The Magic Helmet

In the name of love, some people turn a simple spoon into an airplane or ‘chew chew’ train to get their children to eat. Sometimes it works. Not always. Papa wore a helmet. It worked like magic. Do you remember what your loved ones did to get you to eat your food? How do you get your kids to eat now? 

Nana and Papa could get us to eat pretty much anything when we were little. It was probably one of the first examples of effective teamwork that I can recall. A bit like the Jamaican relay track team. Our meals were meticulously cut into tiny bite sized morsels by Papa. He could make perfectly symmetrical miniature dice out of any meat. Likewise, he could cut up spaghetti so fine that it resembled rice. Once he had finished and only then, he would pass the baton over to Nana who would make up our bowls of food, usually accompanied by rice, her very own unique macaroni pie or meat sauce. She would then return the baton to Papa who would in turn, work his magic on the home stretch. It was quite the ingenious process.

I am not exactly sure if all this effort was because we were picky children or if Nana was worried that we might choke on our food. I do know that everything they did was rooted in love. Nana firmly belief that fattening up a child was a worthy cause. Every bowl was stirred together with Nana’s secret ingredient: butter. I think when I was young I truly believed that dinner was meant to be shiny. Check my lips in the photo below if you don’t believe me.


Me (right) being fed by Papa wearing the magic helmet.

Do you remember when my sister snipped off all my curls? I only mention it because the mangy photo above would have been taken not long after that haircut. My unqualified hairdresser of a sister is looking on in the middle, still feeling pretty proud by the look on her face.

Nana actually had two metal covers. We called them helmets because they reminded us of those old war time helmets worn by British soldiers in battle. They were the perfect prop for some of our shenanigans. One was missing the black knob at the top. No one wanted that one. Both were dented from falls as we ran through the house.


Two decades later, on a trip home to Barbados, we asked Papa to help feed our first wearing the helmet. For old times sake. He happily obliged and took great delight.


Papa wearing the helmet while feeding our daughter. Barbados. 2000.

Today, I still secretly prefer eating my food all mixed together, preferably in a bowl. Very unladylike but as the saying goes: old habits die hard. There is nothing quite like a one pot meal… chilli, stew, risotto, pilau, soup, porridge are just a few that come to mind. It’s the height of simple comfort. When no one is around, if I make spaghetti, I often attempt to cut up my spaghetti as fine as I can. And yet, I am never able to replicate Papa’s precision, no matter how hard I try. It’s simply what my brain remembers and loves.

*   *   *   *

It should then not come as a surprise that I used Nana and Papa’s chop, mix, and butter routine with our kids. I thought it worked pretty well until our fourth. I wish Nana and Papa were here to feed him a bowl of buttery food but he was born several years after they had both passed. Little did I know that despite my best intentions, including giving him David as his middle name, he would become my Goliath.

The day I let our son wear the helmet,  I unknowingly handed all the power to him. When dinner time rolls around, I am powerless and feel like all my batons have been removed. At six, he is my most determined child to use food as his control mechanism.  What will his brain remember when he grows up? And yes, the cliche is true: the baby of the family always gets away with…


Not forever though. I already see change on the horizon. There may be value in a good old bribe. It works. I can get him to leave just about anywhere with a mere mention of a piece of bubble gum. Just the other day I got him to eat sliced cucumbers by offering him a juice box instead of the water or milk he usually gets. Bribery is my new butter and sugar is the new magic. I know. Not the best choice but for now, it is good enough. Mark my words, this Goliath is going down.



loverly rosewater cookies

We all show our love in different ways. A dinner date. A home cooked meal. Something sweet. Something sexy. Clean laundry. A well stocked fridge. A bottle of wine. A rum punch. A simple card with or without chocolates, flowers and jewelry. These are all just some of the ways around this time of year. Usually anything is better than nothing. I have been privy to and guilty of both. Sometimes the expectation around Valentine’s Day can make us feel a bit forced. Like we are supposed to be more loving than we normally are the other 364 days. The Beatles sang it the simplest way possible… “All you need is love”.  

You know what could possibly be better than roses on Valentine’s Day? Rosewater cookies. It’s like getting your roses and eating them too. Hard to put into words really. The smell is hypnotic and the taste is ever so delicate. It’s like shortbread got into bed with a bunch of roses. Yes, loverly indeed.

A little backstory about rosewater. The first time I smelled rosewater essence I was a kid in Nana’s kitchen in Barbados. I had never smelled anything as beautiful as this. It imprinted in my brain immediately. So last year when I saw on a morning show that a touch of rosewater in a glass of Prosceco was divine, I knew I had to pick up a bottle. Not only did I try this, (it was lovely) but it got me thinking about how I could introduce it into my baking.

