Life to the Fullest

I’ve had this post written in the back of my mind for weeks. The one where I come back, enormously apologetic for not posting in ages, and I dazzle you with my wit, my humor, and a couple of out-of-this-world recipes to distract you from my glaring imperfections. Though I am enormously apologetic for being away as long as I have, last night showed my why I shouldn’t be ashamed of it.

You see, though I’ve worked hard throughout my life to curb it, I am by nature a perfectionist, your classic type A+ personality. Writing in a journal was stressful for me because I felt like I needed to write deep, soul-searching entries every single day in order to be “good” at journaling. Sometimes I have the same feeling about this blog: I need to have fancy recipes, artistic photography (ha!), laugh-out-loud prose, and constant, consistent updating in order to be “good” at it. It has to be perfect before I can enjoy it. Never mind what was actually going on in my life; never mind a hectic schedule, work to do, a cat to play with, family to call, or a BF to love.

Last night, I hosted the oneg (a sort of reception for after the shabbat service, for those of you not hip with the Jewish lingo – it’s okay, I’ve got your back) at our temple. I worked all day to bake challah, cut cantaloupe, wash and chop veggies, and plate everything so it looked pretty, perfect, and effortless. It went well: my rabbi and his wife couldn’t get over the challah, people loved the fresh fruit and veggies during winter, and we all had a great time. Everything was perfect, and so, I felt satisfied.

Time it took me to complain that one challah was lopsided? About 3 seconds after I pulled it out of the oven. I loved my mom's comment: "Slice it up first, and no one will know the difference!"

Then.

Then we learned a dear, dear friend of ours has colon cancer. The friend who’s always so happy, so giving, so…everything. And whatever BF and I had going on just stopped. We packed up the leftover food and went out with him and some other close friends. We ate, we laughed, we harassed our good-natured waiter and laughed more. We hugged and kissed and promised to be there, no matter what.

Since our friend doesn’t know yet what stage or how advanced his cancer is, there’s been a lot of praying up in here. But, at least on my part, there’s been a lot of thinking as well. Thinking about how delicate life is, how suddenly and quickly it can be snatched up, regardless of how messy, organized, imperfect, or even – gasp – how “perfect” it may be. I’ve become immensely grateful for the fact that I have life to enjoy.

With that, my dear readers, the ones who still come back and check to see if there’s anything new, even while I’m away (seriously, I can’t believe I’ve had any page views – I fully expected to login and see rows after rows of big fat zeros), I am sorry I haven’t posted. But, and this is a big but, I am not sorry for why. I was busy, I was crazy, the holidays were everywhere and so was I, but you know what? I was living my messy, imperfect life to the fullest. And it was wonderful.

My cantaloupe was also quite wonderful, if I do say so myself. Best excuse to buy a melon baller ever.

I hope to share some of my adventures over the next few days, and most definitely some new recipes, new adventures, and new musings, perfect or imperfect. Either way, this is my life – and I’m happy with it!

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Crazy Thankful

The past 48 hours have been crazy, crazy, crazy. And I’ve been thankful for that.

I thought catching up on work was the craziest part. Then I thought attempting to brave the store the day before Thanksgiving was the craziest part. And then I thought the craziest part was when my aunt called me, saying “Oh no, we already have pumpkin pie, can you just pick up bottled water?”

Crazy.

So I moped a little bit yesterday, thinking of all the pumpkin pie ingredients that would go unused. I gazed longingly at my can of Libby’s and dreamed of perfecting the flaky, doughy crust. But then my mom called, and like all good moms, gave me some great advice: “Honey, if you want to bring something, just bring something. If you want to and don’t, well, that’s just crazy.”

Indeed, Mom. Indeed.

Crazy Cocoa Cake

Public enemy #1. Accused of making insanely delicious treats.

Makes up to a 9″ x 13″ cake

I used a pie pan because...well, I like it. And you know you wanted another picture of my stove.

Ingredients

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 c. sugar, optional*
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. soy milk (or another kind of non-dairy milk, if you want to keep it vegan/parve)
  • 3/8 c. applesauce
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 1/4 c. hot water

*I’ve seen some recipes for this type of cake that call for sugar in the “dough” that makes up the cake. I left it out because 1) I like to avoid excess sugar, and 2) I forgot it the very first time I made this cake and didn’t even notice. It was still delicious, but had a bit more of a dark chocolate taste to it. Use your preferences as a guide – just know it can be made with only the 1 cup of sugar!

