Food + Wine

Constant Craving & Cinnamon Squares

I’m calculating time in my head and it made my head hurt more than the crying did. Through my calculations, I came up with the following :

My family went through me recovering from surgery, straight into Thanksgiving, then to my son’s birthday, directly into bringing new kittens into the home, then slid right on in to the holidays when our sweet Maggie was starting to drift away… and now it’s January 20th somehow and it just occurred to me on my walk through the melting snow that we have been running a clinic out of our home in some way or another since November. We have had bandages to change every single day for months now. Messes to clean from accidents on the floor. Medications to dole out. Symptoms to gauge. Doctors to visit. Laundry to do and redo and redo. Feeding to adjust. Water intake to monitor. A solid game of defense being played throughout the day to keep one recovering thing safe from another peripheral thing. 

And all of that coming after the adjustment we all had to make once the pandemic hit. The family I had prior to covid changed immediately and completely once we went into lockdown, and the foundation I thought was there turned out to be not a foundation at all… but a mere starting-off point for me to build my own. A stronger foundation for the stronger family that remains to thrive in safety. The four of us went through a hefty amount of emotional healing, then straight into tending to a lot of physical healing.

I thank the moons and stars for that emotional healing, and the pain that ignited it, every single day of my life.

And I think that when there is a Constant in your life that came before everything changed into what you call yours today… their significance and their power can be overwhelming.

Maggie was that Constant. She was ours before we became a we. So not having her here, and simply stepping through life as an adult for the first time without that Constant…. It’s strange. It’s sad. It’s quiet.

It’s just different.

Today I have been Craving that Constant. But today is an easier day than yesterday. And I always hope for a better tomorrow.

I meant it when I said it in my last post that I expected relief, but instead have found only grief. And that’s still true today. All of the mending and tending we did for her was out of pure love. The thing is, now I just don’t know what to do with the time I have that used to be spent, at the very least, worrying about Maggie. The amount of hours I spent throughout the day looking at her belly to see if it was rising is so very apparent now. The maneuvering around her when she rested in whatever spot she deemed most convenient and comfortable for the day. And the hours of worry. I feel the effects of that constant worry in strange ways today.

The house is so quiet now. Even though Maggie hadn’t filled it with noise for months, everything now just feels so vacant without her here.  It’s a testament to her powerful presence and that makes me smile with gratitude.

For the last 18 years, my husband has begun and ended his days at home – every single one of them – with taking Maggie outside and then into our room. And for the last several, he was carrying her up and down the stairs. If I was up and downstairs when it happened, watching their silhouette in the morning light always made me giggle. We would pretend she was a Queen and demanded to be carried.

Things like that helped us cope with the silent knowing that things were coming to an end. And I’m just now remembering as I type this that when she was agile enough, and especially when the morning was even remotely chilly, she would come running up the front door steps and literally leap into the living room.

For the last several weeks of her life in that body, we were all changing her bandages as a family. Sitting on our bedroom floor, supplies in a tidy box next to us – some of which leftover from my surgery – we tended to her wounds and made her as comfortable as we could. I would sing to her sometimes. I think that was more for us than for her. Other times, we just silently sent her powerful love and knew our time with her was fleeting. 

So when I try to understand why this is such a powerful loss and transition when I knew logistically that it was coming soon… I remember how much our lives not only revolved around, but were razor-focused on Maggie… for 18 years. 

And how very un-dog like she actually was.

Maggie was not the dog that would go outside and play. She couldn’t stand being away from us for more than three minutes. One- if it was raining outside. Maggie hated weather. She never even learned how to complete Fetch because the moment she realized she and the ball were far enough away from us, she’d drop the ball and come back. 

So we are not mourning the loss of a dog in our home. We are mourning the loss of a huge part of our family, our routine, and so much of our time spent with another life at our feet.  

In Buddhism, the ongoing cycle of life and death and rebirth is called Samsara. In Sanskrit, the word Samsara can be literally translated to ‘flowing on’, and depending on how you look at the concept, it can be viewed as a positive idea or a negative one. Positively speaking – we get to live on… flow on after death and into a new life. The negative way to view it is – we just keep re-living the pain of life over and over again. I think both are entirely possible depending on the life.

