NYC, There’s Something About Ya’

The Best Weekend! I told my family that, for my BIG birthday, I wanted to wake up with my loves in a place we’d never adventured together before. We discussed the pros and cons of various locations and landed on: New York City.

How does a nature-loving, bookish homebody—easily overwhelmed and edgy in crowded cities and cold weather—choose November in the Big Apple as a celebration destination?

Because: art, architecture, design, history, science, technology, culture, music, food.

Because: The Met. The Guggenheim. Central Park. The Empire State Building. The Statue of Liberty. The 9/11 Memorial. Broadway. Times Square. Rockefeller Center. The Brooklyn Bridge. Grand Central Terminal.

Because: a life well lived is all about trying new things and making memories.

Any travel adventure comes with its own set of misadventures. Ours included: an unheated and less than clean AirBnB; an Uber ride with a non-English speaking driver and the app insisting that, instead of the Statue of Liberty ferry terminal, we really must visit a dentist (tip: choose Lyft); and a reservations mix-up that meant finding a day-of one-night hotel room in Manhattan—on a budget—for five people (grateful for The Stewart Hotel across from Madison Square Gardens for making it work!).

Still, we laughed and played and explored, walking on average ten miles daily. The City may never sleep, but from personal experience, people must: we collapsed from exhaustion at the end of each long day.

On my actual birthday, we started with The Met (The Temple of Dendur—an actual Egyptian temple order by Caesar Augustus; Greek and Roman antiquities; Tiffany glass; Rodin sculptures; 19th and 20th century European paintings; something breathtaking in every direction), then strolled through Central Park (fall colors and crunchy leaves underfoot, a perfectly sunny/crisp fall day).

Next up was The Guggenheim (surprisingly different Kandinsky’s), after which Guy made reservations at Candle 79, an upscale vegan restaurant where I had the best cauliflower of my life, za’atar roasted and topped with pesto. From there we took the subway to The Empire State Building, and ended my just about perfect day with artisanal ice cream at Kaylee’s Creamery (another surprise: black sesame seed vegan ice cream—tastes like slightly salty-unusual nut butter).

I won’t bore you with site-by-site blows, but a few highlights:

Looking for a show to appeal to all of us, we saw Wicked. Making her Broadway debut, Hannah Corneau kills it as Elphaba. And we have a list of shows we’ll see when they come to the West Coast.

Carlo’s Bakery, made increasingly famous by Buddy the Cake Boss from TLC, is an easy walk from Times Square and has truly delicious (though not cheap) pastries. We had a cannoli in Little Italy that couldn’t compare.

The American Museum of Natural History does not look like the set from A Night at the Museum. And if you’ve visited some world class zoos, the stuffed animals will disappoint (I cringed as one mom, taking a picture of the White Rhinoceroses, said to her daughters: “Look, girls, White Rhinosaurs!”). But they do have a one-page movie-based guide to seeing the exhibits you expect, including the Easter Island statue. I expected this museum to be our kids’ favorite; it wasn’t.

The Met won hands down for all of us. So much so that we went back for a second visit; so glad, because we’d missed a whole section of 19th century European masters (my favorites), including Monet and Van Gogh.

For tourist sites, City Pass is the way to go. Save your money and skip the lines.

I wanted all good memories of my 50th birthday trip: mission accomplished! I’m still not a converted big city gal and, admittedly, we experienced perfect fall weather, not NYC’s  muggy-heat or frigid-cold extremes. But now that I’ve been, I get it: the Big Apple tastes sweet. NYC cast its enchantments over all of us, and I expect we’ll be back sooner than later.

Note: I unplug when I travel, so the next few days my IG feed will be filled with trip highlights. Follow me to see more: @sivricketts.

Mom-ories

Facebook keeps tossing up pictures from when Q14 was little and, now that he’s in high school, they prompt all the Big Feels. I can’t even imagine what a mess I’ll be three years from now when he’s a high school senior – sheesh!

