It's been a week, let me say. Highs and lows. The frenetic, happy pace of the holidays gave way to the calm, quiet rhythm of my daily routine back in the city. Being home with my sisters for Christmas is like stock-piling happiness, leaving me with a residual warmth to carry back to New York. But no matter how lovely my time away is, there's such a comfort to returning to a simple, expected structure. (Hi, can you tell I'm an introvert?)
At home, there were chilly walks around the three ponds: especially nice at sunset as the air turned my cheeks pink. There were visits to the pasture to see the cows, standing still and stoic in the cold, giving me suspicious looks as I climbed over the wooden fence. There were dance parties and bowls of coconut cookie dough and a fire every night. There were visits to the attic to carry down armfuls of our favorite old kids’ books (Jamberry! Caps for Sale! The Jolly Postman!) and hours spent reading Robert Frost after dinner until my eyelids grew heavy.
When I get back to my apartment after vacation, I return to the little things that anchor my days. I like tidying the apartment. Making the bed each morning in the same way, fluffing the pillows just so. I like going to my regular yoga class and feeling centered and focused as I sit down to work after a steamy shower. I like getting my coffee from the same barista each day, and having it taste just the way I like it. I like that I can heat it up over and over again so every sip is piping hot. I like my bed at night. The scent of my coconut shampoo. The slippers I keep under my kitchen table.
So I returned to those things, and allowed my appreciation for the small comforts of life to flood in. In between those pleasures, there was a frozen pipe in our basement which left us without water for a day. Just when I thought I'd successfully dealt with enough home-related stress, there was a carbon monoxide alarm at our house (spoiler alert: home ownership is stressful, especially when you're 2 hours away most of the time!) thanks to drifts of snow and high winds messing about with the furnace ventilation (don't I sound as knowledgeable as a general contractor? I'm thinking of getting some coveralls stitched with "POSIE" on the breast pocket at this point.). There are still more frozen pipes to worry about, the decades-old chimney to keep an eye on, and the icy roads to contend with as I drive out to deal with it all. As it turns out, winter is a real wench sometimes!
Aside from the obvious keep-it-all-together litany of take care of yourself, meditate, sleep, eat well, exercise, laugh, call your family, there are some other things I suggest for those moments when things feel like they're threatening to come apart at the seams.
You know those moments? Like when you come home to a freezing apartment and no water and you sit down (still dressed in your 4,606,676 layers of winter clothes and snow boots) on the tiny radiator and let a few hot tears slowly slide down your cheeks. When all you want is a hot shower and to be able to cook the dinner you planned: pasta tossed with crisp bacon, wilted kale, a splash of cream, and chili flakes. When you just want the feeling of home and safety and you feel anything but.
Here's what might help:
- Read a few pages from The Little Library Cafe, a new-to-me blog that features recipes from classic literature (her cookbook comes out this spring and I cannot wait). Each post begins with a passage from a book, and then dives into the recipe inspired by it. For example, you could make the bacon sandwich from The Secret Garden or Diana's raspberry cordial from Anne of Green Gables or spaghetti carbonara from Nora Ephron's excellent and hilarious novel Heartburn.
- More reading can't hurt: I'm just finishing up The Little Paris Bistro and it's sort of the literary equivalent, comfort-wise, of an episode of Gilmore Girls.
- Let yourself have a good cry! I spent last night reading passages from The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs, thanks to this incredible love story about Joanna Goddard's sister, and just about wept all the liquid out of my body.
- When your fiancé comes home, and sees you perched on the radiator in full winter garb, crying and looking doleful, don't pretend you aren't falling apart a little. Just sit with your discomfort, and accept that sometimes you aren't always your cheeriest self, and know that you can have low moments and still be a super fantastic human. That's part of your wholeness. And if you're very lucky, he'll go downstairs and spend an hour in the freezing utility room dealing with the plumber, and then he'll go out for supplies. He'll text you saying "home in 5 with surprises" and when he walks in the door, he'll be holding 2 gallons of water to get through the night until the pipes are fixed, a bar of your very favorite almond butter & puffed quinoa chocolate, and salads for dinner.
He'll tell you to go take a shower, pour a glass of prosecco and St-Germaine, and put on an episode of Project Runway. He'll make you put away your phone so you're forced to stop reading all the texts among the apartment building's board and the g-d plumbing company about said frozen pipes.
- Don't feel like one dessert (the aforementioned chocolate bar) is enough. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes you also need some cookies. I've been returning to one of my favorite recipes lately, which is David Lebovitz's non-fat gingersnap recipe that I've mentioned here before. Non-fat references the fact that these use applesauce in place of butter, and egg whites instead of whole eggs. That might frighten you, but please give them a chance! These are the most wonderful cookies, and I love to freeze a big batch, then heat a few up in the microwave and dunk them in cold milk. (Is that weird?)
David Lebovitz's Gingersnaps
I've updated David's recipe a bit over the years. These aren't chewy-crisp gingersnaps, but rather sort of airy and chewy at the same time if that makes sense. It's imperative that you don't overbake them, because they can easily get too dry and you want them to stay nice and chewy. David adds diced crystallized ginger to his dough and rolls them in sugar, but I think they're much nicer plain.
1 cup loosely packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup molasses
2 egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the brown sugar with the applesauce and molasses for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Do not skimp on this step! It's really important to get lots of air into the batter.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg whites, and beat for another 2 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix on low speed to incorporate, then beat for another minute on medium speed.
Using a small cookie scoop (or large spoon), scoop golf-ball size dollops of the batter onto the cookie sheets, leaving a few inches in between. (Note: The batter is quite loose and mousse-like, so if you prefer, you can refrigerate the dough until it's more scoopable.)
Bake for 12 minutes: do not overbake! Remove from the oven and let cool.