“I could set up the tent.” Gabe said, and that is how it began. Suddenly a day that looked like every other was instantly transformed into one that was marked with excitement. A simple sunny day was now one that included a “fort tent” – the perfect setting for adventures that include sword fights, battles with dragons and wrestling matches that put the pros to shame.
Gabe and I fought with the awkwardly long poles as we realized we bought the tent as a newly married couple and this was our first time setting it up. A joyous tent initiation I’d say. The boys flailed their nerf swords around the not yet erect tent, passing the time as best they could.
It took longer than we expected, as these things do, but we managed to elevate it to it’s proper towering state. Baron and Roman moved their wrestling from the grass to the tent and Ivy and I laid under the mesh roof watching the perfectly puffed clouds stumble across the ice blue sky. Gabe took it all in from his Adirondack chair with slightly warmed-by-the-sun I.P.A.
Eventually the wrestling ceased and in its place there were games and movies on the iPad, still inside the tent. We spent that afternoon in the tent and the next morning when the gray skies moved in and the first spat of rain hit the brightly green grass we couldn’t bare to put the tent away. Instead, the rain roof was placed on top.
As it turns out a tent is good for both protecting from the harsh rays of the sun as well as sheltering you from the cool rains of Summer. Another day in the tent, this time there were muffins. The perfect portable breakfast that easily transferred to our recently found second home. With muffins there was coffee for Gabe and I and the comfort of sleeping bags and family close by.
Tart dried cherries tasting of Summer sun and the warmth of toasted nuts and Cardamom as comforting as the soft rain that gently tapped on the roof like a guest requesting permission to join us in our tent.
It was a tent. A simple task of setting up that took us all of 20 minutes to complete was all that it took to transform what could have been a day like any other into something magical and one that will be present with us again.
“Remember the time we set up the tent in the yard?” We’ll recount in some chance moment in the far off future when perhaps our children will have children. With longing in our voices we’ll recall the way Roman snuggled into daddy’s lap cozied under the vivid green sleeping bag. And the way Baron ate his muffin by first plucking off the streusel topping then devouring the rest, using his teeth to release the defiant bits that clung to the muffin paper.
Days easily roll into the next and after awhile they all start to look the same. The monotony can become deafening making the thought of breaking out of the routine seem almost impossible. And then someone suggests building a tent and the day is new, different, and exciting. The routine is put on hold until further notice and we fail to fall into our rhythm as this disruption has shaken us in the best way possible.
In the midst routine it is easily to switch into cruise control, setting you on your path so that you don’t have much to think about except what is right in front of you. The problem I come up against is that everything that surrounds me starts to lose focus. My depth of field narrows and all I see is what is mere moments away. With a subtle agitation every thing is knocked out of balance causing things that were there all along to speak up and become noticeable.
In our breach of routine that was the tent, I stopped to appreciate how young and innocent Roman’s voice still sounds – this won’t be for very much longer. The way he fumbles over his words and his eyes tell of his excitement before a word escapes from his mouth as he tells a story. How Baron is eager to learn continually asking for further explanation of words like anticipate and then setting up the remaining muffins as a math problem taking away one from the three that are now two. He happily eats his subtraction. And Ivy who in a matter of a few days transformed from baby into a full fledged member of the family that interacts and responds to us all. Never ceasing to move, she crawls over us all taking in each snuggle and kiss that comes her way.
The muffin pans get cleaned and the tent gets taken down and puts up a fight in submitting to fit in its convenient black tote. Routine sets in once again. It’s not all bad, in fact some sort of schedule is necessary in order to effectively run a family of five smoothly. But the reminder to occasionally through the routine off balance is one that I won’t soon forget.
Cherry Muffins with Walnut, Sesame Seed, and Cardamom Streusel
These muffins are sweet enough to be deemed a weekend breakfast treat but contain the hearty and nutritious crunch from walnuts and sesame seeds. My favorite dried cherries are Montmorency Cherries that can be found at Trader Joe’s. They are pleasant tart and plump of beautifully when warmed with vanilla, lemon zest, cinnamon, and water. The extra step of plumping the dried fruit prevents them from stealing any of the moisture out of the muffin, leaving you with a perfectly moist cake.
5 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup (3 ½ ounces) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
¾ cup whole milk yogurt
1 ½ cups (6 ¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup dried cherries
¼ cup water
½ vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup all purpose flour
½ cup walnuts, chopped
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, melted
pinch cardamom (or the seeds from 4 pods, ground)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup turbinado sugar (you may substitute brown sugar)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Pre-heat oven to 350*
Line a muffin tin with 12 muffin papers.
In a small saucepan combine the dried cherries, water, lemon zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Over low heat bring to a gentle simmer then remove from the stove and let stand while you prepare the muffin batter. Alternately you can place this all in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for one minute and then let stand. The cherries will soak up the liquid until very little remains.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and use a whisk to combine.
In a medium bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar until light, about three minutes on medium speed. Scrape down the side of the bowl, then with the machine running on medium low, add the egg. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl again. Once the egg is combined add ⅓ of the flour mixture on low speed. With flour streaks still present, add half of the yogurt then repeat until all the flour and yogurt has been added. Stop the machine and stir in the cherry mixture using a rubber spatula, taking care not to over mix.
To prepare the streusel mix all the ingredients until combined and break into small and medium clumps.
Using a large spoon fill the muffin tin with batter ¾ full. Scatter the streusel evenly over each muffin. Bake in the middle rack for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs. Let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool until warm enough to bite into. Serve with coffee and enjoy inside the warmth of a tent.