Good Grief A Beach House

It’s been 3,079 days since I lost my son and two years to the day, I bought a beach house because of a rock. Yes, you read it. A rock, but not just any rock. Seriously, grief makes one do crazy, impulsive things that you never thought you would or could. It’s true. 

If you follow the blog, I suspect you already know the effect the rock had on me, but for the others, let me explain. I believe my son died before he was ready to go and with that keeps a presence here. There wasn’t a day that went by that he did not end a conversation with an “I love you” and thus he continues to show himself to me with an occasional heart sign. I call these moments “whoosh” and along with seeing a heart I feel a squeeze in my chest as if he is hugging me.

So, it was two years ago while on a vacation I happened upon a house just a few doors down from our rental that was for sale. Just for fun, my husband and I took a walk through the house never intending to buy it, but as we were leaving the property there was this rock nestled in the crushed shells of the driveway. I gravitated to it and my husband immediately said, “he wants us to buy this house.” The rest is history.

The beach house has been a large part of the grief journey not only for me, but for my husband. The property is a stunning, peaceful wildlife refuge on one side with gentle ocean waves on the other. Surrounded by nature it’s a birder’s paradise with nesting osprey, herons and eagles plus all the sea creatures one can imagine.

There is also an 8-point buck that hangs out. He is here.

Swayed by emotion? Trust your instincts. Find your refuge.

Poppy Seed Cookies Transformation

Not long ago my friend, Steven, told me he was impressed by how I chose to transform my pain rather than transmit it. Not being the deep thinker that he is I have been reflecting on his comment ever since. The blog has certainly been a sacred space to share pain. A room built on grief, but filled with joy, peace and quiet. We are never not broken, but true strength and courage is never about wholeness. It is the ability to face the darkness, adapt and shine a positive light that honors the dear departed. How else could one celebrate a son so loved? 

Baking is a lot like grief. A process with good days and bad. A transformation through fire. A healthy annihilation of ingredients that are broken down and come back stronger. Love made edible…and that has made all the difference.

Today’s recipe celebrates a lovely mom named Linda. Her daughter, Lauren, took the time to privately correspond with me soon after finding the blog last month. Lauren’s letter certainly helps me understand what Steven was trying to tell me. Here is what she wrote: 

Dear Lisa, 

I came across your blog as I have also turned to cooking/baking as a therapeutic way to deal with grief. I lost my mother in January unexpectedly and tragically. My son (her only grandchild) was 8 months old at the time. It has been heartbreaking. I wept when reading that you lost your son (any mother’s greatest fear) but I am so inspired by your journey through grief and finding a healing path that involves celebrating his life through baking! 

I wanted to reach out and say thank you so much for sharing such a raw and vulnerable part of you. I know you have touched many lives through your work. 

Warmly,

Lauren
 

I wanted to know more about Lauren’s mom. In the words of her sweet daughter:

My mom shared joy and love through food, both cooking and baking. I will cherish memories of time spent in the kitchen together cooking up a feast for family and friends. I saved many of her cookbooks and kitchen items to remind me of her and to feel her presence with me when I cook/bake. 

Linda and her grandson

Yes, to feel her presence. Thank you, Lauren, for celebrating your mom on Good Grief Cook. It’s an honor to share one of her favorite recipes. Here is the precious recipe in Linda’s hand-writing. (If you follow the blog you know how much I treasure anything hand-written).

The cookie batter is very thin. I was worried, but the transformation works. These are perfectly crisp, slightly sweet and with lovely layers of flavor. Baking them to the darker golden brown is the way to a crispy cookie. Bake slightly less if you prefer to mold or transform them hot off the baking sheet. I used a level teaspoon for the small crisps and a level tablespoon for the dessert platter size.

Poppy Seed Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup canola oil

½ cup ice water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon grated lemon rind

¼ cup poppy seeds

Heat oven 325F. Coat baking sheets with cooking spray. In bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add eggs, oil, water, vanilla, almond extract, lemon rind and poppy seeds; blend well. Drop by level teaspoons (small cookies) or level tablespoons (large cookies) on prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2-inches apart. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a darker golden brown for crisp cookies. While cookies are warm, using a thin spatula, transfer them to a cooling rack. Makes about 5 to 6 dozen cookies.


How to Celebrate a Life: TEDx Talk & Buttermilk Spice Cake

There is no better way to step outside one’s comfort zone than to give a TED talk. This is public speaking, “ideas worth spreading”, on steroids as there is no podium, a time constraint and using notes is not recommended. It takes courage and a village of support to get it done. As thankful and as proud as I can possibly be for successfully completing a TEDx talk at Furman University, I’m still going to lament the fact that I failed to convey one critical thought even though no one knew what I forgot to say. It’s about that CHOPPED competition. I really want you all to know this:

“What’s most remarkable about my CHOPPED experience is not that I won $10,000.00, but that the victory is the result of the pure love energy of my son.”

Happy birthday William. It’s your day tomorrow. I can’t think of a better gift to give you than this video. I am ever so proud to be your mom. 

If you watch the video I suggest enlarging the screen, so you can get a better look at the power point photos. I think seeing the photos as you listen is critical to better understanding the story.

A grateful shout-out to all those who read my blog, but especially today to Patrice, Betty, Krista and Marcie who inspire me to remain positive. And to the student team of Furman University led by Jacob Lollis there are no words, but love for all your hard work in coordinating such an extraordinary event. Thank you for your gracious hospitality and celebrating William’s life with me.

It would not be a celebration without cake. This Buttermilk Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream comes from Jana Roerick’s book, The Little Island Bake Shop. The warm spices only get more intense as the cake sits, so make it a day or two in advance. I baked mine in 2 8-inch round pans and then deliberately sliced them horizontally in an uneven fashion because I was feeling off kilter. Imperfect is not considered professional, but I think it is so much more interesting. I also added 4 ounces of softened cream cheese at the end of the mixing of the buttercream. The tang of the cream cheese balances out the sweetness of the frosting. I also prefer my cakes naked around the sides. And here is a neat trick. Enjoy a slice or two before your guests arrive and then embellish the inside. No one will know! It gives a whole new meaning to have your cake and eat it, too.