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Breaking In The New Kitchen

With apologies to poet Browning - The
lark’s on the wing; the snail’s on the thorn;
Maddie’s in her kitchen, and all’s right with the

Our kitchen remodeling is finally finished; I started unpacking my
kitchen boxes bit by bit last week as projects were completed and
space opened up. As ecstatic as I am to be back in a kitchen that
is more sophisticated than a microwave and a hot plate,
there’s someone even more excited about it: Maddie.

About a week ago I felt like I’d won
the lottery as I sat down to wallow in the luxury of all my new
cabinet space: where would my pots go? What about my Tupperware?
And the big question: where would all the baking supplies be? As I
began gleefully unpacking my cookie sheets and bundt pans into my
kitchen island (Hey! I just truthfully used the words “my
kitchen island” in a sentence!) Maddie wandered by and peered
over my shoulder into the mysterious depths of the cabinets. Her
eyes lit up.

“Hey! Our baking things! Mommy, can we bake now? Can we? Can
we do it now?”

I explained that, while the pans may be out, I hadn’t
unpacked any of our baking ingredients, mixing bowls, or mixers,
and oh yes, we had no countertops. For the next several days, every
time Maddie would see progress she’d ask, “Can we bake
now, Mommy?” Mixing bowls unpacked? Time to bake! Flour
uncovered? Time to bake! Countertops installed? You guessed it
– time to bake!

I was working feverishly through every spare moment Maddie and Cora
would give me, unboxing and breaking down and organizing pantries.
But the newly-installed countertops were still cluttered with
unstored kitchen paraphernalia last Friday when Maddie said
wistfully, “Mommy, when can we bake? I miss it!”

We baked that afternoon.

Carving out a niche in the chaos, we decided our inaugural baking
foray in our new home would be Maddie’s favorite breakfast
bars. For those of you who don’t know, Maddie became
enamoured with the idea of breakfast bars after watching her daddy
eat one on the go, and when unemployment hit I decreed them too
expensive and set about looking for our own recipe. Everything I
found was more of a brownie than a nutritious breakfast, so I ended
up making my own recipe with lots of input from Maddie. The result
is a bar packed with several whole grains, powdered milk and egg
whites for protein, crispy brown rice and oats for crunch, and
cranberries and orange for flavor. My kid loves them and would eat
them every day if she could, and the day she ate her last one in
New York was dark indeed: she’s been over a month without
them now and really craving them.

So we set out to make the bars, Maddie happily dragging
“her” stool over to the new baking spot after running
to her play kitchen to grab her own tools. She tied on her apron,
brought over her pint-sized oven mitts and whisks for good measure,
and stepped up to the plate. Five minutes after the bars were in
the oven Maddie was hovering around the oven door, her oven mitt on
one hand with her square oven hot pad in it for good measure.
Concerned she’d miss them as they came out of the oven, she
refused to move until I showed her the digital timer counting down,
at which point she counted down from ten over and over and over

By the time the bars came out Madeleine was dancing with
excitement, waving both potholders at me and almost trying to
wrestle the pan out of my hands. When the timer beeped to signal
the end of the cooling-off period Maddie was at the pan before
I’d even stood up, and the bliss on her face as she bit into
one is, I suspect, much like the look on my own face as I take my
first bite of a Jacques Torres chocolate-chip cookie (oh, so good).

Since then we’ve baked once more, making a bundt cake to
thank a neighbor for her help these past few weeks. Madeleine
remembered where everything was in the new kitchen and looks as if
she’s been working in it for years already. As for Cora,
she’s happy to play on the floor near us, putting her
activity table through its paces, pulling herself to standing on
Maddie’s stool, or crawling around and trying to get into the
cabinets (preferably ones with sharp blades or gas lines).
I’m loving having the space to bake with my daughters without
feeling as if we’re on top of each other, and looking forward
to a whole lot more of the same.

And with that, the house is starting to feel a bit more like our
home. After all, if there are breakfast bars in the freezer, it
must be home.


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