Twisted Sisters Baking Co. – a slice of heaven

Sometimes life can be so sweet!

Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake with Lemon Buttercream Frosting.

Cake is for all Occasions. Cake is good for Grieving.  Cake is good for Celebrating.  And if you’re like Marie Antoinette, it also comes in handy for fending off revolutions. 

I’ve been eating a lot of cake lately. Thanks to my friend Tammy and her sister Shelly who’ve started a home baking company featuring a slew of the most delightful varieties.

Tammy Preast (l) and Shelly Dueck (r) Two Twisted Sisters

An amazing assortment of two-tiered & bundt-style whole cakes or by the slice (when available – 4 slice minimum).  Slices are generous too.  They started Twisted Sisters Baking Co. out of a love for baking and when self-isolating during this covid-19 period.  See menu at bottom.

So if there’s one good thing I can say that comes out of this covid period it’s these twisted sisters with their top-quality cakes.

Coincidence of Coconut Cake, 3-tiered layers of coconut delight finished with Coconut Buttercream Frosting and a layer of toasted coconut.  It was moist and super delicious.

 For breakfast this morning I had a piece of fluffy creamsicle cake made with fresh orange juice and a delicious zesty frosting.  Perfect start to the day.  I must admit it was not my first choice, however it surprisingly ended up becoming one of my favourites.  That’s because I normally go for chocolate.

Zesty Orange Cake baked with fresh orange juice & orange zest then finished with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting.

Another favourite is the perfectly pink vanilla sour cream almond cake with vanilla almond buttercream frosting. Shelly added lavender to the icing and it was incredible.  In a perfect world I would eat it all day long. But the coconut cake was excellent too as was the old fashioned raspberry/lemon and carrot cake.  Like I said…

If you live in Vancouver and you love cake (I don’t know anyone who doesn’t) then give them a try.  You don’t need an excuse although birthdays, anniversaries and just plain I want cake are good ones to start with.

Pretty in Pink, Almond Vanilla Cake with Almond Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. A lavender twist. This was half a slice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact:

twistedsistersbakingco@gmail.com

T: 778.552.1301

Payment by cash or e-transfer.  Pickup on doorstep in Kitsilano.

Like them on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Twisted-Sisters-Baking-Co-107605324272284/

Fine Art Portraits: Fluffy Furballs

These remarkable photographs were taken by Stacy Jacob – of Jacob Fine Art Portraits, Palm Desert, Ca.  I wanted to share them with you.  Our canine and feline friends never looked so fine. 

I met Stacy at Yappy Hour – a monthly fundraiser for Animal Samaritans in Palm Springs which takes place at the Riviera Hotel.  She was supporting “Paws for a Cause” 2020 with a booth there and invited us to her studio for a sitting.

Jia Jia – taken 01/2020

I was thrilled to see that the portrait she took of Jia Jia really captured his spirit.  It means more to me now than ever.  I have lots of photos as you well know, however this one that Stacy took is very special.

Capturing personality, expressions and relationships is my goal for your session. Bringing joy, surprise, even some “happy” tears to so many people is something I feel lucky to get to do. I get to be part of creating a memory for someone that they’ll enjoy for years to come and share with countless others. How cool is that!? –  Stacy Jacob

Studio: 41945 Boardwalk suite d, Palm Desert, CA 92211, United States

Phone:  +1 760-678-5859

 
 

Reflections

When gifts have a loving sentiment attached to them they become more meaningful.

This arrangement full of surprises, was from Tamara, Anik & Jolie – girls in the hood.
At my doorstep. Photo: Tamara Gauthier.

Following Jia Jia’s passing I received some thoughtful cards and messages, however this special written sentiment from my dear friend Tamara really got to me on a different level.  So I thought with her permission, I’d share it. Not only is the bouquet absolutely beautiful but…

This floral arrangement was made to represent all that was Jia Jia. I reflected upon what I felt he was and meant to you and your  life together.

A clear glass vase with warm opaque colours, reflecting that he clearly gave you warmth every day.

