This weekend I took some time on a gloriously rainy Saturday afternoon to putter in the kitchen and make some jam. This seemingly simple project was one literally years in the making. There was a tea bar years ago that served a lovely afternoon tea, including homemade spreads and preserves. One of my very favorites was their strawberry black pepper jam, and I missed it when they closed up shop. Cue the very-occasional brief longing, and then the inspiration to make some myself, and then the busyness that inevitably made me forget about it for another year, and then another… and another. How many times do we think, “I’d like to do XYZ,” and then it hits the back burner as life and to-dos and work take over indefinitely?
Well, my friends, this was the day. I used this recipe from Epicurious, doubled the quantity, and added a good amount of cook time to get the jammy consistency I wanted. It turned out delicious, and I spent a very happy weekend eating my preserves on toast with a bit of chèvre. I also now have 8 little jam pots (very Meg from Little Women, although mine jelled!) sitting in the fridge, ready to be enjoyed or distributed to loved ones.
Not only did I finally get my jam, but the whole little adventure got me thinking about the want-to vs. the have-to. We’re all very busy, all the time. We have tons of things we have to do. I commute a long way, so it often seems that my downtime is even more scarce than most. But the immense satisfaction of enjoying something you really want to do outweighs even the most efficiently handled to-do list every time (and believe me, I love a tidy finished to-do list). Let’s resolve to find more time for the want-to. Schedule it, prepare for it, treat it with the same priority as the rest of your to-do list. It may seem like less “fun” if it is something you have to schedule, but it will be so enjoyable to actually get to paint that watercolor, go explore that new bakery, make that jam, or learn to knit when you finally do make time for it. Trust.
When I first began planning a trip to Barcelona, I was more focused on the Paris leg of that Europe trip than anything — I love that city dearly. But when I mentioned my trip planning, people would say, “Oh, Barcelona? That is my favorite city…” Their voices would be wistful and a touch envious with the pronouncement, and now that I have been, I know exactly how they feel. Barcelona is an amazing and vibrant city, full of modern art and culture, delicious food and wine, and a spirit that is infectious.
This is city’s most famous public market. Fruits, cheeses, meats, and sweets make up a colorful panoply, rows upon rows. Stop at the tiny Bar Pinotxo, and thank me later — many say they offer the best tapas in the city. Cava at 11 A.M.? Why yes! Seriously delicious baby squid with white beans were had at this tiny eatery, served by the kindest older gentleman proprietor who could not have been more enthusiastic to share his food with us. Make sure to grab some jamón and cheese to snack on as you wander.
Continue reading “Oh, Barcelona”
One of the dearest people in my life has a birthday today (happy birthday to you!), which has me musing about birthdays, and the nature of growing. Growing older. Growing wiser. Growing happier. Growing up? Do we ever really grow up? These days, at least, I feel like I am stretching and growing into the woman I want to be. It is not easy, though, I must admit. Growth and change are never easy or comfortable, but I try to remember that those are the things can move us forward to new places, to new realizations, and even to new joys. Shedding the self-doubts, embracing the imperfections, trying to make a difference in the face of injustice — these are the difficult, but worthy, parts of the journey.
New Year’s Day comes flooded with resolutions, good intentions, and reflections on the old year, but I think birthdays can be much more personal waypoints for introspection and new intentions. There is no external pressure to make a NEW YOU and improve ALL THE THINGS the way there is at New Year’s — just you and your own personal new chapter, a new year of you, and perhaps some loved ones to celebrate with as you turn that page.
I won’t pretend that I am there yet, wherever “there” might be. I’ll keep trying to learn and grow and be as me as I can muster, discomfort and all. But in the meantime, I can surround myself with people I trust, bake an amazing birthday cake, and celebrate another year in the life of someone special.
One of the most decadently delightful cakes I have made is this peanut butter chocolate stunner from Smitten Kitchen. Make it for someone you care about (even yourself!), and enjoy wholeheartedly. Relish that birthday, and the person you are becoming.
Wishing you an ice-cream-soda-with-chocolate-sauce kind of holiday weekend. I’m looking forward to some time to relax and recharge a bit, and I hope you get a chance to do the same!