One Year

I can usually hear the footsteps the second the feet hit the ground. A tiny body sliding out of her giant bed, stepping around the dog sleeping on the floor, blankets and Tiger in hand. She sometimes opens the blinds, the creak of the roller a dead giveaway, just to make sure it's morning. Then she stomps down the hall. It sounds like stomping, even though she barely weighs 30 pounds. Her hand grasps the knob on the door to my room. A short turn and she peeks in. If she sees me awake she quickly pops in the room, slams the door behind her, props her crap on the bed, and climbs in.

She usually doesn't say a word. Not until she is settled and snuggled beside me. Her face is glowing with a morning smile and she practically purrs with delight. We lay like that for a what is probably only seconds. Then she pops her head up.

"Mama, can we bake today?"


One year ago I marked my first day as a stay at home parent. My husband left for work, to return more or less almost 4 months later. I was thrust into the role of full-time parent with no regular paycheque. It was an initiation, almost hazing, that no college student would ever survive. 24 hours a day, alone, with my kids.

Being home with my kids was never a reality I imagined. I was going to either save the world or make a lot of money working hard. For a while I thought I could combine the two. Then these little creatures emerged, growing with me, and encouraging a sense of self I never knew was there. Our family changed and the needs of the whole outweighed my desire to save the world. Instead I needed to work on just saving us.

So, here I am. A year in. Much calmer now - most days - and still working on keeping us all sane. I've had to revise my own expectations about what can be achieved by the family and by me, in our time. I've also blown apart my own thoughts about the pleasure this would bring me and the peace it gives my husband. I still wonder what the hell I'm doing and I don't love it every day. But I like it. A lot.

In this past year I've developed a whole new relationship with the girls, worked to define this new thing with my husband, and searched for a balance to my own desires and goals. It's been HARD. And that's not counting the disappointments, struggles, grief, and disorder that the last year also brought.

And I wouldn't change a thing. As hard as this life is, it is better. Much, much better.


Peach pie, lemon cupcakes, muffins, scones, cookies, bread... We're baking it all. Practically something new every day.

The Monster isn't as thrilled with being in the kitchen as she used to be. If there is the prospect of chocolate she will join us. Otherwise, The Evil Genius pulls up her bright orange chair, rifles through the cupboard for her apron, and says to me, "So, what should we bake today, Chef?"

With the Monster starting Kindergarten this morning I see even more baking in my future. That kid will have the best snacks in her heart covered backpack. Full of love and most likely chocolate.

Nectarine, White Chocolate and Cardamom Scones
(adapted from the basic English Cream Scone recipe in the original Five Roses Flour cookbook)
Makes 16-18 kid-size scones

1 nectarine, chopped into 1/2'' chunks
3 ounces white chocolate, roughly chopped
2 cups flour (you can mix whole wheat with regular, but don't go 100% whole wheat)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup cold butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicon mat.

Make sure your nectarine and white chocolate are chopped. Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour. Frankly, we use our hands. 3 years olds are very, very good at this. You could also use a pastry cutter. Stir in the nectarine and white chocolate

Reserve 1 tbsp of egg whites in a small bowl, then beat the eggs with the cream. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. The dough will be wet and sticky. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto your prepared baking sheet. Leave 1'' between scones.

Brush the tops with reserved egg white and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for 10-13 minutes until lightly golden.

Urban Survival - TV and Trail Mix

In the midst of a major deadline (let's just say it involves a lot of words) and a weekend away with some family, there hasn't been a lot of great cooking around the Arkison household. To be honest, I'm struggling to feed the family well and work. I'm totally relying on what's in the freezer to get dinner on the table.

During the day it's another story. The girls have been surviving on grilled cheese sandwiches and bowls of cottage cheese for lunch. At snacks they are, sadly, begging for chips and chocolate. Christmas isn't that far behind us, after all. Thank goodness for apples and pomegranates!

