A Life in Pancakes: Pancakes Today

So today marks ‘Day 11’ of Pancake Week, which was supposed to last for one week, and has now lasted 11 days. I decided to have a ‘Pancake Week’ in the first place, because I’m not comfortable with the idea of ‘Pancake Day’. It’s too much like ‘Valentine’s Day’. There shouldn’t be one day a year to eat pancakes, just like there shouldn’t be one day a year when boys are nice to you.

This brings me to the final post in my pancake series.

These days, i’m happy to try new kinds of pancakes. I can no longer eat lemon and sugar pancakes without cinnamon. I prefer the thin ones. Nutella on pancakes is love. Biltong on panakes is not.

Some of the pancakes I’ve had over the past 11 days, and how I rate them.

  1. Strawberry and Nutella: Amazing. However, these particular strawberries tasted like amoxicillin.
  2. Nutella: On it’s own, Nutella is still kudutastic.
  1. Lemon and sugar: I couldn’t do it. My parents ate these ones.

  1. Maple Syrup: So beautiful. I like to balance maple syrup pancakes with cinnamon sugar ones on a 1:4 ratio. Maple syrup is a special treat, but MUST be Canadian Maple syrup
  1. Cinnamon Sugar and Lemon: The absolute best.

  1. French Toast. I still remember the day I learned that normal people made French Toast with egg. Ew. I had always made it by soaking bread in pure pancake batter. This past week, my mom admitted that this is because she didn’t know how to make French Toast when I was little. Our pancake French toast is fabulous when buttered and coated in Maple Syrup.
I’m going to see how long I can keep up my pancake streak. I’ve become rather attached to it, and I’m not quite ready to give it up…

This Week…

1. I decided I was finally going to back up my entire photo collection to Flickr, so they’ll be kept safe and cozy, long after all of my hard drives die. Only after I had paid money for a subscription, did I realize the upload speed was so slow that it would take my computer running 24/7 for 4 months to upload all of my photos. And now i’m committed to it. Commitment sucks! This is why i’ll never let myself get married. I blame Flickr. So my poor computer has been running for 4 days now, all day and all night. I feel horribly guilty. I keep wanting to offer it a refreshment or bake it some cookies to thank it for its tireless work.
2. On Monday, I planned on taking a long walk up to the hills and sit there (as I often do), and Dog tricked me into taking her with me, by spinning in circles at the door and being cute and wuffly. In a moment of weakness, I forgot that she doesn’t like me and so I brought her along. I spent two hours sitting on the most glorious mountainside with her staring up at me with absolute contempt in her eyes.

3. Too many people I love are suffering this week, through various unfolding situations. Some people I love suffer because of terrible things they can’t control. Some others suffer because their in situations where rational thinking has gone out the window. Having spent 25 years of my life thinking irrationally, it hurts my heart to see it in others. To be helpless is to suffer.
4. On the positive side, i’ve spent so much time this week reflecting on impermanence. Good things will never last, but neither will bad things. Everything passes, and that’s really quite awesome. I’m facing up to a really, really icky reality this week which is probably in my ‘top 10’ of ‘really unpleasant things that can happen to Mo‘. But honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Love and grow.
5. On my ‘fun run’ last night, the moon was bright and the water in the bay was completely calm. It was absolute bliss. I sat on a rock and let a little spider crawl over my hand. So much love.
6. Yesterday I shamelessly allowed the girl at the Clinique counter to spend an hour or so giving me a complete makeover. I like to think that they enjoy doing this, so if it made her happy, I feel less guilty. In the end, my face just looked fuzzy and orange. It’s lovely to know that I don’t need to spend £150 on makeup to feel beautiful. I’m lovely and beautiful just the way I am.
7. It was Cricket @ Skukuza this past weekend! This means it’s been a year since I was in Kruger. This confirms that i’m not imagining things- this has definitely been the shortest year of my life! Probably the very best, but definitely the shortest. I even squeezed into last year’s cricket shirt to mark the occasion.
8. The cricket shirt was definitely tight, because as of today, i’m on Day 11 of Pancake Week! This means i’ve had pancakes for two meals each day for the last 11 days. At first I was ashamed of this, but now I realize that it just another thing that makes me awesome.

