When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A public safety announcement, and a recipe for nutty chocolate tidbits

Will made his First Communion yesterday, and we all enjoyed a lovely afternoon of celebrating, first at our house, and then at church.  Extended family members travelled to be with us and make Will's day even more special, and Will, who is always a very deep and thoughtful boy, seemed to really appreciate the meaning behind the sacrament; he was serious and reflective, and full of warm smiles after Mass.  I felt so very proud seeing my sweet littlest boy being so grown up.

Today, however, I am feeling the after-effects of an "incident" that happened at church.  For those of you who have never been to a Catholic Mass, our churches have kneelers in them -- these are long, very heavy, padded wooden boards with feet, set low to the ground on hinges so they can be lifted out of the way when you are sitting or standing, and lowered to allow you to kneel at appropriate parts of Mass.  We were standing at one point yesterday when the family beside me in the pew randomly and suddenly decided to drop the kneeler down full force... with the foot of it landing directly ON MY FOOT (which was clad only in a dainty ballet flat).  Before I had time to react, the two children of the family decided to JUMP onto the kneeler, and every one of their movements wedged the kneeler foot deeper and deeper into the tiny bones at the base of my second toe.  I wanted to scream in agony, but that was not exactly an appropriate reaction in the middle of a quiet, solemn Mass.  There was nothing to do at that point but to screech-whisper a few frantic, "My foot!!!"s, until the guy beside me finally realized what was going on and got his kids off the kneeler.  (And then I spent ten minutes trying not to cry.)  Don't worry -- I survived, albeit with a bruised and throbbing foot.  But I'm telling you this story in the interest of public safety:  Steel-toed boots should be standard footwear with Sunday best clothes in Catholic churches from now on!

Luckily, when we got back home after church, there were still some of these scrumptious nutty chocolate tidbits leftover from our earlier lunch party.  A bit of chocolate fixes everything, doesn't it?  These sweet little treats are something like the two-bite brownies you can buy at the grocery store, but mine are a healthier version, made with almond flour and chia seeds instead of white flour, and applesauce and agave nectar instead of white sugar.  They are also gluten, dairy, and egg-free.

Nutty Chocolate Tidbits

2 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 cup arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp ground chia seeds plus 6 tbsp water (stir together and let stand for a minute to form a gel)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line a mini-muffin tin with 24 paper cups.
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, cocoa powder, arrowroot powder, sea salt, and baking soda.  In a smaller bowl, combine chia seed gel, applesauce, agave nectar, and vanilla.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.
Using a teaspoon, fill each of the mini-muffin cup liners to the top with batter and sprinkle chopped walnuts on the surface.
Bake treats for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a tidbit comes out clean.  Cool and serve.

These almond flour chocolate goodies come in handy in any case of accidental foot-crushing, and their small size makes them also perfect for satisfying a sweets craving without overdoing it.  Yum!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The inventor

If you had a crystal ball and told me that Noah would eventually grow up to become the inventor of the world's next great "thing", I would not be surprised in the least.  He is forever thinking up interesting ways to perform the least interesting tasks in life, using nothing but his brains and the odds and ends he finds lying around the house.  Why carry your books up the stairs (so lame!) when you could devise a pulley elevator system out of wool and an old shoe box to hoist them up to the second floor?  Why turn on a light in the hall when you get up in the dark morning and want to make sure the cat didn't barf in your path overnight (boring!) when you could avoid stepping in something unpleasant by wearing the night vision headgear you rigged up with some flashlights and tape?  Why get up from your desk to answer a knock on your bedroom door (seriously?  that's so old-school!) when you could, with the gentle flick of a finger, fling the portal wide open using a carefully concocted string assembly.  (Or, for that matter, you could just scare the knocker away using a strategically hidden walkie-talkie/alarm system you devised.  Heh heh heh.)

One recent evening I was talking on the phone with someone around the time that Noah was getting ready for bed.  He was hoping I would soon be available to read and talk about some of the incredible facts in the Guinness Book of World Records with him, and by the way he was pacing the hall outside the room I was in, I could tell he was getting antsy.  He could have come into the room and quietly said, "Excuse me", or gently tapped me on the arm, and then waited until I turned my attention to him so he could ask me when I might be available.  But where would the fun have been in that?  (Really, Mom.)