Last Monday was a no-school day. In our family, no-school days have always meant parents take a no-work day and we enjoy a family field trip. Facebook sent me a reminder from six years ago in one of our favorite places on the planet:

Which recalled for me that we did the same thing last year on this fall no-school day.

But not this year. This year both the college and high school kids had too much homework to do. Despite the three-day weekend, they couldn’t get all the work done, and it didn’t seem to me because they’d whittled away the time frivolously.

Even Guy had stuff to do that couldn’t wait another day. So I spent the day doing my hardest, best work to not throw a mom-sized pity party. I read my Bible and wrote in my gratitude journal. I did laundry and cleaned the kitchen counters because both needed doing. I made a big batch of Cookie & Kate’s The Very Best Granola–whole almonds and pepitas, a dash of sesame seeds and unsweetened coconut tossed in as the granola cooled–to munch for breakfast and snacks throughout the week. I made our favorite bean dip for dinner, then took myself to yoga.

The kids went to the store and bought pico de gallo, chips, and guacamole, and after a post-yoga shower, we all met in the kitchen to toss together a huge taco salad. Then they insisted on watching a movie (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 2, the words to which one kid knows by heart), which we didn’t all see to the end since people were tired and Tuesday (this week’s version of Monday) was coming up hard.

I missed our family field trip, a day filled with memory-making in a beautiful NorCal location. But that evening, cozy on the couch with my favorite people, I realized we’d still accomplished my goal. We had shared time together and made a new and different memory. It might not have been as adventurous as I’d like, but it was sweet. I’ll take it!

His Mother’s Voice

[Since I don’t post when I’m away from home, this week I’m going to post some of the content I wrote while on vacation…]

Trying to wrestle three teenage boys out of the vacation house and into the vacation isn’t as easy as it should be. Because teenagers: sticky molasses-stubborn.

When they finally realized we were willing to leave them behind—that they might actually miss out on who-knows-what but something—they finally began moving. Like sloths. No matter that we were trying to catch the tail end of a coastal sunset.

Eventually two of three had shoes and sweatshirts; I asked one to tell his brother that we were all going. I meant: Tell him the rest of us are leaving. I didn’t want him to be surprised when he looked up and realized he was ‘home’ alone.

Instead, I laughed when I heard my son yell, “Hey, we’re all going! C’mon, staying here is not an option!”

Those are my words. Because vacation is about togetherness, we stick together. Although sometimes we split up guys and girls or grandma with grandsons, only rarely do we leave someone behind.

So the reluctant one sped himself up. We didn’t make it to sunset, but coastal twilight was still something. The guys hit the sand and discovered the shore littered with kelp bulbs—nature-made salty water balloons—and commenced a ridiculous kelp fight. They ran and tossed and dodged and belly laughed and hollered and shrieked and played.

As they get older, I’m trying to lighten up. If someone wants to stay behind, then someone just might miss out. I don’t want to miss out, so I’m out the door. But in this instance, my son echoing my words nudged his brother toward an experience that has already created a fun memory.

Turns out, Mom is right sometimes. And—evidence—I am the voice in his head.

Thankful Thursday – Road Trippin’ the American West

The longest road trip I remember from childhood took me to Disneyland, which seemed So Far Away, though now I have to admit that the hour-and-a-half drive from San Diego to Anaheim doesn’t truly count.

Guy’s family did real road trips: six weeks coast-to-coast in a Volkswagen Vanagon, a different route each way, every summer.

Our family has been road trippin’ since Guy and I honeymooned, driving from the Washington-Canada border to California’s central coast. We set a precedent on that trip, and most every vacation since has involved a drive (or many) of some length.

So. The Big Kid needed to get to college. With All the Stuff. And we wanted every member of our family of four to participate. Of course we drove.

We made a quick trip out, two days, because Kid needed to just get there. On the way back, we made it a vacation for Lil Bro. We made at least one fun/view stop each day, arriving home with barely enough time to pick up our farmed-out pets, do laundry, and regroup for the start of school.