The elements of the ocean side because it was his favourite place to visit and added to the joy he had in his life with you.

Black and white sand are the yin and yang, symbolizing being rooted together in the trough of a wave and passionately growing together .  

The rocks symbolize strength and Jia Jia being a cornerstone. He was there for you and kept you solid in hard times. 

Shells, they are a strong home for sensitive beings. Jia Jia had a strong and safe life with you. And the sea glass survives the currents. Though  its been broken, the currents soften the sharp edges and gives a new beauty. Jia Jia is the salt in the current who helped you grow with beauty in the storms of life. 

Roses for your love and passion in giving him the best life possible.

Poppies for remembering him and the gratitude you had in finding each other.

Daisies for the innocent love blended with playful youthfulness.

Thistle for his endurance and victory in staying here for you as long as he could.

Eucalyptus represents that he had to depart to the heavens from his earthly time with you and they are known to drive away negative energy.

Cards and Stones. An Angel sits next to a clear quartz – the most powerful healing stone of the mineral kingdom.
This addition to my mural was completed last summer by Kris Friesen.            Photo: d. king

 

 

Jia Jia’s (2002 – 2020) Journey

A Dog’s Tale & Trail

Exactly one week ago today I said a tearful goodbye to one of the greatest loves of my life – my canine companion, Jia Jia.

A few days before. Photo: Paul LeMay

Anyone who knew our relationship, knew how bonded we were and what a positive difference we made in each other’s lives.

When I first met Jia Jia (pronounced like jaw-jaw akin to the character in Stars Wars) I wasn’t even contemplating getting a dog.  Jia Jia was already eight years old and moved to Vancouver from Beijing two years prior.   He became my next door neighbour and literally showed up at my back door one afternoon.  I immediately felt a connection but had no idea he would become mine for keeps two years after that, at the ripe age of ten.

I noticed that Jia Jia spent a lot of time alone in his backyard so asked his owner Lynn if I could take him running with me and she said “sure.” He became my running buddy. Then when she had to travel back and forth to China I looked after him, always hesitating to give him back.

 At that time my late husband and I had a VW pop-top Eurovan camper and decided to do a road trip from British Columbia to Florida with stops along the way in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama.  I asked Lynn if we could take Jia Jia along for the ride suggesting we might be away for a couple months, and she again said “Yes.”

Jia Jia has been to the French Quarter of New Orleans, the Florida Everglades, Key West, Lauderdale by the Sea and pretty much all over Florida.  He’s been to wineries in Napa and Sonoma, all over Texas, Arizona, California, Nevada and New Mexico.  He spent some time in Vegas casinos, put his paw on a slot machine once and won some cash.  Talk about a lucky dog!  And it all happened before he became mine for good.

From the time he was eight until he turned ten we spent a lot of quality time together.  Then Lynn said “he’s your dog.” But I already knew that.  However I never took it upon myself to say I owned him.  He owned us. 

In all that time we only spent two days apart.  Only because a friend suggested looking after my dogs when I spent two nights at a hotel with my sister and two friends for my birthday last year.  Otherwise I was planning to take them along. 

I don’t expect anyone to understand the relationship, but I can honestly say we were surprisingly attuned to each other.  He was an amazing dog.  An old soul. The dog to set the standard for all dogs for me from hereon in.

When my husband Don got sick, he suggested we get another companion for Jia Jia.  He found Layla in B.C’s Kooteney Mountain range.  With Jia Jia in tow, we all went together to meet Layla, and they seemed to get along.  I was able to get Layla about a month after my husband passed in August 2017.  She was a great choice and kept Jia Jia young.  But of course that didn’t last forever.

Jia Jia began slowing down a year ago.  This past winter in Palm Springs he could barely walk so I bought a wagon and wheeled him around and let him out to walk a bit and do his business.  Other than that his spirit was good (my husband used to say he was the happiest dog he’s ever met) and his health was pretty good considering his age.

