An Unhappy Birthday

I’ve never really liked birthdays. In fact, I grew up dreading them. My mother almost always forgot the occasion. Relatives I hated swarmed in from out of town. People watching me eat meant I had to eat more. I felt I didn’t deserve any of the presents I received. The passage of time made me anxious about how little I’d accomplished. I frequently spent the day in a hospital of some sort. And then there was the cake.

The cake! Oh god, the cake! The cake was the worst part. I’d spend all year worrying about the cake, planning for the cake, calculating how many calories were in the cake, devising ways to compensate for the cake. A slice of cake had 1000 calories, right? So, if I ate nothing else that day, I could have half a slice and not gain any weight, right? Or I could eat normally and exercise for five hours to burn it off? Or I could purge it? No, that would only get rid of 30% of the calories, providing I did it properly, and I’d still have 666.66 calories in surplus. What if I restricted for two days before? Could I have a whole slice then? Or could I just have a bite? How many calories were in a bite? Or a tiny bit of the frosting? Just a lick! That was my favourite part anyway. But there would be crumbs on the frosting. How would I account for those calories? It wasn’t worth it. I just wouldn’t have any. But I would exercise extra anyway—just in case, to burn off the cake I didn’t eat.

That was my birthday every year, and it was miserable. Like many people, I used birthdays as an opportunity to beat myself up, to get down on myself for all the things I hadn’t done, for everything that I wasn’t. The event emphasised my biggest insecurities—failure and fatness—and I spent the holiday punishing myself for my ‘obesity’ and ‘idiocy’. Needless to say, it was not much of a celebration.

It was my birthday last week, and although my circumstances were not ideal, I tried to make the best of it. I bought myself a book I wanted. I didn’t receive many other gifts, but I’m glad I have this text for my research. I attended two dance classes. They weren’t the challenging jazz ones back home at Pineapple, but they gave me an opportunity to work on my technique. I redeemed my birthday reward for a free drink at Starbucks. Maybe I ordered my hot chocolate with nonfat milk and scraped the whipped cream off in a panic, but at least I challenged my fear of liquid calories. I spent some quality time with my cat Katherine. It was sad not to be in London, but Katherine is so adorable and sweet. I stopped at my favourite bakery. My cake was delicious even though my friends were not there to share it with me. Did I have the best birthday ever? No, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I know that I’m lucky to be alive having this birthday at all.

Birthdays can be hard, I know. You don’t have to like them, and you don’t have to celebrate them. You can treat them like an ordinary day if you want to! Just please, please don’t use them as excuse to hurt yourself–mentally or physically. Acknowledge who you are and where your at. You may not be who or where you want to be, but you are someone, somewhere. I hope you can appreciate that.

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Disclaimer: This cake was from the Saturday before my birthday. I enjoyed a chocolate cake on the day itself, but the icing smudged on the bus trip back to my flat, and consequently I didn’t get any good pictures.

Recipe: Hot Cross Buns

Easter is fast approaching, and as I can’t subsist entirely on Cadbury Creme Eggs (believe me, I’ve tried), I thought I’d whip up a different holiday treat today. Here’s my take on hot cross buns:

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Ingredients:

For the buns:

  1. 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for lining and kneading
  2. 1 1/4 cup milk
  3. 2 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
  4. 1/2 cup butter, plus extra for greasing
  5. 1/6 cup apple juice
  6. 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  7.  1/3 cup raisins
  8. 1/3 cup dried sultanas
  9.  1/3 cup dried currants
  10. 2 1/4 tablespoons (roughly one sachet) self-raising yeast
  11. 1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  12. zest of two small oranges
  13. 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  14. 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  15. 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  16. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  17. 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  18. 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  19. 1/8 teaspoon all spice

For the glaze:

  1. 1 egg white, reserved from above
  2. 1 1/2 tablespoon milk

For the icing:

  1. 1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  2. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  3. 4 teaspoons milk

Preparation:

  1. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan with butter. Line with a dusting of flour.
  2. In a small bowl, consolidate the dried fruits and apple juice.  Microwave for 30 seconds, and set aside for later.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the remaining wet ingredients for the buns. Mix thoroughly with a whisk or electric mixer.
  4. In a smaller bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the buns (excluding the fruit, of course, which is stewing in the juice). Add them to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.
  5. Add in the fruit/juice mixture and beat further.
  6. Spread a light coating of flour on a sufficiently large flat surface. Knead the dough until it is soft and elastic. (This should take 5-6 minutes.)
  7. Divide the dough into ice cream scoop sized pieces, and place them in your pan (or on a baking sheet, in which case you should omit step 1 and cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper instead). Cover and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for an hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. In a small bowl, whisk together glaze ingredients. Brush the glaze over the tops of the buns immediately after removing them from the oven.
  11. Allow the buns to cool for at least 10 minutes before beginning to prepare the icing. Meanwhile, you should slice the buns, if fused together, into your desired serving portions; you can keep them in the pan to do this.
  12. For the icing, mix the two ingredients, adding in more milk as needed. Pipe icing in a cross shape on top of each bun.
  13. Serve warm.