The first few hours of our trip were beautiful, familiar NorCal roads. Guy and I talked. Kids wore headphones and stared at screens. Once we pulled out of Tahoe/Truckee, I realized we were in unfamiliar territory.

Before we left home, I’d done some reading. Years ago we visited Donner Memorial State Park so our kids knew that story. Our route east took us through historic landscapes, like the 40 Mile Desert, a portion of the Emigrant Trail which saw heavy traffic from 1848-1869. I read the linked article aloud as we drove, a humbling reality as we looked out our windows to the parched landscape.

What surprised me was the beauty. I hear the smack of “boring,” “desolate,” “lonely,” “bleak,” but I appreciated the changes in color and texture. I am so intrigued by the unheard stories of those who live here and there, by circumstance or choice.

Spontaneously, I began taking pictures. Hightailing it down the highway, through my spotty passenger window, click click click. The view, to me, seemed continually remarkable.

The view mesmerized me.

I know, taken via iPhone at speed through a dirty window, that these won’t be great pictures. But they help me remember how much I like road trips, and our country.

The Good Ol’ US of A may be a friggin’ hot mess. But I saw beauty as we drove, and kindness in the smiles and small talk of strangers. Beauty inspires hope. As a people, we are as diverse as our landscape. Others may see us–ahem, we may see each other–as “boring,” “desolate,” “lonely,” “bleak,” [insert your adjective here…]. But we are so much more than labels.

Fallon, NV

Lovelock, NV

Coalville, UT

Fort Bridger, WY

Hannah, WY

Idaho Springs, CO

Rangely, UT – and yes, the “highway” became a dirt road!

Talmadge, UT

Wendover, UT – The Bonneville Salt Flats/Speedway. Snapped as the minivan hit 100mph!

Truckee, CA

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Practicing Re-Creation

Today’s guest post makes me so happy, in part because I recently got to spend an evening with this friend…in person, after WAY too many years (we have spent more years not seeing each other than we were old the last time we saw each other–yikes!). And because, as long as I’ve known her, this friend has demonstrated through her daily actions how to live creatively. I have watched her practice, keep at it, create, for the years we lived nearby and on social media over the years we’ve lived far away. I can’t wait for y’all to get a glimpse of this talented artist (by the way, she was also the first person I knew who actually said “y’all” and it has stuck with me ever since).

re:create recess #10: Amy Bailey

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”― Kurt Vonnegut Jr.A Man Without a Country

When I think of re-create it conjures all sorts of deep aesthetic and art education theories and other related thoughts. Overthinking, no doubt. I am an art teacher. I facilitate creating. I feel blessed that my job is a chance to celebrate the unique and praise the process and growth in students. It’s an amazing thing to see the world from their own framework as they are influenced by nature, their interests, the limits and strengths of the supplies and art medium, art history and cultural awareness promoted in the lesson we are embarking on that given day. It’s a matter of how to be creative, how to be more unique, how to encourage creativity in others that stays with me most of my waking hours. My job is to pull creativity out of students despite their mood, what they had for breakfast and if they got a detention last period or aced a test. Yet, I make more excuses for myself about making ways and time to create.

It’s all re-creation and it’s all attempts to transform.

While I get to embrace creativity and it’s a natural part of who I am, I find it important to nurture my artistic side and battle with the challenge of making time for me when I’m not busy working and being a single parent. As an art teacher, so often I am creating art samples for my lessons at work and get these little moments to create that benefit my work and benefit me. Yet that doesn’t fulfill me as much as my own personal projects.

When I beat myself up inside that I haven’t made something big and artistic lately, destined to be posted on Instagram or mega-crafty Pinterest, I have to take a step back and reframe my feelings. Creative moments are not always about the big creative moments. They’re often little outlets in the day, from creative ways to send sweet words of love and encouragement to a new spin on a favorite recipe, a well-cropped photo on my phone, color choices to liven up my day. Then when life is most balanced, there is time for studio art production and writing a blog entry. 😉

That has to be very intentional. So how do I translate that to adult life? It should be easy, but it’s not.

