Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes with My Daughter

My daughter came home from school the other day with tears in her eyes. The sting of not being included in a much anticipated play-date with a good friend was almost more than she could bear and she flopped on the sofa and covered her head with her hands. I’ll admit that I was tempted to ply her with reassurances like “you can invite someone else over to our house” or “I’m sure you’ll be invited next time” or “you’ll be fine” but instead I just gave her a moment to wallow in her sadness.

sad girl

I am following the author Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook (Eat, Pray, Love & The Signature of All Things) and she recently posted a wonderful article about accepting negative feelings. She was specifically focusing on betrayal but her thoughts are relevant to any difficult emotions. She discusses her initial desire to convince herself to simply buck up and LET GO of negativity but then she offers a different approach:

“But what I’ve been trying to do lately   — whenever I experience feelings of sadness, anger, resentment — is to just say to myself this word: “Freedom.”  I will say to myself, “Freedom to feel anger,” and just let it be anger. I will say, “Freedom to feel sorrow,” and just let the sorrow be. “I will say, “Freedom to regret,” and let the regret run its course. And ultimately, I will say, “FREEDOM TO PROCESS,” and just accept that all these difficult feelings are part of the natural human process for handling complicated emotional encounters.

When I allow myself that freedom to just feel whatever I am feeling, the walls of the cage seem to fall away. I still experience the anger, the sadness, the regret — but if I keep repeating, “Freedom to feel…Freedom to process…” it all seems to pass more quickly, and Judging Liz doesn’t escalate the whole situation into something worse, which is World War III inside my brain. 

In other words, I am learning to let things go by just letting myself be a normal human being — not by beating myself over the head anymore with the message that YOU HAVE TO LET IT GO, DAMNIT!!!!!  And somehow, curiously, that lets it go…” Elizabeth Gilbert

So what was a mom to do? After giving her a respectful amount of time to deal with her feelings I asked my daughter if she’d like to join me in the kitchen for some cupcake making. And no I don’t believe in soothing every wound with sweets but on this particular day I thought the time spent in the kitchen would remind her of how much fun she could occasionally have with her boring old mother.

And you know what? I no time at all we were giggling and stirring and commiserating about how annoying it is to bake when a 3-year-old pulls his chair up to the island and offers to “help” out. I stepped out of the way and let her do all of the work (including making a giant mess filling the cupcake tray) and I could see how proud she was of herself when I pulled the finished cakes out of the oven.

I guess my point in sharing this with you is twofold: first of all – remember to allow yourself and your children the time and space to feel and accept a whole range of emotions without always stepping in to rescue or reassure. And second – never underestimate the power of a good cupcake!

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes

cupcakes

2 cups flour (regular or gluten-free)* if using GF flour – add 1 tsp xanthum gum
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup of organic sugar
1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup safflower oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
Icing and sprinkles of choice (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and stir to combine. Blend with a stand mixer or hand mixer on low until combined and then on medium for 1-2 minutes until lumps disappear – scraping sides often with a spatula.

Line 12 muffin tins with paper cupcake liners. Fill liners with batter until 2/3 full. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan and then remove and top with icing of choice. (Easy icing recipe: 1/3 cup organic butter or vegan margarine melted combined with 3  cups powdered sugar and 4-5 tbsp. water).

Enjoy!

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Family Day Busy-ness

family day snowman

Sometime over the past couple of years we’ve become one of those families who are always “busy”. You know the ones – kids in a zillion different activities, weekends filled with tournaments, birthday parties and dance competitions, evenings booked up with classes and sports, too many work commitments and business travel plans, scheduled volunteering and school work….and it all adds up to simply not enough quality time for family and friends.

I’m not exactly sure how this has evolved and I take full responsibility for how it has played out but that doesn’t mean I like the way our calendar looks all covered in red, blue and black inked-in engagements. Don’t get me wrong – I fully appreciate the value of extracurriculars, team sports and group activities. But sometimes I wonder if it’s all too much. And it has certainly taken over a lot of our family time as my husband and I often head off in different directions chauffering the kids to their various commitments.

As the Family Day long weekend approached I looked at the calendar and sighed. 2 soccer practices, a hockey game, a dance class, my workout and one birthday party. I know, I know, being part of a group is a responsibility and the whole team is counting on each member to show up and perform. And I seriously considered all of the options before making a snap decision to play hooky this weekend, hop in the car on Friday morning with my hubby and the kids and head to my parent’s cottage in the 1000 Islands.

I can honestly say that I had a few pangs of guilt as we headed east thinking about the things we were bailing on but as soon as we pulled in to the cottage and the kids bundled up and headed outside to make a snowman, skate on the ice and toboggan down the snowy hills I knew I had made the right decision.

family day kk

And I had a full-on “aha” moment this weekend. It was somewhere between slipping across the frozen St. Lawrence with my whole family while the sun shone down over the ice and sitting in the hot tub together in -11 degree weather that it hit me – THIS IS REALLY WHAT MATTERS! Not the schlepping to the rink or the dance studio or even the next sleepover party but this time together with loved ones without the worry and stress of any pressing commitments or demands on our time. We could simply BE. Be a family. Be together. And be genuinely happy.You could practically see our shoulders drop, our worry lines fade away and the genuine and relaxed smiles appear on all of our faces.

family day kaden hockey

Yes – with 12 people (including 6 kids) and 2 dogs all crammed into a 2 bedroom cottage we certainly had a few moments of tension, a couple of disagreements, some noisy and boisterous mealtimes and one puppy poop on the kitchen floor. But overall it was a weekend of laughter, outdoor fun, card playing and good food. And there wasn’t a freakin’ soccer practice in sight ; )

So what will I take away from this Family Day weekend? I’m going to remember to hit “pause” now and then to stop and consider if being so dang busy is really the very best thing I can do for myself and my family. The next time I feel myself angsting over a hockey practice or dance lesson conflicting with an opportunity for a little family getaway or a visit from relatives or a chance to spend some quality time with family and friends, I’m going to put it into perspective and choose the option that is best for my child and not always what is best for their team.

You can bet my kids won’t look back over their childhood and remember the countless hours spent at soccer, hockey or dance practices but I’m 100% sure they will fondly remember laughing hysterically while running across the snow in their bare feet to get to the hot tub, heading out to the dump with their grandpa with a side trip to the convenience store for a treat, playing hide and seek in the cottage, clearing off a homemade hockey rink in the middle of the frozen river, getting trapped in an arm-lock by their super-strong grandma and sliding down the icy hills on magic saucers while holding hands with their cousins.

family day hot tub

Happy Family Day! I hope you were able to pause and enjoy some committment-free family time!