Vulnerability: Why it’s a big deal to Me

This blog is usually all about the latest foodie creation, natural remedy, nutritional discovery or about parenting related topics.

Tonight it’s about me.

31 Year Old Me

31 Year Old Me

31 one year old me.

WifeMom. Homeschooling Parent. Business Owner. Nutritionist. Doula. Wanna-be-photographer. Wanna-be-author. Wanna-be-midwife. Foodie. Researcher. Reader. Wanna-be-Cafe-Owner. Easily bored. Easily Distracted. Wanna-be-Herbalist. Coffee snob. Mama to angel-babies.

These are all true things about me, yet, they really don’t tell you much about me at all.

Vulnerability is tough for me. For most of my life vulnerability meant weakness. Weakness meant someone could hurt and exploit you. Therefore it was worth me bending over backwards, jumping through hoops and avoiding and obfuscating to be anything BUT vulnerable. Vulnerability means I allow something, anything be known that someone could judge you for. And by judge, I mean say judgmental things, pronouncements of negativity over the why and where and how of who and what one is. At some point, in the past couple of years there was a series of moments came together to equal an epiphany of sorts for me.

Judgmental people judge. Mean people say mean things. Opinionated people will tell you their opinions, sometimes loudly and carelessly and in a hurtful manner. And somebody somewhere will have issues with who and what you are no matter how real or fabricated their perception of you is. This should go without saying but for me it was a total ah-hah moment that led to the following realizations.

I cannot prevent people from disliking me. Getting angry with me. I cannot protect people from who they are or who I am. 

Through the years most of us start to figure out who is safe to tell what. Who can be trusted with the real stuff. The nuts and bolts things. All the various quirks, foibles, fears and loves that powerfully drive, define and motivate who we are. I’ve been extraordinarily blessed with dear friends all through my life who have come along beside me and been a safe place for me to share parts of who I am. No judgment zone friends have been an incredibly healing experience for me. They may laugh and look aghast as I delightedly blabber about placenta encapsulation but they understand and love me despite the fact that I randomly find miscellaneous mostly gross and health related things fascinating and share worthy.

And a few, I can contact crying. When I’m at my darkest. When life has me at a new, all time low.

When that pregnancy test is positive and the feeling of doom instantly settles on my shoulders, anticipating the game of wondering if this baby will survive the dangerous obstacle course that constitutes being grown in my body.

When it’s one of those times in a marriage when I’m not sure we will come out on the other side stronger. When I don’t know if there will even be another side to come out on.

When the mirror reflects back my puffy, exhausted face and dark circled eyes and my clothes tell me that my body is in stockpile/auto immune crisis mode again.

When I can’t get off the couch due to yet another health issue or pregnancy or post partum that has rendered me literally incapacitated past the pull yerself up by the bootstraps will power I used to be known for.

When I’m so stressed with business, life, kids and personal challenges I want to crawl into a deep hole and never come back out.

Sometimes it isn’t just listening. It’s the jumping in the car to come help. The dropping off a meal. The praying for me and sending me messages of encouragement. The showing up and herding children outside to play. The every day, ordinary extraordinary things real people do to help others out and make the world a better place.

Image

Yet despite the love and even more than love, acceptance I’ve been so beyond blessed to receive…

I still second guess leaving the house looking like a slob and wonder who will think mean things about me with my unwashed hair pulled back above my makeup-less face, wrinkled two day old clothes and slip on-shoes.

I still won’t invite people over way too often because the house is a wreck. No, I mean it. A WRECK. I live with a human wrecking ball in the form of a giant, furniture moving toddler and I hate cleaning house. It’s a terrible combination.

I don’t like anybody to know how much of my parenting life is spent saying “Not now…” “Later after I get xyz done…”Mama doesn’t have time…” 

I don’t like talking about the times when the kitchen projects don’t get done and there is store-bought Kombucha in the fridge instead of homemade or ::gasp:: No Kombucha or anything else trademarked healthy or crunchy at all.