What I hold to about creating is: it’s all really re-creation. Honestly, it’s all been done before.

When I am devoting myself to re-creation, those are some of the most refreshing times for me. Honoring the past by re-creating the symbols that connect the past and present for me are some of the healthiest and rewarding artistic moments I can have.

It’s never because I can make it better than the original; it’s because the original makes my life better. When I make a chalk pastel and charcoal blue jay, in no way do I make it better than the original forms in nature, but rather it connects me to a time in life that is gone. So I go back to the same subjects and draw them and paint them and print them, as a measure of preserving memories.

One of my favorite subjects to transform in art are blue jays. Losing my mother one month before my son was born left me in a helpless state away from friends and family figuring out parenthood with a spouse working eighteen-hour shifts. I had this sweet bundle to take care of and the awesomeness of that responsibility was terrifying and wonderful.

One day, I was feeling very alone as a new mother, wishing my mother was alive so I could pick up the phone and talk to her. As I cried out, I heard an awful squawk over and over again outside my window. I went to the window to find a couple of blue jays chattering right outside. In the two years of living in that duplex in downtown Denver I had never seen blue jays hanging out, nor heard them disrupt my day.

It clicked with me immediately that my bird-loving mother had this strange admiration for this grouchy, feisty variety of bird. Her bird feeder would be full of sweet and beautiful smaller birds and charming doves. She loved them all, and had this wonderful patience and love for this colorful, bold and confident bird. She collected bird figurines and spent a long time tracking down a jay. I had often wondered, because most people did not like jays enough to have one in porcelain!

So there I was with a newborn, grieving my mother, and these blue jays were calling out. I had to be bold and I had to remember I was not alone. As they squawked at me, I felt my mom was there. Now as I see blue jays flock around my house from time to time, I remember to catch my breath and know her love is with me. I must be bold and press through the challenges of my day.

It’s important for to hone in on those subjects that honor the past and celebrate the significant memories. Transforming it to keep it alive and vital in the journey.

Honoring the past and re-creating the symbols that connect the past and present for me are some of the healthiest and rewarding artistic moments I can have.

So I go back to the jays and draw them and paint them and print them as a measure of preserving my mother’s presence. The jays nag and nudge me to not dwell on what is missing and to fill life with the things that are loving. Creation, when I am most focused, re-creates feelings that call me back to times when my heart had less scars.

Amy Bailey is an artist, art teacher and proud mother of 2.

The Journey

Our minds play tricks on us. We’ve had so much fun that we think if we can just stack all the same blocks in exactly the same order, we can recreate that fabulous experience. But, the next time round, we aren’t the same people. Even if we manage to stack those same blocks in that same arrangement, the experience will not be recreated: it will necessarily be something new, and we may decide it doesn’t measure up. Perhaps we teach our children to stack their blocks just so, but they are not us, they don’t relish the experience the way we’d imagined. Other times we stack–and stack and stack–those blocks, making ourselves sick because we need to step away, turn our backs, and make something new. Creation, and recreation, may require toppling unsafe or no longer helpful structures in order to build something better. Thanks, Jessie, for leading us in your vulnerability!

re:create recess #8: Jessie Colburn

As I sit back and consider this post, I can’t help but feel a little sad. These guest posts are supposed to be about “re-creation” or “recreation” in a fun and life-giving way. It’s a way to shine a light on what’s happening in our everyday lives that’s good and silly and maybe, at times, a bit unexpected. I wish I was in a place where I could’ve written about my newfound love for hiking—a practice that makes my backpacker husband look at me with eyes of “I told you so!” muddled with “Is this for real? Does she really like this or is she humoring me?” I assure you, the love is real. Being out in nature has opened my heart and mind to God’s beauty and spirit in fresh and healing ways.

But instead, I feel compelled to share about the dysfunction of re-creating in unhealthy and damaging ways—even with the best of intentions.

