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30 April 2009

late morning, windows open

sour cream-applesauce muffins

Sometimes, writing a food blog feels like inviting everyone into our kitchen.

We do love our kitchen, and it's much more spacious than our old one was. In the late morning, if the sun is shining, we crank open the windows next to the stove and let the warm air rush in. (Even if a giant drunken bumblebee comes stumbling in unexpectedly, and we run around the house a little scared, and a little unsure of how to usher him out.) Today, in the Seattle area, everyone probably flung open his or her windows and wanted to burst into song.

(What were you singing this morning? "Don't Stop Believing" or "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" or "Good Morning Good Morning" from The Sound of Music? Just so long as it wasn't "Good Ship Lollipop" or "It's a Small World," I think we're okay.)

It has been that long since the warm air felt good along our arms. Or that we had time to really stop and savor the smell of our skin in the sun.

We've been awfully busy around here, you see. The plates are stacked up next to the sink, waiting to be washed. Emails languish in the inbox, staring at me witheringly. (Am I the only one who feels that un-answered emails have human feelings, and talk to me in a stern voice like the imperious aunt you avoid at Christmas parties and funerals?) The boxes in one room of the house remain untouched, toppling over each other, in very real danger of never being unpacked.

And we know we're not the only ones. Spring makes everyone move faster, doesn't it? We want to clean the house and mop the floors and start exercising again. We make lists and have goals and do everything we can in one day, until we flop onto the bed exhausted, still running the list in our minds of what we didn't accomplish.

At least I have been, lately. It's really no way to live.

Today, I turned to Danny in the car, as we drove past blue water pulled away from the shore, yards of wet sand exposed. And I said what I had been thinking, "I can never accomplish in one day what I set out to do that day. Never." As soon as the words were gone, however, I wish I hadn't said them. I wish that I had suggested, "Let's stop the car. Let's take Bean out there and put her toes in the wet, and look for starfish, and let our hair grow warm in the sun." We weren't even in a hurry. But I was talking as though we were.

So before we went to the store, we stopped at the playground, and put her in the baby swing. She looked up at us in amazement, her smile cracked open wide. We pushed her on the swings, sauntered to the slide, and slung our legs over the teeter-totter with her. There was a game of peek-a-boo behind large trees, and some pulling of yellow dandelions on green grass. We didn't move out of the sun for awhile.

I'm not sure I have another story today, and that one has nothing to do with food.

* * *

A couple of days ago, I read a piece that has stayed with me, and that has been informing these days, in a kind, forgiving way. (So much of what I read on the internet, at times, is not kind and forgiving.) Andrea Scher of Superhero Designs is one of my heroes, the woman who made the necklace in which I was married, and the other one that I wore all through Little Bean's birth and those terrifying days after. Andrea is a beautiful woman.

In March, she wrote a truly moving piece, called What is Real. And life has whirled and been crammed so full that I just read it this week. She wrote so much of what I have been feeling:

"I have a lot of friends in cyberspace. I know you do too. We love them! They are like us! They are kindred spirits. They are creative, they care about what we care about. We wish they were in our hometown. Sometimes we graduate to phone friendships and these connections deepen even more. Still more rare and wonderful is when we get to meet them in person and confirm, Yes! you are real! and you are even better in real life. These are incredible blessings. "

(The other day, I realized that most of the close friends I have arrived through the internet, including my husband.)

And yet, the internet is not real. We touch each other's lives and leave indelible impressions. The community on Flickr is one of the most creative and intimate I know, and I keep going back to look at my page of favorites when my hair feels plastered to my forehead with all the running. (And looking at it again, I realize they are all photographs of peace and pause.) But I don't really know those people.

Andrea said she had gone quiet on her blog because she had been reaching out to her neighbors around her, the people whose footsteps she heard on the landings, whose dogs barked down the street. And life felt more expansive than it had when she spent all day in front of the computer.

That's what I have been thinking about ever since reading her piece. I don't really like sitting in front of the computer. I like the typing, the writing, the connections that can occur. I love flitting about on Twitter when I cannot think of what to say next, and finding moving essays like this one. I like when I can move the mouse over the publish button and press down.

But the actual sitting in front of the computer? Not really.

I much prefer the avocado picnic that Little Bean and I shared underneath the cherry tree this afternoon, reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and then looking for fuzzy caterpillars around the yard. Or the pop, then whizz when I flip the cap off a bottle of root beer. Or the sizzle of the chicken roasting in the oven as I write.

I like the physical. Words really don't exist.

So I might be a little more quiet around here for awhile. Before we moved, I was posting something every day. Ingredients! Recommendations! Videos! Recipes! Photographs! Now? I want to slow down. Those posts will appear here, in time. That's why we moved to this island, to listen more, to drive around a curve and lean our bodies into it and watch the bay emerge to the left of the car wheels, not complaining, just being here.

