The miracle spread: peanut butter

peanut butter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Thursday, January 24th is National Peanut Butter Day. I didn’t even know they had a National Peanut Butter Day but I’m definitely on board.

On a cold wintry morning, nothing satisfies the craving for belly timber more than the smooth rich taste of peanut butter.

Canadians have always been a little nutty over our favourite spread.

In fact, it was a Canadian, Marcus Gilmore Edson, a pharmacist from Montreal who first invented peanut butter. Edson developed a process in 1884 to make peanut paste from milling roasted peanuts between two heated plates.

In 2010, Smuckers, the manufacturer of Jif peanut butter stopped selling the popular brand in Canada due to low sales. Canadians were so upset, they took to social media. It took us seven whole years, but we finally convinced Smuckers to stock Jif on our shelves again in 2017. The CBC did a story on it.

There’s even a song called Peanut Butter. It was recorded by the Marathons in 1961 and made it into the top 20.

Why this love affair with the sultry spread? First, there’s the names. You can’t help but love a food called Skippy, or Jif (I’ve read Proctor & Gamble wanted a short and catch brand name to compete with Skippy, so they chose Jif because it was easy to say, spell and remember.)

Then there’s the classic struggle of loyalty and temptation between choosing Smooth or Crunchy. I started out a Smooth girl early in life, had a short fling with crunchy for awhile, then returned to my first love, definitely a smooth operator.

But the main reason why we love the miracle spread so much is the nutty, salty, smooth taste that tantalizes our taste buds and spices up any meal or treat.

Peanut butter is a good source of vitamin E, B6, niacin, calcium, potassium and iron, is packed with protein and is rich in healthy monounsaturated fat.

This week’s #HappyAct is to spread a little cheer on a cold wintry morning with a healthy dollop of peanut butter on your toast, or rustle up an old fashioned PB&J for lunch. Better yet, why not donate a jar or two to your local food bank? Peanut butter is always one of the highest demand items.

Here’s a list of the 21 Best Peanut Butter Recipes ever from Huffington Post and one of my favourite recipes for peanut butter cookies.

Peanutty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 ½ cups peanut butter

1/3 cup butter or margarine

¾ cup sugar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ tsp vanilla

1 cup rolled oats

¾ cup flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

8 squares semi-sweet chocolate or 1 cup chocolate chips

In a mixing bowl, cream peanut butter and butter. Gradually beat in sugars. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add oats, flour, baking soda. Blend into creamed mixture, just to combine. Stir in chocolate chips/chunks. Drop by tablespoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

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Always look on the bright side of life

screen shot 2019-01-13 at 10.19.55 am

There’s a great scene in the movie You’ve Got Mail where Tom Hanks’ character claims the movie The Godfather is the “ I Ching… the sum of all wisdom…the answer to any question.”

Sorry Tom, you’re wrong. The sum of all wisdom, the answer to any question, can be found in the brilliant anthology of Monty Python.

It has been 60 years this month since the British troop Monty Python was formed. The troop featured five bright lights in British comedy: Eric Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin and Terry Jones. American Terry Gilliam did the animation.

I grew up watching Fawlty Towers, Benny Hill and Monty Python. If you’re not familiar with these British trailblazers in comedy, you have to google some of their skits. They were nothing short of brilliant.

Together, the Python comedy troupe produced 45 television episodes, five films and a blockbuster Broadway musical.

Here are a few interesting facts you may not know about Monty Python

  • In The Holy Grail, they wanted to use real horses, but didn’t have enough money so they used coconuts instead.
  • Their first full length feature film, And Now For Something Completely Different, was meant to be a showcase for Americans who had never seen the show before.
  • All five members attended and met at the most prestigious universities in Britain: Jones and Palin met at Oxford, while Cleese, Chapman and Idle all attended Cambridge.
  • Beatle George Harrison was a huge fan of the show and came to the troupe’s rescue when financing for their controversial 1979 film “Life of Brian” fell apart. Harrison mortgaged his house for the movie to be made because he wanted to see it, kicking in $4 million pounds.
  • Always look on the bright side of life has become one of the most popular songs played at British funerals and is often song at British soccer games when teams are losing.