There is a 3:1 ratio difference between rosewater and rosewater essence. The two are not the same. That’s because rosewater essence is concentrated. So the equivalent for 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) of rosewater that this recipe calls for would be to use 1 teaspoon of rosewater essence (5 ml).  To keep the consistency of the batter (if you do use essence), is to adjust the recipe by adding enough water to make it up to 1 Tablespoon. My recipe uses Arz brand rosewater that I picked up from my local Real Canadian Superstore.


“Loverly Rosewater Cookies” by loopylocks
Makes about 7 dozen (cookie press) cookies

1 1/2 C   butter, softened
1 C   white (granulated) sugar
1   large egg
1 T   rosewater (or 1 tsp of rosewater essence and water to make up 1 T)
1 T   milk (I used 2%)
3 1/2 C   flour
1 tsp   baking powder
1/4 tsp   salt (optional)*

For the topping:
coloured sugar crystals (optional)

*I prefer salted butter because I think it brings out the flavour better in baking. Adding salt to the cookies is optional, especially if you use unsalted butter.

Set the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a separate bowl, stir all the dry ingredients together – flour, salt (optional) and baking powder. You can sift them if you prefer. I buy pre-sifted all purpose flour so I usually skip this step.

Soften butter in the microwave to room temperature if taking from the fridge. To do this, I cube the butter on a microwave safe plate and put on 30% power for 2 minutes. Scrape into a stand mixer. Using the flat paddle attachment mix butter and sugar on medium/high until light, creamy and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the egg, milk and rosewater, mixing well until smooth on medium/high speed.

Gradually add dry ingredients to the wet mixture using Stir speed until the batter is combined and no dry spots remain. Use a spatula to scrape the bowl if needed to make sure all the crumbly spots are well combined.

The consistency should be like Playdoh when you shape the dough into a log to fill the press. If you find it too soft for your press, put the bowl in the fridge for 5-10 minutes and give it another try. The butter will harden so that it is easier to manage. If you find that the batter is too dry or crumbly, you can add another 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of milk but please no more. You will be surprised how the dough melds together once you get your hands on it (as if you are actually playing with real Playdoh). It should look like this.


Using your cookie press, squeeze dough through the heart shaped disc onto an ungreased baking sheet. I get about 15 hearts per sheet. Truthfully, each time I use my press, the first 3 to 5 hearts do not come out well until the air in the chamber is squeezed out and the dough is compressed properly. Don’t be discouraged, that’s normal. Just grab them off the sheet and put them back with the batter for another round. Before you put them to bake, add a sprinkling of some pretty pink sugar and you have yourself the perfect recipe for love.


Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until the edges are slightly brown as you see here. If you bake two sheets at the same time, your bottom sheet will be ready first. Take that one out and switch the top sheet to the lower rack while you are removing the first set to a cooling rack with a fine edged spatula. Remove the second tray that should be ready now. Cool completely before storing. They also freeze very well.

Baking Tip I like to wipe and cool the baking sheets with a paper towel between batches. In the winter this takes no time as I rest them either out on a ledge in my backyard or stand them between my back door and the screen where it is always freezing! It makes using the press easier. When the weather is warm, I tend to bake one tray at a time while I am cooling and reloading the second tray. Do what works best for you. 


Rosewater Sugar Cookies by loopylocks

Enjoy and remember to share your love!


The Sisterhood of Nana’s Travelling Sweater

Do you remember the first time you travelled? The people you were with? What you did? This is a story about that. It’s also a story about the power of threes. Three years old, three trips to London, three sisters… and a sweater. 

When I was three, my older sister and I travelled with our parents and Nana and Papa to London, England. I am not sure why and I really don’t remember much because a three year old’s brain is still developing. What I do remember is that three events occurred: one rather insignificant, one mentally damaging and one that I still love and protect to this day.

The first thing I remember is that we stayed in a hotel with a Murphy bed. I had never seen a bed fold up into a wall and completely disappear. All the bedding and everything just vanished. I was totally enamoured, a bit like Charlie Chaplin in the scene where he too encounters one for the first time. In my case, I highly doubt I had a top hat and cigarette and OK, perhaps there was a little less drama. I thought it was the most ingenious thing I had ever seen in my whole short life.


Our parents room was down the hall from Nana and Papa. My sister and I took turns sleeping between either Nana and Papa, or our parents. Oddly enough, I don’t remember my turns sleeping between Mummy and Daddy. That’s because Nana snored. Who could forget? So did Papa but his breathing was always like a whisper in comparison.


selfridges-visitors-day-poster[Source: Selfridge’s Edwardian poster]

It was also on this trip that I got lost in the department store, Selfridges. 1975 was a much different world when it came to missing children. Come to think of it, I am not so sure the alert protocol for missing children was the safest back in the 70’s. Thank goodness for the Amber Alerts we have today. Somehow I wandered away from my parents and ended up in the hands of customer service. I think I might have cried but truthfully, I can’t remember such micro details. What I do remember is that the nice lady gave me a sweetie, put me on her lap, and announced over the PA system:

“Would the parents of a little girl, with dark, curly hair, please come to the customer service desk”.

