Cinnamon Buns Are Way Too Much Work (But I Made Them Anyways)

Cinnamon buns were a staple in my house while I was growing up. They are one of my sister’s favorite desserts and we often had them instead of a cake around her birthday. But to be honest, not one of my favorite desserts. If I’m going to eat a cinnamon bun, it has to be gooey and have more sugar than cinnamon. If it’s crusty or hard at all, I’m not very interested.

When I moved out of my parents’ house (and out of my small town), I discovered the joys of Cinnzeo. Fresh, warm, gooey cinnamon buns that I don’t have to make myself? Yes, please! Still not my most favorite dessert (at West Edmonton Mall, I’d choose a crepe or frozen yogurt first), but still so delicious. Because I was so close to buying good cinnamon buns, I never learned how to make them.

But then I moved back to my hometown. No longer were cinnamon buns with extra cream cheese frosting only five minutes away. Nope, now they were a full hour away and I had to lug along a couple of kids. So Cinnzeo was out of the picture.

A couple of months ago, I decided to try my hand at cinnamon buns and it was a disaster. They were probably the grossest things I have ever baked. They didn’t rise properly and I hadn’t practiced with my new oven enough to know that its temperature is a little low so they were severely under baked. It was awful. Even my husband, who chokes down whatever I make without so much as a peep, couldn’t stomach them.

But yesterday I decided to try again. And this time it was delicious!

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I was stuffing my face when I realized that I hadn’t taken a picture so this is half of a cinnamon bun. Shut up.

The recipe I used this time had a full five more steps than the previous one I used and I’m going to say that is why my last recipe failed. It had nothing to do with my inexperience or impatience. Nothing at all. Anyways, the recipe I made was inspired by this recipe, though I tweaked it a bit to suit my needs.

Anyways, if you are interested in doing a whole freaking afternoon of baking then give these delicious, gooey, not-at-all-crusty cinnamon buns a try!

Cinnamon Buns

Makes: 18 buns  Time: 2.5 – 3 hours (ugh, I know right?)

Ingredients (dough):

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup white sugar (turbinado sugar or “sugar in the raw” is best, but white will do)
  • 2 tbsp instant yeast
  • 5 1/2 cups flour

Ingredients (filling):

  • 2 tbsp margarine, melted
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon

Put milk and salt into a small saucepan and turn the heat on medium, stirring often to prevent film from forming on top of the milk. Once the milk has started to steam and bubbles have started to form on the sides of the pot, remove the milk from heat. Add margarine and stir until it melts. Then add the cold water. Set aside. This is called scalding the milk and is used to intensify flavors and enhance the fluffiness of the yeast-based baking.

In a stand mixer, blend sugar and eggs with the paddle attachment. Slowly add the warm milk mixture while the mixer is on (to prevent the warmth from cooking the eggs). Mix the yeast with 2 cups of flour and add it to the liquids. Mix well. Replace the paddle with the hook attachment and add the remainder of the flour one cup at a time. Once mixed, knead the dough on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic-y. Roll into a ball and put into a large bowl.

Now it’s time to let the dough rise. If it’s a warm summer day, leave the dough out in a sunlight spot to stay warm (look for a sunbeam that a cat would think ideal). If you’re like me and baking to escape from the cold misery of the outdoors, you’re going to need to use your oven. Preheat your oven for 3-5 minutes and then turn it off. The residual warmth with be all that the yeast needs to rise. Where ever you put it, cover your dough with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 60-90 minutes. You want it to double in size.

Divide your dough in half on a floured surface and roll each half out until they resemble rectangles. Now it’s time to add the filling. Put half the melted butter on each rectangle and then literally cover it in brown sugar. A cup per side is only a suggestion. Be free with this, my beautiful butterflies. Want to add a couple of mini marshmallows? You do you. But I swear, if you tarnish these cinnamon buns that are too pure for this earth with raisins, I will delete you off Facebook. Now add your cinnamon. I’m only marginally a fan of cinnamon since my husband put it in everything (cinnamon mashed potatoes, anyone?) so I used it pretty sparingly.

Once your dough is covered in whatever filling you wish, roll it up. For those of you who use baking terms, roll it like a jelly roll. For my fellow millennials, roll it like a fruit roll-up. Cut it with a serrated knife and place it into a well greased pan. I made my slices a little thick and came out with only 16 rolls so I used a 9″ x 13″ pan and an 8″ cake pan for my beauties. Also, don’t use glass! It takes too long to cook and the buns will brown too much.

Now you have to let them rise once again. I just left them on my counter this time cause I was very unimpressed with how long it took to get a single freaking cinnamon bun. Leave them for 30 minutes this time. While you wait, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once they’ve risen, stick them in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Once they’re done baking, frost those suckers while they’re warm. That way the frosting melts and gets in all the spaces. I used a classic American buttercream, but a cream cheese frosting or even royal icing would do just fine.

