It’s hard to believe that the month is almost over. Today it is profoundly soggy out and I am dreading the prospect of taking my little island dog out onto the cold icy paths. Last week the snow clung to branches and I said to Margot that it looked like Narnia, but now- now we have hours and hours of rain on top of mud, ice and snow, a messy mix of precipitation over which I am challenged to get enthused. This would be just about the perfect day to get on a plane for someplace tropical.
Our dog is taking up a lot of time and energy of late, but I would have it no other way, and I’m even more sure than ever that he wouldn’t have made it back in Panama, because even with all of this, he’s still fighting mange. He’s on fifteen remedies to boost his immune system and organs and strengthen him in general… we have to watch him like hawks to make sure he doesn’t lick and chew his paws and tail until they’re bloody. Boo.
There was a blizzard this month and I remembered that when you don’t lose your electricity or have a harrowing commute by car or need to get somewhere by plane, giant snow storms are downright fun and exciting! I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve as the wind kicked on our afternoon walk, no one else on the trail. The sky grew ever more opaque and damp as the ominous North wind began slanting the snow into sheets. That night and the next we dined with neighbors, sharing food and cocktails, laughing as we knocked snow from our boots at the door. It was festive in an old-timey way, the way I fantasize things were before all of these compelling screens drew our attention into more interior spaces.
White-out conditions and a driving ban kept everyone but plows off the streets so it was quiet, save for the wind, the collective energy of temporary hibernation was galvanizing and community building. The clear message was that we’re all in this life-thing together and try as we might as a species to splinter apart, we are still just little humans at the whim of elements, all with the same needs and vulnerabilities.
On Saturday afternoon as the snow drew to a halt having dumped over two feet and blown into even higher drifts, folks helped one another shovel. We borrowed a friend’s snow blower and spent hours moving the cold white stuff around, coming together as neighbors to clear paths and driveways so that the next day we could resume movement.
Valentine’s Day came and went and Chris and I said to each other that evening, “Guess what I got you?? –Me!”
We have this formal day to celebrate gestures of love and goodwill but the real overtures are best presented when least expected on any given day of the year, and as lovely as boxes of chocolate and bouquets of flowers are (both of which I am almost never without as I regularly supply them for myself), coming home at the end of an eleven hour work day to venison stew ready to eat in the slow-cooker, the floors vacuumed and mopped, a new pantry shelf built to fit next to the fridge, and the pets fed and walked is the best gift any girl could want. It would be a good idea to ask ourselves how we can be more generous, solicitous and kind more often, remembering of course that the same energy we expend is the kind that will boomerang back. As Dr. Eugene S. Callender writes, “What we choose changes us. Who we love transforms us. How we create reshapes us. What we do remakes us.”
Here in this home, we love each other and our friends, create food and images and collections of words, and we do things that need doing like working and walking and making the bed, making messes in the kitchen and then cleaning them up, moving along, one foot in front of the next. I feel so busy juggling work, dog care, cooking, planning for an art show fundraiser at the end of March and my writing projects. I have so many books on my nightstand, so many incomplete essays on my desktop… and I miss writing songs. I want more time. Who doesn’t?
Over the course of the month I watched this bio-pic, and am still not finished watching this documentary, or listening to this podcast. I’m also re-reading this book and trying to apply the concepts I teach to my own life. I’m actively looking for beauty, which is abundant around here in all of our nearby conservation land. Islamic professor and scholar, Dr. Nasr says: “…look at the remarkable predominance of beauty in nature…from the fish that swim under the sea in coral reefs that we’re now destroying so rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico to the great mountains where snows are melting, thanks to the fact that we’re driving too many cars…We’re created in beauty. We’re drawn to beauty and our soul is drawn to beauty. So there’s a very deep nexus between beauty and happiness, and happy is the person who realizes inner beauty.”
I am that strange human who doesn’t tire of winter unless it is bracingly take-your-breath-away cold out for days in a row (or so wet you can really not be outside for long), but I am excited that the days are lengthening and March is right around the corner.
I made two kinds of cupcakes for Valentines Day. I don’t have celiac or grain intolerances per say, but I don’t want to eat foods that make me feel bloated, foggy and guilty. I’m inspired both my my sweet tooth and the challenge of converting fat and sugar-laden desserts to healthy versions. Coconut oil is a super healthy fat, almond flour is protein-rich, and coconut sugar, made from the tree’s sap, is mineral rich and low on the glycemic index, so you won’t feel revved up followed by a crash. Dessert can actually be good for you.
Chopped Chocolate Almond Meal Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
- 1 3.5 oz. chopped/shaved 60-72% cacao chocolate (E. Guittard is one of my favorites)
- 3/4 C. blanched almond flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar or sucanat
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- rounded 1/4 tsp. sea salt
Preheat oven to 350•
Using a stand mixer or by hand, combine flour and chocolate. Add in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla and salt.
Bake in paper lined muffin tin for 15-20 minutes.
Cool and frost with Chocolate Coconut Frosting:
- 1/3 c. coconut nectar
- 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate chopped
- 1/4 c. coconut butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
Melt and whisk all together on low heat. Cool in the fridge or at room temperature until a thicker/spreadable consistency.
Chocolate Coconut Milk Cupcakes
- 2 ounces unsweetened solid chocolate, shaved (I like Dagoba brand)
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- 6 TBS coconut butter
- 1 1/2 cups coconut sugar or sucanat
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup blanched almond flour
- 1/4 cup coconut flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- toasted coconut (for topping, optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Finely chop chocolate and place in a bowl with hot water and cocoa powder. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl or electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until combined. Add eggs, one at a time until thickened slightly and light colored (about 3 minutes). Slowly add coconut milk, and melted chocolate mixture, beating until combined well. Add flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.
Pour batter into lined cupcake pan (I used mini and it made 24 cupcakes), and bake in middle of oven for 25 minutes.
Cool cake completely before frosting with coconut cream whipped cream a.k.a vegan cool whip. Dust with cocoa powder or sprinkle with toasted coconut.