In case it isn't obvious from my constant blathering on about how great things are, I am stupidly happy these days. More than happy, I am content. A fat cat in a sunbeam kind of content. I'm not sure quite exactly when the angst and discontent of youth fell away, when the edgy, whiny protests against everything hushed. If you had told me ten years ago that, at the very young age of thirty one, I would be married with a daughter and living in a suburban house in North Carolina, if you had told me that I would have quit the job working for the giant corporation with the nice paycheck and the fantastically cushy benefits and the daily coddling of my needy little ego to stay home and take care of the kid... well, I would have sneered and said something obnoxiously sarcastic and then stomped away in my oversized Doc Martens boots and my anti-trend, vaguely androgynous outfit to go write some bad poetry on the tyranny of institutions and the sad beauty of a wandering life, or some such self-involved nonsense. It's amazing how a whole life can stretch and shiver and settle in a few years.
Now here I am. Wife. Mom. Happy. Who would have thought. Not the girl in the ridiculous pre-Emo getup, I can assure you. I mean, I actually cook things. And bake. And, Internet... I planted things in the garden a few months ago. With all the dirt and the bugs and the nature. Look at me domesticate. It seems that at some point, when you stop fighting with yourself, when you stop sighing and turning away, and simply follow happiness where it leads, you end up, well... happy.
This is all a roundabout way of saying, I wouldn't be in this place without the one who led me here. Thank you, Charlie, for this life and her life and all that you do every single day. Happy Anniversary.
Last week, Juniper turned ten months old and is hurtling toward toddlerhood with dizzying swiftness. Two more teeth (numbers 7 and 8!) are poking through on her bottom jaw. Once those two teeth arrive, there will be no more gumminess to her smile and another little part of her babyness will be gone. Her mobility is also increasing by leaps and bounds each day. It seems like just yesterday when it took her a full ten minutes and an extraordinary amount of effort and grunting and whining to flip from her back to her tummy. Now she can sit, kneel, crawl, pull to standing, and transition between any one of these states in the blink of an eye. One minute she is emptying out a drawer in the kitchen, the next minute she is wedging her big belly underneath a dining room chair. Turn your back for a second and she is helping herself to snackies from the dog's food bowl. She has even crawled up a full flight of carpeted steps, chasing after an uninterested kitty cat (with my father very close behind).
The ninth bread in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge is Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread. This might be my favorite bread we have baked so far. Sure it's hard to argue with that cheesy, salami-studded star, Casatiello, but this loaf is simple and comforting and delicious and lacking in any pretense or fancy flair. This bread is exactly what I want for breakfast - toasted with a healthy smear of good butter. One loaf lasted about 24 hours in my house and I think I single-handedly ate the entire thing. Every hour or so, I would stroll by the bread board, saw off a little slice, and gnaw on it absently while chasing around the kid.
Next time, and there will be many next times, I will try this with butter instead of shortening, since I tend to be squeamish about the good ol' Crisco. The dough seemed a bit heavy while kneading, but it produced a wonderfully light and fluffy loaf. For me, the cinnamon swirl is de rigueur for just the right amount of indulgence. I skipped the cinnamon sugar on top, which seemed, well, over the top.
I am woefully behind the pack in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. I think most people are on the L's or the M's. I am still puttering along in the C's. For a while, I blamed the cross-country move. Then I blamed house renovations. And there's always the baby. But clearly I just need to suck it up and get back to baking.
The eighth BBA bread is that lovely, decadent waist-spreader - the Cinnamon Bun. Now, I already had a go-to cinnamon bun recipe by my favorite food geek, Alton Brown. His recipe makes a delicious, quintessential batch of cinnamon buns with oozy goozy filly and irresistible cream cheese icing. If you substitute a tablespoon of espresso or strong coffee in the icing, you have a perfect lazy Sunday morning. I trot these buns out to impress visitors and satisfy sweet tooths. I even modified it a bit for a very pumpkiny Thanksgiving morning treat.
Do you see them? Four teeth decided to poke out on top at about the same time. Sheesh, what's the hurry? These four new top teeth combined with the existing two bottom teeth complete the arsenal required for true biting. Juniper is taking full advantage of this new talent, biting on anything and everything in her path. My shoulder falls victim quite often. Sydney's nose is in constant danger.
We have also entered a distressing new phase of book gnawing. Books are still her favorite toy and she will slowly make her way through a whole book, turning each page with a most serious expression on her brow. When she gets to the end, she closes the book and promptly starts nibbling on the spine in blatant violation of all that is right and good in the world. Of course, I immediately and earnestly freak out, snatch the poor book away, pleading with her not to eat it. During these tirades, she looks at me with mild amusement, smiles her toothy smile, and then proceeds to swallow the chunk of book cover that she had stored in her cheek. She is devouring her books, literally.