* * *

And the other thing? As spacious as our kitchen is, it's still not big enough to fit all of you in.

When I made these sour-cream-applesauce muffins this morning, they were just for us.

Some moments are best left private.

sour cream-applesauce muffins II

Still, if you'd like to have a muffin, here they are, in a slouchy relaxed fashion.

SOUR CREAM APPLESAUCE MUFFINS, inspired by The Joy of Cooking

1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup sweet brown rice flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed in
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 400°. Oil a muffin tin. (choose your own size)

The dry ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients together, sifting the flours into the bowl.

The wet ingredients. Combine all the wet ingredients. At the end, add one egg at a time, slowing down to let each one be incorporated into the batter.

Finishing the batter. Stir the liquids into the dry ingredients. Combine them together with long, sure strokes, not rapid-fire movements. Watch, carefully, to make sure all the flour is combined, not pockets of dry goods left standing. But don't over-mix, either, because that will make the muffins tough and dry. Go slowly. Pay attention.

Baking the muffins. Fill the muffin tins as high as you want. (Too high and they might spill over a bit, but that's okay. too low and they will be small, but that's probably fine too.) Slide the tin into the oven and bake for about 15 to 18 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the muffin comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes. Pull them out of the muffin tin. Eat, preferably with butter and rhubarb jam.

Made 12 muffins in our house.


At 4:05 AM, Blogger Milk and Two Sugars said...

Good; take care of yourself for a while. You don't owe us all your time, or all your thoughts. I just appreciate whatever it is you do choose to share with us.

(From a nearly-new reader who has been moved to de-lurk.)

At 6:51 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Enjoy your downtime and spoiling Little Bean :) I'm making your polenta fries and am very excited. All the best xxxx

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Swiss said...

Geeeesh - nasty comments - it is just so crazy....anyway it made me try harder to remember my id etc with google cuz I just had to talk.

I am going wheatless, flourless and avoiding all sweetners but (sweetn'low) of all things; but I do not use it much.

I am going to be ordering your book in a day or two. I read some excerepts and decided -ding ding ding- I must get it.

I too have been learning how to get flavor and fabulousness from food with *some* restrictions.

What prompted me to write are things like the Island/Molly -Talking Heads, food, the Island - just how you are. Oh and you saying how one guy rejected you because he could not date a girl who could not eat bread- HA- I guess that gives me another strike- besides being old, a guardian to my developmenatly disabled sister and living on an Island!

Not that I am even remotely looking anymore - one of mine would be I could not be with any one who did not eat garlic!!!

If you do not get enough fresh eggs let me know- I have more than I could use and have not found a consistent plan to sell them - the Minglemint used to be the place who would take my eggs but they often have too many. I would be happy just to give you some.

Oh man this is kinda long for a "comment" -


At 9:03 AM, Blogger Bloomin'Chick Jo said...

This post is wonderful and much of what is on the minds of many of us lately. I've been trying to limit or break up my cyberspace time because it's all become so overwhelming, this being so connected all the time.

I cherish my online friendships and connections though because with my health, I haven't had much of an in-person life, (either because I'm unable physically or because people don't know what to do with someone who's married with no children and has an incurable, chronic and progressive (auto-immune) disease - Psoriatic Arthritis) so I am forever thankful for each and every one of them!

I do so enjoy your writing and will appreciate it as it comes!

All the best,

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Jen said...

I enjoyed reading what you had to say and was reminded of the importance of quality time with my daughter. I'm packing us GF picnic. :) Wahoo! for sunny days here in the Pacific NW!!

It can be overwhelming with a little one and at times, I feel as though all I want to do is ignore all the stuff on my "To Do" list even though it's staring me in the face. Children and babies don't care about that, they just want our time. Sounds like you've got that figured out. :) Enjoy!

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Allison said...

Shauna, my boy's four and I *still* feel like I can't catch up on many days. It's exponentially more complicated than it was when my beloved and I were just two people going about our business. I'd never give it up for all the world, but it certainly causes a lot of changes in how things proceed. Good for you nixing the distractions so you can have more time for your life.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Dolores said...

Good for you! and thank you for leading me into the real world of relationships... I spend too much time in front of the computer sometimes I feel like I'm missing the people around me for people from far away...
Thanks for the lesson and the recipe!!!! (I'll replace sour cream for toffuti sour cream because my son is on casein free too)

At 12:53 PM, Blogger JennyS said...

Thanks once again for touching me right where I am, right now. It becomes challenging when a blog becomes a "have to" instead of a "want to" - I've been struggling with that a bit in these last few weeks myself. Maybe it is because of spring - the fresh air here in Portland is probably the same up by you in Seattle - air that is pulling me outside to my new vegetable garden, instead of into my office (I think I haven't been in my office all week - the plastic is still on the windows).

Enjoy and write when you want to, instead of when you have to. That's when it feels best, right?


At 2:18 PM, Blogger amy said...