If we die in a way that leaves us clinging to something we need, or grasping for another chance to do something better… the cycle continues and we never learn the lessons we need to rebirth ourselves. But if we can live through this life knowing that death is just a part of it, and rebirth is on the other side… then we can live this life more focused on what, and more specifically who, truly matters. The lessons we learn from the creatures that are put here to teach us are what we take with us until the end, and then into the new beginning. So the Constant Craving of things that we miss can carry on, but it’s when we are able to recognize that what we are really craving in this lifetime is love, and acceptance… that’s when the rebirth begins.

This morning when I found myself otherwise without a purpose, or direction, and it was so very quiet, I picked up a magazine picture of a cinnamon bar recipe I had clipped before Thanksgiving. It had been lying on the kitchen counter for months, but I never had the time to do anything with it.

So today I remembered who I was and made something beautiful out of a moment of silence. 

This recipe is nowhere near what the magazine wanted me to do, so out of respect for the individuals who published it… I will leave their name out of it 😉  The surgical notations made with sharpie are comical.

But my version of that picture that called to me back when life was a lot more noisy… is easy, incredibly crave-worthy, and it will hug you from the inside. 

Maggie would have loved the mess I made at my feet. 

Cinnamon Squares

makes 12 abbey approved sized squares

You will need :

  • 2 cups all purpose white flour (I always use unbleached)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon + more for cinnamon sugar to sprinkle (see below*)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 splashes vanilla
  • some white sugar for cinnamon sugar… or pre-mixed blend (see note below*)
  • 1 TB butter, melted, for after baking

You will do :

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease a 2 quart glass baking dish (I chose a rectangular 7×11 inch, but you can use a standard 8×8 inch or 9×9 inch square dish if you prefer)

In a large mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients :

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Mix until fully combined. I like using a whisk.

In a medium saucepan on medium heat, combine the :

  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar

Stir until butter is melted and you have a smooth mixture. Mind the bottom of the pan so the sugar doesn’t stick and burn.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool enough so you can touch the pan, or transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl to speed up the process. Once cooled slightly, whisk in the :

  • 2 eggs
  • vanilla splashes

Be sure to add the eggs slowly so they don’t scramble. If you do it slowly, while whisking, you should be safe.

Once the butter/sugar/egg/vanilla mixture is completely combined and thick and glossy, whisk it into the dry ingredients. Whisk until stiff, then a rubber spatula is best for getting it all from the bottom and sides of the bowl. Make sure there are no flour pockets.

Spread the batter into the greased baking dish.

Place into the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out without any goop on it. (Full disclosure – I went for 22 minutes, checked and then went for another 5, then another 3 before mine were done 😉 )

Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and pour / brush the top with the :

  • 1 TB of melted butter

Then sprinkle with your :

  • cinnamon sugar (see below*).

Be as liberal as you’d like. I think treated it like you’d treat cinnamon toast is a fair guide to follow.

Note that these will sink as they cool and that’s where the delectably dense consistency comes from.

Allow to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container to stay fresh for 3 days or so on the counter. They also freeze well. They also deserve to be nibbled on warm while you take their picture.

*My cinnamon sugar recipe always includes salt. Yours should now too. If you have some already in a shaker, that’s cool. Add salt if you want. Or don’t. It’s your cinnamon sugar shaker. My recipe uses a 4:1 ratio and I always make a container of it with 1/4 cup white sugar + 1 TB ground cinnamon + 1 tsp kosher salt. Mix it up with a fork or shake it in the sealed container and keep with your spices.

As I’ve been writing and editing this, all of my family has come through and eaten a square, all with their own cover of a yummy noise. I’ve rescued a kitten from the top of the entertainment center. Balanced my lap top with the other kitten in said lap. Built a fort for them out of the wine boxes I signed for while chatting with the delivery man about how I can’t leave snacks for them anymore because of the constant chocolate craving squirrel.

And I’ve done a little healing within the stillness.

thanks for reading, yall. much love x

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