If the variety of self-improvement books on the topic are any indication, there are thousands of ways to live your life. There are different strategies out there to help you fulfill the life just right for you. Some people live their lives in pursuit of money, others in the pursuit of helping others. Some choose to live their lives in devotion to a god, others in devotion to success. With so many options and opinions on the subject, I've always wondered where on the spectrum I would fall. Would I ultimately choose the way of the American dream, of success and money? Would I subscribe to a humble lifestyle, full of family and friends? Would I do something big, or would I settle for a familiar lifestyle?
Out of college, with my life laid out before me, I find it hard to even guess where I will find myself in the future. Even so, I can't help but wonder which lifestyle was meant for me. Of all the self-improvement books I could choose off the library shelf, which one would resonate with me?
While this thought has been swimming around my mind the last few years, in various levels of consciousness, I never imagined a simple phrase overheard at a nearby restaurant table would be the answer to my question. He said, waving his fork in the air as if to punctuate the point, he wanted to live an anecdotal life.
I realized, in that moment, that it was exactly what I wanted too. An anecdotal life.
I don't care about having a highly successful career. I'm not hell-bent on amassing a great fortune. While I'd love to help others with my life, I'm not sure I'm ready to devote my future to that just yet. However, I do like to hear a good story and I can't imagine a better life than one filled with true, tall tales to tell.
Upon reflection, I've realized that I have been happiest when I have been living the anecdotal life. When I'm filled with adventure and curiosity, where everything is possible and anything can (and does) happen, where each day may be a little more uncertain than the last. While I realize I can't always be traveling the world or making big decisions, finding myself in new situations or exploring unknown facets of my personality, I want to keep my mind open to the possibilities. I don't want to shut them out if they come calling, whatever form they may arrive in.
These last couple years have been filled with quiet stories for me, with months of my life making up the space between paragraphs. I miss finding myself face to face with a mountain goat in the rocky mountains. I miss the adventures and conversations with friends that now live far away. I miss being the girl who sits outside with her camera just to capture the sunset. It's easy for life to feel like a lull in conversation, for the winter blues to wash away the heat and life of summer. It's harder to put yourself into a place where new, unexpected stories can be born.
After all, if I don't keep composing new stories to tell, what else will we talk about next time we sit down over a cup of coffee and a piece of cake?
This Swedish Visiting Cake is chewy and sweet, with complex flavors. Without any leavening agents, the cake sets rather than bakes up, resulting in a cake with a texture similar to a coffee cake rather than a typical birthday cake. Originally a recipe from Dorie Greenspan, I played with a few of the ingredients, resulting in a cake I can't help but love. Browned butter, orange zest, and almonds combine to make a trio of flavor that only grows more depth as time passes.
One Year Ago: Browned Butter Rice Krispie Bars
Swedish Visiting Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Yields 1 9-inch cake
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan (or cast-iron skillet if you have one).
In a small saucepan, place the butter over medium heat and cook until the butter is browned. Stir frequently and watch closely. As soon as the butter is browned, remove from heat and pour into a small bowl to cool (do not leave in the saucepan or it will continue to cook or burn!).
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar and orange zest until fragrant. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the salt and vanilla extract. Lightly stir in the flour. Fold in the melted, browned butter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Scatter the almonds over the top and sprinkle with additional sugar.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and a little crisp on the outside. Let cool for 5 minutes before running a knife around the edges to loosen it.
Serve warm or at room temperature. This cake ages well so it will taste just as good (if not better) the second or third day as it did the first.