Enjoy. and--peace be with you.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Shauna,
Thanks for this recipe! It's looks so tasty, I can't wait to try it!
Just as a reminder, if anyone is thinking of using non-fat sour cream, check the ingredients to make sure the thickeners and stabilizers used are GF. Some makers use wheat-based thickeners and starches.
Happy Baking!
Dione :)

At 7:44 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

Oh, Shauna, this post moves me very, very deeply. When my hair is less plastered to my own forehead, I'll try to pop in again to say more of why. For now I want to say I think we share some of the same joys and struggles when it comes to connecting with beautiful people in our lives.

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Shayla said...

My hubby is trying a net free year. Not because he thinks the internet is 'bad', but more to see about the aspects of human interaction, to have time to read a book and things like that. I'm happy he's giving it a go, but I couldn't do it. Still, I love the "slow blog" movement. Goes very well with the "slow food" mentality, yes? Your blog is my favorite non-art blog and will miss you, but life informs writing and if you don't have time for a life, at the very least the writing would suffer.

All the best. Enjoy settling into island life :)

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

sounds delicious..i can't wait to try this....right away i'm gonna get the ingredients from and try it...thanks for sharing..take care.

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Herrad said...


Just came by to say hello.
Have a good Sunday.


At 4:47 PM, Blogger Dana Treat said...

Shauna, lovely and perfectly expressed sentiments as always. As your daughter grows I know you can already sense how quickly time passes for her. I look at my boys everyday and regret that I didn't (and don't) slow down more with them. You have consciously changed your lifestyle to connect more with what is important and good for you for honoring that. I look forward eagerly to the next post, whenever that may be. Best to you.

At 6:40 PM, Blogger Pearl said...

i enjoyed reading this post. yes, sometimes i do feel like blogging is like hosting one giant dinner party, all the time :) and it's a fun one.

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Those muffins look absolutely fabulous. Can't wait to try them. Maybe with some nutmeg added. Do you know Marion Cunningham's breakfast cookbook? You would like it, I'm quite sure.

At 9:39 AM, Blogger H.Peter said...

Oy. Miss you already!

At 8:42 PM, Blogger kathy_h said...

I like not working better than working, too, isn't spring the best time of year??? The sun is so welcome and there is nothing better than getting out in the sun working on the garden!! Down with sitting at the computer!! Winter seemed so long this year.

At 7:35 PM, Blogger Les said...

Coming out of lurkdom once again to say, great post. I've noticed a lot of fellow bloggers taking a break or slowing down, not posting on a daily basis, but rather once or twice a week, if that. Are we all facing blogger burnout? Having blogged for over three years now, I still enjoy it, and don't have any plans to call it quits, but I do find that I don't have to get my next book review or new photos posted the minute I finish a book or upload all those pictures. What's the hurry? As summer approaches, I want to live my life as fully as possible, savoring the long, warm afternoons, walking my dog, shooting photos, puttering in my garden, and drinking Adirondack Margaritas out on my deck with my husband. I spend far too much time in front of the computer during the long, cold months of winter. Enough!

BTW, my mom's name is Andrea and my last name is Scher, so as I first read your post, I did a mental double-take!

Enjoy your baby and husband and island home. Life truly is too short and those little ones grow up far too fast.

At 11:40 PM, Blogger Elaine said...

hey ya! although i had to adjust for the cupboard supply, i just made those wonderful muffins!
i was out of potato flour so i used millet. also low on Brown sugar so i fudged it with some blackstrap and plain white sugar.

they are fluffy and delicious. thanks for the inspiration!

At 4:24 AM, Blogger gfe--gluten free easily said...

Excellent post, Shauna. Yes, we can definitely be too connected, even though we are blessed with fabulous friends we've met online. With the warm weather, we will be heading to our mtn property on the river for camping many weekends and I will be totally disconnected during those times. And, that will be a good thing. Balance, quiet, nature, family ... it works for the soul.


At 9:48 PM, Blogger jgoodfellow said...

This recipe looks so tasty!

Do you think yogurt could be used in place of the sour cream?

At 6:28 AM, Blogger Shopgirl said...

I heard about your blog through Orangette. I'm passing your blog on to my sister-in-law who has an autistic son. She tries as best she can to keep him gluten free. It's not easy and often she has to forge on her own, making recipes. I know she will find much hope in reading your blog and your book. Thanks!

At 10:50 AM, Blogger Jina said...

Just made these this morning - delicious! thanks for the recipe. I was out of brown rice flour on it's own so I used the living without all purpose blend I had on hand (which is a slightly different proportion of tapioca starch, potato starch and white rice flour instead of brown - came out great. Will have to try again once I have brown rice flour again. As usual I ate one portion, and froze the rest- hoping they will reheat well - but most GF baked goods do. The secret is whether it's better microwaved, toasted or both. I will have fun finding out :-).


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