Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Blood Orange Cardamom Muffins

With Spring comes something new.  Something fresh and beautiful.  Flowers, lambs, a lot of babies, and for me, a brand new way to bake.  You may question my linking these things together, but in my life, my baking is one of the central elements  When something comes along and makes that baking better and more efficient, well sister, that's a beautiful thing!   Shauna, of glutenfreegirl  fame, has organized a movement among bloggers to start baking using a scale as opposed to measuring by volume.  It is called The Gluten Free Ratio Rally.  Serious and professional bakers (and I'm pretty sure Europeans) have always used scales.  I started using a scale about a year ago, off and on, but kept measuring for the blog.  I just wanted to make sure that readers would find my recipes user-friendly.  Now, however, I tend to feel as if I am doing you all a disservice in not printing my recipes the way that I create them; using the trusty scale.

There is a solid and quite obvious reason one should weigh her ingredients.  It's more precise.  If you are a baker then  you understand how important precision is to the outcome of your creation.  When you weigh them out there is less of a chance that you have scooped out the brown rice flour or the sugar differently than the person who created the recipe you are following.  He or she may have poured the flour into the measuring cup whereas you might drag the cup sideways to fill it up.  These differences matter.  They matter quite a bit.  Plus, when you use a scale you cut down on the mess and the clean-up.

However, the most important reason to join us in this revolution is how liberated you will feel.  It's like someone literally gave you the formulas for anything you want to bake and said  "Go for it!".  You create the flavor combination you think would be fabulous, follow the base of the ratio for that item, tweak it as you see fit, and Voila'!  You've just written a recipe.  How does it feel?  Pretty cool, huh?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Rugelach..Finally!

When life gets in the way of my blog, it really gets in the way!  I had said in my last post that I would have the improved version of the Rugelach I was working on posted the next day...didn't happen!  I did tweak and improve the pastry dough the next day like I  had anticipated, but I just haven't had the chance to get it into a post!  At first my health threw me for a loop for a while and then my beautiful mom came to visit.  She's still here, but bless her, she's taking a nap!  So, without further delay, here is the Gluten- and Dairy-Free Rugelach that some of you have been patiently waiting for.  Thank you for your continued understanding, btw!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Rugelach...1st Attempt!

Yesterday was a bubble day.  It was warm and these warm days are so sporadic during our Spring, so what to do?  We celebrate with bubbles.  I saw a kind of  dumb movie on cable the other day, "Knocked  Up" and even though it was dumb, I watched the entire thing.  It was perfect in that I could turn off my brain and just chill.  The movie did have some funny parts though and a few poignant lines.  One of the characters had a beautiful one.  He said, as his daughter blew bubbles in the park, "I wish I loved anything as much as kids love bubbles."  You see, that's the beauty of the simple movie genre.  Sometimes a line will come out of nowhere and  knock you sideways.  That line just moved me.  I appreciate the simplicity of it.  I guess I responded to it so much because it's patently true.  As adults we get so sidetracked with responsibilities and chasing whatever keeps us up with the Jones', that we forget the loveliness of the little things. Like bubbles.  Or my little sweetness Quinn,  smiley and  punch-drunk from the fun of blowing her bubbles.

 Today's weather, as I could have predicted, wasn't as warm.  So, it was a balloon day.  Inside.  Quinn was just as engaged, just as giggly and just as happy.  It was a good day.  Only made better by a classic cookie.  Rugelach. I realize this cookie is made a lot around the holidays, but I just wanted to try it.  To put together a gluten- and dairy-free version of Rugelach was my mission this afternoon.  After the balloons, before the making of dinner.

I love this cookie especially for the cream cheese in the dough.  It gives it a sweetness and a subtle creaminess  that I just dig.  I must admit however, that my first attempt was tasty, but I am very unhappy about this very crust that I love so much.  When I rolled it out it kept splitting and tearing.  I think I used too much fat.  Or maybe too little.  I must investigate.  This is the result...

