Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hello, Gluten

This shelf perfectly describes the last four months (and whoever arranged this grocery store shelves doesn't quite understand the issue).  In short summary, I'm back on gluten for a year.

Building a Fire

Some days there is nothing more cleansing than sitting down and pouring words onto a page.
Other days, we simply need to be dragged out of our selves to breathe.

It poured a gushing rain two nights before I went camping alone on the grounds of a retreat center a few weeks ago.  Even with a couple sticks of fat wood, my first fire, which promised to be a rager, coughed and hissed until it was shockingly just smoke.  

By morning, the fat wood was gone, but determined not to drink cold tea, I gathered the driest leaves, grasses, twigs I could find.  Finally, a flame caught, I added bigger sticks, and sat down with my journal and book.  Right as I picked up my pen, the fire turned to smoke.  So up I stood, snapping dry twigs, blowing into the embers, and starting the fire again.  Then I sat down with my journal and book.  Right when I picked up my pen, smoke.  So up I stood to comb the woods again.  Right when I sat down, smoke.  By the time I held hot tea (victory!), it had been an hour.

What I'd most wanted to do was sink into my thoughts, dig around in the restlessness, read words for grounding, and sit outside of the life of constant interruptions.  Instead, interrupted constantly, I made a fire with my hands.  I fed kindling to hot ash, watched for a flame to catch, and layered logs until it did.

Sometimes the saving comes through our hands.

The other night, I was reminded of camping.  It was a dark, not outside with the nearly-full moon, but inside with churning and doubting.  I lay in bed with open tired eyes for hours.  Around midnight Eden unexpectedly cried out.  Her head hurt with sharp pain that made her whimper even after she dozed off.  So I sat stroking her hair for an hour, then lay on the floor with a quilt, waiting for her to wake.  Eventually I peeled myself up and fell back into bed asleep.

The headache hasn't come back, and I wonder if it wasn't just there to shake me out of myself, to give me a way to care with my hands, to leave my thoughts, and finally to sleep.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

how to connect -- striking out til the cake (AMAZING chocolate cake -- and GF)

Embracing Wednesday, I stood up into the chill of May windows wide open and walked across the hall to Maeve, runny nosed, demanding, and looking for Hiya (Silas).

The morning ran smoothly (always a small miracle) until a tearful, puddle-y goodbye with Eden at the bus stop.  At noon the nurse phoned to say Eden had a "terrible stomach ache."  I drove through the rain, Maeve rapidly unraveling toward nap, and picked her up.

Within minutes, she was recovered, fine, happy, and asking for lunch.

Though I'd known as I pulled out of my driveway that she wasn't really sick and probably could use some 1-on-1, somehow the instant proof made me furious.  Instead of camping out with a stack of books or cozying right up to her nose and asking what she'd most like to do with me, I told her in a haughty tone that if she were too sick for school, she'd have to go straight to bed and stay there for the rest of the day.  She cried until I told her I'd take her back to school.

Then I sat on the couch under a blanket for a few minutes saying, help help help help.  Help me drop my anger and see what she needs here.  Help.  And I tried to take some deep breaths.

Then I made myself come out and found her with boots and backpack on.  She cried again when I told her she couldn't really go back to school because both the nurse and her teacher believed she was sick.

Then we started again.
Thank goodness we can start again.

I scooted up next to her and put my arms around her because she is a touch-baby.  We talked about the difference between being sick at school and homesick at school, and how you can't jump ship at the first sign of either.  I told her, being an expert, that there are things to do for homesickness, that we could make a little kit to keep in her bag.  I told her that now that we'd gotten the sick myth out of the way, we had a couple of hours just us.

Earlier this morning I'd been telling a friend that I don't quite *know* this daughter yet; I don't know how to fill her up right away.  Since he was two, Silas has articulated his needs as clearly as an instruction manual: "Mama, I want feshul time with you.  Let's read these books,"  and then we'd sidle up next to each other and read, both connected and full.  This child is different.

