New year, new work! I just completed these yesterday, New Year’s Eve 2013.
This is my new favorite, and it’s crazy easy.
1 Tablespoon of coconut oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1.5 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 lb. tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed and quartered
1 4 ounce can green chilis (you can adjust the heat here, Hubs prefers mild, so mild it is!)
32 ounce carton of chicken broth
1 cup canned coconut milk
In a heavy soup pot, we are going to make sort of a Paleo sofrito. Sauté the onion, peppers, tomatillos and garlic in the coconut oil for a few minutes before adding the sweet potatoes. Continue to sauté for a few minutes longer mixing everything together. Stir in the broth and cover, bring up to a simmer and allow to simmer, covered, until veggies are tender. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut milk. Using an immersion blender carefully puree until smooth.
(Not the prettiest photo, that was literally lunch in the studio about 2 minutes after the photo!)
Eleanor Roosevelt said “Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product” and I agree. Be it a by-product of hard work, persistence, charity or giving back to community; I’m certain fudge probably wasn’t on her mind when she said that, but I can’t deny that for my Hubs, happiness was the by-product of some darn good fudge. We are on day 15 of a strict PALEO diet, hubby and I, and things are going very well. While I do not have a sweet tooth, dear Hubs does so I wanted to make him a sweet “treat” to reward him for his discipline.
There are a lot of interesting & yummy paleo “fudge” recipes out there. I played around with several, adjusted and experimented, added and omitted, until I found the “texture” that was most appealing to me and Hubs, my trusty taste tester. While Hubs did not love the addition of chia seeds, I did. I think if I had added nuts to the chia seed batch he probably wouldn’t have known they were in there.
Almost Guilty Pumpkin Fudge
¾ cup cacao (or cocoa) powder
½ cup coconut oil, melted
1 T chia seeds (optional, I personally like them, but hubby does not in this particular application)
1 T unflavored gelatin (you can omit this, but the texture will be different)
2 T maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Small pinch of sea salt
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (the ingredient list should have one ingredient, pumpkin)
¼ cup dates or prunes, chopped
¼ cup toasted pecans (optional)
Add ingredients in the order listed stirring between each. Spread the fudge on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate. When set cut into small squares with a sharp knife.
Last ThursdayCooper got off the bus and wrapped his sweet little arms around me in the biggest “I’m home mom!” hug ever. That was a first, he usually sort of rushes past me and starts asking for cookies or Elmo paint, whatever is on his mind. Later that day we attended “daybreak” which was held at a local artists’ co-op downtown where the kids (with the help of the daybreak volunteers and a Liberty town arts potter) were to build a bird’s nest out of clay.
I was looking forward to spending the hour exploring the work of the artists there, but when we got there Cooper didn’t want me to leave! He has NEVER been clingy, and it wasn’t “sad and crying” clingy, it was more “mama sit” [let’s hang out] clingy. So, I stayed and had the daybreak experience with him! The volunteer who was working with him was great, it was really neat to see. I think I learned a few things by watching them together, which brings me to my point. Check this out, www.refresheverything.com/umwautismclinicplaylab. These folks organize daybreak (among many other things). It’s super easy to sign up and “vote” – you can vote for 10 non-profits each day, look for ones in your area or close to your heart, but save one of your ten votes for this 🙂 These folks are doing great things here (and would really put the 25K grant to good use).
Just last week (actually it was the week before, I’m a week late posting this) the sun came out and the few remaining patches of snow in our yard finally melted. The sunshine, I admit, has done wonders for my mood, my creativity and my general over all well-being. Finally I am painting again, every day, and finally I feel like myself again. The clouds have lifted, both literally and figuratively.
After the winter we’ve had, it’s funny to me how a few months ago I wrote about four inches of snow…since then… I can honestly say that in the first three months after our move I saw more snow than in my nearly 37 years prior! Cooper was out of school for two and a half weeks! Three major record breaking storms and nearly 50 inches later, here we are and it’s nearly Spring! I constantly question where the time goes…
Between snow storms, on a rare day when Cooper was in school and I was out alone I had something of an epiphany, a minor one at least. It occurred to me that I had been spending so much emotional energy missing our life in Alabama, that I was missing out on our life here. I made a little promise to myself to make more of an effort here. Part of that promise was to get my studio set up and organized. I’m happy to report that it’s finally in somewhat working order; I liken painting in this small space to doing yoga in a bathroom stall…an all around bad fit, but somehow part of it is possible, part of it doesn’t work at all, and part of it you just wouldn’t even want to try. It’s not perfect, but it no longer feels like a black hole for creativity.
In light of the events of the past several months I’ve been thinking a lot about setbacks, challenges and change. What the past few years have taught me is how to see these as opportunities, I just needed to remind myself of that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that every cloud has a silver lining, at least not right away, and for those which never seem to present their silver lining (and they DO exist!) those are just there to force us to grow, to be better and to be stronger.
Amidst the boxes I unpacked in the studio I found the canvases Cooper and I had been working on before the move, one of the reasons we started this blog, they made me smile. Those are ready and waiting for a weekend of pretty weather where we can paint with reckless abandon together…outside. I am looking forward to that.
