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Christmas is a holy, deeply spiritual time of year for me. In the cold (or spring-like warmth of this year), long days of darkness, there is light everywhere. It’s a happy time.

For anyone who has been to New York during the holiday season, you know it is a wonderland of lights and sounds and energy filled with the spirit of Christmas.

For anyone who actually lives in New York, you also know the holiday season can bring forth deep wells of rage you didn’t know lived within you.

Vulnerability alert. I often tumble into the latter category.

When I wanted to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center this year, I briefly thought about repeating my pilgrimage last year. I had to leave early for a day trip, so I got up a few hours earlier and ventured over, practically in the middle of the night. It was awesome: the hush of the early morning, just me and a few security guards nodding at each other to acknowledge the beauty. And I got great pictures—with no people in them.

But this year, I valued sleep more than the peace of sightseeing undisturbed.

Instead, I flung myself into the belly of the beast on a random weekday. In order to keep living in the city I love so much, I’m making peace with the fact I need to coexist with the millions of people who come to visit. Being among people (sometimes people who are rude and pushy or worse, oblivious that locals don’t function at their (enviably) slow and unhurried pace) has become my spiritual practice of sorts. There are over seven billion people in the world, so I should be able to function properly among 50,000 of them. All the yoga and meditation in the world doesn’t matter if I can’t bring some zen off the mat and into the everyday.

So I pushed myself into the world of Christmas and I managed to function like a normal human being.

And, the tree did not disappoint.

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Wishing you a beautiful holiday season where you find ways to coexist peacefully with the situations you find challenging, and may you find beauty and light everywhere.

xo, with goodness and grace.

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How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then to rest afterward.  — Spanish Proverb

At week 52, I should say something profound.  I should write something deep and inspirational to rally everyone into feeling inspired for the new year.

And I would do all of this, if only I could remember what day it was.

I love the holidays.  I love the lights and the food and the presents—both giving and receiving—and I love the festive feeling in the air.  But this season I found myself spent and exhausted.  This is what I know: sometimes we aren’t superwomen and sometimes it really is all too much.

I’ve chided myself for failing at Christmas this year, uncharacteristically buying gifts at the last minute and sending not one single holiday card.  I even failed at sending consolation text messages and emails on Christmas Day.

But, here’s the thing.  I slept until 9am on Christmas morning.

This was the best Christmas gift anyone could have given me.  I woke up with nothing to do except eat the breakfast my parents made and open the presents they had wrapped under the tree.  With this, Santa delivered a quiet, effortless joy.

I have a full week of vacation ahead of me.  I have made zero plans.  The week is mine to fill…or not.  Whether or not I know what day it is doesn’t matter as much as a good book and regular midday naps.  Because life can be that simple.

Sometimes inspiration begins with a good night’s rest.  And so I wish that for you—along with alternating bouts of deep relaxation and intense fun—as much as I do for myself.

Here’s the enjoying the rest of the holiday season.

xo, with goodness and grace.

This is a story of Christmas in pictures.

Yesterday I had to be up pretty early for a day trip.  In an inspired moment, I awoke a bit earlier just so I could experience the peace of the Christmas season in the early morning.

I highly recommend this.

It also gave me the opportunity to capture how beautiful my city is during this time of year, all without being in the midst of throngs of tourists.

I allowed myself to be drenched in the light and calm and beauty of Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue.  There is nothing like it.

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May peace grab hold of you this week, and may you find a star to help light your way home.

xo, with goodness and grace.

 

Holidays are full of lights and grace and magical moments.

But they are also triggers for our stuff, unearthing barely covered things just below the surface, as well as those long-buried deep in the soul.

I had a great Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, very warm and low key days spent with my family and a welcome respite from the insanity of my normal life.  But by this morning, I could feel the chill starting to creep in, that vague melancholy that sneaks up and moves in to stay for a while if you don’t pay careful attention.

Ironically, soon after I recognized the forlorn feelings for what they were, I saw that one of my Facebook friends—a childhood neighbor from long ago—posted about how she’d seen so many sad posts today, acknowledging that so many people struggle this time of year.  She said that she had begun falling into sadness herself for her own reasons, but that she remembered.  She remembered who she was.  And she encouraged everyone to do the same.

