The calendar brightly announced that the first day of spring was over a week ago. Today, is sunny and bright. It might be the first day that parkas are not required for outdoor adventures.
In the last couple of days, the snow has almost completely melted leaving behind mounds of dirt and trash. The winter snowfall temporarily conceals the tragedy of the commons by gently covering up the discarded to-go coffee cup, the Styrofoam take-out container or the plastic bag. The trash that was blown down the road when the garbage can was overturned. The careless person who tossed a cigarette butt near the school. Now, there is no hiding and the clean-up must begin.
A simple act; picking up the trash along the roadway and park. The gesture though, is contagious. Somehow, it seems to give others permission to do so. It is something that I find myself doing several times a week in the spring, along with the help of my children.
While I’m nowhere near having a garbage truck named after me (see, Sedaris, for example), the continual act makes me feel a deeper connection with the community. The occasional nod or uttered “thank you” that I receive are encouragement to continue. Other times I am sure people are wondering why I put my kids to work.
As we dash into April, the month that contains Earth Day, I think it is important to consider the now age-old phrase “think globally, act locally.” While so many of the world’s problems are extremely complicated to solve and can make us feel frustrated, small, anger, hopelessness, confusion and sadness, it is important to remind ourselves of the daily acts that can make a difference in our community, environmental health and personal wellbeing.
Spring is a perfect time to volunteer and get involved in your community. Local city clean-ups, waterway clean-ups, highway walks and tree planting initiatives all begin now. Inquire how to get involved by contacting local conservation authorities, environmental organizations and community or neighbourhood organizations. Or, organize your own clean-up.
Easter Sugar Cookies
Makes: 8-10 large egg sized cookies plus 8-10 mini cookies
Time: Dough (15 minutes) + Resting time (2 hours) + Baking time (30 minutes for 2 trays) + Decorating (20 minutes)
Sugar Cookie Dough
3/4 cups (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest or 1 tsp almond extract (optional)
2 1/2 (313 g) cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
Apricot jam, blueberry jam, strawberry jam, room temperature
1. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using a hand-held mixer. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract and the grated lemon zest or almond extract (if using). In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add half of the flour to the wet mixture and mix on low speed until almost combined. Add the remaining flour and mix on low again. Dump out onto a clean surface and form into two discs. Wrap in cling film and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight (the dough can be chilled in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If placing it in the refrigerator for a couple of days, I recommend also putting the dough in an airtight container to ward off any refrigerator smells).
2. When ready to bake: remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on the counter to warm for about 20 minutes. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Gather a rolling pin, flour and cookie cutters. Lightly dust the work surface and cookie cutters with flour. Roll the dough to 5 mm (1/4 inch) thickness. Using a large cookie cutter, stamp out an equal number of cookies (I had a large egg-shaped cutter that made 16). In half of those cookies, use a smaller cookie cutter (such as a flower, butterfly or something inspired by the season) to cut out a shape in the middle (this creates the top part of the cookie). Place onto the prepared sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden on the edges and bottom. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to completely cool before decorating.
3. Decorating. Lightly dust the tops of the cookies with icing sugar (I put mine in a tea strainer). Spread a layer of jam on the surface of the bottom cookie. Gently place the sugared and cut-out cookie on top of the one with the jam. Using a teaspoon, add a little more jam to the centre of the cookie to fill it in. Continue with the rest. And, voila, beautiful and colourful cookies.
Serve in the afternoon with a cup of herbal tea.
To maintain freshness, store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Adapted from Canadian Living.