How quickly time flies. It's almost 2011 and it seems everyone is scrambling to recap the year, make resolutions and create measurable goals and objectives to chart their progress and make their lives more meaningful. It's all good but I've decided not to do it this year.
Why? You know how it goes. For the next two months there will be a waiting list for the treadmills at the gym. People will show up looking half-crazed, wrapped in ipods, and flip through fashion magazines while speed walking, hoping to achieve a “reality” that only exists in the digital darkroom. Come February, the gym will be empty except for me and the elderly woman who lives down the road. Sound familiar?
I think the bigger question is how do we find meaning in our lives? You know what the culture tells us: granite countertops, the latest clothes, shoes, vacations... (a.k.a. debt)
Last week I had lunch with friends - a lovely couple who by every societal standard have it all. Night after night they returned to their comfortable home and asked each other the big questions: “is this it? Is this what gives life meaning?” Finally, they came up with an answer.
Long story short, they board a plane tomorrow with nothing but 2 backpacks and head to Africa where they’ve committed to spending the next five years to working for humanitarian organizations. They are giving up all of their worldly possessions to help others. This is how they decided to bring meaning to their lives.
But what if we don't want to go into debt and we're not up for Africa? What's the best way to find meaning in our lives? I’ve been through many iterations of this question, especially when I was sick and in pain. My conclusion?
Here's what brings meaning into my life:
The way my husband’s eyes crinkle up in the corners when he laughs.
The feel of sand between my toes.
The sound of chocolate chips being poured into cookie dough.
Watching blue hydrangeas grow in the garden.
Pulling on squishy socks.
Listening to music that’s hopelessly out of date.
How my arm hurts if I spend too much time on the computer.
The smell of vanilla beans.
Writing this blog post for you.
The wonderful way my head feels when it hits the pillow after an exhausting day.
Tasting the first peach of summer...
Just a few examples, but for me, these simple moments give my life meaning. For me, meaning comes from simple acts of living that are easy to miss if we’re not paying attention.
That's it. So maybe my goal this year is to pay better attention. No iTunes App required.
How about you? What gives your life meaning?
Hazelnut Tart with Chocolate and Orange
(Warning: This dessert is out of this world.)
250 g. all purpose flour
25 g. powdered sugar
110 g. cold butter, diced
6-8 tbs. cold water
apricot, peach or orange jam
In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix flour with powdered sugar and butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. While mixing, gradually add water until the dough holds together. Flatten the ball into a disc and chill at least 20 minutes.
Roll dough out to about 1/8" thick and line tart pans. I had enough dough for one 8" tart and 6 min-tarts. You can divide up the dough how ever you'd like. Spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom of each tart pan. Chill for another 20 min.
Filling: (adapted from Chef Bo Friberg)
170 g skinned hazelnuts
70 g candied orange peel
170 g sugar (divided into 2 bowls, 85 g each)
170 g. unsalted butter, room temperature
78 g whole eggs (1 1/2 eggs)
2 egg yolks
20 g bittersweet chocolate shaved
1 tsp vanilla extract
powdered sugar for decoration
In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts, orange peel and 85 g of sugar finely, until almost but not quite a paste.
In a stand mixer, cream butter and remaining 85 g of sugar. Gradually and gently mix in eggs, yolks, chocolate and vanilla. Do not over mix or your tarts will fall while baking.
Add filling to tart pans and spread out using an offset spatula. Bake full size tart at 350 for 35-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Mini-tarts will take less time, between 25-30 min. depending upon your oven. Keep an eye on them.
Remove from oven. Cool. decorate with sifted powdered sugar.
168 g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
77 g heavy cream
20 g butter, softened
Place chopped chocolate in a bowl. Boil the heavy cream and pour the boiling cream over the chocolate. Allow to sit for 2 or 3 minutes. Stir. Stir in the butter. Pour into a squeeze bottle and decorate the cooled tarts to your liking.
Have a healthy, peaceful and meaningful 2011 everyone!