The Christmas lights are going up. As I walked to breakfast this morning, head down against the bitter wind whipping towards me, I saw coverall-clad city park workers up in the trees outside the Beacon Theater, wrapping each branch tightly with strands of twinkly tea lights. Soon, they’ll turn them on. The city will take on a festive feeling, lit up at night against the inky black sky.
Full disclosure: My birthday is March 20, and you’re welcome to bake me a cake if you like. I accept vanilla with seven-minute frosting, raspberry mousse layer cake, and anything with passionfruit.
As it is months away from the blessed event, you might say: “Po, really no need to be making birthday cake anything. Just stick with the calendar and lean into fall and bake pumpkin…everything.”
A few questions for you to mull over today:
Why use one kind of chocolate when you could use two?
What the heck should you do with that half can of leftover pumpkin puree?
Is there a nicer feeling on a cold night than putting on clean pajamas after a hot shower?
Gold everywhere today: Golden sun glistening off the mirrored sides of the skyscrapers that tower over Central Park. Yellow leaves crowning the trees that line the running paths. The brilliant hue of my turmeric latte, spicy with ginger and sweet with vanilla bean. It stains my fingers when I spill it slightly as I hurry to cross 79th Street at Columbus Avenue, so intent am I on avoiding the throngs of marathon finishers spilling out of Central Park into the city. I stop to finish the last few sips of my drink, then look up to find myself in front of the apple stand at the farmers’ market that pops up on Sundays behind the American Museum of Natural History.
The leaves are slowly turning color. I drove up to Vermont last week and woke up to a 40-degree day: bright and crisp and cold. The air stung my lungs as I walked to my car, breathing in the smell of fall.
Tomorrow is Halloween, and is forecast to be 70 degrees in New York, so maybe I’ll dress up as a very pale person trying to get a tiny late season suntan HA. I like the changing of the seasons so much. It makes my heart swell every time, every year. As soon as I sense the bellwether of seasonal shifts—a whiff of woodsmoke drifting lazily through the breeze, the sign saying “hot apple cider” at the coffee shop, the feel of a flannel shirt—and all the accumulated memories of that season rush back to me.
The perfect pumpkin loaf has the same requirements as banana bread: moist and dense but not leaden. It should have the sort of tender crumb that sticks together when pressed with the tines of a fork. It should be sweet, but not too sweet. This isn’t dessert people! It should taste austere enough to qualify as a good breakfast, but flavorful enough that you’d look forward to saving it for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Cooking in general is a nice form of meditation for me. I appreciate the quiet moments standing at the stove, stirring a pot of soup or a sauté pan full of bits of golden garlic. That is, of course, when I have the luxury of cooking in a leisurely manner. As one who works from home, I usually do have that luxury.
Let’s talk about firsts today, and beginnings, and the delicious unknown of a toe dipped into something new. We can talk about how this is the first time that I’ve found a simple chocolate frosting I really love. Actually, we will talk about that in a minute. Before though, can I get out some of my thoughts here about beginnings? Sometimes words are ready—poised on my tongue, scrambling to line up just behind my fingertips, asking...no begging to be written—and so I am going to tip them out of me onto this page.
Rain sluiced down in heavy sheets all day yesterday. “It’s like standing in the shower,” the woman next to me in the coffee shop this morning said to her friend as they debated whether to wait it out or make a run for it. We were crowded against the door, huddled together as people entered and exited, peeling off damp raincoats and stowing dripping umbrellas in the corner.
A recent post on Cup of Jo talked about simple pleasures: small things that light you up, make you feel comfortable, bring you joy. Her list included kettle chips, getting into clean sheets after shaving your legs, and the grassy waves at Storm King.
The comment section on the post (which numbers over 500!) is beautiful and exceptional and so joy-inducing in and of itself that I’ve promised myself to return to read every single one, bit by bit, whenever I’m in need of a pick-me-up (or just a reminder that life is just brimming with the possibility of beauty at every turn, around every corner).