Yesterday was Valentine's Day. Hubby and I spent it quietly, as we do most holidays.
I woke up early to answer emails (Sundays are my work-from-home day). A few hours later, Hubby got up and cooked us French toast for breakfast.
I typed away in the dining room as he pan-fried slices of challah in butter, then layered them with strawberries, cream cheese and maple syrup. We discussed the weather as our coffee percolated, then politics as a pan of bacon sizzled in the oven.
Under the watchful eye of our snow-white maltese, we ate in the dining room rather than in front of the TV. We felt very adult. We decided to pull up a chair for Maple, since she's family and it was her Valentine's Day too.
We exchanged cards and candies, and I was presented with white roses (kept fresh overnight in the icebox that is our mudroom).
After breakfast, I dressed Maple in a sweater and coat. I took her for a winter's walk around the backyard while Hubby cut branches off a tree for kindling.
We made a fire in the living room and kept it going through the afternoon. Hubby napped on the couch and I wrapped up my work for the day.
After Maple had her dinner, we washed up, put on our dress clothes and drove to a local steakhouse where we had reservations. Hubby ordered French onion soup and a New York strip steak. I had duck breast and butternut squash ravioli. It was all delicious.
On the drive home, we marveled at just how cold 2 degrees feels.
And here we are, Monday morning. It's another holiday (President's Day) and I don't have to work. It's my first day off in three weeks, since I've been working voluntary overtime all month. I felt I deserved a break.
I'm in between loads of laundry. We're expecting snow and freezing rain this evening. Our neighbors popped in for a bucket of hot water because they woke up to frozen pipes.
It's shaping up to be another quiet winter day with the family, so I'm going to take this opportunity to reflect.
Six months. That's how long it's been since I last wrote on this blog, which wouldn't be a big deal on its own - I've been so busy.
But it's also been six months since I last read a book or baked a cake; and since I didn't obsessively worry about my gluten intake, the elasticity of my skin, whether I'm excelling at my job, or what coffee is doing to my colon.
In summary, it's been six months since I've come up for air.
I know that I'm in there somewhere, but over these past six months, I've felt myself slowly disappearing. Like the Cheshire Cat from Alice In Wonderland, I've been fading away in increments. It's partly due to overworking myself. The rest I attribute to being 30 and neurotic.
I fret over finances, aging, if I'm making the right choices, saying the right things, treating other people well enough, treating myself well enough. I spend more time worrying about how I'm living than actually living.
So, a few days ago, I baked a cake. And I started reading two books - fiction for fun (The Cider House Rules) and nonfiction for motivation (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up).
I signed up for a public speaking workshop and am looking into joining an adult ballet class. I plan on jumping back into my Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons soon.
I've realized that while it's great to philosophize and be self-aware, I'm doing a disservice to myself (and, by extension, those around me) by overthinking. I need to focus more on doing rather than pontificating about how things should be done.
Blueberry Crumb Cake
The first cake I've made in six months. It was perfection.
for the streusel topping:
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon. ground nutmeg
1 & 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
for the cake:
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large or extra-large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2/3 cup sour cream
1 & 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 & 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and lightly flour a round 9-inch cake pan.
For the streusel: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Stir in the melted butter until crumbly, then set aside and prepare the cake batter.
For the cake: Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) on high speed for 3 - 4 minutes.
Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla, lemon zest and sour cream. Continue to stir on low until combined.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer still on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined.
Gently fold in the blueberries with a spatula. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.
With your fingers, crumble the streusel topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting. The cake should be dense and moist. I enjoyed it with ice cream for dessert, as well as with a cup of coffee for breakfast the next morning.
They call these the dog days of summer - those slow, sultry weeks when August reluctantly rolls into September, where afternoons last years and it's hotter and more humid than you've ever remembered any summer being.
It's the time of year when Sirius, the Dog Star, is high in the sky, rising and setting with the melting sun,
and it's the time to say goodbye to sundresses and sandals, and afternoon walks to the corner ice cream shop for chocolate sorbet;
to farms where sunbathed migrant workers shucked corn against the hazy, golden backdrop of the Catskill Mountains;
to spotted cows feeding at the trough at dusk, their tails drowsily brushing flies away in the afterglow of twilight;
to plucking wild raspberries and blackberries off brambly bushes, and picking their sticky seeds from my teeth on morning walks with Maple;
to the family of black bears who sauntered up and down the mountainside in search of feral turkeys, their paws the size of catchers' mitts;
and it's time to say good riddance to driving an old Jeep with no air conditioning, back-soaked t-shirts, and Garth Brooks twanging about wheats fields and rodeos on replay.