Remember who you are! 

Funny how sometimes one little sentence can be enough to turn around an entire day.

Here is what I know I am indelibly: I am tougher than I appear. I often see magic in the ordinary. Music and movement and food and words have always been the superheroes in my life.

I danced and cooked and cycled my way through the rest of the day.

Now, I know sadness comes in many depths. It isn’t always easy to break out of a funk.  But sometimes remembering the power of who you are can be enough to get you to the next moment.

For this holiday season, I wish that for you—to recognize your own magnificence and beauty, to know the grace of fully owning who you are…and knowing that you are enough.  You are your own due north, and you are spectacular.

Happy holidays, everyone!

xo, with goodness and grace.

I could not stop making pies.

It was as if a force larger than me began channeling itself through my hands, the hands that suddenly needed to be wrapped around the stickiness of pie dough. This led me to spend the better part of November experimenting, playing, and testing different recipes, all in search of the perfect pie crust.

The irony is that for most of my life, while I’ve always loved pie, I have not been a fan of pie crust.  I would eat around the crust, especially the dry outer rim. The softer bottom was often closer to the texture of the fruit, usually apple, so I didn’t mind that so much as it really was just a carrier of the sweet filling.

But in the last couple of years, I developed a deep longing to play with dough.  I found myself yearning to make bread in my little city kitchen, even though I had never baked a loaf before.  I would dream of the smell of yeast, the crunch of the crust, the tang of the chewy interior.

I tried it once, and it was an epic, dense failure.  I came to believe that yeast doesn’t want to blossom with life in my kitchen. Or maybe I just was an incompetent baker and it was not for me.

And then I found out I have a gluten sensitivity, so my bread making experiments were temporarily derailed.

But, the whispers of “pie” soon began haunting me, and I needed to quiet them.

Working butter, flour, and water in my hands became more than just baking.  At times it feels like the nagging thoughts in my head and each unnamed worry are being worked out as I make the dough.  It’s become culinary therapy, the place where everything else is held at bay, if only for the moment.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I watched my nephew as he was transfixed by one of those rainbow bracelet looms that kids are obsessed with these days. He is a bundle of energy, this kid.  When he visits my parents, he spends the better part of his stay running up and down the hall, sometimes with a ball, sometimes with a hackey sack-esque pillow, sometimes with just his imagination.

But the loom kept him quiet and still for hours.  Literally, hours.  In him I witnessed the power of his jewelry meditation, as he strung together one rubber band after the other. He’d emerge from his room bleary eyed, but calm and content, proudly showing off the bracelet he’d just made.

This is what pie dough has become for me.

One day as I wandered through a bookstore—always my favorite way to spend an afternoon—I came across a cookbook, all about pies.  It was authored by the owners of a Brooklyn bakery that I’d heard of that had intriguing combinations, but had never visited the shop.

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As I flipped through recipe after recipe, I became breathless with the anticipation of what I wanted to make first.

Now, if there was ever a time when I didn’t have a spare moment to try something new, it was the past few months. But I’d come home late from work, paradoxically exhausted yet fully wound up, and I would suddenly have the urge to play with butter and (gluten free) flour and water.

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Then, there is the repetitive deliberation of slicing, in this case apples and sweet potatoes…

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…and the fun in sprinkling a comforting crumble topping of oats, butter, and warm spices that evoke fall.

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The finished Sliced Sweet Potato & Apple Crumble Pie tasted of the season, a warm hug of a dessert (or, okay breakfast…shhh).

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And, there was the post-Thanksgiving Cranberry Sage Pie.  An earthy filling of cranberries, apples, cinnamon, allspice and an unexpected hint of sage, it’s a pie that makes you want to cozy up with something – even if it’s only a slice.  I had a little fun with the top crust, before brushing it with a little cream and letting the flavors mingle and bake.

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My pie skills are improving, and  in the midst of the holiday season, I know how I”ll keep stress at bay.

And the secret to the perfect pie crust? When the dough gets too warm, give it a rest in the coolness of the refrigerator.  Taking time to just hang out is important to a dough’s success.

Maybe everything I need to know about life—at least for this moment—is in the crust.

And, a little apple cider vinegar in the dough works a bit of magic, too.

The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, www.amazon.com.  

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