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Long winter holiday weekends make me crave sweet, salty, creamy, crunchy things. Not necessarily in the same dish.

Basically, winter just makes me want to eat. It helps offset the bone-chilling winds and below freezing temperatures.

After a hectic past few weeks, I decided to spend the weekend eating out – part of self-care involves letting other people taking care of you at times, or spending some money to make life easier, so I embraced the combination of the two. But that didn’t stop me from reminiscing about yummy things I’ve made in the past.

Like this Cinnamon Apple Cake. I made it back in November when local apples were still plentifully in season.

It starts with flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda. Some recipes will call for you to sift these ingredients to avoid any lumps. I just whisk them together, and all is still right with the world. Or at least in the bowl.

Cinnamon and cardamom join the party.

In a separate bowl, sugar and softened butter are wed in culinary bliss…

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…and are creamed together until they are pale yellow.

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Eggs are thrown into the mix. My eggs had shells that were a beautiful pastel green color…isn’t that cool?

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Rich, tangy buttermilk rounds out the lineup…

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…along with a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract. I always add a few extra splashes of vanilla. It’s my happy flavoring.

But you can probably tell that from the drippy stains on the bottle.

At this point, I suppose I warn you about the perils of eating raw batter and to discourage you from licking the spoon, since there are raw eggs in there and all.

But…do I as I say, not as I do. I can’t help myself. This was too perfect not to swipe.

The batter gets transferred to a greased baking dish. Or cake pan. Whatever you’ve got.

Ah, apples. They just make me happy. I have a deep affection for Gala apples, so tasty raw or cooked, and Honeycrisp, which are the juiciest variety I’ve ever eaten. But you can use whichever kind makes you happy.

The apples are sliced…

…and neatly arranged on top of the batter. Or as neatly possible. I’m still working on my perfection skills.

The aromatic combination of cinnamon and sugar dust the apples, the crowning glory on this cake.

For the next 45 minutes or so (depending on the size of your dish/pan) the cake bakes in at 375 degree oven, and it acts as the best room perfume ever. Kitchen, you smell so good.

The cake tastes pretty good too.

Light and moist with tender crumbs, its warmth will hold me over until spring comes. I cannot wait to make it again.

For the full recipe, visit joythebaker.com.

Walking into Whole Foods a few nights ago, I was mesmerized by the abundance of flowers in the entrance. The store felt like an outdoor market, alive with varied colors and textures.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  I happily thought that they’d changed the front display with an expanded floral display.  I already couldn’t wait until the next time I went, before I’d even shopped, just so I could have that experience of walking in again.

And then I realized it was all for Valentine’s Day.

I pride myself on being contentedly single – I can do what I want, when I want and without having to consult anybody. But, for some reason this year I felt very aware of Valentine’s Day. Not distraught, not sad, but aware.

Suddenly, it mattered.

As I heard people in my office talk about the plans they weren’t making with their significant others, I had a bit of an epiphany: Valentine’s Day seems to matter the most to people who aren’t in relationships. Maybe that’s because it’s like a flashlight on what you don’t have.  All those commercials from the florists and match.com seem to mock the singles among us. It’s almost as if the unmarrieds and the un-romanced are set up to feel lonely.

One year a group of girlfriends and I decided we’d celebrate the holiday by going out to a nice dinner. We all were unattached, so we thought we’d just embrace our friendship for a festive, fun-filled evening. Instead, it was a night of three angry women and me, who wanted to flee, go home and get in my pajamas.

My truth is that though life isn’t always what I imagined it would be at this age, I do my best to meet myself where I am. It is easy to succumb to anger, which often is just a veil to hide the grief of a life that hasn’t measured up to our dreams. The truth is that I would rather entertain myself alone than to be with people who don’t appreciate the beauty of their own light.

The most important relationship you have in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself.

— Diane von Furstenburg

I treat myself to vibrantly-colored flowers and succulent chocolates and delicious dinners in beautiful restaurants regularly, so I am my own valentine. Every day.

And that is grace.