Enjoy, and I HOP everyBUNNY has an EGGcellent Easter, filled with chocolate and hot cross PUNS. (Sorry, I had to!).

 

Cake at a Funeral

I went to a funeral yesterday. I brought cake. It was a pink cake, pink with rainbow sprinkles. I had to take the elevator so I didn’t drop it. I set it down on the table when I got there–the little table, the rectangular table, the table with all the magazines. I had to leave it there while I payed–two hundred and forty dollars, as it sat there on the New England Journal of Medicine, two hundred and forty dollars, pink on the orange and the white. I felt the urge to write on it, that pang again; I even had my paper out, but I didn’t know what to say. The door opened, front and to the left. A head poked out, and a soft voice said “Hello”; you could barely hear her–her lips moved, but her voice was barely there, a cloud, a cumulus cotton candy cloud on the stagnant sugar-wind. I stood up; that was my cue. My flip-flops thwacked the carpet as I walked towards her, and I saw my cake soar past the rose-gold chairs, up, up under the aureate lights. 

She asked me “How are you?”

I handed her the cake. 

“Is that for me?”

I nodded.

“It’s very pretty.” 

I shrugged. 

“What kind of icing is that?”

“Vanilla. Vanilla with sprinkles.”

We reached the door. She stopped. I went in first. She closed the door. We both sat down. The chairs were brown. 

“How are you?” She asked again.

That’s when I began to cry. She wasn’t going to ask me that anymore.

“Are you okay?”

Silence settled like ashes in an urn.

“Do I have to go?” I asked her. 

“You don’t have to do anything.”

I curled up into a little ball, bringing my knees to my chest. She peered across the carpet, watching as I sobbed, watching as my tears rolled down onto my knees. 

“I heard your session with Adrien was hard.” 

“It was… It’s just…”

“I know.”

“You really can read minds.”

Smiles. Silence. Sobs.

“Thank you for the cake. It’s very festive.”

I looked up. Her eyes were such a pretty blue. “It’s a cake of mourning.” I informed her. 

She laughed. It wasn’t supposed to be funny. 

“I feel like I’m going to a funeral.” I told her. “Preparing for this appointment, I felt like I was going to a funeral.”

It was her turn to nod.

“It’s like… I just…”

“I know.”

“I feel like I’m losing a parent.” 

“Yeah.”

“But, like, an actual parent. Not like when my dad died, that didn’t matter, and my mom could die now for all I care.”

She didn’t judge. I could see the sadness in her eyes; I could see my sadness; I could see the care, the compassion there. There was no judgement; no, she didn’t judge; she just listened. 

“A parent I actually care about.”

“You’ve learned to care. You’ve learned to sit with your feelings.” She was right. Always.

“I just didn’t think I’d have to say goodbye. I just expected I’d quit treatment, die, or just not care…”

“But you do.”

“But I do.”

“Is it hard to say goodbye to me?”

“No.” I wiped my nose on my sleeve. The lie was so obvious that we both laughed.

“Do you think you’re never going to see me again?”

Another wave of tears, heavier this time, a downpour, torrential like an Austin August.

“From my side, I can still answer your emails, and you can call me anytime. If you’re ever in Austin, if you ever need anything, you can come and see me.” 

I looked out the window. A bird flew by. A bus drove down a hill.

“If I don’t hear from you for a while, I’ll have to close your chart. That just means that part of our treatment is over.”

“I’ll send you copies of my books when I publish them.” I said. 

“I’d like that.”

“And when I write a goodbye letter–which I will do–I’ll mail it to you.” 

“From London?”

“You’re probably disappointed I didn’t write one.” I said, avoiding the issue. “I meant to, but I didn’t know what to say.”

“That’s okay.”

“It’s not. Adrien and Vanessa both got one.”

“It’s okay.”

I wept. My tears hit the couch this time.

“When I heard you were moving to London, my first thought was that you were running, and then I thought maybe she’s ready.”

“Am I?”

“Only you can answer that.”

“But you know everything.”

She smiled. I memorized pattern on the tissue box–white with yellow diamonds, white with yellow diamonds and blue dots. 

“Do you need a prescription from me?” She asked finally. 

“I don’t know.”

“Can you fill it there?”

“I don’t know.”

“Can you get three months’ supply here?”

“I guess.”

“That gives you a little wiggle room, time to find someone in London.”

I didn’t want to find someone in London. “According to Google, all the psychiatrists in London are old white men who specialize in serial killers.” 

She laughed. I didn’t. 

“Seriously.”

“I’m sure they’re not all old white men who focus on serial killers.”

“They are.”

She smiled and walked over to her desk. I watched. Her white skirt swished as she walked, her Toms changing the colour of the carpet. I could hear the pen scratching.

“I don’t want to go.” I whispered. 

She looked at me, her blue eyes melting. 

“I don’t want to go.” 

She handed me the prescription. I took it. 

“I’ll be here, if you change your mind.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.” A single tear rolled down her cheek.

“Thank you.” 

She didn’t say anything. She just wrapped me up in her warm arms, and held me close as we both shook with tears. 