I always say the truest test of an artist is their ability to stand the test of time. My daughter Clare a couple of months ago came into the living room when we were watching The Holy Grail. She said, “What is this?” and started watching it with us. At one point she turned to us and said “This is like Sharknado, but even better!”

Much, much better.

This week’s #HappyAct is to always remember the bright side of life and celebrate the 60th anniversary of Monty Python by watching your favourite Python movie or skit. Some of my favourites are The Lumberjack Song, The Argument Clinic, Not Dead Yet, and all of Holy Grail.

Maybe this year I’ll finally get to see Spamalot on stage. Eric Idle also just released an autobiography in 2018 called Always look on the bright side of life.

What’s your favourite Python sketch? Leave a comment.

Ed. Note: About a year ago, I watched a fascinating documentary that aired behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast. Hopefully they’ll air it again this month, so watch for it.

52 walks later

Group of employees
Some of my co-workers who walked with me in 2018

For once, I followed through on a New Year’s resolution.

Last January, I posted this blog where I vowed to walk one day each week at lunch with a fellow Empire Life employee. My goals were to stay connected with my co-workers and what’s happening in the company, get in shape, and save money (as opposed to going out for lunch with people to catch up).

In full disclosure, I didn’t quite make my goal—work schedules, vacation, and a nasty gland infection in November meant I finished just shy of my 52 walks this year, but I figure I met it in spirit. Here is what I learned on my walks:

  • For some of us, a quick walk at lunch is one of the only times to ourselves. For instance, I learned one co-worker  has five kids under the age of seven, with two-year old twins. If I had five kids under the age of seven, I’d definitely need an escape now and then!
  • Every person has a story to tell. One of my favourite walks this year was with a co-worker who just happened to mention that her husband had received an invitation to the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. She agreed to let me post a little contest on our company intranet to guess who the mystery wedding guest was. We had a lot of fun as people tried to guess which of us knew royalty.
  • People have many hidden passions and talents. Several guys I work with are beer aficionados and are members of the Kingston and Area Brewers of Beer club, I work with several “foodies”, and people love their pets!
  • Life is full of joy and challenges. Many shared their lives, struggles and challenges with me. It was a great reminder that you never really know what’s going on in people’s lives (despite Facebook and Instagram) and to always listen with your heart.

And finally, but I didn’t need 52 walks to know this, I work with some of the nicest, most talented people around. Thanks to everyone who joined me for a walk in 2018. I plan to continue my walks in 2019.

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Leave a comment.

Best happy acts of 2018

Author and her daughter

When I started this blog four years ago, I hoped I would find a community of people who would join me on a journey to explore what it means to be happy and be inspired to take action to create our own happiness, one happy act at a time.

I also knew there would be others who would never “get it” and think I’m crazy. I once had someone ask me, why do you blog about the same thing every week?  Sigh.

While there is always a common thread in my posts: exploring what makes us happy, I hope dear loyal readers you have figured out that like life, happyact.ca is a smorgasbord of content. Some weeks, it is a blog for foodies or commentary on work; other weeks it’s a travelogue or a humour column.

Some weeks it’s an advice column where I’m seeking advice for a problem or issue in my life. Other weeks, I’m sharing a tiny drop of inspiration or motivation. Either way, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it and it’s helped you on your journey to be happy.

I know life gets busy and there is a good chance you may have missed some happy acts this year, so to help you overcome FOMO (fear of missing out), here is a reprise of my top ten favourite happy acts of 2018. I hope you keep reading every Sunday morning and continue on with me on this journey in 2019.

On travel and exploring

On being happy at work

For giggles

Motivation and inspiration

Happy New Year everyone and here’s to a happiness filled 2019.