And I definitely don’t like talking about the times when supper isn’t made, there isn’t much to eat in the house and my man goes out and brings food home. Fake food. Fast food. Sometimes fried food replete with trans fats and MSG seasonings. It doesn’t happen often but every time it does a little part of me cringes and wants to hide every time it does.

But all that self consciousness, fear and hiding isn’t vulnerable.

Not even a little bit. 

I’m afraid of talking about those things. Of showing my inner slob. My poor household organizational skills. Or having a rip roaring conversation in which my opinions and beliefs about doctrine or any other potentially deep and divisive subject comes up. Because, along with the amazing friends and family who have shown me unconditional love through the years there have been those who cut me off. Sometimes with explanation. Sometimes without. Those who have stabbed me in the back. Spread reputation ruining lies about me and those I love. Taken a small truth and turned it into a large and harmful gossip point of deception. Friendships and family relationships have been destroyed. Gone up in flames. And it’s hurt. A lot. The after effects of these various life pain points are still evident in my every day life even though most of the main events happened years ago.

But despite the fear, uncertainty and risk, I’ve come to respect vulnerability a great deal. Some quotes from one of my favorite ladies will define why I view vulnerability as being terribly, powerfully crucial to my life and why it has gone from being something that probably should be cultivated to an actively defined priority in my day in and day out life.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
― Brené BrownDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
― Brené BrownDaring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Image

I don’t really fully grasp what vulnerability is supposed to look like in a fully implemented sort of way in every day life. Hoping to learn by doing over the next few weeks and months.

How do you feel about vulnerability?

Randomness

1) I love coffee. Good coffee. Have become quite the coffee snob in recent years. Or so I thought. Tonight a friend bought me a cup of coffee from a Shell gas station. It was a late night at work and I was feeling mentally stressed out with my poor brain fritzing out and going in a million different directions. Coffee always has a stabilizing effect up on my brain (Proof some would say that I am most certainly ADD) Fully prepared to deal with the bitter dregs of an hours old brew from acidic and burnt tasting beans I was startled by the smooth mild flavor of the coffee. Now I’m wondering if my snobbishness is slipping or if that gas station truly had coffee that was really that good.

Home roasted coffee beans

Home roasted coffee beans

 

2) Boy, times have changed. When Beeyoutiful was a young fledgling company with only one Probiotic blend to it’s short list of startup products we had a LOT of customers call in and ask us what a probiotic was. And even more be baffled as to why we would suggest it as a followup to recent antibiotic use in themselves or their children. Nowadays customers don’t ask those questions hardly ever. We used to suggest ways to get a Dr. to be Ok with probiotic supplementation and a handful of times had customers come back and relay that their Pediatrician had read them the riot act about how worthless and pointless probiotic supplementation was.  These days we hear “My Dr. told me that it’s a good idea to give my kids probiotics to help their digestion and especially since we had to use an antibiotic” I can’t tell you what a cool thing it is to have witnessed the turning of the popular opinion tide on this crucial bit of health maintenance.

Doodles and Bean

Doodles and Bean

Another thing our customers used to encounter LOTS of resistance from the medical community over was Vit. D supplementation. Dr.’s spouted warnings about Vit. D toxicity and the risks they were taking if they dared supplement themselves or their children. Times have drastically changed on this front with every Pediatrician we (and apparently most of our customers) encounter recommending Vit. D supplementation for even very small babies.  Again, I think it’s an incredible thing and am so happy that what was once viewed as a dangerous practice is now understood and enthusiastically recommended by the experts many trust their healthcare management to.

Doodlebug Spring 2012

Doodlebug Spring 2012

3) Bean snores. And it’s hilarious. Sometimes I stay up later than I should just to listen to his little tiny baby snores. And gaze at his chubby cheeks and little chiseled mouth. He’s four, almost five months old but the baby-wonder hasn’t worn off even a little bit for me.

