since we last talked

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I didn’t mean to let the silence linger here – I was on a roll, but one of the first things to go when I get busy is that tiny little sliver of early morning time to write. Sometimes I just need to hit the snooze button. In my absence I turned forty-two, in what turned out to be a really lovely, low-key kind of way. The sun came out and the temperatures rose. My garden membership was renewed, the most beautiful flowers arrived at my desk, new books arrived in my lap, and family also donated to We Stories in honor of my day. I met up with M and the girls on Friday afternoon to meet Chelsea Clinton (a real birthday highlight), and then we ate late night tacos across the street to continue the celebration.

I was still riding pretty high on the birthday vibes that weekend, and then we suffered a pretty significant setback on the house project. One week out, and it feels manageable, doable, a bit more hopeful. But in the moment it felt like a suckerpunch. Insurmountable and gut-wrenching.

That pendulum swing can be difficult to navigate – it always is for me. I’m pretty good at giving a challenge all I’ve got, but it’s far more difficult for me to revisit a challenge that I thought was behind me. I move on, I’ve moved on. I’m not always willing (or optimistic) about stepping back a few steps.

I went for a long run on that following Sunday night, and I really turned my thoughts (and myself) over to the idea of revisiting. Linear progressions are much more predictable, which makes emotions (and reactions) easier to modulate. Even a birthday weekend is a linear thing – another year completed, a new one begun. But if I’m honest with myself, and I look at the things in my life that are the most meaningful and long lasting, I have to acknowledge that none of those things turned out exactly as planned or along a predescribed timeline. As M pointed out to me – we have the tools in our toolbelt to handle this – this is what we do. And he’s right. This is what we do.

forethought

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I had a board meeting last night and I brought a cake. It was a celebratory cake, in honor of the award this organization is receiving, and it was planned as a welcome cake for our two new board members. It’s also my birthday week, and so it seems a fitting week to consume more cake. On the way to the meeting I was thinking about cake. I was thinking about our upcoming house project and the dismantling and rebuilding of our kitchen. I was thinking that I’d love to be the kind of person who always has a cake on the counter – stopping in to pick up your kid or to drop off some materials for a meeting? Come in, have a cup coffee, would you like a slice of cake?

This could be that cake. It’s the Gateau Breton from last month’s Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I’ve made it twice now, the second time greatly benefitted from not having an oven temperature snafu in the middle of baking. It’s a sturdy cake, and an elegant one. It’s not overly sweet, and I increased the filling by a tablespoon or two and it’s nearly perfection. I have a large bottle of expensive dark rum, so at two tablespoons per cake, it seems like I could be set for awhile. It fits perfectly on my small marble cake stand, and it slices and plates easily. I served it at the start of the meeting, and that simple act spawned an energetic conversation on the act of making, and serving, a cake.

I do this a lot. I make things in my kitchen, I bring them places to share. I run the sort of committees that serve receptions and organize menus and feed people. I think in terms of serving sizes, fresh flowers, punch ingredients. I have a lot of practice at this, it’s fairly second nature at this point. I love to eat, but even more than that, I love to feed others.

The conversation that developed eventually centered around the idea of forethought. I believe it became a hashtag moment at some point. It was used to describe the differences between those who love the idea of cake, and the person (me) who plans the cake a week in advance, shops for the ingredients, makes the cake, packages the cake, remembers the serving silver and the napkins. #forethought was thrown out several more times, as the conversation moved into menu planning and dinner recipes, shopping lists, project planning and note-taking. It was my instinct to pull away from this and retreat – I just do what I do, and I don’t find it exceptional or unique or particularly praiseworthy. I do find this particular group of women exceptional, unique and praiseworthy, so why wouldn’t I make them a cake, and serve it with the silver?

On the way home from the meeting I thought a lot about the idea of forethought, and getting past my initial instinct to deflect attention away from me, I decided to claim it. It’s a good descriptor for me, and it’s how I operate best. It doesn’t mean that I never do things at the last minute – I often do – but my wheels are always spinning on the tasks that I have ahead of me. There are so many people and organizations that inspire and motivate me, and sharing something that brings me joy to them is my best way of honoring them.

Maybe I’m already that person with the cake on the counter. Have a seat for a moment in your busy day and have a slice. Let me tell you how much I love you in the currency of butter and sliced fruit. Let me reconnect to you again while the vegetables roast, let the scent of fresh flowers remind you that you are home.

tuesday evening cake

The pace of things has picked up around here. It’s not unexpected. April and May tend to always be busy with extra things, but I’m also very busy at work. The calendar feels full, but the pace is manageable so far. I’m looking forward to the weekend already (it’s Tuesday night) – I’ll be another year older, but hopefully wiser, and ready to take on everything ahead.

My (good) camera broke on vacation, so I’ve been slow to collect the photos from M’s phone and from my own to post here. I have several more books to write about, and a cookbook to share. There are kitchen details to be mulled over and decided upon, so many decisions, always. Taxes occupied the computer this past weekend, so maybe this next weekend will offer up some time to write.

For now I’ll take the few minutes I have here, at ten after eleven, while I’m waiting for the cake to cool. The house is quiet and my legs are sore. I pushed them pretty hard this afternoon – it felt so good to run again in the sun. My heart was pumping, it’s just waking up again. There are so many things that I want to do – how do I find the time? My book stack grows, and I slide the cake in between bath time and the ironing. A few lines here while the house fills with butter and apricot and the rain hits the windows and then I tiptoe around shutting off the last of the lights.