 

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My little flour-covered helper

There you have it! Cinnamon buns that are not at all fast and only kind of easy, but actually good enough that I am eating more than one. And my husband has eaten one at each meal since I made them last night. Make a batch if you have a whole afternoon to burn and let me know how it goes!

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You Never Know

Ah, the long weekend in May. In my town, you know it’s the long weekend by the bad weather, the camper-filled roads, and the bad car accidents. Whether it’s due to an increased volume of cars on the road or because more people get drunk and decide to drive on a long weekend, I’m not sure, but there is always at least one.

My mom’s birthday always falls around this weekend and to celebrate, she and I headed up to the big city to attend a concert. The drive was uneventful. We enjoyed the blooming trees, which had come early this year, and talked about how the area was in need of a good rainfall. It’s a drive we’ve made a thousand times before, both separately and together.

At the edge of town, we saw a guy on a bicycle sitting at the side of the road smoking a cigarette. We wouldn’t have ever noticed him had he not been smoking. It was a strange juxtaposition and we laughed, commenting that one healthy action doesn’t mean a healthy lifestyle. We continued on our way, thinking little of it.

The evening was fun and we enjoyed the company and the music. It was a later night than I had experienced in quite some time. I drove home in the heavy rain that we had been hoping for earlier. We followed the highway around the city as raindrops thundered on the rooftop, our heated seats turned on for the first time since spring had come. We snacked on Doritos and I left orange streaks of crumbs down my pant legs so I wouldn’t get Mom’s steering wheel dirty. It was the first time that I can remember seeing her eat Doritos.

When we approached the exit that would take us to the highway home, it was covered in orange flashing lights and red traffic cones. Closed flashed over and over again. Red and blue blinking lights brightened the dark highway in the distance. We would have to take a detour to get home. We shook our heads, closed roads usually meant fatalities. The first day of the long weekend had claimed its first victim. So sad, we said.

The next day, I was browsing Twitter and saw this:

 

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Article here

A mere seven minutes after we drove on that road, a drunk driver coming the opposite direction hit a cyclist and killed him. I hope that it wasn’t the cyclist we saw, but seeing the photographs and reading the description of the victim, I’m convinced it was. What a strange feeling to know that you were one of the last people to see someone alive before they were killed. How surreal that we most certainly would have driven passed the vehicle that was to hit this man. We had seen this person in a passing way, but we noticed him.

I wonder what he was thinking about as he stood in the cool May air, smoking his last cigarette. Was he dreading the bike ride home? Did he look up at the clouded sky and wonder if he’d get rained on? Did he make eye contact with the intoxicated driver a moment before his life ended or did he die before he knew what was happening?

I’m heartbroken for this man’s family. I’m angry that the driver made a poor decision that someone else had to pay for with his life. Why does it seem like drunk drivers come away from the accidents they cause with little to no injuries? I know it’s wrong to wish that on someone, but it sure feels like the universe gave them a pass.

The May long weekend is only half over. Four lives have been lost so far in accidents like this. I don’t want there to be any more, but I’m not very optimistic. So, friends, when you go on the roads, be careful. And if you have had a couple of drinks, I beg you to find a way home that keeps you from driving. Your life, and the lives of those around you, are too precious to lose to something so senseless.

Sick, Sicker, Sickest

So far, April & May have been really hard months. At the beginning of April, I can’t remember if it was the sixth or the eighth, Monkey got sick. Like he went from healthy and happy to waking up coughing and panicking because he couldn’t breathe. We spent all night outside with him so the cold April air could shock his lungs back to breathing. He’d not really been sick before, not like this. And we had no idea how to handle it.

The barking cough subsided and was replaced by a running nose and a wet cough. Which lasted and lasted and lasted. Two weeks later, I decided to take him in to see a doctor. Brian took Eggs and I had Monkey, who sobbed into my shoulder as the doctor looked in his ears, listened to his chest, tapped on his tummy.

We left with a prescription for a puffer, a drug to open his lungs, and instructions to come back by Thursday.

Then that Tuesday, Eggs got it. It was hard to see in Monkey, but even harder in Eggs who just stared into my eyes as he coughed, begging me to make it stop. He started getting a fever and stopped wanting to eat (and if you’ve seen my baby, you’d know how much he likes to eat). It was heart-wrenching.

The next day, I caught it. My nose felt like a desert wasteland, my throat constantly burned, and my head felt so full that even the pressure of a pillow was awful.

Eggs was supposed to be vaccinated that week, but I put it off because of how sick we all were. Just a week, I thought. Thankfully, both Eggs and I mostly got over it. It looked like the three of us were on the upswing.The boys still coughed and my throat still ached, but at least the rest of it seemed to go away. They were eating again, which was the most reassuring.

