Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wish You Were Here: Chocolate Roll


Today is my birthday. I am 34. It’s the same age my Uncle Mike was when he died of a heart attack. I was in 4th grade when he died and, at the time, I thought 34 was old. The closer I’ve gotten to this age, the more I’ve realized how very young he was. I miss my uncle fiercely and his absence has left a huge hole in my life. At every major event (graduations, my wedding, etc…) I’ve always taken a moment to pause and think of him and every time, I’ve wished with all my heart that he could be there to share the moment with me.

I grew up listening to the music of the 60’s and 70’s – Led Zeppelin, Supertramp, Bob Dylan – and one of my all time favorites is Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. Every time I hear that song, I think of my uncle. The opening notes are haunting. I once learned to play them on the guitar, my uncle’s guitar actually, and I felt like I was playing them only for him to hear. Life would have been so much fun with him around. Before his death, he was planning to buy a house and get married. I remember in great detail the room in the house that he promised would be mine whenever I stayed over. 

Uncle Mike & Me (when I was 10 weeks old)

I get angry sometimes when I think of those things. I feel robbed. He was young, too young. His life was just beginning. And now, as I cross the threshold into the years that he never got to live, I think of all the things on my life to-do list that I have yet to experience. The past year has been hard. Since I lost my job and Ryan’s company has been having layoffs, we’ve had to put our lives on hold. Unfortunately, so many of our dreams require money so they, too, are in a holding pattern, just chicken scratch on a list until I get my big break or we win the lotto (I guess I have to start playing for that to happen). But not everyone is in the same boat and the hardest part has been sitting idly on the sideline while I watch others move forward. For a long time, I couldn’t even log onto my Facebook page because every time I did someone else was announcing they were having a baby or going on vacation – all the things that I wanted to be doing, but couldn’t. Instead I was worrying about losing my house and wondering if we could find a place that would allow us to bring the chinchilla and dog or if I’d lose them too. I discovered just how easy it is to fall into the trap of feeling sorry for yourself and drowning in that misery. It’s not that I wasn’t happy for anyone else; I was just so terrified that I’d never get to feel that happiness they were experiencing.

I always thought that this would be a really hard birthday and this dismal year made me dread its arrival. But turning 34 has actually helped me realize life’s potential. I started a vision board. It’s something that I’ve heard about for years and always thought was an interesting idea, but never took the time to do. I’ve filled a large cork board with pictures of all the treasures I want life to bring: a list of all the places I want to visit (the Pacific Northwest, Canada, Maine and Vermont when the leaves are changing, England, Ireland, France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Prague, etc…), the names of the kids I’d like to have (I have a girl’s name and a boy’s name all picked out, thankfully Ryan likes them too), a majestic Friesian horse, the farm house we will all live in, a book I will write someday, and a training program for a 5K I will run. This is just a start. There are plenty of other things that I’ll add to the list along the way, but I wanted to get the big ones down there first so that I could see them. That can be the hardest part of being stuck in a tunnel and not being able to see the end. The constant darkness robs your mind of the memory of the beautiful things life can offer. So you need to find a way to switch on a flashlight until you can get back into the sun.

Making this list was just like making the recipe spreadsheet I did for the blog. They are both a list of experiences that I am going to have and now that they’re down on paper I can put a check mark next to each one. Everyday I thank myself for going back to that booth at the antique show and spending the $15 on this recipe box (did I ever tell you that I almost passed it up and didn’t buy it?!). Each of these recipes has a story to tell and each one makes me realize that I do too.

I have felt very connected to this box in many ways, it contains several recipes that hold special meaning to me (my grandmother’s Swedish pancake recipe, for example). And it didn’t let me down for this momentous birthday. I chose the Chocolate Roll for my cake. Growing up, my mom let us choose our birthday cake and she would make it especially for us. Almost every year, I chose a chocolate roll cake. My poor mom went through the painstaking process of making the cake and trying to roll it up without breaking it. I never understood just how tricky it was…until now. 

The recipe is fairly simple, other than guessing at the temperature and baking time, which isn’t listed on the card (I found 350 degrees and about 15-20 minutes to work). It doesn’t get difficult until the assembly of the cake. Once it has been removed from the shallow baking pan, it needs to be filled with whipped cream and then rolled. Easy enough right? It would be if the cake didn’t break apart in the process. I found that if you put the cake on a clean kitchen towel that has been dusted with powdered sugar and use that to assist while rolling it can be a relatively smooth process. Miraculously, I got it to work on the first try. I was prepared to make several cakes, just in case, but I bought all those extra eggs for nothing. I was shocked! I immediately took a picture on my phone and sent it to my mom. It looked just like the ones she used to make and it also had the special touches she adds: broken up pieces of peppermint candies in the whipped cream and a hot fudge sauce on top (I used the same one I made for the Fudge Cake). 

Sometimes we psych ourselves out and think something is impossible before we ever even try. Staring at my beautiful birthday cake, I thought about my vision board. Maybe all of those dreams are more attainable than I let myself believe. Maybe someday I’ll post pictures from the Found Recipe Box European tour with the caption “Wish You Were Here.” No matter where my journey takes me, though, I know my uncle will be there with me. I may not be able to send him pictures with my phone, but I carry him in my heart wherever I go.

I miss you Uncle Mike, so much. I know if you were here, you’d be tacking up pictures to the vision board with me and telling me to never stop dreaming. So today, I’m adding a new one to the board: a card my mom made for me several years ago that bears that same message. I keep it on the shelf in my office for inspiration. But maybe it’s my dreams that need the inspiration now. The times they are a-changin’ and as I enter this new year of my life, I’m going to do everything I can to ensure they are great changes. And if I need some help along the way, well, I’m sure there are recipes in the box for that. 


  1. Hope that you're having a very happy birthday Molly, and adding more dreams to the vision board all day long...see you soon.

  2. I love your life stories and the way you write is heartfelt. My Daughter Teresa lost her best friend to a heart attack last year in February, Sunny was 30. Her Birthday will be on the 22nd.
    I also love your Recipe Box Journey. My sister Mary has tried a few of your found recipes. I love the handwriting on the cards.
    Hope you have a memorable Birthday and you enjoy your cake with someone special. Looks good!
    Each day is like a gift - Celebrate Life!
    Terri Sampson

  3. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOLLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Molly, happy birthday to you! Believe me, you'd much rather read that than hear me sing it!! Hope you have a great day m'dear!

  4. Nice blog, hope you had a great birthday.

  5. Thank you for the wonderful birthday wishes and for all of your support! This journey through the recipe box has been a lot of fun for me, but the best part is that I have such an encouraging and supportive group to share it with. And I love to hear that people are trying the recipes! Send me your reviews, I'd love to hear which ones are your favorites!

  6. Hey Molly, I awarded you a Kreativ Blogger award! the details are on my blog! Have a great Saturday my dear!