Sunday, July 20, 2014

Baking up a blessing

I have been MIA.
For those of you who read this blog this is not a news flash. My writings and ramblings have grown few and far between. My one to two a-day blog posts have been reduced to nothing more than crickets. I would like to say that this absence was a planned hiatus but that is not the case. My dry spell of prolific words came without warning and struck me with such great force I didn't even have the desire to write a "taking a break from writing" post to alert the blogosphere of my impending absence. Instead, I just dropped off the radar screen altogether.
But not forever, I hope, because I've missed my daily random ramblings that sometimes were deep and other times just an outlet for pent-up frustrations. And let's face it, who doesn't have some inner frustrations and rants they'd like to post online for the world (or maybe just one single soul) to see? The world of blogging is perfect for such thoughts. It gives the thinker the chance to blow off some steam and gives the sympathetic reader reassurance that they are not the only one in the universe to share their particular frustrations and feelings.
During my blog hiatus (I'll call it that, as if it were planned, even though you all know it was certainly not) I missed this chance to be real with an audience, no matter how small that audience might be. For all I know it might be an audience of just my Mom reading my posts for grammatical errors. Or maybe it will end up being a complete stranger in another country who happens upon my words while Google searching and mindlessly clicking. I don't know who reads these words, but I know that as the writer of them there is a therapy in putting the feelings of my heart on paper or should I say, on screen.
So, why the absence if I enjoy writing so much? I wasn't in the hospital or on an exotic cruise to a location devoid of internet access or a 3G network. I simply didn't have the stamina to keep airing my feelings. The feelings have been there, trust me, feelings don't fade. But my energy to think on them, explain them and work through them went kaput. I got tired. The thoughts still rattled around in my head, blog post titles even came to mind a time or two, but I simply couldn't find the stamina to sit down and type out all that was on my mind.
So I just started baking instead.
Odd as it may seem, the girl who doesn't eat sugar and hasn't had a cookie in four years, has been baking… a lot. Daily to be exact. It started with brownie sundaes for the kids. For some reason I got the itch to cook something for them. I checked the cabinets and came up short on every type of mix. A stroke of can-do spirit took over and I embarked on baking from scratch. And so I looked at the ingredients we had on hand, narrowed down my confectionary options and landed on brownies. After a quick Google search I landed on the "Mmmm… brownies" from "All Recipes" and went to work.
An hour later a sink full of dishes with a shockingly minuscule amount of crumbs was all that remained after my culinary adventure.
The brownies were a success.
So the next day I tried again. This time I went back to an old standard, the oatmeal cookie. I added some walnuts and chocolate chips, baked at 350 and hand delivered a plate full of treats to my favorite house full of kids (and chocolate loving adults). And once again, the plate was cleared in record time.
Over the course of the next few days I baked up peanut butter chocolate chip cookie bars, double chocolate no-bake cookies, banana bread and a multi-color funfetti cookie cake!
I've never bought so much sugar, butter and heavy cream in my life.
And I'm just getting started.
I've caught the baking bug. There is something therapeutic about baking. You put together certain ingredients in a certain order in certain amounts, bake at a certain temperature and, voila! a certain creation is born! The whole process is one with ordered steps and a sequence that is understandable. I can read the directions and choose whether or not to follow them. I can measure to particular lines on particular cups. I can check to see when my sugary mix is still baking or reached its perfect level of golden brown. Baking promises that by following a given recipe you will get a proven, tested result.
When I pull the sugary confection from the oven, apply icing or sprinkles or just deliver with a tall glass of milk, there is pleasure and delight on the face of the recipient. The kids bite into their favorite treat with excitement. My Mom, the quintessential cookie-lover, lets out an audible "yum." The simple combination of ingredients brings with it an abundance of blessings from the very first bite.

From that first night in the kitchen with a hot saucepan of melted semi-sweet chocolate and a bowl of flour, I've been hooked on baking for the people I love and cherish. I've found that I can spread a little joy by spreading a little icing, creaming a little butter and baking up a little something sweet.
Not only does this new found love of baking bless my beloved family, but it has been a therapeutic release for me, too. When I'm standing in the kitchen, moving about between bags of ingredients and bottles of extracts, I'm not thinking about myself, my trials or my struggles. All I'm thinking about is what I'm baking. I'm focused on creating something that will bring a smile to the face of someone else.

From the world of blogging to the world of baking I've found that at different stages in life there's different places and different ways to release the feelings and emotions of the heart. For years now I've let all of mine spill out onto the world wide web. As therapeutic as that can be it can also be an overly self-involved practice. The blogs are my thoughts, my feelings. Do you sense a theme? It's all about me, me, me.
But baking has turned me outward. Baking isn't about me at all - I don't even taste test, that's the beauty of having a dessert loving Mom, she does that job for me. Baking has taken my focus off of my own selfish thoughts, desires and struggles. It's taken my gaze and pointed it outward, directly onto the lives and taste buds of the people I love deeply. By baking, the worries of this life are put on the back burner. In fact, they are taken off the stove altogether. Instead, my focus is placed solely on what blessing I'll be baking up next.

Baking up a funfetti cookie cake blessing! Recipe below.

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