Noah disappeared from the hallway, and after a short period of silence, I heard some scuffling in the room behind me.  When I turned around, there was suddenly a hockey magazine where there had previously been nothing, and the magazine was being used as a base for a large, remote-controlled Hexbug spider.  Attached to the Hexbug was this note:

Noah was nowhere to be seen; he was out in the hallway, operating the remote control for the spider, which was now eerily making its way towards me, bringing Noah's note ever closer to where I sat talking.  His creepy interruption was certainly effective in getting my attention!

I really admire Noah's ingenuity and am always amazed at the fascinating improvisations he comes up with for what would otherwise be mundane tasks.  I'd be even more amazed if he'd hatch a clever plan for cleaning up the disaster zone his inventing almost always creates in his room.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Are you there, Mom?

My mom was here visiting over the past week.  It was so wonderful to have her company; we shopped and shared heart-to-heart conversations, went to hear my brother Frank and his band play a fantastic gig when they were in town, played Bananagrams with the boys and had a successful mission finding Will the mood ring he'd been wishing for for weeks, went to visit my grandma, my aunt Christina and her family for an afternoon, and just enjoyed the rare chance to spend some time together.  I loved seeing the boys so happy to have their Granny with them, and felt a tugging at my heart yesterday morning when she had to head back home, a long eight hours away.  I don't think I'll ever outgrow the wish to have my mom always close by.  When I was little, it was for comfort and security; now it's because my mom is a dear friend.

Before my mom arrived, we decided that Christina and I would pick up my mom at the airport, and then the three of us would head into Toronto for a girls' overnight shopping (and eating!) trip.  A rare, mid-week escape from life's responsibilities was a pretty exciting prospect for all of us.  Once I finished running around like a maniac getting everything organized before my absence from home, and once I got over the inexplicable bit of strangeness I felt watching my two boys walk away from me in the school yard in the morning, knowing that I wouldn't be home to say goodnight to them, I was thrilled to be on the road. 

Less than two hours into our adventure, just as we were nearing our hotel, my cell phone rang.  I didn't answer it in time, and when I saw it was a Waterloo number I didn't recognize, I started to get a bad feeling.  Nobody ever calls my cell phone, really (I use it mostly for urgent matters), so I was imagining all sorts of unhappy scenarios.  When I called the number back, I got the boys' school (panic!!), and it was a student on the line since it was the lunch hour.  A tense ten minutes ensued, during which the student went to try and track down who might have called me, I got disconnected, I called back, I spoke to Noah's teacher and found out he was fine, and then I finally got Will's teacher on the line.  She had called me to tell me that Will had a fat lip and a bloody nose after tripping on a rug that morning.  My mind was racing at that point, first thinking, "Oh God, is Will okay?"  and then wondering how I was going to deal with this fact from a car in downtown Toronto.  Will's teacher assured me that Will was okay, that she was only calling to give Matt and I a head's-up about Will's banged up face before we saw it ourselves at the end of the day.  After a call to Matt to fill him in (and a later call to Will at home to let him know I was thinking about him and hoped he was feeling okay), I was able to breathe again and enjoy the rest of my 30 hours away.

In thinking about this incident afterwards, I wondered what the universe was trying to tell me with Will getting hurt at school the ONE day I wasn't close to home.  It seemed that in a subconcious way, Will was checking to see that his mom would still somehow be there for him, even though she was physically far away.  I hoped that Will knowing that I knew what had happened to him somehow made him feel better, that he somehow felt the love and hugs I was sending his way when he was having a bad day.  I hope he knows that I will always be there for him in the ways that matter most.

I miss my mom already, even though she hasn't been gone long.  As I went about my day yesterday in a suddenly empty house, it felt that there were too many pockets of silence where there had recently been chatter and laughter, and the whole house was missing the feeling of comfort and extra love that having two moms in it all week had given it.  Maybe I should trip on a rug and get a fat lip and a bloody nose and call my mom to let her know about it.  I'm certain that even though she's far away, and even though I'm a grown-up now, she'd still be there for me.

Thanks to my aunt Christina for the photo of my mom and me!  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The swimmer

The swimmer dives gracefully into the deep blue hydrosphere, breath held, arms reaching out as he glides forward against the weight of the water.  He kicks powerfully, and rotates his arms in deliberate arcs, striving to reach the pool's edge faster and better than he ever has before.  Every breath is carefully measured, every stroke a willful and beautiful coordination of brain and body, a merging of movements remembered from past training and determined new intentions.  As the swimmer approaches the wall at full speed, it appears as though he might propel himself head first into the solid barrier; everyone's breath is held at that moment.  But at the last second, he flips his body in a precise and purposeful turn, and ricochets off the wall to push himself masterfully in a whole new direction.  The ripples in the water do not slow down the swimmer's strong, streamlined strokes; his confidence and determination nudge him ever forward.