9. I caused a little stir on Facebook this week, by posting photos of my beautiful pet python, who i’ve had for 11 years. I didn’t expect so much negativity! A few people I love and care about made some painfully disapproving comments, which were enough to make me remove the photos. But one friend I haven’t heard from in 10 years, sent me a long message which concluded with the idea that I needed to be ‘taken out and executed’ because I kept a pet python. I wanted very much to reply that in 11 years, my morals and views on animals rights have changed and that I will never, ever keep a large python again, but that since Kitten was my responsibility now, I am committed to him and will give him the best life he can possibly lead. But I didn’t want to do this, so I ‘un-friended’ her.

10. I don’t like that I have words like ‘un-friend’ in my vocabulary now. I would love to leave Facebook. I don’t like that i’m bound to it. In the past, it’s made me quite the stalker and it hasn’t been entirely healthy. I watch my mom waste countless hours each day with her ‘Facebook friends’. She hasn’t met a friend in person for years and years. It breaks my heart. I hope I can set an example by leaving and re-learning how to communicate using such things as letters and telephones. Honestly, what I really need is for all of my good friends to join the SANParks forum. Then I could leave Facebook behind for good! I can dream.

A Life in Pancakes: Pancakes in Africa

Pancakes in Africa were amazing. Like, really, really AMAZING. Africa is an absolute hotbed of pancake diversity. Anything and everything is considered suitable to roll into a pancake. Truly an eye-opening and life-changing experience..

1. I fist tried cinnamon sugar pancakes at a church function in 2008. I was very reluctant, but the smell itself convinced me that this was in fact, the way forward. It’s very simple to mix a little cinnamon into some sugar, so I can’t understand why the rest of the world hasn’t caught on to this yet.

2. My favourite place to eat cinnamon pancakes is in Pilanesburg National Park. The restaurant in the middle of the reserve allows to you eat two cinnamon pancakes with either cream or ice cream, surrounded by hornbills, monkeys, go-away birds, giraffes, warthogs, etc and all for just R12. And you get the wasps for free!

3. The above restaurant has the best pancake eating atmosphere imaginable, but terribly questionable service and quality. It takes a great deal wrong for me to send something back to the kitchen, but this place manages it regularly. Pancakes are often raw to the point of oozing batter or they don’t come with lemons. Explaining these things always involves taking a walk, because the table service is non-existent . But it’s still a winning situation. The longer you sit and wait, the longer you get to be there…

4. There’s a place at Hartebeespoort Dam called ‘Pick-a-Pancake’. It’s in the middle of a dusty, touristy market and they will put anything on a pancake. The place is love.

5. Pick-a-Pancake even makes a biltong pancake, which is only unfortunate insofar as I once had to watch a friend eat one. This pancake happens when one sprinkles raw, dried shavings of kudu and warthog onto a pancake. Not quite right, but if it brings someone joy…

6. On the flipside, the worst pancakes in Africa come from a chain of sickly ice cream shops called ‘Milky Lane’. Here, the pancakes are sugary and plasticy and the toppings are not right. On the plus side, Milky Lane for me holds lots of fantastic memories of small children doing very fun things with food- like wearing an ice cream cone, or mixing Smarties and chocolate ice cream and bits of waffle into a bright green glass of cream soda. LOVE.

7. My favourite pancake eating experience was probably Christmas 2008, when a friend had been sent some genuine American Blueberry Pancake mix from the USA. Our pancakes were topped with icing sugar. Happy happy happy…

8. I met and made a lifelong friend at Skukuza Camp in Kruger, when the two of us were trying to outbid each other on some maple syrup in a silent auction.

