with their other recipes just by using the recipe as written.

    Thanks for giving us “healthies” a good analogy for how you’re feeling. I think the spoon analogy can apply to pretty much anyone, sick or not, just more so if you’re sick. A lot of times when I read I think about how I don’t really know exactly what you’re going through, the closest experience I have to that kind of fatigue is pregnancy. It’s interesting how people like to relate things to themselves and their own experiences so much (I just did it) – seems like kind of a self-centered way to go about things but all people do it, I guess that’s just how we relate to other people? I don’t know, now my head hurts from thinking too much. Anyhow, great post (definitely going to try those apple crumb bars), seems like you’re feeling good and I’m happy about that :)

    • I think there’s a lot to the sympathy vs. empathy thing! I know that before I had a lot of sympathy for the sick/injured, but now I have a lot of empathy which brings it to a whole other level of understanding. Not always a good thing, as I can be an emotional wreck over other people’s problems now :P

  18. Great post! I totally get the spoon analogy… I have a stressful job that most people don’t understand. My family and non-coworker friends don’t always understand that I need / want alone time to decompress. I’ve also understood that it’s ok to be selfish with my time. I don’t owe everything to everyone… and my health and sanity comes first!


  19. love this post, I have never heard of the spoon theory so thanks for sharing ;)
    and love all those apple recipes and love the pictures! making me hungry all over again haha

  20. The photo with the cat-behind-bars is great. I understand about cooking. It can be calming and liberating at the same time.

  21. Great post! What a pretty kitty too :)

  22. Awesome story! I love the idea of the spoons and also agree with your “twist” that everyone has spoons at the beginning of the day.

  23. I love the spoon theory! It’s a wonderful way to put things into perspective.

  24. I read about the spoon theory a few years ago. It really helps to put any illness in perspective for healthy people. I may read it again while I am making those apple crumble bars, yum!

  25. A great message Susan – thank you! Love those animal pics!

  26. I don’t have cancer but I do have a chronic autoimmune disease that wears me out as well and makes me “count my spoons” daily. Some days are much harder than others to get through, especially treatment days. Glad to see you that you have such a positive outlook.

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