Sleeping Chubby Cheeked Bean Boy

Sleeping Chubby Cheeked Bean Boy

4) I am tired. Oh.so.tired. Makeup project is feeling like it’s never ever going to end. Which means of course the end is right around the corner.  Had a sad realization today that instead of me hitting my walls of utter exhaustion after a project is finished…these days I hit the wall BEFORE the end of the project and end up muddling through the last bits of it in a very ineffective manner. Brain fog today from sheer mental exhaustion = a frustratingly imperfect video shoot. Trying to summon up excitement that all signs point to the end being near and then we can start actually making the fruit of all of our efforts and hard work available to people! Yaaay!

Mineral Makeup Color Tester Packets for Evaluation

Mineral Makeup Color Tester Packets for Evaluation

5) We are going camping this weekend. God willing and if the creek don’t rise. And it doesn’t storm. Or flood. Or get bombarded with space aliens. We do what I call “Civilized Camping” Uncivilized camping is what my husbands family specializes in. I’ll let you in on the specifics: uncivilized camping does not involve running water, electricity or bathrooms. The civilized camping trip we have planned is at an award winning state park complete with bathrooms, showers, laundry mat, running water at the campsites and power at same said campsites. <<happy sigh>> Yes, that is camping that even this modern day life comforts person can handle.

Campfire from camping trip in 2010

Campfire from camping trip in 2010

6) Despite the fact that it is two AM now I am going to bed with the goal of getting up and going into work tomorrow. Knocking out the laaaaaast bits of MUST DO projects before the weekend and then scurrying home to get us all packed up for the camping trip. So let it be written, so let it be done. Here’s hoping sheer strength of will can summon the needed umph to make that happen. If not I’ll be spending half the day on the couch trying to pull out of my sleepy fog.

May you have a productive and happy day and a weekend full of rest and fellowship with those you love. ❤

Doodlebug

Doodlebug

 

CandidlyCrazyMakeupVideo

We have been working hard on this makeup project. Very hard. An incredible amount of tasks to be done in a relatively short period of time.

It’s been fun albeit exhausting. This past week has been a particularly hectic one on the makeup front. Every single color of the line has been photographed and 90% of the footage for a tutorial video has been shot. We are in the process of finishing up the final video footage and now working on voiceovers.

It is difficult for me to work on projects like this. On the one hand I absolutely love it. Getting to work with a fantastic team, under a deadline with everybody pitching in and pulling more than their weight and just the right amounts of creative energy is thrilling and I can’t think of a job I would love to do more. On the other hand…I am a perfectionist. To say these projects have been done last minute is an understatement. Last minute means inadequate planning. Inadequate infrastructure and organization. A lot of winging it going on. Which invariably means either a compromise in quality, quantity or embarrassing all too obvious mistakes. I’m quite certain we are going to have our fair share of all of the above.

There is all sorts of stuff that would probably have the viewers laughing if they only knew what was going on behind the scenes. For example: In one scene you see my hand applying makeup to the beautifully serene face of a friend of mine as sunlight pours through the window showing every detail of what we are doing. It looks rather professional. What you *don’t* see is that I have a fussy baby strapped to me in the Ergo and am gently bouncing up and down from heel to toes keeping him from out and out crying while he goes to sleep. The rest of the shoot was done with him sound asleep in the Ergo, blissfully unaware that I was applying makeup and co-directing/organizing a video shoot while giving him the special treat of being held (via the Ergo) for an entire naptime. Mommy Multi Tasking at it’s best.

Most would probably also find it amusing that some footage in what appears to be a beautifully lit studio is actually the Conference room in the Beeyoutiful Offices by one of the windows that overlooks the Centerville TN Town Square. We are totally making do with what we have both in the very real life women who are helping me out by being face models and demonstrating using the makeup (All friends and most of them employees of Beeyoutiful) and also with the locations and props. Er, or the lack of props. I *might* just be dipping the brushes into a clean pyrex bowl  of water snagged from the Beeyoutiful break room in a couple of those shots. 😮 (ahem) Not that I’d ever admit that if it were true. Nope. Not me.

But at least it’s real. It’s candid. Real women. Real makeup. Real life. Real scenes. Some part of me can’t help but appreciate the authenticity of doing the whole process this way.