Have you ever had an amazing experience—so amazing, in fact, that you’d do almost anything to experience it again? Have you ever legitimately tried for a re-do?

I have. Multiple times. And truthfully, it’s never quite worked out the way I’d planned.

I’m not talking about re-reading a book that’s brought you great joy, or re-watching a favorite movie that stirs up nostalgia and good feelings. Those instances almost always invite a do-over. When we re-read or re-watch, we’re not expecting to feel the same things we did the first time around. We aren’t surprised by events or plot twists that we now know are coming; we don’t laugh as hard at the same joke because we already know the punch line.

But the knowledge of what’s in store allows us to reframe the book or film—and look for the new amidst the familiar. I love that moment when you recognize the foreshadowing of impeding doom (or romance!) that you somehow missed the first time. Or the dramatic irony that occurs when you know that two characters will embrace for the last time (especially when they don’t know it yet). Or the feeling of inclusiveness that happens among friends when a situation outside a movie theatre demands the recitation of a famous line from a shared favorite film.

This type of do-over is near and dear to me. I relish it.

But there’s another kind of re-creation that’s altogether different.

There are some things in life that aren’t meant to be re-done. In fact, trying to re-do them almost always invites heartache.

Here’s a sort of trivial example: One summer when I was in high school, my brother, best friend, and I attended a theatre camp.

We had no idea what was waiting for us. No expectations. Extremely high hopes. As the days drew nearer, all three of us were filled with joyful anticipation and high anxiety. Who would we meet? What would we do? Would we love it? In addition to the promise of fun and laughter—we’d be away from home for a whole week. That’s right—it was sleep away camp.

Does this sound like the set-up for a Disney Channel original movie? I hope so. Because that’s basically what it was. Turns out, camp was completely magical. We laughed harder than we ever laughed. Met incredible people. Learned so much about ourselves. And—gasp!—there was even a camp crush that turned into a budding relationship by the time the week was over.

When next summer rolled around, I knew that WE HAD TO DO THIS AGAIN. “Remember last year? We need to go back!” I couldn’t fill out the application fast enough. Couldn’t put it n the mail quick enough.

So, of course, we returned. Only this time, the experience was very different. Honestly, camp that next year… was pretty disappointing. And it wasn’t the curriculum or the kids or the camp itself that was lame. It was me. (By the way, did I mention that this was an IMPROV theatre camp? The irony of trying to re-create an IMPROV experience, which, by its very nature is spontaneous, is not lost on me. But, I digress.)

My expectations were so high for the next year that there was no room for reality in the daydream I’d re-created. And as a result, the memory of the first camp experience started becoming better and better in the wake of my disappointment.

Sadly, I don’t just do this with camp experiences. Sometimes I do this with relationships. Often times, I do this with my own childhood. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to re-create experiences for my kids that I’ve remembered as “magical” or “life-changing”—only to be rebuffed and disappointed by my kids’ lack of enthusiasm.

For example, I played a lot of soccer when I was growing up. Like a lot. Like I started when I was five years old and played straight through until I was sixteen years old. NO breaks. No other sports. I played on multiple teams at the same time. I loved it. I lived and breathed it. It was my thing. And a big marker of my identity in my fledgling teen years.

I’m now in my thirties. My soccer days have long passed. But now I have little people who look like me, and obviously, they will like the same things that I like, right? Wrong.

Enter my sweet, unsuspecting three-year-old.

My older daughter had recently started gymnastics and, so, I was feeling guilty about not having an activity for my little one. (We’ll come back to the insanity that is mommy-guilt in another article.) Naturally, I signed her up for Mommy & Me soccer! What could be better? Being sporty! Active! Outside!

We went to the Sporting Goods store. We bought shin guards and cleats and a pink ball and a bunch of athletic wear. We went to our first class and… it was a complete fail.

Not only did she hate it, but the coach made a point of telling the whole class that we DON’T need cleats at this age. And he even pulled me aside after to say, “Um, sorry, but, could you not bring the pink ball next time? I have all the equipment already, and the kids’ll just fight over yours if you bring it again.”