Mother’s Day was at our house this year and Monkey was incredibly miserable all day. I couldn’t figure out what had gotten into him. He normally loved all the attention lavished on him by grandparents and great grandparents, but today he just cried and cried and cried.

I should have been empathetic, I mean, I’d just gotten over the same thing. I knew how he felt. But I was so mad. I’d planned this day, baked a couple of pies, cleaned up the house and it was all undone by a toddler. I knew I was being irrational, I knew I was being selfish, but I just thought today of all days? You have to be a jerk on Mother’s Day?? 

The next day was even worse. So I took him and his brother up to the doctor. I say up because I didn’t go to the doctor in the city we live. Instead I went back to the city we used to live in because 1. my city has one walk-in clinic for seventeen thousand people and 2. I was more comfortable in a clinic I’d been in several times before.

We drove the hour, with Monkey crying in his car seat the whole way, and got to the clinic where I unloaded my bag, Eggs, and Monkey. I’m so glad that the clinic wasn’t busy and sent us in right away. The doctor saw us and sent us out for an x-ray. So I loaded up the three of us, drove a couple blocks down, and got unloaded again.

By this point, Eggs was starving and Monkey needed a diaper change. Let me tell you, a diaper bag, a car seat, a toddler, and a mom do not fit in a handicap bathroom stall (where they keep the changing tables). Now Monkey was clean, but both boys wanted bottles. So we headed to the waiting room and I fed Eggs in his car seat and held Monkey while he drank. Eggs was so hungry that he finished his bottle and wanted another, which I heroically refilled one handed while I continued to hold Monkey. It was a sight to behold. I know that because the women across the waiting room were commenting on my lack of babysitting and shaking their heads at my poor planning.

The technician was significantly kinder, offering to take the car seat to the x-ray room while I took Monkey and my bag. Another tech took Eggs and carried him around while the other tech and I dealt with Monkey’s x-ray. We belted him into a clear case that looked like a primeval torture device to keep him still. He screamed as we took the pictures.

Afterwards, I loaded everyone up again. It had now been four hours and I was starving for some lunch. I grabbed a cheeseburger and called the doctor to see if I had to come back. No, she said. It takes a couple days for the images to arrive here. We will call you when you need to come back.  With that, we went home.

Turns out the receptionist I’d spoken to was half right. They would call when they needed me to come back, but it wasn’t a few days later. It was about five minutes after I unloaded the boys from the car and into the house. You need to come back to get your prescription, she said. Thankfully, my mother was still in that city running some errands so she picked it up. I don’t know if I could have handled another two hour drive with two sad boys.

Turned out that Monkey had pneumonia. We were tasked with administering some yellow syrup that smelled like those awful banana candies to Monkey three times a day for ten days. Not the easiest way to medicate a toddler, but we were just glad for some answers. Three days later, Monkey is feeling better. Eggs and I must have picked something up from one of the waiting rooms we were in as we are both sick as dogs yet again. I’m desperately hoping that Eggs stays away from the pneumonia and gets over it soon.

So, yeah, that’s why I haven’t been around much.

TD;LR – Been too busy tending to sick family to write anything useful here.

Tragedy & Togetherness

This week, my province experienced unspeakable tragedy when one of our cities was overcome by a wild fire. The photos and videos coming out of Fort McMurray are absolutely insane.

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It’s hard to believe this is real. Photo Credit.

The loss and devastation is overwhelming. Neighbourhoods are lost and my Facebook feed is filled with people looking for their loved ones or their pets. Thankfully, no lives were lost due to the fire at the time of this writing and only two deaths happened during the evacuation (though, what an immense heartbreak for their families).

What has been amazing to me, though, is the outpouring of support from the rest of Alberta and Canada. At the time of this writing, CTV Edmonton reported $30 million dollars donated through Red Cross Canada, which is insane since it’s been three days. People all over our nation have come together to support Fort McMurray.

This was not the case just a mere week ago. Fort McMurray gets a bad rap in these parts because it’s an oil town (but let’s be serious, which cities in the prairies aren’t oil towns). It has a reputation for being a town you can make some serious cash before heading back home. The people there, according to its reputation, are rough and tumble with too much money to burn. For some environmentalists, Fort McMurray symbolizes what’s wrong with our world.

But then we saw the sheer number of families, of regular people like you and I, fleeing their homes in the desperate hope that nothing with have changed by the time they return. Our perspective changed. We saw nursing staff evacuate a hospital with nothing but their scrubs and wallets.We saw children being born in evacuation sites.We saw a principal driving students on a bus overnight to get them to safety.

Suddenly, it’s changed from us vs. them to all of us together. There are still those jerks out there who have decided to politicise this tragedy (seriously, you need to shut up right now), but they are the minority. Nearly everyone is helping in some way. Syrian refugees, people who have lost everything, find something to give.  Quebec has sent firefighting planes. Those are two groups that many Albertans have hated on pretty ruthlessly, yet  they have sent us help. We have been so blessed.