Did I mention most of this was done incredibly last minute? Yeah. Last minute as in, we were asked to produce a video on Wednesday. We have an emergency staff meeting on Wed. afternoon. Start filming with the only available person that wasn’t already working on a project. With zero warning she was begged into being a face model with no advance notice. We get most of the raw footage shot on Thursday and start recording voiceovers on Friday. This may not seem that impressive for those of you who have never worked on a project like this…I know a while back it would have seemed to me no big deal to throw together a video. Let’s just say as with everything in life that is attempted to be done even in the ball-park of “right” it is always harder than it looks, or at first seems to be.

Times like these I am so incredibly grateful to be working with highly flexible and multi talented co-workers. Contracting this job out would have required advance schedule planning, working around already busy schedules, travel logistics etc. and probably would have taken a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks from beginning to end. The logistics would have been even more crippling than they already are.

I’m looking back on the past 7 or so days with a bit of surreal “Wow, can’t believe how much we got done and oh goodness there is still so much to do” feeling. The principle emotion of the moment though is excitement and gratitude. Excitement that the reality of being able to offer this makeup line is so very near, that the deadline is literally within sight. Gratefulness that I get to be a part of this and that I’m able to have our children with us at the same time. Kudos to all of our patient coworkers who have grabbed a baby for a few minutes and paced the hallway, shared a laptop screen with a preschooler or plugged away at work with loud kid noises as a background distraction. It is perhaps the very height of an unprofessional work environment while being also at the same time the core of a truly family friendly business from the inside out.  They don’t bat an eye with the preschooler begging for their snacks at lunchtime or tripping over a stack of crayon craft projects and toys in the middle of the cubicle hallway.

And yeah, I’m totally that Mom who is nursing through the business meetings. That is probably a confession worth keeping private but it’s part of what goes down behind the scenes. I’ve been asked several times before…How do I do it? Be a full time Mom, wife *and* work? The answer is I do a lot of it poorly, a lot of it with a lot of help and there is a whole lot of multi tasking in which my work life intersects with my personal life and my children’s needs. Just today I had a co-worker following me around with a note-pad having a makeup naming troubleshooting session while I fished the lunch I had packed out of a bag and got Doodles set up with it and changed Bean’s diaper.

Before I left for the office I stood at the kitchen table stuffing the clean cloth pocket diapers while brain storming marketing ideas for approaching brick and mortar local storefronts about carrying the makeup line.

All in a days work. Or a series of days. It’s crazy, it’s wonderful, it’s fun, it’s stressful and tiring, it’s exciting and fulfilling all at the same time.  And it’s all getting us a couple of steps closer to launch date.

Here’s a quick shot I snapped on my phone this afternoon of the behind the scenes of our color re-naming session and pre-video shoot.

Behind the Scenes with Beeyoutiful Video Shoot

Behind the Scenes with Beeyoutiful Video Shoot

Tomorrow, er, today that is. In just a few hours I get to attempt to record the intro to the video. Yaaaay. Not. Least favorite part of video work ever? Me in front of the camera. All of me. Has to be done and maybe we can find a way to make it fun. Fun in more ways than just laughing at my many bloopers that is. Just keeping it real will probably be funny enough.

One of these days I’m gonna talk some professionals into the budget. A professional model or two, maybe a voiceover actor or two, professional makeup person/cosmetologist. A whole big team of pros. Then I can sit back, sip on a cup of tea and watch things get done right.

Till then we’ll be plugging along the best we can!

Falling in Love with Fall: Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Many of my friends have been posting excitedly about the advent of that seasonal deliciousness known as S*bucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. I used to love most things produced by S*bucks but somewhere along the way of our healthier living baby-steps journey more and more of their drinks have been falling short of what used to be the height of my drinkable cravings. Part of the problem is that I have become a coffee snob. (deep breath)  There. I said it. The coffee at this mass-produced-cookie-cutter-box-store-of-consistency tends to be both bitter and acidic to my tastebuds now. In order to cover for this unpleasantness large amounts of flavored and sugary syrups tend to be added to their mixed drinks. The second confession is that my tastebuds have changed so much that the high pitched flavor of the syrups they use seems *too* sickly sweetish to me now. (This is coming from the girl who used to mix extra honey or sugar in because it wasn’t sweet enough. Oh how far I’ve come!)