“I’ll finish the goodbye letter.” I said, pulling away.

“I’m excited to read it.” She replied, putting her hand on the doorknob. 

“It’s time, isn’t it?”

She nodded.

I gave the office one last look, one last time, and then I stepped into the hallway with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes, because I knew I was ready, because I knew it was time to move on. London was calling, and life was waiting. So goodbye for now Dr. S, and thank you, thank you for everything. I love you so much. 

EKG Cookies

Want the perfect Valentine for the one who fixed your broken heart? Make your cardiologist these adorable EKG cookies!

Cookies:

Ingredients:

  1. 3 cups flour
  2. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. 1 cup butter
  5. 1 egg
  6. 1 teaspoon almond extract
  7. 2 tablespoons almond extract
  8. 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  9. Pinch of salt

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar.
  3. Add egg, heavy cream, and vanilla and almond extracts. Beat again.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. 
  5. Combine dry and wet ingredients. Beat.
  6. Using the largest heart cookie cutter you have, shape cookies and use a spatula to transfer them to a greased baking tray.
  7. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. 
  8. Cool cookies for 2-3 hours before decorating.

Icing:

Ingredients:

  1. 4 cups powdered sugar
  2. 1 cup water or milk
  3. Red and pink food coloring

Tools:

  1. 6 plastic bags, at least one decorating tip, food coloring, and an icing pen OR
  2. 3 plastic bags and pre-made decorating pens in your desired colors

Preparation:

  1. Deposit 1 cup of the sugar in a bowl. Add water by the tablespoon, stirring as you go, until the mixture has the consistency of toothpaste. Place the icing in a plastic bag and configure your icing pen as directed. If you have a pre-made decorating pen, you can skip this step. 
  2. Line the edges of the cookies.
  3. Dilute the icing with at least 1/6 cup of water or until syrupy. Transfer the icing to a bag, slice one corner of said bag, and flood the cookies beginning at the center.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3, adding in food coloring to both icing batches. 
  5. Allow the cookies to set over night. 
  6. Use the remaining cup of sugar to prepare and decorate as directed in step 1. Carefully adorn the cookies with various heart rhythms before giving them to your favorite doctor.

Recipe: Chocolate Tofu Pie

Tofu in pie? It sounds weird, I know, but trust me when I say it’s wonderful.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 3/4 cup chocolate wafer cookies (or chocolate graham crackers), crushed
  2. 1/3 cup coconut oil
  3. 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  4. 12.3 ounces (1 package) tofu, drained and blotted dry
  5. 1/2 cup soy milk, unsweetened preferred
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  8. 1/8 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, mash chocolate wafer cookies. Combine cookie crumbs with coconut oil and two tablespoons of cocoa powder. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch pie pan, making sure the crust is spread evenly.
  3. Bake for 18-20 minutes and then cool for at least an hour.
  4. Melt chocolate chips either atop the stove or in the microwave. If you are microwaving the chips, do so in 1/6 cup or less increments and microwave no longer than ten seconds to avoid burning. For the stovetop approach, simmer water in a sauce pan and place a metal bowl on top of it; melt the chips in said bowl, stirring often with a spatula.
  5. In a food processor or blender, combine chocolate, tofu, salt, vanilla, cocoa powder, and soy milk. Blend/pulse until thoroughly mixed. Pour into crusted pie pan.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours prior to serving. Garnish with whipped cream and berries if desired.

Recipe: Butterscotch Caramel Blondies

Do you want your whole house to smell like butterscotch? If so, try this very easy recipe for butterscotch caramel blondies!


Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup brown sugar
  2. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1 egg
  4. 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  6. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  7. 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  8. 1/2 cup butterscotch chips
  9. 1/4 cup caramel chips
  10. 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
  11. 1/8 cup caramel chips
  12. Pinch of sea salt

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix brown sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Stir these dry ingredients.
  3. Melt butter for 30 seconds in the microwave before placing it, too, in the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla extract. Whisk until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Now add the various chocolate (and chocolate-like) chips. Make sure these are distributed throughout the batter.
  5. Grease an 8×8 pan with butter or baking spray. Pour batter into the pan, ensuring it is spread evenly.
  6. Bake for 28-35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the pan’s center comes out clean.
  7. Allow blondies to cool for at least an hour before cutting into squares and serving.

Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Bread

It’s apple-tizing. (I was punning on ‘appetizing’. Maybe it makes more sense when you read it aloud?)

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup flour
  2. 1 cup brown sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  4. 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  5. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  10. 1 1/2 cups apple, peeled, cored, finely chopped
  11. 1/2 cup raisins
  12. 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda. Stir. You may need to break up brown sugar clumps with your spoon.
  3. Add the butter, eggs, and vanilla extract to a different bowl. Ensure that they are mixed before condensing the two bowls’ contents and stirring once more.
  4. Pour the apples in first, stirring the batter with your spoon as you do. Add in walnuts and raisins, making sure that all the mix-ins are distributed evenly throughout.
  5. Place batter in a greased 8×4 bread pan. Bake for 55-65 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.