Things don't always go so smoothly in the pool's wide expanse of blue.  Sometimes the water feels cold and uninviting to the swimmer; sometimes his mind plays tricks on him and makes him doubt his ability to make it to the other side.  There are days when his brain and body seem out of sync, when his careful rhythm is off by a fraction of a beat, making him feel as though he's thrashing awkwardly and never getting anywhere at all.  Some days the swimmer yearns just to lie back and float peacefully, quietly, his tired limbs buoyant on the water's calm surface, hearing nothing but the water's quiet hum in his ears, feeling nothing but the oxygen flowing through his body with every deep breath.  It is precisely in the moments when the swimmer wonders how he can possibly keep on pushing through the water that he realizes it is what he was born to do.  Deep within, he finds a strength he didn't know he had and dives in again, believing that his proudest and most joyful moments are yet to come.

Really, aren't we all swimmers in a wide, wide sea?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Playing hooky

Noah had an appointment with our ND first thing this morning (spring allergy season has come early and hit Noah hard), and this afternoon he was on the road at 2:00 to compete in a swim meet an hour away from home.  Rather than shuffling him to and from school several times in a short period, I decided I would let him play hooky for the extra few hours and spend them relaxing and hanging out with me.

Now before anyone starts wagging fingers and tsk-tsking me with an accusatory tone, let me say that this sort of thing is an extremely rare occurence at our house, so rare that Noah didn't even know what the term "playing hooky" meant when I said it.  (Or maybe that's because it's a very outdated term.  Whatever.  Incidentally, did you know that the word "hooligan" comes after "hooky" in the dictionary?  I found that an interesting coincidence!)  But back to the fact that we are not regular school skippers:  if you combined points for Noah's and my levels of conscientiousness and rule-following, you would get a score of something close to googol. (Googol is a number with 100 zeros, and Google was named after this number, but it was accidentally misspelled.  I know this because Noah told me; he learned it in all of the reading he does in his spare time when he's not in school.)  I think it's clear now that he's fine missing what would have amounted to three hours of school today, one of which was lunch.  (And now it's also obvious how ridiculously guilty I feel about not sending Noah to school today, judging by the way I am desperately trying to justify it to you all!  Clearly I need help.)

Anyway....  Noah and I spent a really nice morning together.  We went to the library to browse for some new-to-us and exciting books to devour, shared a leisurely lunch, and played multiple rounds of UNO.

We had some really good conversations, where we discussed things that matter to each of us and wondered about some things we both don't know.  Noah confessed to feeling very nervous about his swim meet today (which I suspected based on his quiet thoughtfulness this morning), and I shared with him all the tricks I've learned to help banish worrying.  (I am very good at explaining these techniques to others, and less good at actually using them myself.)  There were no other people or activities demanding our attention this morning, and I think we both enjoyed the chance to share a few hours, just the two of us.

As Noah gets older, he gets pulled in many more directions, and the time I spend with him gets shorter every year.  He enjoys being out more with his friends, listening to music and reading more on his own, being busier with more extra-curricular activities, and spending time thinking, planning, wondering, figuring out the many intricacies of the world more independently.  I accept all of this as a normal part of his growing up.  But it doesn't stop me from really cherishing a few hours stolen from a regular school day to remind me of the countless ways in which Noah is a really wonderful kid.  I hope he never grows tired of taking a bit of time to reconnect with his mom.    

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wake-up call

Yesterday morning, Will was still asleep at 7:00, and I had to wake him up for breakfast. 

Wait.  I'm going to repeat myself to let the full impact of that statement sink in for you:  Yesterday morning, WILL WAS STILL ASLEEP AT 7:00, and I HAD TO WAKE HIM UP for breakfast!!

You might be wondering why I am making such a big deal of this fact, since millions of parents all over the world have to wake their children up every weekday morning for breakfast.  The thing is, in his eight years and thirty days of life, Will has NEVER, not once, EVER been asleep at 7:00 a.m.  Not when he was a baby who screamed for long periods of time in the middle of the night.  Not when he was a spirited toddler who sent out frequent, loud invitations to the 2:00 a.m. play parties he wanted to have.  Not even since he finally, at around age three, started sleeping regularly through the night, has Will ever not been awake at 7:00 a.m.  He has always been more of a waking up at 5:something a.m. kind of guy, and, since a dark house can seem pretty quiet and lonely to a little boy, he has always been looking for someone to keep him company at that ungodly hour.

