There was once a girl with a smile that could brighten every moment of everyday. Eyes the color of roasted hazelnuts that even when filled with sadness would dance around a room looking for someone to love. Her laugh sweet, gentle but full of radiant life. Her skin soft as freshly picked cotton. And her voice a melody from Neverland. She held so much in her heart. And sometimes the emotions, anger, fear, sadness would pour over. For me this was why she was and remains my best friend. She had been hurt, she had experienced things that stayed with her. She was strong and weak. She was flawless and flawed. She had a soul that constantly wanted to give. She always wanted to be present for those she loved dearly and even those she hardly knew. It was early Winter when I fell ill, and shortly after me, she began to feel unwell beside me. We were so young. Our minds could not fully understand what was about to come. My first thought when she told me she had bloating in her lower abdomen was… cyst. It is just a cyst on her ovary. Time passed. My illness continued to be a mystery. But my sweet girls became something else altogether. 2 months later my best friend was diagnosed with Stage 4 Gastric Cancer. All of a sudden my world became dim. She was the brightest light in my atmosphere and the pain surrounding this diagnosis was staggering. She was terrified and yet as always faced this new journey with grace, beauty and intense bravery. The intimate details of the years to come are still too fresh to share. For this loss, and all losses my mind always goes back to Iziah from London. The man on the train who used to be a child solider, and once loved a woman named Amani. He said she was gone from him now. And all of his elaborate stories ended with that. For when it comes to loss there are no words to explain the feelings. It just simply is. When I think of Katrina I think of the falling leaves of Autumn. I think of the Spring Sunshine, and the Summer wind. I also think of the Winter. The bitter chill against my cheeks. The stars glittering in a pitch black sky. The sound of the owls chattering at midnight. I think of blankets and fires, Downton Abby in the background. Night after night spent in the kitchen cooking together. I never saw Autumn or Winter as seasons of endings, but rather of new beginnings. This changed for some time when she left this Earth on January 3rd, 2017. I began to view Winter as the enemy of time. As a season that took away what I loved most.
As I continue on my own healing journey and navigating life without my sweet friend I have begun to come back to a place of loving Winter. Katrina was called away from this world too soon. She had so much more to do. And yet I have every hope that she is still on her journey. Since she has gone, 6 babies have been born into my life. And three more are on their way into the world in the coming months. When I hold them in my arms, and look into their eyes that already tell so many stories, I swear I see sparks of her light shining in each one. I have found I feel her most when I am outside. Butterflies land on me every time I walk near the bean field. I saw a firefly in California near her birthday in late August. And on Thanksgiving, the anniversary of when she entered the ICU I went on a walk to dim my sadness and in the evening sky a golden shooting star. She is filling my life, and others lives with so much beauty even if she is not physically here. I still talk to her, I write to her. And mostly I laugh with her in the kitchen. Every new recipe I make she is beside me. Telling me to add a bit more cinnamon, or go pick some more basil in the garden. The kitchen has always been where I have gone to heal. Where I have found solace from anxiety, pain, fear. It is where I go to heal wounds for others. Cooking them a warming soup when they are under the weather, cookies to fill their tummies with warmth, salads to boost the immune system, cakes to celebrate them every day. Now it is also the place I go to remember her. To feel her, to hear her voice, to know she is still here with me. Sometimes nourishing food means more than nutrients. Sometimes it is food that not only heals the body physically but spiritually. It is food that makes us remember. Connects us with those we have loved and lost. Winter is a time where we let go, we say goodbye but we also learn our own incredible strength. We learn that every season we get to live is a gift and not a promise. That surviving Winter means we get to see another Autumn. We get to see cherry blossoms in Spring and feel the cool ocean waves against our waist in Summer. When we write of the seasons, and experience them we are experiencing life. We are still here. Breathing, giving, laughing and crying. There is not much else we could possibly ask for. These Lemon Lavender cookies are for Katrina. They are in honor of her memory and a celebration of her extraordinary life. And to all of you I wish you a season of immense love, gatherings and coming together. Collide into those that you love. Memorize every part of them and treasure each moment. This singular second, it is all we have. Love to you and yours. To the moon and back again.
Lavender Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Yields about 1 1/2 dozen
1/2 cup (113 grams) Vegan butter or Coconut Oil at room temperature
1/3 cup (45 grams) powdered coconut sugar (See Notes in Recipe Below)
Zest of 3 lemons, Meyer if possible
1/2 teaspoon lavender buds, ground or chopped finely
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon Almond Extract
Pinch of Pink Salt
½ cup (125 grams) GF Flour Blend
½ cup Almond Meal
2 tablespoons Date Sugar or Coconut Sugar or Maple Syrup
For the Glaze ::
½ cup powdered coconut sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
A pinch of crushed lavender buds
Zest of one lemon
Squeeze of lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
In large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, powdered coconut sugar sugar, zest of 1 lemon, lavender, vanilla, and salt until the mixture looks like a coarse sand. Mix in the flour until the dough comes together.
In a small bowl, mix together the remaining lemon zest and granulated sugar with your fingers until fragrant. Set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out shortbread until 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle on the lemon scented sugar and lightly press it into the shortbread with the rolling pin. Cut out shapes and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
While baking make your glaze in a small bowl. Mix powdered coconut sugar, sweetener of choice, lavender buds zest and juice and whisk until thick and runs beautifully off the whisk.
Once your cookies have cooled for at least an hour drizzle with the glaze, sprinkle with a bit more lavender and lemon zest and enjoy!
Note :: To make Powdered Coconut Sugar follow the instructions below
1 cup coconut sugar
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
Place the coconut sugar and arrowroot into the dry container of your Vitamix or other high powered blender. Place the lid on tightly. Start on low speed and gradually work your way up to the highest speed. It will take a few minutes to powder the sugar. It will end up having a light brown powdery finish.