What they are truly surviving on right now is PBS Kids and Trail Mix. Yes, my kids are watching too much TV. I know that, leave me alone. As for the Trail Mix, this is my Mom's fault. Yes, Mom, I am totally blaming you and your Costco treat.

After buying the Trail Mix only once I got smart and made my own. I could make 4-5 times the amount for the same price, even from the warehouse. Use a combination of ingredients that works for you. Nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cereal, and even a few treats. In our house I use whatever nuts I have in the freezer. Or, perhaps, the leftovers from Christmas. Sometimes I'll toast them, usually I don't. The girls don't care. Add in some dried cranberries and raisins for some sweetness, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and yes, some M&M's. I used to add chocolate chips, but those got messy when a certain 2 year old liked to pick them out and coddle them in her hand for an hour.

Store in a large plastic bag or air tight jar. Pack in jam jars for on-the-go snacks.

It seems like a no brainer to do this, but I find that not many people take the two minutes to toss it together in a large bowl. I, for one, am thankful I took the time between paragraphs. Now, when The Electric Company comes on I know I can get at least a page written before the jar of Trail Mix is gone.


Kale chips not potato chips. Let's just get that out of the way. But they are better. But sometimes they are worse, way worse.

An old boss of mine had a heart transplant a little over a year ago. He was sick, very sick, for a young man. For awhile he was attached, and essentially kept alive by an obtrusive, loud, cranky machine. An external pump, if you will, that he carried around behind him like a business traveller and his carry-on through the airport.

Kale is one of the dark green, leafy vegetables that 'they' like to tell us to eat, and eat often. Nothing but good stuff in them. Loads of vitamins, beta-carotene, and even calcium. One of the key vitamins in kale is Vitamin K, very good for blood coagulation.

And blood coagulation is very bad for men with external heart pumps.

But now, with a new heart pumping and no carry-on luggage, those dark green, leafy vegetables are back on his plate. And because potato chips are supposed to be off that same plate I am offering up this recipe.

Kale chips are an addiction in this house; a favourite way to use up the abundance from our CSA. Yes, the girls like them too. Kale chips have a crunch that disintegrates as soon as you bite into them. They do taste green (which is a good thing) but they also carry the taste of the salt and spices you toss them with as soon as they come out of the oven.

So, if you are a salty snacker, try adding kale chips to your bowl. Ridiculously easy to make, fast, and full of real flavour that you control. Snacking at its best. And new heart approved.

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale - purple, green, or lacinato (or a combination
Olive oil
Seasonings (smoked paprika, truffle oil, seasoned salts, cumin, black pepper, chili powder...)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Wash and dry the kale very well. Cut out the stiff rib and cut the leaves into 1-2 inch pieces.
3. On a rimmed baking sheet toss the kale with a light drizzle of olive oil. Go easy on the olive oil to have crisper chips.
4. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Give the kale a gentle toss halfway through.
5. Remove from the oven and toss with a generous sprinkle of salt and seasonings of choice. (Smoked Paprika is our favourite.)

Only in My House?

Hubby has a disgusting habit. Okay, he has more than one. Opening beer bottles with his teeth, eating knobs of butter, just butter, and eating dried macaroni by the handful. And much to my chagrin, he's passed on those habits to our youngest child. Not the beer bottle one - yet.

Yes, when we bake she steals bits of butter and I've found her with her finger in the butter dish more than once. Are you cringing just a little at that? I am.

Lately, however, the macaroni habit has become an obsession. All our dry goods are stored in glass jars on open shelves above the stove.  She literally tries to climb up the stove, yelling, "Macaroni please!"

At first I refused, fearing that she would choke. We've been down that road and I was terrified of another ambulance visit. Eventually I relented, letting her have just one. She chomped down, chewed it up, and asked for more. So now she and her Daddy sit with handfuls of dried macaroni, crunching and laughing together over the naughtiness of their habit.

Does anyone else do this? Or is my family just this special? (Sarah, don't answer that)