9. The best place I’ve ever cooked pancakes is definitely at a campsite at Addo Elephant Park.

Next up: Pancakes of Today…

A Life in Pancakes: St. Andrews University

So, continuing with my completely unnecessary and longwinded celebration of pancakes…

As I grew, I left Canada for England. My appetite diminished and I could no longer eat 21 pancakes in a sitting. Pancakes lost their significance. They didn’t bring me the joy they once did. Eventually, I ended up at St. Andrews University in Scotland, where I regrettably spent most of my time being a depressed hermit, but I did manage to re-ignite my relationship with the pancake.

1. It will first be said that pancakes are done differently in the United Kingdom. This is not a compliment. I must say that I don’t swear. I never, ever swear. I doesn’t sound nice and it doesn’t make anyone look clever. There are very few things merit one of those nasty little words. But in the UK, I quickly learned that not only do people eat pizza with knives and forks, but they’re also prone to putting something called ‘golden syrup’ on their pancakes instead of maple syrup. So here it is. Golden syrup: what the fuck.

2. It started with a pan. One day while browsing the shelves at Dundee’s TK Maxx store, I found the most divine hot pink frying pan. I loved it and it loved me. From that moment on, I decided I was going to bring pancakes back into my life, by making them for myself… for the very first time.

3. At University, I was part of the ‘Christian Union’ and the chapter based at our hall of residence became notorious for our ‘pancake parties’. For weeks beforehand, we would plaster ads all over hall (carefully omitting our affiliation to any religious organization), inviting anyone and everyone to come and have some yummy ‘FREE PANCAKES!’ Once we’d corralled masses of evil atheists into a tiny kitchen with little or no chance of escape, one of our leaders would suddenly get everyone’s attention, break out a bible and give their testimony. It was as painful and awkward as it sounds.

4. Food colouring. When added to pancake batter, you can produce a pancake of any colour. I was especially fond of the blue and green ones, which I called ‘moon pancakes’. To get a really strong colour, you had to add half a bottle of colouring. ‘A few drops’ is insufficient and silly. Despite claims to the negative, in large enough quantities, food colouring DOES affect the taste of things, and it will make you feel very sick.

5. While at St. Andrews, I regularly had ice skating lessons in Dundee. I’d often go to early morning practice at 5am on a Saturday. This would always be followed by two consecutive pancake breakfasts at the McDonalds in the parking lot. I felt I could justify it. If my best friend was with me, we’d have to decide whether we were going to ‘pleb McDonalds’ or ‘posh McDonalds’… or the ‘spa’.

6. That same best friend was one of my least favourite people to eat pancakes with. I’d watch as she would layer sugar or syrup over her pancakes. And I mean layer. She could easily smear £8 of precious, pure, Canadian Maple Syrup onto just one pancake. This irritated me to no end. But that was old Mo who got irritated. New Mo would smile and laugh about it and lovingly watch her best friend making herself one utterly fabulous pancake.

7. My pancake making days at university were often marred by a lasting debate about spatulas. That same best friend (again) insisted that pancakes were flipped with a ‘flipper’. I insisted that they were flipped by a ‘spatula’. She insisted that a ‘spatula’ was one of those rubbery stick things you used to get mixture from the sides of a bowl. Our insistence made us both hugely angry with each other. In addition to that, I was also hugely angry with the whole concept of her ‘spatula’. There should be no tool for scraping the inside of a bowl. Bowls should be scraped with spoons or tongues and the scrapings should be treasured and savoured. The ‘spatula’ debate was never settled and 8 years later, I’m still afraid to bring it up.

8. I lived at 123 North Street for 2 years with the most awesome people imaginable. Our house hosted many, many epic pancake parties

9. Pancakes at university was a much loved tradition, but in fourth year, the magic ended for me when one of my male flatmates used my precious, precious pink pan to fry something terrible and greasy and boyish. The pan was mangled beyond recognition and I refused to use it again. Luckily, I didn’t need to, because there was a pancake place on South Street called ‘The Eating Place’, which made the most awesome pancakes. It was here that I had my first brush with the ‘savoury pancake’.

Next: Africa introduces a new set of pancake ideas…

A Life in Pancakes: Pancakes of Childhood

To glorify Pancake Day on Tuesday, i’ve decided to relive my greatest pancake memories. To begin, I present my complex relationship with pancakes as a young, obnoxious child growing up in Canada.