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Rugelach
They actually taste really good.  In fact, a reliable indicator of their tastiness is what Isaiah, my 6-year-old, exclaimed.  He said, in his most I-want-more-cookies-see-how-cute-I-am voice, "Mommy, I must say, I just love your cookies!"  What a kid, huh?  He gets very verbose when he wants something.  Especially something sweet.  But, I am not satisfied with the crust, so I will be working on it tomorrow and post the recipe then.  It's worth the wait.  Remember, Gluten- and Dairy-Free Rugelach is perfect for a Spring treat.  Why wait for the holidays?!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Carrot Cake...An Easter Tradition

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Carrot Cake
 I love Spring.  I really feel lighter on my feet and happier in my heart when the weather is nice.  Why is that ?  I should be steady.  Able to go with the flow, as the saying goes.  But, my moods seem to be intricately connected to the weather.  The flux of weather in Colorado makes me crazy.  Seriously.  Crazy.  It changes enough to keep you guessing about what it will be like on Easter.  It is not at all unusual for it to snow.  But, when it does snow on Easter, we all still wake up, look at each other, baffled,  and talk about how crazy it is that it snowed.  Actually,  I think it snowed last Easter.  I remember not being able to hide the Easter baskets outside in the backyard due to the damned snow on the ground.  I had to go to Plan B.  I hide them somewhere inside the house and each of my kids hunt around for their basket.  Oscar and Elliot are getting older, however,  and don't find that "necessary", according to Elliot.  If I have to use Plan B this year he suggested I just leave their baskets next to their beds.  Ouch.  A stab to your mother's heart, young man!  Oh, well.  Time, it goes a marchin' doesn't it?  They are getting older and I am going  to start lying about my age!  That's life. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Cinnamon Rolls ...Spring Has Sprung!

I think Spring is trying to poke its head through this winter's stranglehold.  It's been a rough one.  Earlier, I heard a flock of geese honking (is it flock? I don't know.)   It  was such a great sound.  Today is beautiful and makes me feel that feeling.  Do you know the one?  That feeling of anticipation you get when you feel that familiar heat on your skin and you smell that crisp, fresh air.  You feel that happiness and a cool anticipation for the warmer weather that promises to come.  I feel good.  Moods out there are more cordial, including mine.  People around me in public have a brightness in their faces and a calmness about their presence.  They must  feel it too.   Ahhh, Spring.  In  Colorado it can be sketchy at its best and blustery at its worst.  But, right now, today, it's warm and cozy.  Full of possibilities. 

We need cinnamon rolls.  Plus, this weather is making me feel nostalgic.  In my last post I wrote about Jennie Mae, Andy's beloved grandma, and her amazing pound cake that inspired my Gluten- and Dairy-Free Prune Pound Cake.  Today, I am thinking about my own maternal grandma, Helen.  God, I loved her.  She and I were very close.  I am the only girl out of four boys, so that might have had something to do with it.  Whatever.  We were close and when she died it felt as if a part of me died too.  I was just 12-years-old, but I've always been an "old soul" and some may say a bit dramatic.  Maybe so, but it's not as if I threw my arm over my forehead and wailed "Oh woe-is-me!"  But, I was devastated.  She made me feel so special for just existing.  Her absence felt enormous and took a wild emotional toll on my mother, her daughter,  and even myself  for many years after her death.  Even now, when I am feeling vulnerable, emotionally  exposed, or even happy, I miss her.  I long to just hold her hand.

Grandma taught me many things.  How to hang the laundry on the line.   How to play cards.  I was actually learning from one of the best.  She played in tournaments all over the state. I also love remembering her and her ladies playing Bridge, drinking coffee and chain-smoking cigarettes around her kitchen table.  A lovely image, right?  But, it was.  To me.  She had so many friends and she worked so hard.  I would watch her baking loaves of bread and pans of cinnamon rolls each and every week.  She never missed a week as far as anyone knows.  That's dedication.  I bake bread every week as well, but sometimes if I'm not feeling up to the task, I skip it and go buy those disgusting loaves from the store.  Oh the shame...But, my little grandma didn't miss.  It wasn't an option in her mind, I guess.

