Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Resilient New Year!

Greetings from sea level!

I'm in Houston this week, visiting family. Signs that we're at sea level are everywhere, mainly in the form of damage left by Hurricane Ike back in September. Wooden fences are still lying where they blew over. Blue tarps still cover hundreds of roofs. A storage unit complex nearby is still in shambles. No conversation goes on without some reference to Ike.

Counting blessings is easier when you see what other people had to live through.

But, as always, life goes on and people pick up the pieces and keep moving forward. Our relatives lost part of their roof, and water caved in their second floor ceilings. They've got a new roof now and a new fence, but they're still waiting for a drywall repairman to finish the upstairs rooms.

But they cheerfully welcomed us into their home for the holidays anyway. So here we are, enjoying ourselves thoroughly, spending wonderful holiday moments with folks we love.

I'm taking advantage of being at sea level, too. I've been baking a few of my milk-free, egg-free, and nut-free recipes here, to see what sea level changes I need to make. So far, it's gone well -- the biggest difference I've noticed is that breads take less time to bake here. I almost burned the pumpkin bread because I wasn't used to how fast it would cook here, and my apple muffins didn't rise as much as I thought, so they were kind of flat. But other than that, they tasted good and had the right texture, so I must be on the right track.

Recipes are tricky sometimes, but I have no patience for tricky. If a recipe is too fussy, I throw it away. My recipes, like my houseplants, have to be hearty and forgiving. They have to be adaptable to a busy household, where I'm usually throwing muffins in the oven and watching the clock because I have to have my son at his next sporting or social engagement in exactly 23 minutes, and the muffins will take exactly 17 to bake, 1 to slap onto the cooling rack, leaving 5 to drive to the appointment. You know. Your life is probably a lot like mine. Most people's are, I guess. I forget that sometimes, until I'm face to face with proof that my life is actually pretty darn easy, compared to what others are going through.

So I'm baking at sea level, thinking about life with allergies, and life with hurricanes, and life with all the trials it throws at us. And I'm thinking that we're an awfully resilient species. As 2008 winds to a close, I'm looking ahead to 2009 with more optimism than I have in a while. Part of it is from seeing how people down here are moving ahead despite blue tarps flapping over their heads. Part of it is from being surrounded by loving friends and family, and remembering that they care about us no matter what happens. And part of it is simply seeing that my pumpkin bread turns out no matter where I bake it or even if I nearly burn it. It's a resilient recipe. If my recipe can survive change, so can I, right?

Here's to a resilient New Year!

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