There is absolutely no point to trying to sleep when a persistent child is trying desperately to get you to wake up.  When he was little, Will wasn't very subtle; he would come into Matt's and my room and poke us or call out our names in his very big voice (which, at 5:something a.m., sounds like it's coming through a megaphone), telling us he was hungry or bored.  Now that he's older, he's learned to win our attention with a quieter determination.  He considerately stays in his room reading until 6:something a.m. most weekend and holiday mornings, and then, after he's had the snack that Matt gets up and makes for him, he comes back and stands in the doorway to our room, breathing heavily in the hopes that I'll hear him and open my eyes and invite him in.  If I don't respond, Will quietly, quietly creeps around to my side of the bed, holds his face about two inches from mine, and just stares, boring holes through me with his piercing deep brown eyes.  If that's not enough to send me bolting upright in bed, Will then whisper-yells, "MOM?!  Are you awake??".

I am now, Will.

This is the point in time where Will usually says, "I'll be right back, then!", and dashes off to his room to pick up whatever thing is currently fascinating him most (a book, a Lego creation, a collection of something), and then jumps into my bed to talk to me endlessly about it.  Thankfully, I, too, am more of a morning person than a night owl, so I usually don't mind our early morning chats.  I have learned a lot of interesting things about my youngest boy in those dimly lit hours of the day!  But every now and then, I think it would just be lovely to open my eyes and realize that it's 7:00 a.m. or later, and that I've woken up of my own accord.

We have tried every approach we can think of over the years to try to get Will to sleep just a little longer in the mornings.  We've kept him up later in an effort to shift his wake-up time, but that only resulted in a cranky kid who hadn't had enough sleep.  We've tried changing his bedroom clock to the wrong time to make Will think it's earlier than it is so he'll go back to sleep, but he's always been too smart for such shenanigans.  Eventually, Matt and I came to accept the fact that Will's brain and body are just wired to be up and at 'em early, and we gave up all hope of ever being able to sleep until a reasonable morning hour ourselves.  That's why yesterday morning's 7:00 a.m. wake-up call (in which I was the one doing the waking!) was such a deliriously shocking occurrence.

Now, I'm not one to count my chickens before they're hatched.  I realize that it could be another eight years and thirty days before Will ever sleeps that "late" again.  But the fact that it has now happened once suggests that there's at least the possibility of a repeat performance.  Maybe next time, he'll even do it on a weekend!

Monday, April 9, 2012


I was thinking today about the many new and sometimes unexpected experiences I've had in the ten-plus years since I became a mom.   While many of us often believe, when we decide to have children, that we're ready for everything parenthood will throw our way, I don't think anyone can ever really be prepared for what is to come in that new role.

In the years that have passed since we first welcomed our two wonderful boys into our life, I've noticed quite keenly how much fuller everything seems.  The four chairs at our kitchen table are now all happily (and noisily!) occupied, and in the earlier years, each one of my hands was filled with the warmth of a trusting smaller one to hold.  Our shelves are overflowing with beautiful children's books and our minds are filled with the memories, ideas and dreams their stories have nurtured in us as we've shared them together.  Our evenings and weekends are filled with kids' activities, and with many moments where we've felt so very proud of what the boys have accomplished.  Each day in our home is suffused with the sounds of laughter (and sometimes tears), with countless questions and their possible answers, as we all make our way in this rich and complex world, the four of us, together.

Having the boys has meant that our family room is often full of wild Lego contraptions and zany inventions made out of cardboard and string.  It's resulted in our washing machine being saturated with eleventy billion shreds of soggy Kleenex that somebody left in his jeans' pocket, and our backyard trees being full of lost sports equipment. It's given us mirrors splattered with toothpaste and inundated with smiley faces and smudgey secret messages written with fingers in steam. It's led us to have a couple of closets so full of random things that young boys like to collect that I'm afraid to open them for fear of being taken out by an avalanche.

There is a football in my maple tree. It's been there for three full days. 

I've been kept fully awake some nights as a mom, anxiously thinking over things that only moms can worry about.  Parenthood has filled my mind with moments of self-doubt, and my days with lots of opportunities to make mistakes and to feel sometimes like I'm doing a terrible job.  Other times, seeing the two incredible boys I've helped to grow has filled me with an absolute certainty that I'm doing something right.  In so many ways, being a mom has been the full-time job that I've found both the most challenging and the most profoundly rewarding.