Then 10 days before he passed a more startling change occurred and he just wasn’t the same.  He was walking in circles and couldn’t hold himself up properly.  It was heartbreaking to watch. I waited a bit to see if there’d be a change.  He improved slightly but not significantly enough.  His quality of life had diminished and for the first time he seemed tired and sad. I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life, and at a time of Covid-19 no less, when our vet and all other animal hospitals were asking for doggy curb-side drop off where no one else could be in attendance at the time of euthanization,  They did not want to come to the home either.  No way was I going to drop him off and not be in attendance.

After some searching and a recommendation from Granville Island Animal Hospital, I was super lucky to find Dr. Jeffrey Berkshire (liftingstars.ca – link at very bottom). We set the appointment for the following week giving some time for the possibility of improvement.

Lama Rabton prayed for Jia Jia.

The night before Jia Jia’s passing my boyfriend Paul arranged for a Tibetan Buddhist Monk to come to my home and recite prayers for Jia Jia.  It was a beautiful ceremony normally reserved for humans. My sister was there too.  Layla kept licking Jia Jia’s face.  Still, it all seemed surreal.

Next morning Dr. Berkshire, a compassionate vet, came to my home (we wore masks) and examined Jia Jia before we made the final decision.  He suspected Jia Jia either had a brain tumor or a stroke but the only way to be sure would be to give him an MRI which meant he’d have to be knocked out and possibly not survive. He explained the few options available. So we made the final decision to have him humanely put to sleep based on his lack of quality of life and the unlikely chance he would improve.

One last slow, steady walk along the Kits Point, Vancouver Dog Beach – his favorite place. Photo: Lisa King

Dr. Berkshire was wonderful and took his time, let us have some alone time and was very gentle all the way through until the very end.  Lynn, Jia Jia’s ex-owner who had since become my friend, was here too, along with Lisa, my sister, and Layla.  We did Jia Jia’s paw prints.  I held Jia Jia while Dr. Berkshire gave him a needle and put him to sleep.  It was all very fast. Finally, wrapped in a baby blanket, Jia Jia was taken out in a stretcher to be cremated on his own.  You’re given a choice whether to have your dog cremated with other dogs or by themself. I wanted his ashes.

Jia Jia saw me through some of the best and worst situations in my life.  Always a bright light by my side to ease the pain of losing a husband and two of my closest girlfriends in the space of a year.  I don’t know how I would have handled everything without him.  It was as if he was my rock.

Layla & Jia Jia on the cast iron bench for Don outside my house. Photo: d. king  It was the day before.  He looked pretty good here.

He’s gone now, however he’ll always be with me in spirit.  It will never be the same.  It will just be different.  I miss him terribly but know in my heart it was the right decision.  I never felt it was a selfless act.  Just compassionate.  I am forever grateful to Lynn for giving me the best gift in my life, and to Jia Jia for giving me a more meaningful life.

Grief is the price we all pay for love

Photo: d. king

We who choose to surround ourselves

with lives even more temporary than our own

live within a fragile circle

easily and often breached.

Unable to accept its awful gaps

we still would live no other way.

We cherish memory as the only certain immortality,

never fully understanding the necessary plan…

The Once Again Prince from Separate Life Times

(Lisa always referred to Jia Jia as her little Prince)

Website for Dr. Jeffrey Berkshire:

* http://liftingstars.ca/

 

 

Please see the following link for an article published by the Vancouver Sun on February 2nd, 2018 on pet euthanasia at home:

https://vancouversun.com/life/relationships/pet-therapy-euthanasia-and-palliative-care-at-home-in-growing-demand/

Hair Story

All Prose.  No Cons.

I couldn’t have predicted it any better or worseThe timing that is…and the fact that my hair would lose some of it’s natural lustre and manageability.

Who would have thought that I could have hair products customized specifically for me, with my name on the bottle? just in case anyone who comes over makes the mistake of using them. Never mind the length and the roots.  That’s another story. 

Early in March, at the very beginning of learning about Coronavirus, I received an offer I could not refuse.  It came from a company I hadn’t heard about before.  But it got my attention.  Because…well..custom made and all…

As far as beauty products are concerned, hair products were always at the very bottom of my list. Not sure why that was but I would use pretty much anything. It was never a priority like skincare and makeup was. But now that’s all changed.  I’ve become a prose convert.