1. I spent much of my childhood at Clarence Baptist Church. Every Easter, the noble men of the congregation would cook ‘bunny pancakes’. There was much competition over who made the most realistic bunny shapes. It was very holy.

2. I suffered terrible pancake-related cultural dissonance when as a child my preference continuously flopped back and forth between my mother’s paper-thin Bristish lemon and sugar pancakes and my very cool Grandma’s thick, fluffy, buttery American pancakes, dripping with syrup. I loved both. Publically, I sided with the American pancakes, but secretly, I just didn’t know and it caused me great distress. At 24, I learned that South African pancakes beat them both and this lifelong conflict was resolved.

3. As a young child, my parents knew I had a remarkable ability to eat pancakes. They’d always count how many I could eat in a sitting- 6, 9, 17, 23 etc… As a result, they treated me like a sideshow act. They’d take me into a pancake house (IHOP, Golden Griddle, etc…) and as we were being seated, I’d always announce to the waitress that I was “having pancakes please” and my parents would chip in, “just wait until you see how many pancakes this kid will eat!” They would proceed to order me plate after plate after plate of pancakes with no regard whatsoever for my health. And at Golden griddle, they’d always order me an extra tub of maple syrup too. When I was about to burst, they’d laugh and say, “Well, I think you’ve finally beaten her…!” to the waitress as she took my plate away. This happened every time and by the time I was 14, it just wasn’t funny anymore.

4. One of my very earliest memories involves me staying with a strange lady in Ottawa who was definitely not one of my parents. I haven’t got a clue who this woman was or why I was staying with her, but I remember she got me up very early in the morning and took me to buy a Barbie doll, and then said we were going to McDonalds for breakfast. I remember being upset (but still thankful) at the prospect of a burger for breakfast, before she explained that McDonalds did pancakes. This changed my life. My parents had withheld this information from me.

6. When I was about five, I was playing in the basement with my younger cousin (pictured), when my mom called us up for pancakes. The smell of pancakes wafted down the stairs. As she climbed the stairs, the cousin jokingly declared, “I can smell it! I can smell it! I can puke in it!” My mom completely lost her mind. In all the years since, I have never seen her so completely enraged. This is also the source of the emetophobia I suffered for the next 20 years.

7. For a while, my dad had a lot of business in Florida. We spent a few separate holidays there, but always stayed at the Double Tree Guest Suites in Orlando. On each trip, every morning at 6 or so, I’d go down to restaurant alone and sit at the bar with a huge plate of pancakes watching Gilligan’s Island on the bar TV and talking to the nice Jamaican waitress. She even fixed my broken sandals once. Good times. The photo below is from one of those visits. Note the goofy hat, which served as my Halloween costume for the next 5 years, the troll doll keychain, the hockey shirt, the huge plastic glasses and the ‘bum bag’. But note also that absolutely everyone in the background is also wearing a ‘bum bag’. That makes it okay.

8. We’d have pancake dinners at home often enough, but it’s the pancake breakfasts that were a real treat. For some reason (lazylazymother) we never had pancake breakfasts at home. I absolutely despised friends who saw pancakes as a breakfast food. I openly scoffed in their faces. I only ever had pancake breakfasts when we were travelling, so I’ve come to associate them with holidays and highway service stations and hotel restaurants and my all time love, the continental breakfast. Finding a hotel which featured pancakes in its continental breakfast was like winning the lottery. Below: Las Vegas was a goldmine for pancake breakfasts.

9. I had one of those little plastic tupperware cooking sets when I was young. My mother saw this as a chance to get me making my own pancakes. This was never as enjoyable as it could have been, because she was extremely irrational when it came to the stirring process. She believed that all pancakes were doomed to FAIL unless you cautiously dug a tiny hole in the flour in the bottom of the bowl. To this hole, you would have to add the milk drop by drop and stir a few grains of flour into the drops of milk before repeating the process again, and again, and again, and again, and again until the mixture finally became ‘pancake batter’. There is no better way to suck the fun out of pancakes.

