You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2009.

It’s the end of another year, the perfect time to reflect on the goodness of the last twelve months.  This was definitely a year of major shifts, both personally and throughout the world, and I’m ending the year feeling more hopeful than when it started.  Optimistic and super charged, I’m eager and ready for the grace and goodness of the year ahead.  But, before I jump ahead, I feel the need to reflect on the year that is drawing to a close.

My favorite highlights of 2009:

  • 2008 was over.  🙂  Rough year.
  • Inauguration day: No matter what your political affiliation, it was a good day to be an American.
  • Randomly discovering that an old friend from junior high school and I work for the same company.
  • Julie & Julia: Food, inspiration and Meryl Streep all wrapped up in the same two hours.
  • Coming across The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson late one night, and at the end of one hysterical hour, having a new show to look forward to.
  • Realizing that after years of thinking I was woefully unathletic, I could actually run for an extended amount of time.
  • U2 rocked Giants Stadium in their record-breaking last concert ever in that venue.  And I was there!
  • Sunday cooking marathons made me happy.
  • I found the courage to start writing again…and to find my voice again.
  • I began to embrace joy.

It was a year of excellent moments.

And now, we begin again.

Happy New Year!!  xo, with Goodness and Grace

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People often say that a major drawback to city living is that the stars are never visible.  I have found this to be completely untrue.  Sure, the sky may not light your way home, but that doesn’t mean that celestial magic isn’t all around.

Like so many things in life, all you have to do is pay attention.  Just look up.

Waking up in the back seat after a nap at the tail end of a day-long road trip, I was compelled to look upward to the New Jersey sky.  There was a luminous moon, three-quarters full, with an amber halo around it.  A smattering of stars, actually many more than usual, were shimmering like skyward gems.  Pillows of clouds playfully moved across the sky, first obscuring the stars, then revealing them.  Lights from planes twinkled in between the stars.

Light is all around us if we just look for it.

The first snowfall of the season is one of the most magical times of the year.  I find nothing more beautiful than a long solitary walk in the middle of a calm snowfall, the air slightly warm and the snow still soft under my feet.

A snowfall is a time for indulging a playful side: sledding, snowball fights, cross country skiing on city streets.  The football game in the middle of the street played by eight seemingly inebriated young men outside my window at 6am this morning. With freshly fallen snow, youthful spirit is close at hand.

And then there are the people who dive in – literally – and embrace their own personal snow moment.  Sometimes I just have to look outside the window to see what’s left behind.

Snow angels…pure magic.

I love napoleons. Vastly underrated, woefully overlooked thanks to the éclair, cannoli and the tart, the napoleon is a perfect blend of creamy and crunch, savory and sweet.

They are clouds of pastry yumminess.

They are also my unrequited love.  A good one is devastatingly hard to find. This being New York City, you’d think you’d find perfection on every corner.

Not so much. Ironically, every one I try gets compared to the napoleons of my youth, plucked from the bakery at Von’s, a supermarket in the decidedly un-gourmet town of Reseda, California.

The store’s deli also made a mean three-bean salad…but I digress.

The Von’s napoleon was perfectly iced with a white glaze finely drizzled with a hint of chocolate. The sheets of crunchy pastry were layered between pockets of pastry cream that were lightly kissed with vanilla. It was a six-inch rectangle of rapturous bliss, quickly becoming a decadent teenage comfort food. My mother, God bless her, indulged me whenever I asked for one, though she was trying to stretch every dollar to be able to make her own magic in the kitchen.

Years later when I moved to New York, I thought recapturing that memory would be easy. I mean, New York is the food capital of the US. I searched high and low, but found sad attempts designed to improve upon a French classic. Laced with lemon. Nope. Filled with whipped cream. Uh uh. Raspberry puree on top of the pastry cream. Why is that there??

I’d lost all hope until the day I decided to venture up to the second floor of Citarella on 74th and Broadway. I spotted a couple of the familiar pastries in the bakery case. Having been disappointed numerous times before, I was skeptical.

Are they any good? I asked the woman behind the counter.

The best! she replied.

I don’t know, I’ve had lots of bad ones.

Trust me, she said, these are excellent. Just like they make in France.

I was dubious, but decided to try one. I needed to know what the real thing tasted like. I’d only known Reseda.

Victory!!!  Who knew that Reseda had perfectly replicated a French classic? Citarella’s napoleon was blissful and divine perfection; one bite reunited me with my luxurious adolescent treat. The mix of creamy and crunchy textures made me so happy.  No, no, no; not happy.  Rapturous.  It was pure heaven.

Food rapture is a beautiful thing.

I love the holidays, despite not being a winter lover.  The holidays are perfectly timed, the hustle and bustle a nice distraction from the fact that it’s getting seriously cold outside.  Christmas is particularly magical, with New York City all decked out in its festive finery.  This season, I chronicled my yearly pilgrimage around town.  Enjoy!!

Snowflakes sparkling on the facade of Saks Fifth Avenue.

The Christmas tree atop Radio City Music Hall.

The Swarovski crystal snowflake high above the intersection at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Heavenly musicians near the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Under the mistletoe at Grand Central Station.

Magical lights at the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle.

Silence is difficult to come by in New York City, with buses whizzing by, Fresh Direct trucks idling outside my window, lines of police cars ten deep doing drills with their sirens on…you get the idea. I seek it, and sometimes I find it in unexpected moments.

But stillness is something different.  Where silence calms you down, stillness transports you to another place.  Walking through the park, I’m often lulled into these pockets of stillness that I can feel to my core, that shifts the chatter in my head and the anxiety so often with me into something else deeper and more meaningful.  For a few moments full of grace, I am not what I do or who I know.  I just am.

These are the golden moments.

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