Improvisational muffins, drawing, and a messy kitchen.

Scraping and smearing, squishing and stirring. This is what we do when my 2 year old daughter and I make muffins. 

We make infinite variations on muffins - raspberry, blueberry, all the berries, really. Rhubarb, banana, zucchini, pumpkin, beets (cooked), and then mix n match combinations based on what is around. 

For my daughter, the boundary between cooking and drawing is fluid.

This is evident as she smears muffin batter all over our kitchen table.

Yes, I let her smear muffin batter on the table. She loves making drawings in her impulsive but carefully prepared canvases of thick, grainy muffin batter. She pushes it around with her fingers, scraping in with her nails, then "erases" it by smoothing it back into a thin opaque layer covering our wooden tabletop. And then the drawing begins again. She could do this for hours if she didn't periodically get bothered by the gummy build-up on her hands. 

I think of all the time I've spent working with paint, adding thickeners, thinners, and experimenting with brushes, ends of brushes, and palette knives, and how after all of that, what I still find most satisfying is making drawings where removal is the mechanism for mark-making. 

What binds our experiences together is the impulse to play, to experiment, and to be immersed in sensation, our minds both focused and unfocused, our breathing slowing down just a bit.

The hinge between all these activities is "play" it's the hinge and the beating heart.

Erased DeKooning Drawing
Rauchenberg discusses his work

Recipe for Improvisational Muffins

(adapted from The Joy of Cooking)
preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
grease muffin pans

mix dry ingredients together:
3 cups of white flour
1 cup of wheat bran or whole wheat flour (we often vary the ratio of white to wheat flour)
4 tsp of baking powder
1 tsp of baking soda
lots of shakes of cinnamon (1-2 tsp)
fewer shakes of nutmeg (1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt
(we often add a couple of handfuls of rolled oats as well)

mix wet ingredients together:
2 eggs (for vegan version, mix 2 tbsp flax meal in 1/3 c. water, let sit, and stir periodically until gummy, then add additional wet ingredients)
3 mashed bananas
1/3 c. oil
a splash of vanilla (1 tsp)

If you choose to add berries or another fruit instead of bananas, you may want to add some applesauce or even part of a banana to add natural sweetness and moisture. Yogurt, milk, or soymilk work as well. It's a great recipe with which to improvise.

Mix wet and dry together just until combined. 

Fill mini muffin baking pans, bake at 375 degrees F. for approx 12-14 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. This will yield roughly 4 dozen mini muffins.


In the spirit of brevity and head-fogging fatigue, this will be short. I just want to share that after a major meltdown at Knit the Bridge, my 2 year old daughter spotted this maple seed helicopter on our street and exclaimed, "mariposa!"  It reminded me of the wonderful associations her bursting little brain can make, even if she did want to rip "all the blankets off the bridge! off! off!"

My turn to sleep in.

Every weekend, my husband and I each get a day to sleep in, and this weekend, Steve took J to wander around a bit in downtown Pittsburgh. This is their special thing. There's bountiful free parking, relatively empty streets, a bagel shop, fountains, and best of all, our little 2 year old gets to see lots of buses, buildings and bridges, her view unobstructed by big adult legs.

So this Sunday morning, I woke up to the most wonderful, collaborative note slipped under our bedroom door. It contains evidence of so many things I love:

   my husband's loose-brained approach to writing, drawing, & filling up a piece of paper

   my daughter's concentration face and deliberate mark-making.

   and, of course, evidence of their special outings and my catch-up sleep.

(Not pictured: the screaming and moaning that we listened to after we told her no, you can't unroll the entire roll of toilet paper.)