I thought I had a pretty good sense of what I was in for when I decided to become a mom.  I know now that I really had no idea at all.  The boys have filled my life with a new found meaning and purpose, with wonder and excitement, with beautiful opportunities to see the world once again through the curious and imaginative eyes of children.  Best of all, they've allowed me to know what it feels like to have a heart filled to overflowing with joy and love. 


Saturday, April 7, 2012

A most egg-cellent Easter weekend (plus a recipe for a sweet nest and egg treat)

There is something really wonderful about a long holiday weekend.  The days seem to roll along at a much more leisurely pace than they do during a normal week when everyone has to rush around to be places at certain times, and it's so nice to have time to enjoy each other's company over special meals and fun activities.  The past few days at our house have been filled with pancake breakfasts, playing out in the yard, baking Easter treats, puttering in the gardens, reading, and biking, and there have been lots of smiles on everyone's faces.  Even our resident bunnies have been taking time to enjoy the sunshine with us (though I think I'll be having a little chat with the Easter Bunny tonight, to see if he can mention to his little friends that we'd rather they didn't mow down our spring flowers as fast as they appear, and would stick to just eating our grass instead!)

A lot of our fun this weekend has involved eggs in one way or another.  While Will can't eat real eggs, he does enjoy colouring them just as much as the rest of us do.  We prettied up a dozen and a half yesterday morning using natural dyes like we did last year, and we also tried a new approach with a few eggs -- we wrapped them in onion skins and secured them with rubber bands before boiling them in a pot of water.  This resulted in fiery swirled eggs that we thought resembled what dragon eggs might look like!  My two mad scientists loved the egg-citing experiment!

Easter merriment built this afternoon as we had an egg hunt out in our backyard, and the boys ran wildly looking for the 42 colourful plastic eggs I had hidden earlier in various nooks and crannies.

(It became pretty funny in the end when Noah and Will were having a hard time finding the last few eggs, and even I couldn't remember where I'd hidden them!  Eventually the boys and their keen eyes did uncover every last one, though!)  Because I don't like to overload the boys with candy any time of year, I filled the eggs with the 1000 little pieces of this jelly bean puzzle, which we are now working on building together as a family (and which should keep us busy for awhile!)

While we were on the theme of eggs, the boys and I rolled up our sleeves last evening and created these fun and delicious nest treats out of crispy rice cereal and shredded coconut.  The idea came from a macaroon nest recipe from Lexie's Kitchen, and a coconut crispy nest recipe from Go Dairy Free -- we combined elements of the two and ended up with these sweet, crunchy goodies.

Sweet and Crispy Nests with Jelly Bean Eggs

1/3 cup coconut butter (I used Artisana brand)
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups crispy rice cereal (I used gluten-free brown Rice Krispies)
1/2 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut (plus a few extra tablespoons for decorating)
5 squares of a dark chocolate bar (I used Endangered Species Supreme Dark Chocolate, 72% cocoa)
30 jelly beans (I used Surf Sweets brand -- they are gluten-free and contain no corn syrup or artificial colours or flavours)

In a large saucepan, melt coconut butter over low heat.  Remove from heat and whisk in maple syrup and vanilla until ingredients are well combined.  Stir in crispy rice cereal and 1/2 cup shredded coconut.  Mix well. 
Press cereal mixture into 10 lightly greased muffin cups. (I used grapeseed oil for greasing.)  Use your thumb to make an indentation in the centre of each "nest". 
Melt chocolate squares in a small saucepan over low heat.  Use a teaspoon to drizzle chocolate over each nest.  Sprinkle nests with remaining shredded coconut.
Arrange three jelly beans in the centre of each nest.
Place muffin tin in the refrigerator and chill until nests are set.  Carefully remove nests from muffin tins.  Store nests in an airtight container between servings.

These nests and eggs were a great project to do with Noah and Will, as the boys were able to do a lot of the steps themselves. Both of them were very pleased to eat something really yummy that they had made with their own hands.

Tomorrow we are all looking forward to seeing what the Easter Bunny will bring, to celebrating the real joy of Easter, and to sitting down to some more delicious foods:  hot cross buns, coloured eggs, and fruit salad for breakfast, and a roasted chicken with lemon and herbs, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips roasted with olive oil, garlic, rosemary and orange zest, roasted asparagus, and a fresh spring salad for dinner.  By the end of the weekend, I think we'll all be feeling full and content!