So with the newness and possibilities of Spring sprouting around us,  I'm feeling  Grandma's spirit alive and well.  I'm wanting to hold her hand and go for a walk.  I want to bake with her.  She would have been so confused by this gluten and dairy free business, but she would have set herself to clattering around in the kitchen right alongside me,  learning.  And laughing.  I just know it.

Here, with this recipe,  I've been inspired by her cinnamon roll recipe and tweaked it to make it deliciously and safely gluten- and dairy-free.  This recipe makes eight,  nice-sized sweet rolls.  Please don't be put off by the number of ingredients for the dough.  I found, after several different combinations and trying to use just one gluten-free flour and one starch, that it just didn't have that elasticity that you want for a cinnamon roll.  You want it to hold its spiral shape of goodness.  It's the combination of these flours and starches that creates the magic!  Trust...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Prune Pound Cake Revisited...SS and GF!

Today I finally joined the Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays @ simplysugarandglutenfree .  There are some incredible recipes over there.  Amy also has a new cookbook of the same name.  Can't wait to get my hands on it!  Tomorrow version of my Grandma Helen's Cinnamon Rolls!  Yum!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blog Love and Immunity Boosting Continued...

Man, there are some great blogs out there.  I mean it.  Being such a novice at all the tweaks and tricks for styling out your blog space, I feel like such a goof.  I can only persist and continue to create my recipes, study how to "pimp my blog" and maybe I'll get to the level of those I admire so much.

Blogs cover the gamut of subjects unlike any  other socially collective publications.   I drift toward, no surprise here, to the gluten and/or  dairy free blogs.   I aspire to be as relevant  as one like  It's unquestionably my  favorite for many different reasons.  Mostly I am totally in love with the way she writes.  Karina Allrich is gifted and she has garnered the attention she deserves.  Her recipes are inspired and therefore, she inspires me to be a better baker.  Another favorite,, was actually the first blog I discovered after changing the trajectory of my family's life with food.  I devoured each and every post for the longest time.  I didn't search for other blogs or even think any could come close to Shauna James' brilliance.  I bought her memoir, Gluten Free Girl: How I Found The Food That Loves Me Back as soon as I knew it existed and  I read it  cover to cover in about three sittings.  She is such an amazing story teller. I also pre-ordered the cookbook she wrote with her husband, Gluten Free Girl and The Chef.  The stories in the book were absolute page turners.   Also,  I started following the career of Silvana Nardone, dishtoweldiaries, when she was the editor-in-chief for Everyday with Rachel Ray and she would contribute the column called "No Recipe Zone".  I was hooked. ( I found out about her blog much, much later.)  Ms. Nardone is so accomplished,  her biography reads like a life I would create for myself if I had a do-over.  She inspires me and makes me feel envious, if I am being completely honest.   I was astonished when her cookbook,  Cooking for Isaiah  came out.  I bought it immediately and absolutely loved  it!  How could I not?  The recipes are incredibly straight-forward and the ultimate family friendly-fare.  Plus, her son's name is Isaiah,  just like mine, and seeing that name in print (connected to a gluten-  and dairy- free cookbook) made my heart thump a little louder.  It was destiny.

Gluten- and Dairy-Free Prune Pound Cake

Monday, March 7, 2011

Uncovering an Illness

Saying I have started a blog is a weird. 

The high-tech, world-wide-web community has been mocking me from afar.  Mocking my shyness.  Oh, I was aware of the advantages in joining the blogosphere; the networking,  the trading of information, conversing with people I would never run into in my regular life but,  I needed to overcome a major  obstacle first...myself.

