December and early January flew by as always. I did my usual December baking creative joy – a new thing I baked this year was Stollen, the Christmas bread originating in Germany. It’s an enriched bread meaning it usually contains more butter, eggs, and sugar, and also features candied citrus, almonds, raisins and spices, and the like. I spent a weekend candying my own citrus peels before the baking commenced and that in itself was a fun adventure.
I adapted my cinnamon roll dough – and dropped the sugar to not too much, per a few traditional recipe comparisons. It was absolutely delicious and turned out well, and I loved it so much that after two loaves, I took some of the same add-ins and incorporated them into a regular yeast whole-grain loaf without the extra enrichment.
We’re finally getting back to “regular season” bread around here as my somewhat dormant holiday-season sourdough culture has been back in action. I make about one loaf every couple weeks, usually.
Otherwise, we enjoyed an easier version of Biryani, the Persian/Indian rice dish, to celebrate New Years Eve, and promptly began dozing through an old episode of All Creatures Great and Small before 9pm. We’re not much for New Years Eve celebrators, or maybe we just don’t have enough of a reason to stay up into the wee hours in the last few years, but it was nice to wake up to a new day and year refreshed and having slept well, even with all the intense fireworks that went off at midnight.
Now that we’re firmly in January, I’ve been reflecting a bit about the direction of this blog and my newsletter.
I began the blog and recipe sharing very shortly after I graduated from my undergrad degree in 2009 – feeling inspired to continue my creative joy for writing and food (I did initially begin college as an English major, which eventually became an English minor – and either way, that basically means I enjoyed a fair bit of writing on the way to a degree.)
My first blog was not a recipe, but a food story about picking cherries and making my dad a cherry pie. My mom had come to visit at the end of school – not being one for celebrations particularly, I skipped graduation and signed up for one of my teacher examinations instead – and after the visit to my house and to pick cherries in our rental front yard, we took a trip together to the coast. I remember now that I was an absolute teenager on that trip (even though I was not), with all the petty and huffy responses to my mom that a teenage girl could give. We did a tour of one of the lighthouses which was really enjoyable, and I got all irritated at not finding / remembering the “right” restaurant along the Newport bayfront for a brunch. We ended up at a fine enough place instead (truthfully there never have been great restaurants for breakfast along the bayfront so I don’t know what I was looking for), and I was huffy and irritable all throughout the meal. In retrospect, it was really dumb and colors an enjoyable trip in a negative way. I did not feature that story in my first blog post – just the idealism that came before and after it.
With the transition to providing nutrition consultations through Hope Wellness, I’ve spent less time curating recipes and articles for this website and newsletter, and may eventually abandon the project entirely. (You’re welcome to sign up for the Hope Wellness newsletter which I write and publish half of the time). But this also remains a space that has morphed with me as I’ve shifted and grown. I’m not quite ready to walk away completely. It may be an educational space for you – or an inspirational one for food and lifestyle shifts – but it’s still and to this day a space for creative joy for me.
Beyond that, let’s speak to New Year Resolutions for a moment.
I don’t particularly aspire to them, but there’s also something about the collective momentum and freshness of a new year to wipe the slate clean and begin something new, or at least refresh an intention or habit shift we’ve been working on.
I’ve spent the last couple years refining my morning routine so I set a better foundation for my day, and my priority for this season and year is to continue cementing the consistency I’ve accomplished with that. Not striving for perfection, but getting back to consistency as soon as possible when the routine goes astray for a day or a few.
I show up internally and externally, as a more grounded, clear-minded, better person when I start the day with breathing, prayer/meditation, and a little yoga (more breathing and getting into my body, and out of my head).
That space in my head is the entire intention for the practice.
And in fits and starts this past year, I’ve begun playing the piano again. By the time I left home at 18 for college, I was fairly good at the piano and could play several advanced pieces. It took until the end of 2021 to have my childhood piano in my possession again, and after a couple months to rest before I got it tuned to play, I dipped my toe in.
Like pulling a long ago language from the depths of my brain, I had to first re-learn even the basics. And because the piano bench is a time capsule to the early 2000’s, it was disheartening to see where I was in 2005, and to start nearly back at the beginning to relearn again (which C is middle C again?)
My intention with the piano is to keep up the consistent playing: a few minutes, a handful of times per week. Nothing too out of the way – consistency being the most important thing.
The goal for playing is not to get to the point of “being really good,” but to be able to sit down and play an enjoyable song without stretching my brain so hard that it’s more work than pleasure.
It’s a continuation of the creative joy I spoke to above about food and writing.
Beyond that, I have a couple long-term and ongoing intentions with my nutrition and running: chewing my food better, single-tasking while eating, preparing meals in a way that is most supportive of my digestive system, as well as race goals and more community in running. None of these are particularly dramatic, new, or different than before.
I’m all for subtle and slow, yet significant shifts over time.
If you’ve read all that I’ve rambled on about by now, I’d love to know about your end of year / beginning of year. What’s going well with you? What are you working to maintain or shift?
If it’s food and nutrition related, can I help? And if it’s getting to finding some space in your head or more creative joy, I’d love to hear about your own process.