A very Happy Easter to all of you!  I hope your weekend has also been filled with family, good food, and fun!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

(Hex)bug infestation

Our house has been overrun with creepy crawly things lately.  First, it was spiders in the showers, and now, our basement is teeming with a colony of insects who wriggle and skitter through their enormous habitat, which has taken over the boys' playroom.  I actually quite like these bugs, though -- they provide Noah and Will with hours of entertainment and lots of opportunities for scientific discovery.

Before you think I've lost my mind, I should clarify that I'm now talking about Hexbugs, small robotic toy creatures that behave in some ways like real insects.  The habitat I'm referring to was built by Noah and Will for their Hexbug nanos (which are the smallest of the Hexbug family), and I wanted to share it with you because I think it's a fantastic toy.

Will received a starter Hexbug habitat set for Christmas the year before last, and when he set it up, both he and Noah were fascinated by the way the nanos zoomed about in it, changing direction every time they bumped into something.  Since then, Will has used much of his Christmas and birthday gift money and his saved allowance to buy additional habitat sets over time, and the boys have spent countless happy hours configuring and reconfiguring interesting designs to keep their Hexbugs moving, challenging themselves to use every single one of the different shaped pieces that click together in an infinite number of possible combinations.  This past weekend's acquisition of a "hive" and a zipline (Noah's dream contraption!) called for a complete dismantling of the old habitat and an excited afternoon of redesigning, rebuilding, and setting their collection of insects loose to explore.  I never thought I'd be so glad to have boys who are so into bugs!

Building Hexbug habitats and studying the way the nanos move within them is a wonderfully creative and stimulating activity; kids can be architects, engineers, and entomologists all with one toy.  If your children are yearning for a bug collection of their own, Hexbugs can be purchased at places like Chapters, Mastermind Toys, and Toys 'R Us.  (This week, Toys 'R Us has all Hexbug toys on sale for 20% off.)  These little crawly critters are so much fun, you may just want to join in with your kids and play with bugs yourself!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Almond and honey hot cross buns (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free)

When I was little, Easter mornings were really fun family occasions filled with special surprises and treats.  The Easter Bunny always left a trail of jelly beans and hidden goodie baskets for my brothers and I, and we always enjoyed a much-loved breakfast of coloured eggs and thick, toasted slices of my Grandma D's homemade Easter bread.  I have never since tasted, and probably never will taste, a bread as good as hers; it was sweet, golden, and light as air, and the crust was drizzled with a thin white icing and dotted with colourful sprinkles.  When I close my eyes and breathe deeply this time of year, I can still smell that bread's sweet goodness.

I am pretty positive that there is no way to make a gluten, dairy, and egg-free version of Easter bread that would come anywhere close to my grandma's, so I've decided not to attempt it.  I do, though, want the boys to have their own happy memories of sweet, homebaked Easter goods, so I came up with this recipe for hot-cross buns made with almond flour, honey, spices, and fruits.  Noah and Will and I had a lot of fun together making a test batch of them yesterday, and we were all so very pleased with how they turned out!  I'm looking forward to baking and sharing them again with my little family this coming Easter weekend.

Almond and Honey Hot Cross Buns

2 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp mixed lemon and orange zest
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp raw honey

For the crosses:

2 tbsp raw coconut butter (I use Artisana brand)
2 tsp coconut oil
2 tsp raw honey

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda, raisins, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, lemon and orange zest.  Stir until well mixed.

In a small bowl, whisk together the arrowroot powder and water.  Add the honey and whisk well.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until all ingredients are well combined.  Knead with your hands if necessary to get a uniform dough.

Divide dough into 5 equal parts.  Roll each section of dough into a ball with your hands, and place it on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.  Cut a cross shape about 1/4 inch deep into the top of each bun with a sharp knife.

Bake buns for 20 minutes, or until tops are golden brown.  Cool slightly.

While buns are cooling, make the icing for the crosses by combining the coconut butter, coconut oil, and honey in a small bowl and beating with an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Spoon icing into a piping bag and pipe icing over the crosses on the buns.  Serve warm. 

These hot cross buns fill the air with a cinnamony warmth when they're baking, and the protein-rich almond flour makes them a delicious and satisfying breakfast treat.

Wishing you all a sweet and happy Easter weekend!