I  had a lot of excuses running up to the  moment I posted my first blog.  I don't have the time, who could ever give a damn what I have to say, and let us not forget the biggest obstacle, my insecurity.  I can be very, very shy and unwilling to take a step into the discussion pool.  But, I became increasingly more hungry to write.  Write, not just for myself, as I have done for years, but to write in a place where maybe someone out there would read my words and react in some way.  Maybe.  Not only did I intend to write some commentary about my absurd and happy  life, but also to illustrate that a diagnosis of Celiac Disease for one of your children is not the end of Bake Sale treats or birthday cupcakes for the whole class.  Life moves on and in some ways the  sweetness of the "safe" treats is greater because they aren't making your kid sick anymore.  This is the story of how I discovered a very sick little  boy's illness without the initial help of doctors.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Nothing to See Here and Sweet Potato Cookies

I pride myself on being in control of the blathering I do about my children.  We all know those women who talk of their perfect kids, perfect husband, perfect home in the perfect neighborhood.  Yuck.  The fact is that these are perfect lies.  Nobody lives inside  a Christmas card, for god's sake.  I once knew a woman who talked about her "doctor" husband and blond-headed children just above an audible whisper.   I secretly suspected she kept this impossible  volume because to raise it might break the spell she had  created for herself.  The fact is he wasn't a "doctor" in the traditional sense.  He was a "chiropractor".  I know they are called Dr.Whatever, but it was all just so...gimme a break, ya know?  Anyway, she was the queen of one-up-manship.  If my first born, Oscar, had spoken  sentences at an early age (he did, full sentences by his 1st birthday!), then her first born daughter spoke even earlier.  You get the picture.  This is the type of behavior that has always driven me nuts.  If you're married you know at some point the proverbial honeymoon is over. Things start to get sloppy.  Which  is a good thing in my estimation. After all, that's when the tender meat of marriage begins to marinate and the flavor really begins to  develop.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Chocolate Cake Makes the Blues More of a Gray

I fell out of writing the blog for a while. To be perfectly honest, I fell into a funk of interesting proportions. The kind that leaves you somewhat comatose and mentally listless. Why? Well, I'm sick. The doctors said Fibromyalgia initially, but landed on MS ultimately. I have, thus far, refused to lay down and just be the sick girl. (Yes, I said girl. I don't ever see a situation where I wouldn't consider myself a girl. Insert playful, impish My ego won't allow it. I am embarrassed by the woeful looks I get once and a while by the people around me who know my condition. I don't like it. Not at all. In fact, I get a bit angry. Even though I know it is all well-meaning and stemming from their love for me, I just don't want to be physically vulnerable, ever.  But, I'm tired.  I'm tired of the constant pain.  It's enough already.  Why can't this be enough already?
During this time I felt defeated.  Depleted.  Sad.  There's no way to effectively describe  depression to someone who has never experienced it before.   If you've never felt that sinking, hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach, you just won't get it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Did I Just Call Her "Dude" ?

I love Saturdays. It's a baking day for Mommy and everybody knows it. Oh, I'll get the kids to their various activities; Taekwan-do, drama, guitar, the mall (Not really an activity, Oscar!), but for the most part, since the hubs is home, everyone has grown to accept that I will be creating recipes, "doin' my thang" on Saturdays. Sometimes Sunday too if I can get away with it. I love my baking! Truth be told, I think our four kids enjoy the fact that their mom is always in the kitchen baking.

I remember coming home from a hard day of junior high school, for example, and if my mom had been baking that day the smell right behind my opening of the front door was the giveaway. Something just set my mind at peace with that smell. It really could be anything...chocolate chip cookies (even though, yikes, I'm not a fan of chocolate!), brownies, apple pie for after dinner, you know, the old standbys. Those were what we got in our household and nobody minded a bit! Homemade is homemade goodness, organic love.