All of the above to say, it’s not only significantly cheaper for me to indulge in my coffee habit at home now (Or at my favorite independent coffee shop in Nashville that is a bi-monthly treat/splurge these days) it also usually tastes better! Low acid, smooth roasted organic beans turned into a deep-rich-brew (All the flavor without the bitterness, unless I mess up the water temp/coffee ratios of course)  with my own concoctions of flavorings and syrups added to has become my preferred way of drinking coffee.

Pumpkin Themed Fall

Pumpkin Themed Fall

Last night I made my first attempt at a knock-off version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. I found what looked to be a great basic recipe and proceeded to make some massive modifications to it. I’m quite pleased with the results. Please keep in mind, if you prefer the really sweet taste of the S*bucks version of this drink you will want to modify my recipe to include more sugar, or drizzle some extra caramel sauce over the top.

Decorative Pumpkin and Sage

Decorative Pumpkin and Sage

Sorta-Kinda-Healthy-Pumpkin Spice Coffee Syrup

Attempt at Pumpkin Latte Art

Attempt at Pumpkin Latte Art

– 1 and 1/2 Cups of Water

– 2/3 Cup Raw-un-refined Cane Sugar

– 1/2 Cup raw Honey

– 5 Cinnamon Sticks (Or 1 Tablespoon+ a bit Ground)

– 1/2 (or more if you like Ginger as much as I do) Teaspoon Dried/powdered Ginger

– 1/2 Teaspoon whole Cardamon

– 1 heaping Teaspoon whole AllSpice

– Optional: 1/2 Teaspoon Clove

-Optional: 1 Teaspoon Nutmeg

(I personally left both the clove and nutmeg out of my version of this since I prefer the flavors of Cardamon and All-spice)

3 to 4 Tablespoons Organic Pumpkin Puree. Can use canned or frozen, just make sure it’s been well strained if it’s homemade-put up pumpkin.

Instructions: Simmer water and spices together on low for 30 min. to allow flavors to develop. Add Raw Sugar, Honey and Pumpkin to mixture. Whisk in until well mixed and sugar is dissolved. Simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and see if the spice ratio needs to be adjusted to suit your personal preferences. If the flavor is all you expect it to be remove the syrup from the stove and strain through a piece of cheese cloth *or* a fine metal mesh strainer. I personally used two old Berrywell bottles to store my finished syrup product in.  Easy to label and store in the refrigerator and even easier to pour precise amounts from into my coffee as needed.

I *love* this stuff. Much richer, more real and earthier flavors than I’ve experienced anywhere else which suit my new tastebuds just fine. Add as much syrup to your latte or coffee as you desire + a dollup of cream with some whipped cream added to the top. If you are after a truly decadent and sweet experience drizzle a homemade caramel sauce on top of the whipped cream.
Aaaah. So.Amazing. In addition to tasting like something that should be banned from any health-nuts list of food items you can help justify this homemade delicacy by the reality that all of the spices used in it are incredibly powerful immune boosters. If you take the time to simmer it long enough a lot of the medicinal properties will have time to be released and infused into the syrup making it truly justifiable as colds and flu’s begin to make their rounds.

If you think I’m jumping the gun on celebrating Fall allow me to explain why I feel justified in doing so. First of all, the leaves around here have started to change their colors and gently drift down and there is a wondrous crispness in the air in the mornings and evenings. Second of all, I am due to have a baby right smack in the middle of what is traditionally the most enjoyable part of Fall so I’ve decided to get a jump start on all things Fall and enjoy them as much as I can before my days are taken up with post partum recovery and snuggles with a newborn babe. (Happy sigh) I can’t wait! 😀

 

If you ask Mom to read a book…

Poor Doodlebug. My normally low-level ADD has hit all new levels this pregnancy. She’s living the real life version of “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie” or whatever the name of that abominable little book documenting the state of affairs that can occur with a highly distracted main character.  Mid morning she asked me to read her a book. Happy to do so I go over to the book-shelf to select one aaaand notice that it is in a disorganized shambles.

