Monday, December 31, 2012

Notes from the Field: The countdown is on...

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
- T.S. Eliot

As 2011 came to a close, I made a promise to myself that 2012 would be better. It was going to be my "Champagne Year," twelve months marked by growth, success and love to outdo the tough ones I had just been through. 2012 delivered.

It was a year of travel, on helicopters, in cars and on every train-line in the Northeast. It was a year of romance. New love and lost love, friend love, baby love and dozens of great Manhattan date stories. It was a year of joy. A year of wild Tuesday nights, 2AM skinny dipping, far too much champagne and a lot of best/worst decisions made. And most of all, it was a year of hope. A year of seeing hope in even the bleakest situations, finding hope in the simplest wonders of humanity and acknowledging how having even the littlest amount of faith can change the chemical reaction between your body and the world.

Sitting here on the last day of this year, I can't help but reflect on how just the smallest moments, like meeting a person or changing your view of a situation, can change your life forever. I'm amazed at how virtues like patience and acceptance can completely change the impact of experience in your life. And most of all, I marvel at how allowing yourself to explore people and places for the sake of exploring - with nothing to lose, except maybe yourself for a bit if you're lucky - can bring you back to what you knew all along about yourself.

Tonight I'll celebrate with a few of my dearest, a lot of bubbles and good vanilla cupcakes with gold painted champagne buttercream. 2012 may be coming to a close, but as we know, every end is in fact another good opportunity to begin. And so I raise a toast to the beauty and good fortune that this year has brought me, and look forward to much much more champagne in 2013.   

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Case Study 123: "The Winter Wonderland Cupcake"


"Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep." 

 - Robert Frost 

Robert Frost was popular in our household growing up, and having a New England childhood, this poem was a favorite of mine. There was just something about the imagery of those dark woods, the never-ending snowfall and a quiet journey. I'll always fondly remember the cozy and romantic feeling it gave me this time of year. 

The winter solstice falls on Friday, and I have to say is, dear God, let there be snow this year. And if there is not, at least let there be vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and flaked glitter, coconut and gold painted woodland creatures on top. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Case Study 122: "The White Christmas Tree"

I have to be honest took me a bit longer than usual this year to get into the Christmas spirit. 

This had me concerned because normally, Christmas is my jam. See, I'm nostalgic almost to the point of fault. I find joy in the smell of roasted nuts in the night air on New York City streets. I relish in falling asleep early in my childhood bed, with that safe feeling that my parents are still awake in the living room. And there is no greater sound than the whirring of our aging cookie shooter gun that, after thirty Christmas seasons, still churns out the best damn butter cookies in all of the land.

Now this year, Thanksgiving came early. I've been on the road, heading north to south and back again, all in a week's worth of time. And last week the weather in Manhattan hit sixty-three degrees. 

Whatever the reason, last week I finally decided something had to be done. I strung garland around the antlers on my wall. I trimmed our family tree. I baked Christmas cookies by candlelight. Yet, still the feeling held out. 

Until about nearly four o'clock on Tuesday afternoon. 

It was a cold day in Massachusetts, and from my desk, tiny lights twinkled around a little tree as the sky turned dark from gray to blue. I had no meetings, just work to do, and so I plugged in and pressed play. I passed the kitschy eighties holiday tracks. I even made it through the Vince Guaraldi Trio just fine. And then I hit Sinatra, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and I was a goner. 

The thing about Christmas is that it defies time and space. It reminds me of years past, when nobody was tethered to anything but each other. When we sat by the fire, the kids rolling around like puppies on the floor and the adults telling stories on the couch. It makes me think of driving through cold streets, bundled up in the backseat as we checked out Christmas lights and slowly crept through snow-dusted Connecticut roads. And it reminds me that no matter how hard I try to bring back those feelings again, the world will never be exactly the same as it was those days. People grow up, time moves on and though we can never go back home to that place, the way we hold onto it is what sets the foundation for what we make our Christmases today. 

I literally cannot wait for next week. I can't wait to bake more holiday cupcakes, like these gingerbread cupcakes topped with vanilla and orange peel buttercream trees and edible glitter. I can't wait to finish work and snuggle in for a few quiet weeks. I can't wait for my dad to keep the fire going all day long. And I really can't wait to see my nephew in footie reindeer pajamas and his little round face on Christmas morning. But that's the thing about Christmas. The spirit, the memories and that real Christmas feeling? It's timeless.