 So, the kids and my man know to just give me some room on Saturdays. Except Quinn. She's our three-year-old. Six-feet of attitude stuffed into a 3-foot sack! For real. She's mostly a bundle of snuggles, but DO NOT say "no" to her! She has a long memory and if she wants something or wants to do something, she will turn on the siren. If you hold your ground, she will turn UP the siren. Like a friend of ours said, "She's got stamina." That she does. This morning is a good example of "Baby Quinn's" persistence.

I had big plans for some amazing looking figs I came across at Whole Foods. I felt as if I needed to update the Crisp. You know. The crisp with the soft, sweet underbelly and the topping made of crispy goodness. More on that in a moment. Back to Quinn... She was determined to "help" me in the kitchen.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Doorstop Disasters and Lunchbox Successes

Each time I try to come up with a new gluten free/dairy free recipe I am confronted with the very real posibility that it will fail. Even three years into this adventure of gluten free baking, I fail miserably sometimes. The other day I was working on a new bread recipe and I knew before the dough was even through the mixing stage that it wasn't going to work. It had a consistency of gritty, lumpy cement. So, I threw it out amidst pointed questions from my husband about why didn't I just try to bake it. See how it turns out. After all, I worked so hard on it and isn't that stuff expensive? Well, sometimes you just know. That dough was only going to make a super doorstop. No thanks. I could take no more humiliation that night. So, I put it where it belonged...the trash.
I wish I could tell you that I just moved on and tried the next day with spirits raised and a spring in my step, as they say. Nope. I was embarassed and felt dejected. It took me a solid week or so, to try my new bread recipe again with some tweaks and adjustments. I'm pretty satisfied with it at this point. I'll get it into the post at a later date. BTdubs...I have been using a fabulous recipe from the book Gluten-Free Baking With the Culinary Institute of America.This book rocks! I've learned so much and I am constantly referencing it for my own recipes. It even looks liked a well-loved book. All dog-eared and stained...I love it! But, I digress... My point is this...You are going to make mistakes. You will get frustrated from time to time. You may even put away your measuring cups and your Kitchen Aid (I covered mine up with a kitchen towel once for a week. I felt it was taunting me.) until you can breathe without feeling like you're choking on your failure. Gluten free and dairy free baking is loaded with small nuances that bring with it a steep learning curve. Rest your nerves on this however; with each goof or utter failure, comes a lesson learned or a chemical reaction uncovered. I suggest keeping good notes on each of your baking experiments That way you will have a reference point that is in your own words and therefore easy for you to quickly understand. I have a notebook filled with different outcomes on various baking trials. On the cover I have written in bold black Sharpie, something Spongebob said to his snail Garry when he refused to take a bath. It says, "You have duped and/or frustrated me for the last time!" It reminds me that all of the challenges we face with gluten-free baking are really opportunities for improvement and successes. (Plus, it makes me laugh. Spongebob is HUGE in our house! We're not alone, are we?)
If you want to improve and increase your collection of go-to recipes, you have to make sure that you don't give up. That you get yourself back into the kitchen and try, try again. Give ourself plenty of opportunities to fall flat on your face and conversely to open up that oven and know your family will be smiling and asking for more, please! Success! The other day I was inspired to create an Almond Butter and Jelly Muffin. Oh how kids love peanut butter and jelly in all its forms. So, since my 6-year-old Isaiah is allergic to peanuts, we use Almond Butter. I think I might try to make my own because dang, it's expensive. At least the variety that doesn't require you to spend twenty minutes mixing the deep layer of oil sitting on top into the rest of the glop, is expensive. But, I splurged for this recipe. You know guys, just feel free to use peanut butter if you're able or really any nut butter that makes your kids lips smack the happiest.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Keep Dancing, Aunt Marian

I have a really amazing memory of Aunt Marian. She's got an oversized straw cowboy hat cocked on her head and she's kicking her heels up (literally), dancing in the streets of Ennis, MT. It must have been the

Fourth of July. People used to dance in the street to country music on The Fourth of July in Ennis. She's smiling, drink in hand, just dancing...