Photo: d. king

Created in Paris.  (Gotta trust the French when it come to these things).  Bottled in Brooklyn.

I was intrigued.  The people at Prose got my attention with not so little details such as…clean, cruelty free ingredients, refillable bottles, thought to packaging, guidelines for how to use each product and finally; scent. The customization process even includes the aroma profile you can choose, which ranges from floral to citrus to woodsy. My oil has an amazing almond scent. You are one in a million.  So is your hair.

Let me tell you.  You have to first fill out an application longer than one for a job interview from what I can remember about job interviews and answer all kinds of questions regarding the quality of your overall hair condition and health in general.  

Questions like how much hair regularly falls out and how much of your scalp is shown when hair is parted down the middle? This apparently tells you about your hair density. Even diet. Yes! All the answers help to formulate each product exclusively to your needs.

My lineup. Photo: d. king

The whole Prose line is customized to your specific hair.

It’s amazing.  My hair life as changed. Find out for yourself. Here’s the link:

https://prose.com/

Ask for a discount and tell them where you heard about it.

Hairs to You!

Fun Food Facts

Little Healthy Tidbits of Info.

Now, more than ever, we must strive to stay the healthiest we can.  We already know what food groups are most beneficial for us, however we don’t always look into the science behind why that is.  Thought it would be of interest to share the science behind An Apple A Day – taken from Edible (the magazine for Vancouver food & wine country).

What role does the proverbial apple-a-day have in keeping the doctor away? The fruit is rich in bacteria, and some of those are highly beneficial to human health. A single apple can carry more than a 100 million microbes, according to a July 2019 article in The Guardian.

Once in your gut, those bacteria colonize and improve your personal microbiome, which research suggests is linked to overall health, including mood and cognition.  In Gut feelings: How food affects your mood (Harvard Health Publishing), Dr. Uma Naidoo reports that 90 percent of serotonin receptors are found in the gut.

Diversity is an important factor for a thriving biome, and organic apples reportedly have a greater range of microbes – yet another reason to choose organically grown apples if you can afford to.  Most of the bacteria will be killed by cooking, so eating the raw fruit will make your biome happiest.

Monday Mood: my hood

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood…

Love, Peace, Wisdom, Happiness, Courage, Tranquility.  Everything we need for a Happy Life.

Love breathes life into the heart and brings grace to the soul.

To being Peace to the Earth, strive to make your own life peaceful.

Wisdom: knowledge, intuition and experience combine to guide us in thought and deed.

Happiness: when one’s spiritual needs are met by an untroubled inner life. Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others.

Courage: not the absence of fear or despair, but the strength to conquer them.

Tranquility: the peace that comes when energies are in harmony, relationships are in balance.

Photos: d. king

simple solutions to life’s little (big) problems

How to take tar out of clothing

This is a departure from my usual posts, but life has changed and I’m learning to deal (as we all are) with life’s little mishaps.  Here’s the latest..

Let’s say you notice raccoons made a hole in your roof overnight. Why? To find a warm place for birthing their young of course. And when it happens, they have no qualms about ripping out cedar shingles and digging into your delicate pink fiberglass insulation.

What Tar looks like

Then let’s assume you call Wildlife Control (and they know you by name but nevermind that little detail) and they send a guy pretty quickly (who also remembers you but nevermind) to patch up the mess.

After that, let’s say your boyfriend decides to make it harder for the little culprits to come back (because they do) and decides to nail some wire mesh over the area most likely to be torn up (again) .

Then let’s say you aren’t aware that there was tar all over the area the wildlife guy patched up. 

You will most likely get a good laugh out of seeing the back end of the person doing the re-repair who is oblivious to what the back of his shorts looks like.  The only funny thing about all of this actually.

