Sunday, October 18, 2015

King Arthur Flour Adventure Part 1

Obligatory food pic. This is a piece of a huge (and fabulous) chocolate chip cannolo from Mike's Pastry in Boston.
A lame selfie in Boston

I don’t go on vacation, but here I am on one of my two dream vacations. I mean, really, it’s been a dream of mine for several years now to come to Vermont, home of King Arthur Flour and take a baking class at their Baking Education Center. My other dream is to go to Alaska to see the Northern Lights, but that's another matter. This post is somewhat of a stream-of-conscious narrative. It's a one-draft post that shows my heart more than it shows off my writing skills.

Now I’m going to get a little Jesus-y on you, so beware. There have been two major events in my life where I have felt God’s overpowering goodness and love for me. Today is one of those days. The last one was about 9 1/2 years ago, and I’ll tell you about that one first, because if you’re a parent, especially a mother, I think you may be able to connect with it more easily than my one for today.

My son had—has—a developmental disorder. Way back when he was 4 years old and in preschool, we didn’t know what the future held (heck, we still don’t fully know, obviously), but one thing we did know: the kid HATED drawing/coloring. I mean, to the point that when he went in for a minor surgical procedure and was upset because of the hospital bracelet on his ankle, and the nurse came in with a coloring book and crayons to help him calm down, my husband and I experienced this slow motion moment where we said “No-o-o-o-o-o-o!” just a split second too late. The sight of the crayons sent the kid into a full-blown meltdown and the nurse quickly and confusedly backed herself and her coloring materials out of the room. This was just how he was with drawing and coloring.  A few months after that incident, I was substitute teaching in an elementary art classroom where the kindergarteners were expected to (and did) draw a picture of themselves with an animal of their choice. They ALL did it. Nobody cried. Nobody balked. They did it and loved it. Upon seeing this, my heart sank because I knew that my son would not be happily drawing anything when he hit kindergarten in a year. It was one of those moments that punched me in the chest—the realization that my son was not developing typically, and I had no idea if he’d ever catch up. Buuut... that very afternoon (seriously), when my son came home from preschool, he had a stack of drawing paper in his hands along with a note from his teacher: “M. drew these today. We started drawing in our lesson, and he chose to draw more at the drawing center during free choice time. Wow!” Yes, WOW. They were simple drawings of M's aunt, uncle, and cousins with heads, faces, arms, and legs, but no bodies. To me they were more beautiful than any art I'd ever seen. I was stunned. Just as I had been struck in the heart only a few hours earlier with fear and anxiety, I was hit in the heart once more that day with a clear message from my heavenly dad saying, “I’ve got this. I love you. I love M. You don’t need to worry so much.”

So that feeling came upon me again today as I drove North on Highway 93 in New Hampshire surrounded by gorgeous trees in their fall finery, on my way to my King Arthur Flour Baking Education adventure. In order for this to make sense, I also need to tell you a little about myself, my family, and well, some of my neuroses. My husband and I don’t really go “on vacation.” We go to California to visit family and friends; and we sometimes will do an overnighter to see a band playing within a 300-mile radius of Des Moines, Iowa, where we reside. It’s just a luxury we don’t partake in. We were both teachers for a long time, and I was a stay at home mom, and now I only work part-time. My husband is a high school administrator now with a decent salary, but that means we also have more school debt to pay off. I know, I’m probably giving you too much information, but it’s important to know that we just don’t have a ton of money. Add to that the fact that I have this general anxiety about spending money. Going on a baking adventure to Vermont was a pipe dream. I would go on the King Arthur Flour website and see the “LEARN” tab at the top of the page. I’d click and see all of these people having fun in a baking classroom. Sigh. I’d never be able to do that, but if I ever won the lottery, I’d do it for sure.

Well, back in March of this year, I noticed on Instagram that KAF had posted something about “Bake for Good.” Bake for Good? Hmm… I looked up the details and the deal was that King Arthur Flour was having a contest within their Bake for Good campaign. The prize was a trip to KingArthur Flour’s Baking Education Center  and a scholarship for one of their multi-day baking classes! Oh. My. Gosh. My dream. All we had to do was tell them how we used our love of baking to serve others in our community. “I do that!” I thought. I tutor a small group of Burmese refugee women twice each week, trying to prepare them to pass the HiSET (GED) exam. We have a lot of fun during our tutoring times, and sometimes we even study. A lot of the time they ask me questions about the language and customs of the U.S., and I ask about their languages and cultures. Somewhere along the way, I found out that none of them knew how to use an oven. They lived in refugee camps in Thailand and cooked outdoors over open fires. Ovens were completely foreign to them. They loved the things I baked that came out of the oven, though, particularly my CoconuttyCookies with Toffee Bits. So, when it was time for us to watch the second movie in the Hunger Games series (they’d already come over for the first movie the year before), I told them they needed to come over earlier an learn how to use the oven. I prepared baked potatoes (which they enjoyed with Sriracha) and we had a cookie baking lesson. As we mixed and panned the cookies, they asked about the oven and told me some of their misconceptions—like they were afraid if they cooked something in the oven it might catch fire and they didn’t know how to put a fire out in an oven in their apartments. When we pulled the first pan of cookies out of the oven, one of the ladies pressed her finger into a hot cookie and burned her finger. I forgot to warn her how hot the cookies and the pan would be. Oops. All this to say, they learned a lot that day—and some learned the hard way.

So I sent my story off to KAF, excited about the possibility of winning. I wasn’t sure what my chances were, but it was fun to enter and tell my story. A couple of months went by and I didn’t hear anything. I kind of forgot that I’d entered, and then at the end of June I got the email telling me that I was one of two winners! What?! Yeah, so today is the first day of my trip, and even though I have been amazed every time I think about the trip and tell people about it, it was today that it really hit me. God has done it again, blessed me with an amazing gift that I could never manage on my own. It almost sounds silly to say because I know a lot of people don’t really believe in a God who is loving and generous, and I don’t claim to know all of His motives and inner workings, but this I do know: He loves me, and today I felt it tangibly as I drove from Boston to Norwich, Vermont. I get to be on this amazing trip that I thought was only a pipe dream. I am humbled and thankful to God mostly, and to King Arthur Flour for giving me this opportunity. And to my family for letting me go and being excited for me. I am thankful for all of my friends who are helping transport my kids to and from school this week. And I am thankful for my students whom I now call my friends, who share their lives and culture with me all the time and who I am blessed to have call me their teacher. This is good stuff. And even though my regular life is often unsure and stressful, I am going to soak all of this in and be present and thankful. Very thankful indeed.

New York City is even bigger than I'd imagined.
Lady Liberty
Can you see how huge those cannoli are at Mike's Pastry?
Yes, I did eat two whole huge cannoli. I called them "dinner." This one was pecan caramel. Oh my gosh. Fabulous.

1 comment:

Hello! If your comment is more of a question about something you are cooking RIGHT NOW, please email me the question in addition to posting it here. I check my email more frequently than I check my blog comments. :)

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