Pass down a holiday tradition

Girl walking in snow

We have a holiday tradition that makes people gasp in horror. We open our presents on Christmas night. Not Christmas Eve, Christmas night.

It’s a tradition that stems back to the days when my grandparents owned a greenhouse in the 1930s in Cooksville (now Mississauga) at the corner of Highways 5 and 10, Dundas and Hurontario Streets. Christmas was one of their busiest times of the year, and they would often still be preparing floral orders and making deliveries right up until lunch time on Christmas Day. The only time they could sit down to relax and open gifts was after dinner.

It was a tradition my parents continued when we were young, and a tradition Dave and I have passed on to our children.

I love opening gifts at nighttime, with the fire crackling, the Christmas tree lights shining and a glass of Bailey’s in your hand. You don’t have to worry about jumping up and getting the turkey in the oven or baking pies and it prolongs the anticipation beyond Christmas morning. It also lets us get outside and enjoy the beauty and peace of the day.

I knew the circle was complete when on one of our nightly walks this week, Clare asked, “Mom, can we open presents Christmas night again this year? I really love it.”

My work as a parent is done.

Whatever your traditions or faith, I hope you have a joyous holiday. What’s your favourite holiday tradition? Leave a comment.

The legend of the tole-painted plate

tole painted plate

It’s legendary in our household–the tale of the tole-painted plate.

Years ago, when Dave and I were first dating, I had taken a folk art painting course. I was terrible at it, but my instructor was very talented and at the end of the course I bought a beautiful tole-painted plate of a wintry scene.

It was December and because I felt so guilty spending money on myself before Christmas, I wrapped up the plate, wrote “To Dave” on the tag and tucked it under the tree.

To this day, I still hear about it, but somehow all three of us–Dave, me and the plate have survived 27 years of marriage.

I think he secretly cherishes the tole-painted plate. He says every time he looks at it he thinks what a lame gift it was and that I’m psychologically scarred because I can’t just buy something for myself and feel good about it.

My response is at least I don’t buy ice fishing huts and gear and hide them in the barn from my wife.

This week’s #HappyAct is when you’re out frantically finding that perfect last minute gift for the someone special on your list, buy a little something for yourself. I do have one little problem this year though. The thing I bought for myself I can’t exactly write “To Dave” on the tag. Guess I’ll have to give it to myself from Bella. Dogs are very good shoppers after all.

Visit a Charles Dickens village

Christmas carollers
Carollers at the mill in Delta, Ontario

Our British Heritage runs deep in this region. Kingston was, after all, the first capital of Canada and north of Kingston, in the area once known as Upper Canada, there are dozens of quaint villages that transform into magical towns hearkening back to the days of Charles Dickens at Christmas.

One of my favourites is the tiny village of Delta where thousands of visitors assemble each year to take an evening stroll through Lower Beverly Park to see the 90,000 lights, visit Santa’s workshop and take a wagon ride through the village. The local church hall serves hot meals, and in the centre of the village, the Delta Mill is open for tours.

The Old Stone Mill in Delta is a national historic site and treasure. It was built in 1810 and is still a working gristmill (they grind their own flour in the summer months). In December, antique candles light up the mill as they flicker in the six-foot window sills of each window.

Once inside, you are transported back to the days of Dickens. Caped carollers sing God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman and the smells of hot cider fill the air. Local volunteers share their knowledge and history as they take you for a tour and explain how flour is ground. You almost expect to see the ghost of Christmas past or Ebenezer Scrooge emerge from the mill’s shadows.

This week’s #HappyAct is to transport yourself back in time with a visit to Delta. As Charles Dickens wrote, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

The mill and park are open every Friday and Saturday night until Christmas.

Some other great towns to visit during the holidays include Niagara-on-the-Lake, Merrickville and high on my wish list, Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia where they have a Father Christmas Festival and transform their picturesque seaside village into a winter wonderland.

Old Stone Mill in Delta