Up next: The move to England… pancakes and university…

Early Childhood: 27 Little Things

Since i’ve been working with children again, i’ve been making a conscious effort to always remember what makes them tick. When i’m playing with D (3 years old), I know that for the rest of his life, he’ll remember what it feels like to squash Play-Doh between his fingers, even if he never did it again.

What are the little things that tiny kids live for and look forward to each day? What objects bring the most comfort, joy and familiarity? What smells and what sensations will they remember for the rest of their lives? I think this was one of my biggest failings the last time I worked with children. I didn’t remember these things. I was just an adult, acting as an adult interacting with a child. I wasn’t a child myself. I didn’t think about how each little word, object, action and feeling shapes who they are and who they’ll become. You can’t understand what they go through unless you can remember what it was like.

So i’ve been working on a list of the little things that I loved and lived for when I was very small. No one will understand this list but me, and I hope that i’ll never forget any of these treasured little memories.

1. Lego trees. My Grandma had a killer Lego collection. Very, very cool Grandma.

2. Jodie’s basement: Fisher Price roller skates, mini hockey sticks, the spikey roof that sparkled, jumping from the top step.

3. “Don’t touch the bait”

4. McDonald’s cheeseburgers (no sauce, made to order) on the conference table at Daddy’s office.

5. The dark hallway at the Museum of Nature that led to the dinosaur exhibit

6. Being called up to collect Brownie badges that were stapled to little yellow pieces of paper. I was a badge whore and I had to have them ALL.

7. The round, silver radiators with the little round holes in them, along every wall at Ottawa Airport. Walking on them, sitting on them, sliding on them, talking into them.

8. Counting herons on the way to church. The smell of the paper mill across the river in Quebec that accompanied these first forays into birdwatching.

9. Care Bear books at the library.

10. My Sesame Street book. The one where you had to place your nose or fingers on little coloured circles. So much satisfaction.

11. Grandma’s hamburger phone. (Cool Grandma- see above)

12. Being yelled at by my ballet teacher when practicing our routine to ‘Locomotion’. Believing the woman who sang the Locomotion song sounded really angry herself…

13. Reader’s Digest Guide to the Wildlife of North America. Always checking to see if bears lived in my area.

14. The pet store at the ‘brown shopping centre’ in Montreal. Always full of monkeys for sale. Long before ethics.

15. Metallic turquoise horizontal blinds. The sound they made when I trailed my finger across them. The way they bounced back into shape.

16. Climbing the climbing structure at the Boston Children’s Museum. Parents had to use stairs to get to the next level. Me? I could just climb.

17. Lake Placid and my Lake Placid Bumper sticker with the hologram rainbow and hearts on it. It was the most beautiful thing i’d ever seen in my life.

18. Whenever my dad came home from a business trip, i’d wake up the following morning with a new Barbie doll propped up on the floor by my door. The doll always corresponded to where he had been. ‘California Barbie’, for example.

19. Building ‘buses’ at church using chairs. Boarding these buses. Sitting at the back.

20. The downfall and resulting moral teachings of Sidney the Squirrel. On cassette each night before bed.

21. A tiny fuzzy sticker of a baby seal. The softest sticker ever.

22. “What’s under Bob’s cushion?” After MASH and before Star Trek. Usually while watching my dad eat a bag of Hostess BBQ Ruffles chips.

23. Being lifted up by my mother to push the brightly coloured buttons on the ATM at TD Bank. They made the most wonderful beeps i’ve ever heard. Love.

24. The smell of cheap shoes at Giant Tiger

25. Construction paper: ripping it, cutting it with safety scissors, gluing it to stuff, always being left with brown after the nice colours had been used up.

26. The IGA grocery store Cookie Club. “I am a child. I am at the grocery store. Give me a free cookie.”

27. Boppin’ Away: The song. The hot pink cassette it came on. The idea that Barbie herself sang it. The fact that this was my only cassette with actual music, and not bible stories on it. “A smile will set you free.” Embedding disabled, but here, if you must. And you must: BOPPIN’ AWAY

Learn From My Fail

“Never say that you’ll buy someone lunch at a reasonably up-market restaurant, if they’ll go wearing a smelly Ozzy Osboune wig with little bits of garbage in it. They will do it. Especially if they’re from Yorkshire.”

