Saturday, December 1, 2012

like genies in bottles

I woke up this morning with a boy on either side of me. One had his chilly feet on my bare thighs; he leaned against a Winnie-the-Pooh as big as he is, wedged between himself and Alexi. The wind raged all night, no doubt working itself into dreams, leading the boys to our bed.

The three of them left for hockey practice before it was light. I worked at my computer. Some time later, while refilling my coffee, I saw a rainbow through the kitchen window, to the west.

We have a box of Christmas books we keep in an attic space in our garage, alongside the boxes of other holiday paraphernalia: ornaments, knick knacks, stockings and decorations. Our tangible objects that store experiences like genies in bottles: the nativity set from our trip to Peru; the life-saver Santa with the Styrofoam head made by my second grade self. The boxes labeled ‘Christmas’ are stowed behind our tent, sleeping bags, tarps, ski boots, tackle boxes, and fishing rods, so getting them down is always a production. Earlier this week, I asked Alexi to retrieve the books; heroically, he did. Last night, after reading Christmas in the Barn, a poetic account of the Christmas story, to Cal, I answered a multitude of questions about how a baby could be born outside a hospital; what they used for diapers; why Mary and Joseph were traveling to pay taxes.

This past week, the home of one of my cousins burned to the ground, and they lost everything. Furniture, dishes, computer, clothing, toys, linens, camera, books, photos, toothbrushes, stuffed animals. By some miracle, they weren't home when it happened. I had a grim conversation with my sister about it this morning, and after we hung up I remembered a question Jon Nelson once asked: what I would choose to take, if I had to flee my home suddenly, and could only bring what I could carry? I still don’t have a good answer.

Our countertops are full of ripening pears and leafy satsumas. Outside, seagulls are air surfing. Inside, it smells like toasted hazelnuts, and the boys are making music together.

Happy December.

Rocket Muffins
slightly adapted from Macrina Bakery & Café Cookbook by Leslie Mackie

I am typically not a muffin person; I usually find them too sugary and bread-y. I’d rather have a scone or a cookie if I want a sweet. These are perfect – incredibly delicious, hearty, and wholesome; barely sweet, except for the jam. You can make them without the jam topping – just serve it on the side.

¾ cup hazelnuts
¾ cup all-purpose unbleached flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour (I use white whole wheat)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups rolled oats
3 medium carrots, grated
1 medium ripe banana, mashed or pureed
2 eggs
½ cup canola oil
½ cup molasses
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup raspberry preserves (or other favorite preserves)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Brush the insides of a 12 capacity muffin tin with canola oil, or lightly coat with cooking spray.

Place the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool, then remove as much of the loose skins as possible by rubbing the nuts between the palms of your hands. Chop the nuts medium-fine and set them aside. Increase the oven temperature to 375F.

Sift the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Add the oats, chopped hazelnuts, and grated carrots. Toss with your hands until the ingredients are combined.

In a separate medium bowl, combine the banana, eggs, canola oil, molasses, and buttermilk. Mix fully with a whisk. Add mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir just until the batter comes together, taking care not to overmix. It will be very thick.

Scoop the batter into the oiled muffin tins, filling them to the top. Bake on the center rack of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the tops are deep brown. Let cool for 10 minutes, then dent each muffin with a spoon and top with a dollop of raspberry preserves. Slide a fork down the side of each muffin and gently lift it from the pan.

Yield: 12 muffins


Purple Flowers said...

I love your blog.

Diane said...

happy december to you too! a beautiful post,,,,love the words "genies in a bottle" and so sorry for your cousin's losses

Allison said...

Hoo boy that's such an awful thing to have happen. I think I would grab my external hard drive and my wedding ring. Now that you've made me think about this, perhaps I should pay for a cloud backup service. That would be one less thing to grab. Beautiful post as always. Thanks for writing.

Lecia said...

Purple Flowers: thank you. xo

Diane: thank you so much. I'll pass on your thoughts to my cousin.

Allison: Oddly, my cousin didn't happen to have her wedding ring on during the fire; it was ruined, along with other jewelry....

Boo's Mom said...

We had to leave our home (and came back to it with everything inside just fine and lots of ash and soot on the outside.) I had a little time to think and grabbed quilts and cross-stitch items created by my sister and me and the chair I rocked my baby in. That's it! (Well, of course, the husband, dogs and cat came, too.) I think I would take the same things next time, but add the computer hard drive! Our neighbors lost everything in that same fire. It was devastating, but they continue to say, eight years and several vacations together with us later, that without the fire, they would never have moved to our neighborhood and become friends with us. I hope your cousin has something lovely like a new friendship in his/her future although I'm sure it is very difficult to imagine that right now.

Emily said...

I'm so sorry to hear this sad news of your cousin Lecia and my thought are with them. Thank you for your wonderful photos and the light your blog brings all year but especially in winter. I always find so much to inspire me here. These muffins look amazing.

KPiep said...

I'm so sorry abut your cousin's home. That's truly awful, and I will include them in my prayers.

Most of our special Christmas things have stayed in their boxes this year. With everything going on we didn't have the energy for more than the tree. It's enough.

Lecia said...

Boo's Mom, Emily, Kristin: thank you. xo

And Kristin: yes - sometimes a little goes a long way.