Greeeeeeeat. Turns out I’m that mom.

So, for ten weeks, I forced her to go to this stupid class (because I was determined to bond with her over an activity that I loved in my youth). And for ten weeks, she put up with it—not because she loves me and wants me to be happy, but because we went to the coffee shop right after and she got to have cookies and chocolate milk.

I guess, in the end, it wasn’t a complete loss. Although she may hate soccer forever, in my heart of hearts, I know she enjoyed the special mommy-time. And thankfully, I’ve now learned her preferred “activity” is the park swings.

Unfortunately, it’s not always the happy times I’m anxious to re-create.

If I’m being honest, a lot of the time I re-create or re-do the hurt I’ve experienced. Do you know what this is called?

Resentment.

It’s when you hold on to feelings of being wronged or hurt (whether real or imaginary) in such a tangible way that, quite literally, you re-live your pain. Over and over.

This is not a healthy practice and I don’t recommend it. When we give resentment a foothold, it can take over our hearts and minds. Take this blog post as an example. Here was a chance to share about the things I take delight in! But my little heart has been so infected with this weed, I’m taking this precious time to talk about something so yucky. But there’s a reason for this. I’m hopeful that by sharing my experience, I can serve to enlighten others about how self-destructive this practice can be.

One of the many tricky things about resentment is that it’s often linked to unexpressed pain.

Somewhere deep inside, at least for me, I fear rejection or being disliked. Rather than expressing the truth about how I feel (or how a person has hurt me), I keep quiet. Letting the bad feelings grow. Letting my anger fester. Venting to people that aren’t those who’ve wronged me. And so the cycle continues. I carry around this bitterness—not confronting the person(s) who (in my eyes) has wronged me. And as a result, I look for additional transgressions in future interactions to bolster and justify my pain.

Much like my failed second camp experience, in essence, I continually re-live and re-do the hurt. And in my mind, it’s almost always bigger and more unfair than what actually happened. It’s like I’ve created this alternate reality that ultimately exists to fuel my anger. And for what?

Anger is so seductive. It’s one of the few emotions that lets us feel powerful and in control—when in reality, we experience the exact opposite. When anger takes hold of me, I’m its slave. There’s a flash of power, as it makes most people (especially children) stop, take notice, and try to make it stop. But all I’ve really accomplished in that moment is managing to hurt feelings… and often they belong to the people I love most.

The thing about anger and pain is that these emotions need to be recognized. Even when we stuff them down and try to keep them under wraps, they find a way of seeping out. Think about your physical pain for a moment. If you touch a hot stove and get burned, you’ll cry out! You’ll look for relief. You’ll take proper precaution next time, but you’ll also give the wound the treatment it deserves.

I think our emotional pain is similar. If we don’t acknowledge it and try to make it better, there’s no chance for real healing. In fact, the more we ignore our emotional pain—much like physical pain—the greater the risk of infection, complication, and further trauma.

So how do we break this cycle of re-doing? Of trying to capture past joy (or pain) at our own peril? Of re-creating in an unhealthy way?

Actually, I think it’s similar to how we re-do joy with books and movies. We don’t look to physically re-make the experience. That time has come and gone, for better or worse. Instead, we aim to learn from it. If we can shift our expectations, we can let our past re-shape and re-mold our present into something new amidst the familiar. We can take baby steps toward healing, and slowly watch our past pain melt away into forgiveness, reconciliation, and ultimately, redemption.

And so, I say to you—readers of the interweb, a place that feels both personal and anonymous—I am in therapy. I’m trying to learn from my past. I’m trying give myself permission to feel. To be honest with myself and those around me. There is a way to be kind and still speak your truth.