Worse if the pants or shorts happen to be his favorite pair.  So you quickly google how to take tar out of clothing.  Which brings me to the solution (I love finding solutions)…

  1. Soak the clothing (in this case, cargo shorts – hardly worth saving but anyway) in olive oil. Yes; that’s correct.  Olive oil softens the tar.  We used half a bottle of cold organic first-pressed but you don’t have to use the finest. Best done in a bucket you don’t care about.
  2. After at least one hour of soaking, if the tar does not come out this way (and of course it doesn’t) then you take it one step further.  You take an old cloth, dip it in gasoline (if you have a scooter handy you can just take it from the gas tank) and begin the process of dabbing the area (s) that has tar. Bit by bit, all the tar will come out.  Trust me on this. It’s a bit of work but if you want to salvage the piece of clothing, it’s what you do.
  3. Then you wash the piece of clothing on it’s own.  Do it in a machine preferably that does not belong to you, because the smell of gasoline will linger a little longer than you like.  I know about this for sure. You might want to wash the item a second time.
  4. To lose the gasoline smell completely, try airing it out in fresh air for at least a day… a week… or month after washing.
  5. But just to be on the safe side, make sure your boyfriend doesn’t go near anyone who’s smoking (a good idea at the best of times)… unless you were hoping to get rid of him in a flash. ;o)  
  6. My best solid advice would be this:  Unless this is a very special item of clothing, just go out and buy another (preferably online at this time of Covid but maybe not on Amazon).

    And Finally…..I leave you with an uplifting mask-free photo to show a bit of freedom.  But right after this was taken, the mask went back on (especially inside my place which smelled of gasoline).  Unlike Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, I don’t love the smell of Napalm in the morning.

    Photo: Tamara Gauthier

 

 

 

Feel GOOD Friday – Passover – Easter

It’s finally here!  Very Good Friday indeed.  Not only a holiday, but the day my 14 day mandatory stay-at-home Covid-19 quarantine finally ends.  Of course I’ll still stand my distance when outside, but I can now go for long walks in fresh air. I promise never to take walking along the beach right outside my home for granted ever again.

Photo: Tamara Gauthier

The past two weeks went pretty smoothly with my two dogs and my boyfriend, all things considered.  We kept quarantine quarreling to a minimum although I cannot pretend we didn’t have a few trying moments.  Shades of a shot-gun wedding! 

For dog walking a good friend of mine who lives around the corner walked Layla as she requires more exercise than Jia Jia.  Then she sent me the pictures to prove how much fun they had while I was holed up at home.

 Actually to tell you the truth, it wasn’t too bad.  Fourteen days goes by fast  even when you don’t have any plans. I started getting used to not having any reason to get out of my Pajamas.  I started cooking again and getting creative with ingredients. Some of the things I made turned out pretty good considering the ingredient substitutes for some of the meals.  Things like using Chinese vegetables for making Mexican, etc. Using vegetable rice to make Risotto and smooth peanut butter to make peanut butter cookies. Crunchy is much better.  I cooked a lot and the not having to go out to get groceries myself meant having to be more creative with what I already had in the house.

Luckily the weather has been mostly sunny, so we’ve been able to get some natural Vitamin D by sitting on the upstairs deck.  For exercise, moving plants and furniture around have helped to a degree. 

But the icing on the cake was taking part in an on-line choreographed dance class from The Dance Lab (a London, England based dance studio) via Zoom.  Courtesy of my good friend Masako who lives in London.  The lesson was 8:30 pm London time, 12:30 pm Vancouver time.   

I joined Brazilian Samba lesson which was lots of fun.  Our instructor Brian Dibnah was excellent. 

Brian Dibnah. Nice to look at. Even if you can’t follow you can look at him for one hour.

 Brian has a good sense of humour too.  He went slowly at first with the moves while we watched and then tried to copy bit by bit until it was formed into a dance routine set to music. We could see the other dancers on the split screen gallery view of our computers. Little dancing icons.

Brings social distancing to a new level.  We were social distance dancing. 

Here’s a sneak peek from The Dance Lab Facebook Page.  (btw, the Canadian he mentions; that’s me!). https://www.facebook.com/thedancelabputney/

If anyone is interested here’s the link to join.  You can pay via PayPal.

http://www.thedancelabputney.com/bookings/

Have a Happy Passover & Easter! 