So sitting there on the couch, I ran through the love languages in my head (gifts, words of affirmation, time, acts of service, touch), and as I gave her choices of what we could do together, I tried to hit each category, saying weird things I never would have thought of: we could sit and have a conversation and I could tell you all the things I love about you, we could go up to your room and I could help you clean it or rearrange it, we could...

It came down to cooking.  Not banana bread, not cookies -- A CAKE -- let's make a cake!

There was nothing to say but yes, all right, a chocolate cake -- yes, you and me, let's make that.
So we did.

And even though now, hours later, my kitchen is still smeared with frosting and the sink is piled with chocolate-crusted mixing bowls and cake pans, and there are cake crumbs all along the counter and table, it's ok.  She coasted through the rest of the afternoon (the real test will be bed time...), and it turns out, this cake is GOOD, even if you love gluten (like me).

Chocolate Layer Cake
     from America's Test Kitchen: How Can it be Gluten Free Cookbook:

1 c vegetable oil
6 oz bitter sweet chocolate, chopped (I used semi-sweet chips because that's what I had)
2 oz (2/3 c) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour (I used Glutino and the texture was great!)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
10 oz (1 1/2 c) sugar
1 c whole milk

-preheat oven to 350
-grease two 9" cake pans, line bottom with parchment,and grease parchment
-microwave oil, chocolate, and cocoa stirring occasionally (and checking often) until melted.  whisk until smooth, then set aside to cool slightly.
-in separate bowl whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt
-in mixer, whisk eggs and vanilla, add sugar and mix until well combined.
-whisk in cooled chocolate mixture and milk 
-whisk in flour mixture and mix until smooth
-pour batter into pans and bake until toothpick comes out clean, 30-32 minutes, rotating pans halfway
-cool in pan 10 min, then cool on racks
-cool completely before frosting

Creamy Chocolate Frosting (from same book)
note: this seemed like a lot of work so I compared it with Joy of Cooking's chocolate frosting -- almost identical except JoC added cream of tartar and a little water.  I stuck with this one.  The double boiler deal also sounded daunting, but was pretty straight forward and helpful it was all in one bowl.

I love a little frosting, but I'm more of a cake girl, especially when the frosting is rich (the opposite of my mother and Eden who could both do without the cake all together).  This recipe calls for 3 sticks of butter -- JoC's as well! -- which seemed a little much, so I cut it in half.  I ended up with just enough to frost the top and between the layers -- the sides of the cake are bare.  I think it's kind of perfect (but if you make it for my mom, definitely use the whole amount).

2/3 c sugar
4 large egg whites
pinch salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 24 pieces and softened
12 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (again I used semi-sweet chips)
1 tsp vanilla

-Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in a bowl of stand mixer.
-Place bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk gently and constantly until the mixture is foamy and slightly thickened and registers 150 degrees. (2-3 min)
-Place bowl in stand mixer and beat on med until it has the consistency of shaving cream and has cooled slightly (about 5 min)
-Add butter one piece at a time until smooth and creaming -- if looks curdled part way through, don't worry, keep going.  It will smooth out.  (my butter ended up mostly melted and the frosting was fine)
-finally, add cooled melted chocolate and vanilla and mix until combined.  Increase speed to med-high and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed.  If frosting seems too soft after chocolate (mine did), chill briefly and then re-whip until creamy.

Mornings -- a poem

This morning I woke to Maeve's "Mom, Mom, Mom, Moooom!" (the ever-so-endearing Mama already gone?) and a sense of overwhelm that it was Monday.  But no, it wasn't Monday, and then that it was Friday and I was unprepared for writers' group, but no, it wasn't Friday.  And then as the slush of sleep fell, I woke to Wednesday -- sensible Wednesday, smack in the middle of the week.  Wednesday I could do.

Oh, to remember the joy each morning.

Welcome Morning
          Anne Sexton

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry "hello there, Anne"
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning.

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard,
dies young.