Bookshelf in shambles

Bookshelf in shambles

After working on the bookcase for two minutes there is now a pile of trash to throw away leading to the discovery of an over-full kitchen trashcan that breaks on the way out and leaks all over the kitchen, laundry and rec room floors….

Leaky Trashbag drippings

Leaky Trashbag drippings

After spraying, cleaning and wiping up the floors I head to the laundry room to drop off the dirty rag and realize a load of laundry should be started.

Load of dirty laundry

Load of dirty laundry

Load of laundry started I notice a box of clean socks that have been patiently waiting to be matched for (cough cough) a while. Maybe longer than a while. As a matter of fact I can’t remember when that box of clean socks was stuck up on top of the dryer. Definitely a priority. Needs to be done. Little wonder DaMan has been having a hard time finding socks lately.

Box of clean socks

Box of clean socks

While diligently matching the socks two are discovered to need mending. This reminds me of a couple of other projects that need mending. And reminds me that I actually enjoy mending and hand needlework. It makes me feel frugal to save clothes otherwise destined to be tossed or relegated to crafts. Yes. Socks must be mended.

Socks to be mended

Socks to be mended

Search for sewing kit commences. Kit has apparently grown legs and run away from home. I meander through house looking for kit thinking that the small kid might be the source of it’s magical legs routine. On one of the trips through the kitchen I happen to notice the time. Noon! Time to start lunch. No wonder I was feeling hungry. Lunch being the next obvious thing on the agenda I go to the stove to start it…Only to realize the stove needs to be cleaned first.

Dirty Stove-top

Dirty Stove-top

At the sink to get a dishcloth to wipe the stove down I look out the kitchen window. A bunch of beautiful red tomatoes promptly begin calling my name and giving descriptions of huge green caterpillars and other horrible creatures who are just waiting to pounce and eat them up before I rescue them.

Garden wailing for attention through the kitchen sink window

Garden wailing for attention through the kitchen sink window

Enough! I say. Lunch must come first. I’ll run a tomato rescue mission after lunch. And so the Stove is cleaned and lunch is started…

Clean Stove top

Clean Stove top

Happily working away at lunch I tune in just in time to hear the patient and long suffering preschooler inquiring about that book. Book?? What book??? Oooooh. THAT book out of the still disorganized bookcase that led to the still dirty floor and laundry that now needs to be dried, socks that need mending and stove that is now being used for lunch. (ahem) Yes. That book indeed.

Maybe she would have had better luck if she’d offered me a cookie. =P

Incredible Indulgence

It came to me in a dream. No, seriously, it did! The Doodlebug was having a few too many meltdowns and I recognized the signs. The anti-nap child must nap today or she would drive us all insane. She hasn’t taken daily naps (minus road trips in car-seat naps) in months.  She’s currently in a “I’m a baby!” stage and is determined to do all things baby-like. Primarily whine which holds true to to how she spent most of her time when she was an actual baby. I plunked her down in our bed and informed her that if she was a baby then she must take a nap. Now trapped into conceding to a nap in order to stay true to her baby persona she laid down somewhat willingly while clutching my hand. Deciding to cuddle with her until she dozed off and then go back to being the responsible adult I pretend to be most days I snuggled up next to her. The next thing I knew we both opened our eyes and I was met with a beautiful toddler grin and the announcement “I baby Mom!” Naptime didn’t change much in her world but mine was rocked by a dream of brownies.

Not just any brownies mind you. Gluten free, chocolate, fudgelike brownies but with a special twist. Cappuchino-Chocolate Brownies. Could it be done I wondered? A quick google search informed me that indeed, it could be done. Not wanting to taint my dream inspired version of this delight with other peoples versions I refrained from skimming others recipes. Instead I conned-I er, coaxed my fellow kitchen conspirator Liz to help me come up with a recipe.

