It’s hard to believe another year has gone by. It was a good one for sure. Ric and I are feeling so blessed for our wonderful children, family and friends, and the joyous experiences and adventures that 2015 brought us.
This year has also brought me many new acquaintances and friendships through this blog. It has been a delight to hear from so many of you and to get to know you through our interactions and the sharing of your stories with me.
In many ways, life is a continuous string of stories. Some of those tales in a single life-time are happy and some sad. This time of year I am reminded that while at this particular chapter in my life is filled with love, good fortune and health, there are many who may be living a more difficult time in their life.
While celebration, giving and getting gifts and the overall indulging and consumption of this season can be fun and should be enjoyed, it is also a great time to be generous to those in less fortunate circumstances. If the last minute shopping and the hustle and bustle of the season finds you irritated and short tempered, remember to take a deep breathe and be kind to others since you don’t know what their story is and what they may be going through.
One year I was going through a terrible time. My mother was dying and I was struggling to stay afloat with my job and raising my son while taking care of her. During this time I had rented out my house while I commuted back and forth to Colorado each week. When I was in California, I stayed at my mother’s home and was her primary caretaker along with my sister.
When the lease was up for my renters and I was trying to move back into my house, they refused to leave and we ended up in court. The judge forced the renters to vacate the house, but before they left, they threw a massive party and completely, and I mean utterly ravaged the house. They destroyed the floors, walls, landscaping, and appliances, and then they left the property and disappeared. I was devastated.
Over the next few days, I spent hours cleaning and repairing the house and then one evening there was a knock on my front door. I swung the door open to see a young and very beautiful couple standing in front of me asking me if they could buy my house. At that point, with the state my house was in and knowing that I would be losing my mother within weeks, I agreed to sell my house in what also turned out to be a very lucrative move.
At the time I wondered if those renters had known what I was going through on a personal and emotional level, would they have handled the situation differently. On the other hand, I did have the opportunity to share with the couple who bought my house what a blessing their showing up at my front door was. Not only was the transaction a breeze, they turned out to be even more beautiful on the inside then they were on the outside.
The contrast of the two parties that I had been dealing with had not escaped me, especially since I was also in the midst of the grace and pain that death exposes one to.
“This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple. Your philosophy is simple kindness.”
Dalai Lama XIV
Be kind to the cashier at the department store and even to that person who just took your parking place forcing you to take a space further away so you could enjoy that brisk albeit, slightly longer stroll into the mall. Kindness is free and easy to give and you could make or break someone’s day by giving or withholding a little bit of cheer. We humans can be frail so it is important for those of us who are at a stronger point in our lives to be charitable and to give a helping hand to those in need.
I wish for all of you the happiest of holidays filled with love, laughter and good health and your 2016 life chapter to be the best ever!
|Brown-Butter Brandy Bundt Cake|
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more to grease pan
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more to dust the pan
- 4 tablespoons, plus ½ cup brandy or whiskey
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated (11/2 teaspoon ground dried ginger)
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup honey
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 medium pear (a peeled and grated apple can be substituted for the pear)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan, or as I did here, one 4-cup bundt pan and a six-mini bundt tin.
- Coarsely grate the unpeeled pear into a small bowl. Squeeze the juice of the lemon half onto it and give it a quick stir.
- Melt 1 stick of butter in a small pan, stirring constantly, until it begins to brown.
- Remove from heat and add the honey to it, stirring until combined.
- In a small cup or bowl, combine 4 tablespoons brandy and the grated ginger and set aside.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar and the remaining 1 stick butter on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes.
- Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar, 1 at a time, until incorporated.
- Add the sour cream, vanilla, and the brandy and ginger mixture, and beat until thoroughly combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.
- Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and beat with a wooden spoon until it is completely incorporated.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan(s).
- Bake the cake(s) for 35-45 minutes for the small cakes and about 1 hour if you use the large 12-cup bundt pan.
- Remove the cake(s) from the oven and cool for 15 minutes. Invert pans onto a wire rack to releases cake(s).
- While the cake cools, combine the ½ cup sugar, ½ cup brandy and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a small saucepan over low heat.
- Stir until the sugar dissolves. Brush the syrup over the warm cakes.
- Serve with additional syrup, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Another option is to glaze the cake with the icing below.
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1-2 tablespoons brandy or whiskey
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Mix milk, vanilla and brandy/whiskey into sugar and stir until smooth.
- Add additional liquid, one tablespoon at a time if you’d like a thinner consistency.