I’ll admit, I’m still learning how to speak mine. At times, I wish I could just magically be rid of this resentment. This thief in the night. This robber of joy. This sinful behavior. But the hard truth about being an adult is that sometimes you have to work for it. Even when it’s hard. Even when you don’t want to. Even when old habits feel more comfortable and “OK for now.” It’s in these times of critical self-talk and self-doubt that I remember the ancient wisdom of a well-known Chinese proverb: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

I am on a journey toward healing. Toward forgiveness… of others and myself. I will get there, in time. For I know that God, who began the good work within me, will continue his work until it is finally finished.

God’s blessings on your journey.

Jessie Colburn is wife to Chris, mom to Kate & Charlotte, and a general lover of books, friends, family, and wine (not necessarily in that order). You can usually find her on a hike with her kids, in her kitchen preparing a meal, or near the teen fiction section at her local independent book store. While most of her time is spent raising her babies, she’s also a freelance children’s book editor. Her favorite activities include laughing, eating, reading, and talking.

Meatless Monday – Ginger Stout Cake

I remember the first time I tasted real gingerbread: I was 20 years old, on a college study abroad program. Walking in the English Lake District, we stopped to warm ourselves in a bakery. Of course I’d had gingerbread before–gingerbread cookies, ginger snaps, even the bread–but I’d had nothing like this, so gingery-fierce it seemed to bite back.

I bought a postcard featuring the recipe, their specialty, and sent it to my grandma. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get the recipe to work, stumped by metric measurements and the different quality of flour available in England.

Fast forward many years to Guy and I deciding how we would combine family Christmas traditions to form new memories with our children. Thanks to my Norwegian heritage, Christmas for me has always been a two-day affair: big family dinner (fish and potatoes) on Christmas Eve + presents and more cookies than a child can dream, followed by a small family affair on Christmas morning to open more presents. Because of the tremendous effort that went into Christmas dinner, Christmas breakfast consisted of a big tin of popcorn, chocolates from family in Norway, and lots of coffee. Popcorn and chocolate weren’t gonna cut it for Guy, a breakfast traditionalist.

Cue the gingerbread memory. My kids like ginger almost as much as I do. Ginger snaps are both kids’ cookie of choice and Teen enjoys gingerbread pancakes for his December birthday breakfast. So, for most of my kids’ lifetimes, I have made gingerbread batter after they go to sleep on Christmas Eve and baked it as they wake up on Christmas Day.

All these years I’ve been making a good gingerbread, but it didn’t have that deep ginger bite that first took me by surprise. Until now. I found a recipe that looked like it might be closer to that Lake District specialty. I took a risk and tried it this Christmas, and the kids heartily agree that they prefer this version.gingerbread

Published in The New York Times, the original recipe comes from The Marrow, a NY West Village German restaurant. I have veganized, healthified, and simplified it some (do yourself a favor: use a stand mixer!). Not that it’s health food; of course it’s a treat. But instead of whipped cream I served it with homemade applesauce for a quick and delish Christmas breakfast. Guy also bought several flavors of popcorn and Christmas stockings were filled with chocolate, so we hold on to the old as we make way for the new.

Ginger Stout Cake
Serves 12

3 flax eggs (1 Tbsp flax meal & 3 Tbsp warm water per “egg”)
3 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 c stout
1 c molasses
1 ½ c white whole wheat flour
½ c whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp each ground cloves, nutmeg, allspice
¼ tsp each ground black pepper & fine sea salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c brown sugar, unpacked
½ c granulated sugar
¼ c agave syrup
¾ c safflower oil (or unsweetened applesauce)
¼ c candied ginger, chopped fine

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.

Prepare flax eggs and set aside. Grate fresh ginger (or use a veggie peeler to slice thin then rough chop).

Add the stout and molasses to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat.

Sift together the flour, ground spices, pepper, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the fresh ginger, flax eggs, vanilla, sugars, and agave on medium speed for five minutes.

Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the oil (or applesauce). Mix for another 5 minutes. Slowly add the stout mixture and mix for another 5 minutes.

Carefully add the dry ingredients in two parts, mixing well in between each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with candied ginger (it will sink and bake into the cake). Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes. Serve with non-dairy whipped cream or homemade applesauce.

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