Coffee-Toffee Nut Brownies

1 stick salted butter

3 Tablespoons Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
6 ounces bittersweet Chocolate pieces
1 ounce (1 square) unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 Cup Heavenly Sugar
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon GF Flour Mixture
½ teaspoon Xanthan Gum

1/2 Cup Cappuccino Mix (We used French Vanilla and White Chocolate)

1/4 Cup veryVERYvery strong (bordering on Espresso strength) Coffee

½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon unsweetened raw cocoa powder
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon real Vanilla (I used my homemade Bourbon Vanilla)
Couple of Squares of Chocolate Covered Toffee. We used Pistachio Dark Chocolate covered Toffee from Trader Joe’s

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line edges of pan with foil. (I went ahead and lined the whole thing with foil in anticipation of these being very prone to sticking) Spray with Olive Oil.

Sprayed, Foil lined glass pan

Sprayed, Foil lined glass pan

2. Combine butter, coconut oil and chocolate in a thick bottomed pot or well seasoned cast iron pan. On low stir until melted and thoroughly mixed in.  Let stand and then stir until smooth. Add sugar and stir. Set aside to cool slightly.

Melting butter, coconut oil and chocolate

Melting butter, coconut oil and chocolate

Melted Butter/Coconut oil/Chocolate

Melted Butter/Coconut oil/Chocolate

Heavenly brand herbal processed raw sugar

Heavenly brand herbal processed raw sugar

3. In a small bowl, whisk together GF Flour Mixture, xanthan gum, salt, and cocoa powder and cappuccino mix. Set aside.

Gluten Free Flour mix from Austin TX

Gluten Free Flour mix from Austin TX

Cappucchino Powder

Cappucchino Powder

4. Whisk eggs one at a time into chocolate mixture; then stir in Vanilla and Coffee. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Pour into pan. Pound Toffee into chunks and sprinkle across top of brownies.

Brownie batter, high glossy sheen with a thick/smooth texture

Brownie batter, high glossy sheen with a thick/smooth texture

Toffee Topped Brownie Batter

Toffee Topped Brownie Batter

5. Bake 35-40 minutes, turning halfway through. A toothpick inserted in center will come out with a few moist crumbs (or clean). Let cool completely. Brownie will be extremely moist (it becomes more fudgy as it cools). The Toffee will melt into the batter as it bakes resulting in even more deliciousness and adds a hint of crunch when it cools. The texture of this amazing brownie is more like cheesecake than brownie. It melts into your mouth with velvety smoothness while delivering the complexity of deep chocolate flavor with the nutty undertones of coffee and a creamy hint of cappucchino. And did I mention moist? It almost went without saying that these are beyond moist. Not dense, not overly fluffy…just right.

There just are no words for how incredibly delectable these are.

Brownies cooling fresh out of oven

Brownies cooling fresh out of oven

Detail of Brownie showing the edge where Toffee melted into the brownie

Detail of Brownie showing the edge where Toffee melted into the brownie

More Brownie texture detail

More Brownie texture detail

Enjoy with a tall glass of milk or a cup of hot tea. If you make it tell me how it turns out for you!

TurkeyBudgetFail

I hadn’t planned to host anybody this Thanksgiving. Last count we had 6 different invites to various get-togethers of family and friends. Each and every one warmed my heart and assured me that nope, me cooking this year would not be required. So I haven’t set aside room in the budget for extra food shopping.

Thanksgiving Napkin Holders made by my Cousin Anna

Thanksgiving Napkin Holders made by my Cousin Anna

As it turns out TheMan’s Dad, my FIL is going to come over for a laid back get-together on Wednesday. It’ll just be our wee family and him. Will be nice and laid back before we drive down to GA to visit with my family and extended family on Thursday, Friday and Sat. I am blessed to have one of the most laid back FIL’s a person could wish for so I haven’t felt any pressure to do a bunch of special dishes. However, there is the matter of a turkey. What is a Thanksgiving celebration no matter how small without a turkey? A pretty sad affair indeed I answered my internal question. Everything is optional except the turkey.

