I went for a walk and came home to find them both in the kitchen. They can cook, but they have rarely baked entirely on their own. As I took off my shoes, I heard raised voices and then laughter. Andre walked into the front hall and stage whispered to me, “They’re making chocolate chip cookies. They don’t know that we don’t have chocolate chips.” He cleverly retreated upstairs while I tentatively approached the cooking zone. 

“We’re baking!” Their enthusiasm almost bowled me over. My eyes roved over the counter, floor, children.

“Don’t worry!” said my more cautious elder child, “We started with a bowl that was too small and the butter and sugar kind of went everywhere…”

“It made a HUGE mess,” added his brother, gleefully.

“But we’ve mostly cleaned it up. And now we’re using a bigger bowl. But the brown sugar has lumps so we’re smashing them with our fingers.”

“It’s harder than it looks.”

I offered to help and was invited to finish the creaming. “You’re so good at that,” my eldest said wistfully. 

“You’ll get it,” I reassured. Hoping that my help would soften the inevitable blow, I broke the news that there were no chocolate chips.

They hesitated, then rallied. “We can add Nutella!” said the 10-year-old. “That’ll taste great!”

“And the Dutch sprinkles!” added the 12-year-old, “We still haven’t used them.”

Disaster averted, they pushed forward. “Wait!” Mr. 10 is suddenly nervous, “is it ok that we’ve had the oven on for a kind of a long time? It’s empty! It’s not like the microwave, right?” I nodded and moved away from them. They were on their own.

His brother started to raz him about the time he turned the microwave on instead of using the timer. As they cracked the eggs, they discussed something that had billions of something. They were laughing again. One of them added a healthy dollop of Nutella. The other suggested more. The open laptop was immediately next to the bowl where they were mixing the batter. They tried, unsuccessfully, to use the beaters to mix in the flour. 

I stayed near enough to watch without interfering, keeping my mouth shut and my eyes open.

When the beaters got stuck in the batter, they both left the kitchen in favour of the backyard and the hammock. The batter waited. They returned.

In went the sprinkles. They mixed with their hands because the dough was “too hard”. More laughter. They dragged out the cookie sheets & argued about how big to make the cookies. Then they talked about how much they might spread and how many could go in each row. I managed to say nothing and laugh inwardly.

And now the cookies are baking. They look pretty darn good – and I have a suspicion that the boys might declare them the best cookies ever. They’ll probably be right.

Update #2: 36 hours later, I found some creamed butter and sugar nestled in the leaves of a plant that lives several feet from where the original creaming took place. Luckily, it’s easy to clean

Update #1: The cookies were, in fact, delicious.

A little sweetness #SOL21 2/31

Just yesterday I was talking with a friend about the evils of sugar. Just yesterday I agreed with her that the only rational choice is to limit sugar or even to avoid it altogether. I talked about the month a few years ago when I went sugar-free; I remembered that I felt really good by the end, though it was hard in the middle. We commiserated about our children’s sugar habits. Really, we said, when it comes down to it, we should be setting a better example.

So it’s just as well that no one is in the kitchen right now as the gooey insides of a warm butter tart drip down my fingers and into my mouth. My eyes shift to the right: no kids. I scrape my teeth across the cupcake liner to get the last caramelized bits from the edges then quickly crumple the evidence and throw it in the compost. No one needs to know about this.

I’m home today, playing hooky with my older child. Well, I say we’re “playing hooky” but the truth is that I’m not calling it hooky, I’m calling it rest because we both needed a break. Pandemic school is tough, and we’re practicing being kind to ourselves when we need it, so when he asked if we could extend the weekend by a day, I said yes. This morning while he slept in and read in bed, I took a walk, went to the library, and sent a few emails. When my almost-teenager, still wrapped in a blanket, wandered into the kitchen around 11 and asked if we could bake something, I delighted in the opportunity to say yes.

We thumbed through a cookbook, and he chose butter tarts. Before I moved to Canada, I had never heard of these, but the idea is simple: they are tiny pecan pies, usually minus the pecans. Traditionally they are made with a flaky pastry crust, but we opted for a simpler pâte brisée. Easy peasy. Then the filling: a cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup of melted butter and one egg. That’s it – I mean, you can make it more complicated and some people add raisins or pecans or (shudder) chocolate chips, but we went for the classic. We whisked the ingredients together and spooned them into our crust-lined mini-muffin tins. Mere minutes later, we had butter tarts.

They’re a little pale, but they taste just fine.

They needed some time to cool and set, so my 12-year-old co-chef went upstairs to play video games while he waited. And I can hardly be blamed if some of the filling had oozed out of its shell, onto my fingers and into my mouth. I sigh, and realize that I won’t be giving up sugar until the sweet days of baking with my boy have passed.

Thanks to for hosting this annual challenge