Feel-good Friday: Halfway Mark

Well we made it to day 7 of our 14 day mandatory self-quarantine of a New World Disorder.  And everyone is still alive and somewhat sane.

Layla wants to know when we can go for our regular walks again.  Photo: Tamara Gauthier

What a trip this has been, and still is.  We drove from Palm Springs to Vancouver and we arrived one day after a newly enforced Canadian government order that stated all Canadians returning to Canada from anywhere abroad had to do mandatory self-isolation for two weeks.  Before this it was voluntary quarantine. Timing is everything they say.  However we still had to (and still have to until further notice) maintain 2 metres (6 ft.) distance from one another.

When we arrived at the border, which by the way, was empty, our border officer read us the new rules and told us in no uncertain terms that if we were to leave our place of isolation (where we had to head straight for, with no stops whatsoever) we could be fined anywhere from $1,000 to $1,000,000.  Yup; that’s up to 1 million dollars!  Needless to say I’m not gonna let that happen.  If so, is there anyone who can bail me out for a million?  Didn’t think so!

So we had to bid adieu (for now) to simple everyday outings like getting our own groceries and walking our dogs.  Although I do let mine just outside the house several times a day.  A good friend and neighbour is nice enough to walk Layla (who needs more exercise). We’ve been ordering takeout (my new safe word) and having groceries delivered since then.  

Still, it’s strange to be on “house arrest” when we have no symptoms, although I do understand it’s to help keep the possibility we have it from spreading to those who are more vulnerable. We all know by now what we’re supposed to do to help get everything back to normal.  Remember normal?

Here’s what I was not expecting… coming home to find my fridge conked out for the first time due to a power outage and dealing with the stench of throwing everything out including the melted frozen berries that made a mess in the freezer.  Luckily for me I have a backup fridge in the garage.  Who has a back-up fridge?  I do!  But then no food because all was tossed.  And forget about getting a service person.  I tried.  Once they found out I was in California… forget about it.

Then, my phone died.  Aaaarrrggghhh! Can phones contract coronavirus?  Nah.  It may only need a new battery. But how do I order groceries with no phone? And why do I not have a back-up phone? Next best thing – to email someone you know with your essential list.  Then they deliver and after they’ve left, you find out that you forgot to add that one critical item on your list that you needed to make your meal complete. It’s like having a bagel without the cream cheese or bread without butter.  You get the idea. So you make do.

Next up: let’s say you need to print out a document and fax it to someone?  Under normal circumstances if you’re out of printer cartridges you get in your car and drive to Staples, get more and that’s that.  But when you’re under house arrest you can’t go anywhere, let alone drive.  So you have to ask someone (via e-mail because no phone remember?) to print it out for you and put it in your mailbox.  No one wants to be near you…just in case.  No one!

Here’s the good news:  not having to get dressed, more time to make soup and cookies, no excuse to not clean house, cannot think of anything else at the moment.

So here we are.   I’ll let you know how we made out next Friday. Which is Good Friday.  Which will be very good Friday for all in this house.  In the meantime a friend sent me this timely poem:

Suddenly

Suddenly, we slept in one world and woke up in another.

Disney has no more magic and Paris is no longer romantic..

Suddenly, in New York everyone sleeps.

And the Great Wall of China is no longer a fortress.

Suddenly, hugs and kisses become weapons.

Holding hands and walking the parks become outlawed.


Suddenly, not visiting aging parents and grandparents becomes an “act of love”.

Suddenly, our bombs and machine guns, our tanks and artilleries begin to gather dust.

Suddenly, we realized that power is with faith

alone.

And that money has no value when it can’t even buy you toilet paper.


Suddenly, we have been put back in our place by the hands of the universe. 
And we’ve been made aware how vulnerably “human” we truly are, when faced with a microbe so powerfully inhumane. 

Keep the hope alive, be well & stay safe everyone!!

Photo: Tamara Gauthier

Header photo: Tamara Gauthier