Some days are like this: I take a bike ride. I feel happy and strong, legs pumping, pushing me forwards. The sun is out in full force, warming my face and five minutes in, I start to build up a sweat. The world slides by in one-block increments of colorful storefronts. There's potential everywhere: Restaurants to try (cafe tables spill out onto the sidewalks, people hug and sit down and order cocktails and steak and go about their evenings), movies to watch, gardens to explore, streets to walk down.
On these days, I cross off items on my to-do list firmly with straight, crisp, clean black lines of ink. (More importantly, on days like this, I actually MAKE a to-do list.) I cook dinner; I hum along to Leon Bridges in the background. I wear matching socks. I blow-dry my hair. I put on pale pink lipstick: because it's there, because it's a shade called Roman Holiday, because it makes me smile more at people like the cashier at Whole Foods.
And then some days are like this: I try and meditate for a mere three minutes. I achieve approximately ten seconds of repeating a calm “breathe in/breathe out” mantra, and then I fill the remaining 2 minutes and 50 seconds by 1: Making and re-making my grocery list in my head (lemons, milk, cucumbers, tomato sauce. Ice cream? Pistachios?). 2: Thinking about what color shoes to get my dad for his birthday. 3: Pretending I don't need to sneeze.
That is to say, some days are more mind-full than mindful. They just are. You have a few choices on days like these. You can loll about, half-working and bemoaning the fact that you feel really rather off-kilter and sort of languid in every sense (I think I have you to thank, three late-night scones I demolished before bed). Or you can just push those thoughts aside and go for action instead. You can make a new recipe! (Those cookies don't care if you feel A+ or not. They'll turn out nicely either way.)
You say to your sister when she calls at 6 PM: "I can't meet you, I'm on deadline, but I really wish I could! I'm just sitting here feeling the sads." But then you think better of it all, because that's choosing feeling over doing, and you throw on a jacket and walk six blocks to peruse the men's t-shirt section at Patagonia with her. Because you're always happier around her, even if you still got the sads, and being with a sister brightens any kind of day and you're incredibly lucky that she's six blocks away most of the time, not six hours.
You feel lighter now, and you walk home by way of the grocery store, stopping to buy ingredients for a recipe you've had bookmarked on your phone for three days now. You buy shallots, fish sauce, ground chicken, two limes, and as much baby bok choy as you can carry. You cook dinner. You have two glasses of wine. You shower and put on clean pajamas. You eat half a leftover frozen mascarpone brownie.
Suddenly, it's time for bed and tomorrow waits, bright and fresh and new and full of the potential to be the best kind of day.
Mascarpone Cocoa Bars
1/3 cup (1 ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or melted butter)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) melted butter
1 cup (7 1/2 ounces) packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 /4 cup (7/8 ounce) almond meal (optional, for a more moist bar)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8" square pan and line with parchment. Grease the parchment lightly.
Whisk together the cocoa powder, hot water, and oil in a small bowl to form a paste. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until no lumps remain. Add the egg, vanilla extract, almond extract, and mascarpone and whisk until well-combined.
Add the flour, almond meal (if using), baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine but don't overmix.
Pour 3/4 of the batter into your prepared pan. Add the cocoa powder paste to the remaining 1/4 of the batter and mix.
Spoon the chocolate batter over the pan and, using an offset spatula, spread the batter in an even layer. (You can swirl it into the base with a knife if you want to be fancy. I respect that.)
Bake for 25-30 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Don't overbake!