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°. Lightly grease the pan of your choice (I used a 10″ pie pan to be festive, but this recipe can make cake up to a 9″ x 13″ pan size)
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, 1/4 c. of the cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and sugar (if using the extra one cup). Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, applesauce, and vanilla. Once combined, pour the wet mix into the dry, and mix until a thick dough forms.

    Please ignore the dirty dishes in the sink. It might convince you that I'm actually human.

  4. Spread the dough into your pan of choice. The dough may need some convincing to spread, as it will be thick, but give it time and it’ll be just fine.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, hot water, and remaining 1/2 c. cocoa powder. Pour over the dough mixture in your pan, making sure to saturate the dough as best as possible.

    Chocolatey. Times a million.

  6. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in the pan for at least an hour – the dough will absorb some of the additional cocoa/water/sugar liquid and get extra moist during this time.

I covered mine with caramel and chocolate chips to make it a bit more dressy and, heck, do you always need a reason to add caramel and chocolate chips? I didn’t think so!

So. Good.

It’s such a delicious, rich cake, and one of the best parts is that it’s a relatively healthy dessert, considering there aren’t eggs/dairy milk/butter in it. My family loved it. One of my cousins took a huge bite, looked at me and said “I don’t know whether I should hate you or love you for this, so I’m going to just keep eating it.” You’re welcome, dear cousin. You’re welcome.

It was a wonderful cake, a wonderful day, and no better way to celebrate how much I have to be thankful for. And I am – I’m thankful for life, for love, for family and friends, and for you, dear readers.

Crazy thankful.

A Little Too Much Oy

Most days for me are a decent, if not healthy mix of oys and joys. I usually spend my time trying to rationalize and learn from the “oy” parts and bring out the “joy” parts. Today was not one of those days.

Today I got no sleep, thanks to anxiety about absolutely everything and nothing.

And...you are? Pillow, huh? Never heard of ya.

Today I had a headache and nausea that made me crabby, short, and generally unpleasant to those I care about.

*Actual representation of what I looked like today. Makes you want to come back, right?

Today I had to watch, helpless, as one of BF’s friends suddenly became, well, not so friendly.

That's how I felt, buddy.

Today I saw very few joys.

All I wanted was for it to be tomorrow. Tomorrow where I could wipe my hands clean of the misery of today.

Thankfully, I let today finish out.

I just came home from our community’s annual interfaith Thanksgiving service. It’s a beautiful way of bringing people of all faiths (and non-faiths) together in a common expression of thanks. There’s been a lot of that going around, eh?

Each piece of the service was brilliant. From the Imams who spoke words from the Qur’an in Arabic, to the Hindu man’s transcendent chanting, to the choir after choir lifting their voices in praise, I doubt anyone, of any tradition, could have walked away from tonight disappointed.

What really got me was the last speaker. A tall, slender man, he’s the head of a large, well known non-denominational church here in town. He recounted the story of how, this very morning, he was nearly hit by a car. He asked us to consider the fact that we exist a gift, to be amazed that we get to delight in another day on this planet, and be humble in being given such an opportunity.

Suddenly, my oys seemed a little smaller. My joys had more potential.

I stayed and chatted and noshed with everyone who came to the service. I hugged friends old and new. I went tonight feeling downtrodden, and left feeling uplifted.

Today had its fair share of oys, but tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I will wake up, amazed at this gift of life, and be humbled at another opportunity to experience existence.

Did I mention that tomorrow morning, I get to make dessert for a dinner happening tomorrow night (yes, I’ll share it here!) while silmultaneously trying to work, clean, and prep for Thanksgiving? Well, I suppose that’s life.

Oy.

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If you’re looking for a great giveaway (and blog, I might add!) check out Averie at love veggies and yoga. She is such a kind person who’s spirit radiates from every post she writes. (The delicious recipes and adorable pictures of her daughter don’t hurt, either!) She also likes my blog title – that was joy #1 today!

Averie is giving away a Bamboo water bottle to those who comment on her site and more, so head on over and check it out!