Yesterday at the Sound cafe

My childhood in a bottle…

I just found this on youtube! Nostalgia WIN. This was the first Barbie doll I was ever given. I’d only had plastic dinosaurs until this. It came with a little bottle of ‘perfume’ and I remember waiting weeks and weeks to get the courage and then finally downing the bottle in one gulp. Some tastes stay with you forever.

First Step: Eight things about me that shaped who I am…

1. I am 27. I have been alive for 27 years. At 19, I was told by a doctor at my university that i’d only live to 25. I think she was joking in reference to the fact that my diet consisted nearly entirely of doughnuts. I hadn’t eaten a vegetable since early childhood. But anyway, if I end up living to the respectful age of 54, then my life is already half-over. So here at 27, my mid-life crisis is in full swing. I’m embracing it.

2. Today i’ve reformed my eating habits to an extent. Despite living for nearly 25 years on a diet of sugar and sugar, with people always telling me, “Oooh, i’m warning you, when you hit 13 (or 16, 18, 21) it’ll all catch up with you”, I weigh the same now as I did when I was 12.
3. I have lived in at least 30 houses in my 27 years. In every single house since I was 3, without fail, as soon as I moved in, I determined which spot in the house would be most appropriate to hide in during a) a T-Rex attack and b) a velociraptor attack. In my current house, a) is in the back garden, between the fence and the house. If you don’t move, T-Rex can’t see you and I think he’d get hurt if he tried to squeeze into the space. It just wouldn’t be worth his while. B) To hide from a velociraptor, i’d hide in the attic in the space above the garage. If it managed to get into the attic, I could drop into the garage and stand a greater chance of survival. As i’ve grown up, i’ve realized that if the velociraptors have made it into your house, your situation is pretty much hopeless. Growing up can be so soul-crushing.
4. When I was a child, I was obsessed with dinosaurs. All of my walls were plastered with dinosaurs. All my clothes had dinosaurs on them. People thought I was a boy. The first word I ever spelled was Tyrannosaurus Rex. I could spell that before I could spell my own name. I’m not being sarcastic. This is true. Ask my parents.
(This guy is a real candidate for ‘Creepy Santas‘)

5. Until I was 12 and I visited the NASA space centre in Florida, I firmly believed I had been to Mars. I should have known better, but it’s just not something I ever thought through critically. When I was about 3, my parents took me to the CN tower in Toronto, where they had one of those simulator rides, to ‘Mars’ of all places. I thought it was real and no one ever corrected me. When people would talk about space exploration, I never understood why they thought it was so difficult. The portal is right there in downtown Toronto. I’ve been to Mars, you can too. What’s the big deal?
6. My earliest childhood memory: When I was 2, I took at ride in a helicopter. The floor was glass, but I thought it was just open to the air below. I was worried that my grey boots were going to fall into Lake Ontario.
7. When I was a baby I had sticky-out ears. I had plastic surgery when I was 4 and in junior kindergarden. I can remember having a bandage around my head just like the child in the hospital logo, which made me feel extra special. I also remember being put under anesthetic for the surgery. I was told the gas would smell like cherries. It smelled like mint. I remember screaming ‘it’s mint! i’m allergic to mint!’. Then I woke up with ears that society was more likely to accept. Today, whenever i’m forced to play ‘two truths and a lie’, I always use ‘i’ve had plastic surgery’.

8. I spent my childhood obsessed with snakes. When I realized I couldn’t own a dinosaur, this was just the next step. My first snake was a black and white California Kingsnake. I think I was 10. His name was ‘Teddykaapingubear’, because I wanted to call him ‘Teddy Bear’, but equally I wanted to name him after my favourite cartoon snake, ‘Kaa’, and Pingu, because Pingu was also black and white. I was a smart kid. Teddykaapingubear was the first of about 20 pet snakes.