To this day, I have a phobia about getting lost. If I am out with someone, doesn’t matter where, and realize even for a split moment that I am on my own, a mysterious illogical panic consumes me and I franticly start looking around, pacing my head left and right, as if I am a silly chicken trying to cross a busy street. It is only when I find who I am looking for that I feel safe. I guess it is a mental scar I carry with me to this day.

The third memory to come from this trip is that Nana bought herself a black cashmere sweater. I could be wrong but if I had to make an educated guess, I would say she would have bought it either from Selfridges, possibly even on the same day I got lost, or perhaps from Marks & Spencer, her all time favourite store. Even back in the 70’s, cashmere would have been an indulgence. Nana was not one for indulgences. Like her, I myself am not one for labels.


The label in Nana’s black cashmere cardigan. 2016.

On closer inspection, I see that the cardigan is made by Pringle. Not to be confused with the chips, I Google it and discover that it is Pringle of Scotland. Their history spans 200 plus years and as I read their story, these words stick with me:

Pringle received its Royal Warrant in 1956 awarded by Her Majesty the Queen. One of the most treasured notes in the brand archives is a note from Clarence House from the Dresser to Her Majesty the Queen Mother simply requesting ‘New Cardigan Please.’

I always thought that Nana had something regal about her. See for yourself.


Nana and Papa in 1969

Nana bought the cardigan as a staple for her travels. Practical. Simple and beautiful. Nana and Papa used to travel quite a bit. Mostly to London and Canada, where she was able to get lots of wear of this beloved sweater. The temperature in Barbados never required the need for such a luxury. That’s because the average year round daytime high of 30°C / 86°F temperature means sweaters are not everyday attire. Queen, or no Queen.

I would travel back to London two more times. The second visit, when I got my ears pierced at the same Selfridges. This time I stuck close to my parents. The last visit was when I turned 13 and my sister and I went with our parents on a trip to Europe. It was on this trip that we were old enough to borrow Nana’s cardigan for the first time. Mum had ordered us only to pack shorts and the one pair of pants for the plane. Europe was sure to be hot in July. That’s what she said. Well Europe ain’t no Barbados. We were so cold that we each lived in our one pair of pants and both begged to take turns wearing the sweater.

Then when my oldest sister left for Toronto to go to art college, naturally she begged Nana to take the cardigan with her. You must understand that Nana did not like to part with her things easily. But for some unknown reason, she agreed. As I joined my sister in Toronto, the sweater became a coveted piece again. We took turns wearing it and loved it so much that one side of the label became unstitched. It’s where you see the safety pin. It’s been there and replaced several times with different sized pins over the last 25 years.

When our younger sister came to Canada to study, she naturally became the next in tow. Not intentionally, mind you. The cardigan travelled to her when I was busy having children in succession. No time for cardigans. Or showers. Or fashion. Life was a blur. Not for my little sister, ten years my junior. It was her turn to get love and wear out of Nana’s sweater. So much so that I forgot she had it.

Then a couple years ago, my little sister and her husband made the decision to return to Barbados. On a visit, I was sitting on her bed while she was going through her closet to decide what she would take back with her. That’s when I noticed it. Sure she would not need this in 30°C? I casually commented on this fact. She said nothing and kept it in her closet.

When the time came for our goodbyes, we did our best to keep the emotions to a minimum in front of our children. I attempted to be the stoic, brave older sister. My sister then casually handed me a gift bag with some tissue paper in it. As I pulled the tissue away, there was Nana’s cardigan.

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At the current moment, Nana’s cardigan is carefully folded in tissue paper and stored in a box under our bed. It is not a Murphy bed but I sure do love it and the story behind it. Part of me wants to leave the safety pin, a reminder of its travels. Call it for safety reasons. The other part of me wants to get it repaired because I am sure Nana would have wanted that. I did take the pin out of it after finding out just how expensive a Pringle sweater is.

As I started working on this story, my husband bought me my very own black cashmere cardigan for Christmas. He got it from The Bay. Now I can wear my own cardigan as often as I like and still protect Nana’s legacy. It’s in my nature to be protective. Our two daughters are already nipping at each other’s heels. Like Nana, I don’t like to part with things easily either. When the time is right, maybe I should let my daughters take the new cardigan instead.  Or I could surrender Nana’s cardigan to continue on its travels. I simply have not decided yet.

The Sisterhood by loopylocks

Between my two lovely sisters (neither of whom snore, to the best of my knowledge). Barbados. January 2006. [Photo credit: Andrew Hulsmeier]