Goodbye to my first summer in the Hudson River Valley. You were intense, wild, full of surprises, and you will never been forgotten.
This thick, buttery lemon spread is the perfect end-of-summer
filling for a pie or tart. It's a sweet surprise inside a layer cake,
and also makes a lovely spread for scones and muffins.
3 medium egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled
Place a medium saucepan on the stove and add enough water to come about 1-inch up the side.
Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat. While the water is heating, combine the egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth (about one minute).
Squeeze the juice of the two lemons into a measuring cup, topping off with water (if necessary) so that there's 1/3 cup altogether. Add the juice and lemon zest to the egg mixture and whisk until smooth.
Once the water is simmering, reduce the heat to low and place a large bowl on top of saucepan, essentially creating a double-boiler where the bowl doesn't directly touch the water. Whisk until thickened (about eight minutes), or until the mixture is light yellow and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in one pat of butter at a time. Allow each piece to fully melt before adding the next.
Pour into a mason jar or container, covering the top with plastic wrap (the plastic wrap should be directly touching the curd). Can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
I'm no believer in fate. I don't think the stars align to make magic happen or that the sun smiles good fortune upon us. And Ouija boards are utter hoo-ha.
But I do believe that we make our own destiny. We (hopefully) learn from our mistakes and place ourselves on a forward trajectory toward The Things We Want.
In my journey toward A Better Life, I've stumbled more times than I can count. I've flunked college courses, walked out on jobs, and even immigrated to another country with no true plan in place. But the common thread that strung all of these things together is that, at the end of the day, I kept moving forward. When I knew something wasn't working for me, I immediately began thinking about My Next Step - what I could do to get out of my current situation and into a better one.
After more moves than I can count on both hands - moves that felt as though they were sucking a bit more of my soul with each box I taped shut - I can finally say I've found the two things that I've been searching for since the beginning. I finally (finally) have a job that doesn't feel unhealthy to my mental, physical or emotional state, and I finally (ohmygodfinally) have a place to call home.
This past May, when Hubby and I packed the Jeep and left Canada for New York, I knew in my heart that it was The Right Thing To Do, but I had no idea that it would lead to an incredible opportunity to work for Etsy.
I didn't realize that Hudson, the small, historic whaling town we were driving toward, just happened to house one of Etsy's few offices. And I truly couldn't have imagined that, come August, I'd find myself putting an offer on my first house, a 15-minute drive from said office.
Yes, I'm actually putting down roots somewhere - in the Hudson River Valley no less - and if you told me two years ago that would be even a remote possibility in my haphazard world, I would've asked what you were drinking and if you'd be willing to share.
A little back story: when I was at one of my lowest points post-college-graduation in Orlando, I was working in customer support for a Hilton hotel near the theme parks. The hours were torturous, the guests demanding, and the work monotonous. It was somewhere in the twilight hours during one of my overnight shifts that I dreamed up a scheme to start my own Etsy shop. I decided that I needed a) to supplement my meager income, and b) to branch outside of the corporate bubble I was in and do something for myself; I couldn't rely on the universe to make magic happen for me; I had to make my own.
Little did I know that pie-in-the-sky late night idea to open my own online business would become the catalyst to me working for what ultimately ended up being my dream company.
I guess the point of my story is that you can't rest on your laurels and assume that there's a path already carved for you. You have to make like Robert Frost in the yellow wood and choose a road. And if it ends up being a dead end, it's okay to turn around, go back to the fork and choose the another path. And if that ends up being a cul-de-sac, then build your own damn road and point it toward The Right Direction.
If I've learned anything in my adult life it's that mistakes are guaranteed and walking in circles before eventually straightening out is inevitable.
But, through it all, you simply have to Keep Moving.
Welcome! I'm a pie-baking, dog-loving, antique-hunting patriot. I'm a fan of rustic home cooking, the Yankees and scenic drives through the mountains.