Turkey, Stuffing and Gravy made by my Mom

Turkey, Stuffing and Gravy made by my Mom

In the narrow window of time that I had to go shopping last weekend I made my way back to the freezer section of the store in search of a small, preferably all natural bird. No such thing existed. First of all I don’t remember turkey’s being so…large…Or maybe I just haven’t paid attention. There are apparently no such things as small turkeys sold in grocery stores anymore. Having watched enough disturbing footage on how traditionally raised turkey’s are grown and having committed along with TheMan not to buy any antibiotic fed meats if it was avoidable I read label after label of brand after brand. I would have been happy with just “All natural, antibiotic free” I know that doesn’t mean much. The birds are probably grown in exactly the same way. It just makes me feel better. There I said it. Unfortunately there were no moderately priced “All Natural” Birds. There was however the “Certified Organic” behemoths.

The Organic Certification does not mean as much to me as it probably should. I know just barely enough of how the process works to know that on many occasions “Organically” raised animals have more restricted access to outdoors, sunlight and grass or natural foods than the “All Natural” one’s do. Depending on who is doing the Organic Certification, the specific criteria and how paranoid or efficient the farmer is it could result in several less than ideal scenarios. For example cow’s are not let out onto a pasture because it may or may not have been sprayed with weed killer in the past few years and they are instead kept in feedlot conditions being fed certified organic bi-product feed of corn and soy just like the regular feedlot cow’s are. The only difference being they have a much lower exposure to pesticides and certain restrictions regarding antibiotic and growth hormone usage.

Free-Range Organic Turkey

Free-Range Organic Turkey

So anyway, as I was saying, organic certification was not required for me to feel somewhat Ok about buying the bird. But that was all they had. There was no happy All Natural Middle Ground with the accompanying middle ground price tag. The regular turkey’s under one brand were for sale at $0.60 per lb. The Organic bird was $3.00 lb. Taking a deep breath I shuffled through the frozen and plastic encased carcasses digging around for the smallest one. As I stood on my tippy toes leaning deep into the open freezer a man working the Meat section of the store said in a confidential tone “Them there Organic birds is **** expensive” Brilliant observation on his part. As the huge chunk of frozen poultry loudly thumped to the bottom of my cart I smiled and said “Yes they are!” while surreptitiously trying to catch a glimpse of what the total was on my particular bird.

The price-tag loomed in front of me…

Price Tag for costly Organic Turkey-Bird

Price Tag for costly Organic Turkey-Bird

$42.45 (before tax)

(gasp)

It’s been a long time since I’ve directly asked TheMan about a food item purchase. We’ve worked out a budget and a budget is a budget and I’m free to spend within the budget. This though. This. Needed TheMan to approve. He was reasonable as always. “$3.00 lb. is less than we spend per lb. for our grass-fed beef. And you’ll make stock from the bones, right?” Right.Of course. He was right. Still. Whew.

The ginormous bird is lurking in the chest freezer out in the garage. Tomorrow I’ll haul it out and thaw it before sticking it in the cooler to brine overnight. We have in previous years fried our brined turkeys. I highly recommend it for flavor and tender, moist meat. This year though in an effort to be as low-key as possible the bird shall be baked post-brining. The **** expensive bird to paraphrase the helpful Meat-man.

But a bird we have and a Thanksgiving meal it will make. I am so grateful to be able to have the money to buy said expensive bird. To have so many family and friends who love us and want to spend time with us. To have a home that is so much more than simply a roof over our heads. To have a kitchen to cook in. To have a lap-top blaring my Christmas Channel on Pandora to keep me company while I work in the kitchen. To have my wee-family so close to me day in and day out.

In-case I do not make it back to the blog before TheDay may you and your families have a wonderful, peace and joy filled Holiday that is punctuated with great food, laughter and most of all Thankfulness.

Doodles Helping in the Kitchen Fall of Last year

Doodles Helping in the Kitchen Fall of Last year