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Photographs by Meadow Linn

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spread Kindness

I heard a knock on my front door this morning and saw a friendly face peeking through the window. It was my mom, bearing a huge smile and a beautiful orchid. She surprised me just to say, “I love you!”

While drinking my morning tea, I’d mentioned to my mom on the phone that I was feeling overwhelmed. I’ve been really excited for all the transition and transformation that seems to be afoot this year, but sometimes the weight of it can get pretty heavy. New ventures can be exciting, but sometimes during the buildup, it can feel a bit like riding a pendulum that swings back and forth between euphoria and despair.

As I sipped my earl grey, worries about money, career, love, and health all seemed to compound. At the very moment that I was feeling the most alone, there was my mom to offer a hug and a simple, “I love you.”

The fact she stopped what she was doing and came to see me made all the difference. Being kind doesn’t have to take a lot of time, energy, or money, but it can change the course of someone’s day (or even life). Sometimes spending two extra minutes on the phone to find out how someone is doing is all it takes. Or, it can be a genuine smile when you pass a stranger on the street or a nod of sympathy when you see a new mother struggling with a screaming baby in public.

Last weekend I got a taco at my favorite takeout place. The family in front of me was twenty-five cents short when their bill was rung up. The cashier plunged her hand into the tip jar and pulled out a quarter. The look of relief on the parents’ faces was palpable. No doubt the missing quarter from the tip jar will be replenished ten-fold as a result of this kind gesture.

Almost always, when we perform a random act of kindness, it boomerangs back to us. What we put out into the world is reflected back like an image in a mirror. However, this only happens when it’s a true act of kindness. Being nice because you believe the Universe will reward you carries a very different energy than spreading joy and love because that’s what’s in your heart.

Last week, completely out of the blue, FedEx pulled up in front of my house. The driver hopped out and handed me a green cardboard box. I couldn’t imagine what it was or whom it was from. As soon as he drove away, I tore into the box and found a vase full of flowers and a note that said: “May your day be bursting with JOY! Watch the flowers bloom as your life continues to bloom! It’s going to be a spectacular year!!!” My friend Aimee, all the way across the country, had no idea that I’d been feeling overwhelmed by the uncertainty of my future; yet, she seemed to know exactly what to say and when to say it.

The flowers I received in the mail
Aimee’s gift of love will come back to her in the most miraculous ways; this I know. When you give genuinely, without strings attached, and you spread kindness, the world suddenly becomes a kinder, more loving, and more generous place.

Just thinking about this act of kindness fills me with warmth and brings tears of joy. The unexpected gift provided love and support at that exact moment I needed it. I realized that if Aimee believes in me, then I have to believe in me too. And, that is powerful. It’s nearly impossible to succeed if your biggest critic lives inside of you.

What can you do today to spread more joy, love, and kindness? What steps can you take to be a better friend, a more sympathetic girl/boyfriend, or a kinder person? Maybe you buy coffee for the person behind you at the drive-thru or maybe you decide to let the guy with only three items in his cart go in front of you at the supermarket. Perhaps you call a relative to say, “I love you,” or maybe you make a delicious meal for your spouse instead of barraging him/her with problems the moment you get home from work. Whatever you can do to be more kind, do it now.


Kindness Cupcakes
(Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free)

One of my favorite pastimes is cooking for friends and family. When I was a schoolteacher I loved leaving homemade treats in the faculty room to brighten the day of my colleagues. Imagine the joy of the woman sitting at the cubicle next to yours if you were to put one of these cupcakes onto her desk with a little note that said, “Have a delicious day!” or the look of delight on the child’s face who comes to your kid’s birthday party who can’t usually eat the cake because he’s gluten intolerant.

Brown rice flour tends to have a gritty texture in baked goods; however, I recently learned that if you mix it with liquid and cook it first, the final product is much smoother. What a revelation! This recipe calls for melted coconut oil because the measurements are more consistent. It can easily be melted in a small pan on low heat. Likely, there will be more frosting than you’ll need. It will keep up to a week in the fridge, in an airtight container. To use, warm it in a double-boiler or in a bowl over barely simmering water. Use it as a dip for strawberries…Yum!

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes
1 cup canned coconut milk (from 13.5 oz can, reserve the rest for the frosting)
1 cup brown rice flour
¼ cup potato starch (not flour)
2 Tbsp. tapioca flour
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. xanthan gum
½ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350ºF and position rack in center of oven. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Combine the brown rice flour and coconut milk in a small pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until a smooth porridge is formed and the brown rice flour is no longer gritty. Cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the potato starch, tapioca flour, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar and vanilla. Add the cooled porridge mixture and melted coconut oil. Whisk until smooth. Mix in the lemon juice. Add the blend of starches, and mix to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  

Bake 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack until the pan can be touched safely. Remove cupcakes from the pan and cool to room temperature before frosting them.

Ganache frosting
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup coconut milk (use what’s left of the 13.5 oz. can)

Combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a double boiler (or small heatproof bowl) over barely simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the coconut milk and vanilla.

To frost the cupcakes: You can either dip them in the warm ganache with a bit of a twirling motion. Or, cool the ganache until it has the texture of frosting and spread it with a small spatula or butter knife.