This past Friday night, I watched the snow fall.

It was 2am, far past the time my body wanted to be asleep. But the kid in me wanted to stay up and gaze out the window as the blizzard took shape, turning from a light dusting on the street and into a full-blown snow shower.

The snow was falling fast, yet softly, soundlessly. I hate winter—hate winter—and its cold and biting ways, but I’ve become mesmerized by the beauty of snow. I hate winter, but I have come to love walking in the snow, soft and fresh and pure. I have come to love watching the smattering of snowflakes as they fall from the sky and onto the ground. It makes me feel like I’m 8 years old again, wrapped up in the wonder of the world.

There was a lot of hysteria in everyone as we all anticipated the blizzard. One weather report said that we could get somewhere between 2 and 30 inches of snow, which seemed like a completely absurd thing to say. But, apparently, there were many scenarios that could occur, too many what ifs to make an accurate assumption.

But if you think about it, life it a lot like that. So many scenarios, so many variables, so many directions your life can move towards. And one tiny thing—a look, a smile, the way the wind decides to blow—can alter the course of your life.

I think about this often. I think about the way my life is very different from a year ago, when a completely different rotation of people were in my everyday orbit.  I think about how much I’ve grown, even though a year ago, I had no idea that I would feel anything other than what I was feeling ever again. I had no inkling that my perspective on life would have shifted so much just 12 months later.

I think on these things and I embrace the wonder of life, giddy about the possibility of what will be just around the corner.  For now, it may just be another icy winter day, and I’m okay with that.

I’m often complimented about my calm disposition. And my patience. And the fact that in a crisis, I can be unflappable.

Sometimes these compliments make me feel like a fraud.

The truth is my mind is constantly whirring, thinking, contemplating. It rarely stops assessing. Strategizing. Remembering.

Because I worry about everything.

I worry because I didn’t say good night to my manager friend at the restaurant where I had dinner a few nights ago, as I always do.  Would he think something was wrong?  Did he even notice?  He always gives me a sweet hug on my way out, and I worry that I’ve broken the spell of our huggy ritual.

I worry about everything I eat now because I just recovered from a stomach bug. Just days after I felt better, I questioned the wisdom of eating sushi for dinner (I felt perfectly fine) and nacho cheese sauce first thing in the morning (I felt perfectly awful).

I worry that I went on a cleanse a couple of weeks ago and ate beautifully clean food for two weeks and that I undid all of that goodness by recovering from the stomach bug with a three day diet of bread and saltine crackers. Followed by said nacho cheese and french fries on Super Bowl Sunday. (But, oh, it was good.)

I worry about typos…oh, the typos that have kept me up at night. I write corporate-y things all year long and the worry bosses have instilled in me over the years when it comes to typos is mighty and powerful. You’d think proper spelling was the answer to achieving world peace. I worry that there will be a typo in this blog and then I’ll feel stupid, because what kind of writer allows that kind of thing to happen?

I worry that pigeons like to sit on my windowsill. Particularly after the morning when one of my upstairs neighbors threw what seemed to be a pot of rice onto the windowsill and I woke up to an entire pigeon family and some of their friends having their morning meal right in front of my window.

I worry that I’ve done something to my upstairs neighbors because there was a period when random food would show up on my windowsill on Sunday morning. Tomatoes. Raw eggs. Rice for pigeons.

I worry that I’m not where I’m supposed to be in my life and not doing what I’m supposed to be doing with people that I’m supposed to be doing it with.

I worry. It’s exhausting.

But sometimes it’s the moments of exhaustion that invite a surrender. Enough, my tired mental muscles seem to say. Enough of all of that.

There’s a place at the end of the day where the worry grows weary and needs a moment. That time between wakefulness and sleep where the day is pure again and everything is enough. And then sleep drifts in, carrying the worry of the day away.

It’s the place where the wisdom of my body kicks in and knows exactly what to do. The automatic reflexes know to save me from myself and my worrisome thoughts.

It is here where the worry is powerless. It is here where I find peace.

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