How do we build strength―in ourselves and in our children? It seems to me that strength comes from making tough choices. Critical decisions, made at the right time, are what leads to growth and strength. At the gym, I work to build muscle and bone density. If I choose the correct weight―one that challenges me through the series of exercises―I grow stronger. A light weight is of little benefit and one too heavy will likely lead to injury. I have to make the right choice at the right time for my physical development.
When I watch my children, when I try to guide them on how to make choices, I try to impress on them this message of being ready―don’t get ahead of yourself in life. Work hard, challenge yourself, but don’t attempt things that you are not emotionally or physically ready to take on. These are solid guiding principles, but sometimes life doesn’t cooperate. Stuff happens. Serious stuff. My daughter spent the first year of her life in an orphanage in China. She was too young to fend for herself. Still, she had no choice but to find a way to let caretakers know how much she needed them. When we came to get her a few days shy of her first birthday, she made the choice to love us and let us love her back.
When my son was 16 he faced an illness that would change the way he functioned for the rest of his life. He was thrust into making life and death decisions in a way few people will ever have to face. He wasn’t ready but had to be ready. For that, time didn’t give him the choice. Yes, I do believe this experience made him stronger and smarter than most. But it also has saddled him with a memory of tragedy that will always be imprinted on him and our family.
How we choose to move forward defines us as well. Strength―mixed with a heavy dose of patience and compassion―will always win.
I made this Apple and Carrot Teacake for our family Sunday dinner last weekend. It’s a simple cake that is not overly sweet. The carrots give it a moist texture, the apples and raisins contribute their unique flavors, and toasted nuts add a some crunch. You might choose to eat it for dessert, as we did. Perhaps you’ll choose it for breakfast, lightly toasted with cream cheese. Or, perhaps for you’ll enjoy it with afternoon tea. No matter when, you’ll make a great choice.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
Apple & Carrot Teacake
Yield: One 9 by 5-inch loaf cake
- ¾ cup golden raisins
- ½ cup butter, melted, plus a bit more for pan
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup whole wheat flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground flax seeds
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 ½ cups shredded carrots
- ¾ cup grated peeled apple
- 1 cup toasted pinenuts or walnuts, chopped
- ¼ cup toasted coconut flakes
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper and butter liberally.
- Plump the raisins in 1 cup warm water for ten minutes. Drain and chop finely.
- Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix together until combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Do not overbake.
- Cool in pan. Remove.
- Serve and enjoy.
- This recipe is closely adapted from Huckleberry by Zoe Nathan.