Yesterday, Aunt Marian died. To the very end, Aunt Marian was comforting others. Through what must have been a powerful Morphine haze, she stroked her best friend's back and comforted her, whispering, "Don't cry." Incredible. This woman is incredible. "Was" incredible. That feels weird.

Roughly 18 hours after one life drifted to an end, as is the way of the universe, another life began. My niece, Rachel, came screaming into the world weighing 8 lbs 10 oz. Welcome sweet angel. You are bound to be an amazing woman. I wonder how you will feel about dancing...hmm.

So, there it is. The life cycle illustrated larger than life in one family, two different states. Goodbye, Marian. Your impact to those people in who's life yours interceded will not be forgotten. Your life meant something and that something was real and lasting. (Insert Marian) winking, here!)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pre-Menstural Aggression and Ahhhh...Raspberry Bars

When I woke up this morning nose-to-nose with Quinn, my 3 year old, and her mildly funky breath,  my first thought was what a lucky lady I am. I  have 4 kids who bring into the fold of this family very individual, and dare I say it, "dynamic" personalities and I am madly in love with each and every one of them.  But, as the morning progressed through our tried-and-true routines, I started to feel...the break.

I have a lot on my mind after all. My Aunt Marian continues to struggle every day and part of my brain has been twisted and transported to her space.  I have to "stay" there as long as she is  here.  It's the right thing to do.

Although a little shaky and feeling the ever so slight buzz just under the surface of my skin, I was able to get the kids to school without snapping completely.  However, it was coming.  There really is no way to stop it.  I just have to get myself into a locked room by myself and try to handle it.  Fellow Mommies, you know of what I speak, don't 'cha?  Unfortunately, this meltdown was happening too fast, but I didn't know why. What was happening? Why did the thought of how much my kids mean to me send me into an emotional tailspin?  Why do I love my husband so much that I couldn't possibly be the wife he deserves? And why did I feel the need to tell him? Every rambling, jagged part of what I was thinking?  I mean really. Isn't it better to keep the crazy to ourselves?  My husband was not able to escape the brunt of my neurosis, unfortunately. My mind was just moving too fast, my tears were flowing at an embarrassing rate and I was sure that if my husband left this morning we would never see him again.

Then I looked at the calendar.  Sure enough PMS has arrived and boy is she pissed! Andy, my ever-so-patient man, humbly reminded  me that this happens every month.  And, my god, he's right!  Every 28 days I lose it.  The "it " I speak of is that PMS-time when a lot of women experience what can only be described in my life anyway, as a total annihilation of my sensibilities and general kindness to the human race.

This morning, however , I found my crutch. You probably understand the feeling. When I start baking I am thoughtfully moving myself into a space of meditation, into a time of blissful peace  Without my mom here to comfort me and bring me a heating pad, I settled on the idea of her Raspberry Bars.  She used to make them a lot and they always brought peace into whatever was going on in my teen aged, drama-filled life.  So I set myself up to recreate these squares of comfort, but in a way that my family could eat them and stay safe.

No gluten.  No dairy.

The sweet center of these bars could, theoretically be any flavor preserves that floats your boat.  I like raspberry because it reminds me of my mom.  That and I would like my kids to have that same feeling of comfort when they come home from school today.  And this day, in particular, I can take no chances!

On that note, these make an excellent lunchbox snack as they keep very well in a sandwich bag. 

                                    Raspberry Bars

1 1/2  sticks Earth Balance, softened
1 C brown sugar
1 1/4  C brown rice flour
1/4 C potato starch
1/4 tsp xanthan gum 
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 certified GF oats
1, 10-oz jar organic red raspberry preserves
     Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (375 degrees F if you are in high altitude, as I am, in Colorado).   

     Grease an 11"x 9" baking pan with Earth Balance or a GF cooking spray.

