You would think that going away for a long weekend with your girlfriends would insure you returned home relaxed and happy to see your teenagers. And I was initially thrilled to see my kids. I missed them a lot. I had spent the weekend sleeping, eating, occasionally exercising, watching the first season of "Girls," and reading Ann Patchett's Truth and Beauty, a memoir about her friendship with Lucy Grealy, the writer and heroin addict. I had gone away with a group of women, two of whom are like sisters to me. While I slept late and missed their bracing early morning walks in the snow, they did not pass judgment. The spa we went to is in the Berkshires, a few blocks from the all-girls sleep-away camp I spent five summers at and two hours from Wellesley, the women's college I attended.
The first time I went to this spa, I had just turned 40. I was there with my best friend from college, and I told her that the spa reminded me of a combination of Wellesley and rehab. I haven't spent time in rehab, but someone I love has, and the sense of calm, the group meals, the opportunities to meditate and discuss your feelings, the experts in wellness and mindfulness, reminded me of the more appealing aspects of a locked facility where the goal was to change your life once you got out of there. In all these places, there are roomfuls of women, drinking tea, talking intensely with each other about how to cope. Women need women and after more than 20 years of being married to a man with two brothers, raising two boys of my own and being an aunt to five nephews, I love these female-only interludes. They remind me of those lovely lines from Virginia Woolf's Orlando: "...many were the fine tales they told and many the amusing observations they made for it cannot be denied that when women get together---but hist---they are always careful to see that the doors are shut and that not a word of it gets into print."
None of what we discussed will make it into print here but rest assured the conversations veered from Chris Christie to the state of Israel to the perils of perimenopause and I was glad to come home and see my husband and sons, even though the sink was full of dirty dishes and nobody had bothered to take the garbage out.
I gave my boys kisses and T-shirts and two bags of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies that the spa sold in their cafe. While I was at the spa, I had consulted a woman who specialized in acupuncture and Chinese herbs. She said that one way to get rid of the chronic sinus infections I was getting was to avoid dairy and sugar. I had already given up gluten and there was no way I could sacrifice sugar, but eliminating dairy was a possibility. Since I risked becoming one of those insufferable people who talks about their food aversions, I decided not to talk about it. Much.
A few minutes after I came home, my mother came to visit. My mother was the one who paid for my long weekend. This has become her annual birthday present. We do not travel together. Because I moved back to my hometown, we already see enough of each other and we both know that being alone together for extended periods of time would not be relaxing for either one of us. But seeing each other in small doses works well. Mom is also gluten-free and I offered her a bag of cookies, as a way of saying, "Thank you for returning my sanity to me." But Mom didn't want any cookies. She pointed to the waist of her jeans. "I could barely button these this morning," she said. "No thanks."
I should add that the jeans my mother was wearing were a pair of Lee Jeans that I had given her --- jeans I had outgrown in high school thirty years ago. Do I need to talk about the fact that my mother and grandmother were obsessed with their weights, and preoccupied with mine? That my mother used to say, "When you're thin, you can wear anything" and I believed it? I think not. I love my mother, but I think I might have had a happier childhood if I had been allowed to eat more cookies.
While I unpacked my bag and loaded the dishwasher, Mom sat down and chatted with my older son, who was happy to dip into the cookies. I love my sons. They are sassy, occasionally obedient and for the most part, delightful. The next morning, they would return to school, I would return to teaching and writing, and the schedules that kept us sane, productive and living in tandem would resume. But within two hours of my returning home, the phone rang. It was the assistant headmaster, announcing in a recorded message that school would be closed the next day, in honor of the snow.
What the hell? It wasn't even snowing! All of my hard-won bliss blew away. How would I get any work done with those large, loud, hungry young men, stomping around the house, demanding to be fed?
And so, our snow day began. With the snow coming down in heavy clumps, the Internet went down. My 13-year old figured out how to use the hot spot on my iPhone to give us all Internet access on our computers. This was ingenious of him, but it meant we all had to work within a few feet of each other. Tensions ran high. Cookies were eaten. By 5 p.m., all the spa cookies were gone.
Fortunately, the spa is generous with its recipes and I had taken the one for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies home. In less than half an hour, they were done. I did not make dinner. But I made 40 cookies.
I am betting that you, like me, do not keep three different kinds of gluten-free flour in the house. But maybe you have one kind? I used King Arthur's gluten-free flour and the cookies were lovely -- chewy, chocolate-y, and sweet. If you have all three that Canyon Ranch recommends, go ahead and use them. The key is to use really good chocolate. These cookies are not even all that bad for you. They're gluten free, dairy-free and kind of, sort of fat-free. And if you make them yourself, you're free to polish off as many as you want.
Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup Arrowroot flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips, about 6 ounces
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly coat a baking sheet with canola oil spray. With an electric mixer on high speed, combine canola oil and brown sugar. Turn mixer to low and add eggs and vanilla and mix until just combined. In a medium bowl, combine sorghum, tapioca and Arrowroot flours together. Stir salt, baking soda and chocolate chips into flour mixture.
Add the dry ingredients mixture to the wet mixture and combine on low speed or by hand. Drop rounded heaping teaspoonfuls (or use a 3/4 ounce scoop) onto baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Cool on baking sheet until cookies are set. Transfer to cooling rack until completely cooled. Store in a tightly sealed container.
Makes 38 cookies, each containing approximately:
13 gm. carbohydrate
3 gm. fat
12 mg. cholesterol
1 gm. protein
64 mg. sodium
1 mg. fiber