We are steadily finding our way here. Cooper is doing very well. He’s happy to go to school and he’s happy to be home. The majority of the time, he’s just happy; funny, busy, quirky, delightful and happy.
Over the past couple of months we have seen amazing progress in so many of Cooper’s problem areas. So much so that I’ve been afraid to write about it, it seems so very “too good to be true” – and as many autism parents will tell you, if you notice significant improvement don’t get too attached to it, it could be temporary and often, very often, it’s 2 steps forward, one step back. We’ve seen this with Cooper in the past, so we’ve been waiting for that one step back. So far we haven’t seen it and what I’ve finally mustered up the courage to do is to share our two steps forward. If, as it turns out, we do take one step back, I’ll share that too – it’s the only way to truly paint the whole picture.
Remember back in mid-July during summer break, the trauma and heartbreak we had while driving around looking at houses…”this one!” and “I want THAT one!” well, just two weeks later we found ourselves driving around again in a neighborhood and he was saying “why-we go in houses?” and “I want go in houses.” We think “why-we” is “why don’t we” because he says it to me a lot in the afternoons “why-we go paint!” The difference was so remarkable I don’t think I would have realized or even believed had I not written about it during the break. And perhaps an even bigger change…he didn’t get upset when we didn’t go a-knockin’ on these stranger’s doors!
We’ve also noticed that he doesn’t get as frustrated with us for not understanding him or not realizing what he’s asking for right away. And he’s dealing with disappointment like a champ these days. Last weekend we went to the zoo and the whole way there he was asking for ‘water play’ and there have been many zoo visits where all we do is go directly to the little splash pad and he plays until he’s ready to leave. Once we got to the zoo, changed him into his swim trunks, he remembered the giant “foam bounce” thing they sometimes have set up near the water area… He goes running out to where it’s usually set up saying ‘I want foam!” Sure buddy… We get out there and there’s no foam bounce, just an empty, damp, mulchy disappointment. I freeze, I’m expecting a melt-down “uh oh buddy, it’s not here” he stands there for a few seconds looking for it then turns to us and signs and says “all done!” – not only was he ready to change out of his swim trunks and be all done ‘water play’ he was all done zoo. But with no frustration or disappointment, just completely matter-of-fact! Yay champ!
Over all he is just so much more ‘with us” these days. I hear “I wan snuggle mama” at least once a day – remember it was about this time last year before he’d ever addressed me as mama, or anything at all for that matter! During “down time” he now sits in our laps “wah-sy lap!” (want to sit in lap) or closely beside us, often leaning over against us. He doesn’t resist holding our hand in the parking lot the way he did just a few months ago. He points at us whenever we are sitting near each other, “kiss daddy!” when we play dumb he says “mama kiss daddy!” or “tickle mama!” He’s just so much more “in our world” and continues to amaze us daily.
A couple of days ago Grant tried (as he often does) to play catch with Cooper, there was the usual 2-3 times back and forth and then surprisingly Cooper kept going! Grant was a bit surprised and immediately praised him “Good job buddy!” and sort of jokingly as a side to me “I’ve been waiting five years for this!” Cooper keeps playing and begins to add words to what he’s doing! APPROPRIATE words! “Here comes!” and “Catch it!” I was pretty shocked at what I was hearing and seeing and I turn to look at Grant expecting to see the same disbelief on his face but instead there is my dear sweet hubby with tears streaming down his face…he was playing catch with his son for the first time ever. It was truly a priceless moment.
I don’t want to give the impression that he’s so improved that he’s now reading Proust and writing essays, or even doing most of the things that his neurotypical peers are able to do at age 5, but he has most certainly taken two giant steps forward and it just makes our hearts sing.
Cooper simply adores these little over-priced paint sets from the book store. There are two little figurines, 6 little pots of paint and a plastic paint brush in the box, that’s it, but for Cooper it is the bee’s knees… So last weekend we went to the ‘train store’ (book store, they have a train table in the children’s section) and almost immediately Cooper zoned in on one of these little paint sets…It quickly became clear that we weren’t leaving the store without it. He held this treasure in his lap and inspected the contents through the cellophane window all the way home. It’s interesting to me, when he paints something 3D it’s a completely different scene. He’s so very deliberate and so careful but in the past, with me, there’s always been the same proclivity to put his hands in the tiny pots of paint as well. Last weekend when get got home from the bookstore I had to return a phone call so Grant took him up to the studio to get started. When I got up there I was really surprised by what I found. In a very painterly fashion Cooper was meticulously and cautiously painting his dinosaur, he was using the brush so delicately, very serious about it and when he was ready to change colors he would look at Grant and request the color he wanted (one color at a time, this was the rule that Grant had quickly established). There was no manic color mixing or constant requesting for different colors. He stayed completely focused and calm; there was no temptation to put his “poin-tah” in the paint, no requests to do so, no sleight of hand to distract us while he quickly gets his paint-on-skin fix. I think the difference this time actually had less to do with the 3D figure he was painting and a lot more to do with knowing his limitations with dad. It was a pretty neat experience for all of us i think.