I can see the water from my seat at the dining room table. The windows on the eastern and southern sides of our house face the bay, which separates our little town from the white, windswept beaches of Shelter Island. Our street ends at a small cul-de-sac, which I love for two reasons. One, the street has no through traffic, but rather people walking their dogs or coming down to sit on the bench and hold hands or sip coffee at the water's edge. Two, there's a small dock that juts into the water, where I like to go and read my book in the summertime. It's peaceful and quiet in every season: the water lapping against the weathered wood of the pilings, boats entering and leaving the marina next door, and birds wheeling overhead.
I've just placed down in front of him. He quickly looks up and adds, "no offense" with a rather cute and sheepish smile. I give him a supercilious look and haughtily respond that I will take that as a compliment, that clearly I regularly cook such impressive meals that I make Nigella Lawson look like a rube in comparison to my own domestic goddess status, so this must be just beyond exceptional.
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 in returning to a simple, expected structure. (Hi, can you tell I'm an introvert?)
My presents are arranged across the kitchen table, awaiting their wrapping paper and Scotch tape and silky ribbons. I say arranged although perhaps strewn would be a more appropriate word choice. Before I wrap them, I'll organize them into piles: first divided into stocking presents and under-the-tree presents, then stacked by recipient.
I glance at my phone to see that little red circle alerting me of a new text message. At the right moment, that can be the nicest sight. It says "headed home" and I'm happy. I'm in the kitchen, standing in socked feet at the stove. The twinkling strands of white lights, strung above the mantel, are glowing and Van Morrison sings warm love on the speakers. I've already made dinner, and I just need to reheat it.
The electric feeling in the air before a snowstorm reminds me of being little again. There's a giddiness and a building anticipation; throughout the city, the energy feels heightened. The grocery stores are busier, everyone seems chattier. The television screens inside nail salons and sports bars hum with red headlines promising "up to 6 inches!" and images of handsome weathermen interspersed with still shots of previous winters: Central Park blanketed in snow, cabs swerved on icy roads, and so on.
If I still lived in the era of no computers, my desk would be littered with Post-it notes reminding me of things I want to cook. As it is, my cookbooks are bookmarked and dogeared and highlighted. But with the constant influx of SHEER INFORMATION (on a positive day, I'll call this 'inspiration') on the Internet, I find myself perpetually tagging recipes to make.
1. "How long would it take to watch all seasons of Project Runway, working backwards from season 16?" she mused to herself. Ever equal to a challenge, she dives in, bolstering herself with dishes of white chocolate baking chips from the freezer. (She is me, guys. I love Heidi Klum and sometimes now I whisper aufwiedersehen softly to my threadbare, overly-loved and worn teddy bear before I leave in the morning. It's perfectly fine if you all stop reading now after discovering how patently uncool I, in fact, am.)
What marks a life well-lived better than cake? The happiest, most celebratory moments are marked by it. I tick through brightly-colored memories in flavors of cake. Wedding cake. Birthday cake. Sunday morning coffeecake. Post-field hockey game apple cake. Chocolate lava cake after high school nights out. Funfetti cake from a mix after college nights out. Chiffon cake, frosted Yule logs at Christmas, simple yogurt cakes topped with fresh strawberries from the garden all summer.
Some of you (Hello! You're lovely, you unknown readers out there, waking up on Sunday all over the world, making coffee in a tiny apartment in San Francisco or steeping tea in a sunlit, white-washed kitchen in Connecticut or dressing your smiling, chubby toddler in a messy bedroom somewhere or sleepily walking to a workout class on Columbus Avenue in Manhattan) have asked about the poetry. You've asked where I find it. The truth is that (outside of school) I've never read much poetry until this past year.