     Whisk together GF flour blend, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda until well blended. Add the oats and mix.  Set aside.

     Cream Earth Balance until white.  Add brown sugar and continue creaming until the mixture is fluffy.        
     Slowly add the dry ingredients mixture and blend until a crumble is created.

     Press half of the crumble mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Dump the preserves into a bowl 
     and give it a good stir.  (This makes it easier to spread.)  Then spread it onto the pressed crumble.  Next,
     sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture over the preserves.

     Place in the middle of the 350 degree oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the edges are browned and
     the middle is set.
     Take out of oven and place on a cooling rack until completely cool.  Cut into desired shapes (Valentines 
     Day surprise lunchbox treat anyone?). 

So, another period has begun for yours truly and another disastrous day was averted thanks to my love and passion for baking. Not to mention a husband that was obviously created just for me!  Let me know how baking and/or cooking has filtered into your life and made it something better than it was to begin with.  I'd love to hear from you.

Until Next Time,


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Danna, Aunt Marian Has Lung Cancer"

Oh, I have plans.

 Starting this blog has been a painstaking challenge.  I have ideas, recipes, stories, pictures of successful baking as well as not so successful baking, as is the norm in gluten free baking.  But, before I can do all of that I need to write about her.  And in the spirit of the immediacy of blogging I am just going to write about her.  My Aunt Marian.  Our Aunt Marian.  All of that other crap can wait.

Aunt Marian is sick.  And so, I am sick. 

I have not seen her in literally decades.  Shes my father's brother's wife. Ahhh, Aunt Marian.  What a lady!  Let me start by taking you into her home.  I say "home" because that's what she created.  I lived in a "house" for 18 years.  My cousins, lucky bastards, lived in a "home".

As soon as you entered this place you felt almost like you could lay down in front of a fireplace and take a nap.  Like, whatever you wanted to do, you could do.  I can't remember if they even  had a fireplace, come on, it's been decades! But, I bet if you did take a nap in front of the fireplace, Aunt Marian would have given you a hug upon waking, looked at you with her soulful, understanding eyes, and asked you if she could make you some lunch.  This place was just pleasant. Its a house that makes you think of homemade cookies and big pots of stew.  Comfort.  Pure comfort.  The kitchen, not unlike a lot of our homes, was the hub of action.  I can almost picture my cousins Barbie, Wendee and Mark teasing their mom in a way that left no one in doubt of how much these three love that woman!  I am also having these sensory memories of some really amazing home cooking.  Lots of food and lots of one of my favorite sounds...Aunt Marian's laugh.  A sound that makes you feel like dancing.  A sound that will light your hair on fire.

 Every summer (for quite a few years) while my brothers and I were growing up in Montana, we would all load up in the god-forsaken Suburban and make the pilgrimage to Minnesota.  All of my relatives on my dad's side were in Minnesota.  They were all there and it was a long trip!  So, even though time seemed to stop during those summer road trips and I would think I would never get my sense of smell back, on the other side was Aunt Marian and Uncle Bob.

All I ever really wanted to do was to go to Aunt Marian and Uncle Bob's house and stay  for the duration of our visit...Aunt Marian especially, has this innate coolness about her.  Even when I was a little girl she just seemed to get it.  I don't think I ever really opened up to her, as I was too locked up in my insecure, feeling- constantly- out- of- place world to go that far.  But, I always felt an open invitation to just share with her.  I watched them all together a lot.  Man, they love each other!  I used to be most blown away by the amount of time they would spend together as a family.  Lots of camping trips, sitting around an open pit fire talking, drinking beer, laughing and just shootin' the shit.

So, while I know that Aunt Marian is hurting right now, I don't have to be there to know that she is still trying to take care of her family.  She's a fighter and I know she won't be leaving her beautiful family or her place in that house she made feel like a hug.  No, Aunt Marian is staying.  This is a blip in time, thats all.