It took a tragedy as enormous as the devastation of a city for us to come together. So I ask that once this city has been resurrected and the fire all but forgotten for those of us who haven’t lived through it, remember how our country came together. Remember it when you think that everyone just takes from Alberta, but never gives. Remember it when politics divides us. Remember it when it looks like people are just plain selfish. We have the capability to be generous and selfless and united.

The Red Cross Canada is still accepting donations. Donate online here or text “Redcross” to 30333 on your cell phone to donate $5 which will show up on your next phone bill.

1 Year Old

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of us moving into our home. It was a roller coaster of a move, but this day one year ago, it was all finally over. After going through the buying and selling process of a house (specifically a house in Alberta), we definitely learned some things. And being as I’m no longer a first time home buyer, I thought I’d impart some wisdom.

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Our Home (Ignore my thumb)
  • Find a Good Realtor

I see lots of people in my town trying to sell their homes without a realtor. This I do not recommend. Realtors are experts in the field of homes. The rest of us are amateurs. They will come into your home and give you tips on what will help sell it. For example, when Brian and I were trying to sell our old house, the realtor recommended that we buy a mirror to go above our dresser in the master bedroom because it would make the space look bigger. Now, the master bedroom was pretty big already, but if you are going to put “Spacious master bedroom” on your listing, you’d better be sure it looks spacious. He also told us to switch out some of the light bulbs so that the light was better.

Another great thing about a realtor is that they will tell you things about the house that maybe you didn’t notice yourself. For example, our last house faced a street (like it was on a “T” intersection), which meant that any time that cars drove down that street towards our house, the lights would shine directly into our master bedroom. We were told that and then we had to decide if that was a deal breaker for us or not. They can also help you decide on a fair price to offer or if an offer is worth taking.

  • Figure Out What is Non-Negotiable

When you look at houses, decide what you can’t live without. For us, we needed a garage. There is no way we are dealing with another prairie winter where we have to brush off our car every day or plug it in. We also needed enough rooms for our family of 4.

There are things you can’t live without and things you’d like, but can compromise on. I really love baths and I wanted an ensuite with a bathtub, but the house that we fell in love with didn’t have that. So I had to decide if I could live without it (obviously, yes). Sometimes I wish I had that tub in the ensuite so that I would have 2 doors between me and small children, but it’s not the end of the world. Though if we were ever to buy again, I would try to prioritize this a little more. Same with a fenced yard. It’s SO expensive to landscape and you have to wait a year if your house is brand new so that it settles.

This step is a little more difficult if you’re buying with someone else. Brian and I were doing this together and we had different priorities. Like in everything in a marriage, we had to compromise.

  • Don’t Rush & Don’t Wait

House buying is all about timing. You are looking for the perfect home at the perfect price, but that “perfect” home doesn’t ever come. There will always be compromises. So do you just buy the first house that you kind of like? Yeah, no. If you can, don’t rush to settle. Wait until you find that one house that you compare all the others to. If you’ve ever been a bride, you already have practice with this. It’s like finding your wedding gown. If you can’t stop thinking about one, that’s probably the one.

The problem is that houses sell fast. Like really fast. For example, our last house was on the market for a total of three weeks. We had twenty showings and three offers. Then we went to buy a house and there was an offer already on it. Then we went to buy another and it sold out from under us. Finally, the third house we put an offer on was accepted.

As our last realtor said, “If this house was to be sold tomorrow, would you be disappointed? If so, then you should seriously consider putting an offer down.”

  • Know Your Budget

This is really important. Do not look at houses above what you can afford. Don’t do it. All it will do is make you dissatisfied with the houses you can afford. Or you might buy something out of your price range and then you are on the hook for that mortgage. And when you’re figuring out what you can afford, keep in mind that life throws you curveballs. You might have a great job, but what if you have a baby or lose your job or get seriously injured? Keep it in mind. Our province is having quite the downturn right now and there are a lot of houses on the market that were owned by people who lost their oil jobs. Don’t let yourself get caught in that trap.

  • Houses Always Cost More Than The Asking Price

There is a lot more to pay for than just the asking price. There are legal fees, property taxes (I think it’s about 1% of the house’s worth), upkeep, condo fees, utilities, and any costs to do landscaping/buy appliances/get window coverings. We bought a brand new house and had all those fees. Just the landscaping/appliances/window coverings cost us about $20k. And that’s being conservative (because we get a quote on Wednesday for landscaping).

 

Buying a house is a great thing, but it’s also a bit of a minefield. You learn a lot of expensive lessons. It’s not for everyone. Many of my cohorts aren’t buying houses and choosing to rent instead. You decide what works for you.

Do you have any tips for new home buyers? Or are you someone who would rather rent? Let me know!