The sun was mischievously staring through the window fooling around that the cold too had its day off... Only after a morning walk with the dog one can become fully aware of the chill winter coldness ruling outside. 
No plans for the weekend!
Not so long ago, I would be frustrated by the absence of a vision for the end of the week - exhibitions, friends gatherings, events, private lessons, antiquing, community courses, movies, sports, short trips - I usually have had the list ready since Monday... But not anymore. I have been learning to allow myself to be bored; something that my man had acquired long ago and my son is on his way to enjoy occasional boredom. Yes, boredom! I think I was first exposed to the "art of relaxing" not as hours of laziness, but rather as hours of just being, not doing while I was reading Richard Carlson's books. He explains that if you allow yourself to be bored, even for an hour, or less and don't fight it, the feeling of boredom will be replaced with a feeling of peace. It works!
So, the three members of our family decided unanimously that this weekend we will stay home, read, play games, drink coffee, cook, drink tea, bake, drink cocoa, bake, and bake again... Sounded like the best plan ever (if it was a plan at all) even to my teenage son.
Somehow along the way, for us as a family and for every one of us as an individual, it became almost impossible to sit still and do nothing, much less truly relax – even on the weekends. I often feel guilty when I find myself doing nothing. While sitting on the sofa or simply wandering through the clouds, my busy mind would not forget to remind me that there are millions of things waiting to be done. Overwhelmed by the pressure of performing and doing something important every second, we easily overlook the wonder of life, the beauty of the present moment, the simple pleasure of the ordinary activity. 
The extremely cold weather this winter helps us to replace busyness, plans, and getaways with home, cuddling, warmth, togetherness, and peace. On days like these, an aching urge makes me want to bake. While my boys were playing chess and the dog was snoring in their feet, I tried the simplest and quickest tortelli-cookies that I have ever made (the recipe and photos you can find here). Then, on Sunday, I woke up with happy thoughts about the winters in my childhood. Images of sliding on the hill, drying soaked mittens on the fire, my mom baking her ultimate winter tea cake made me call her and talk for hours. I wrote down the recipe and put my fancy apron once again. This time I baked this easy apricot cake and made fruit tea. During summer, my grandma with the help of my mom would gather fruits from the garden, or the farmer's market, or the neighbor's trees and will make compote (French for "mixture", it is a recipe consisting of whole or pieces of fruit that have been stewed in a sugar syrup and other flavorings). Then in winter, we would have compote as a dessert at the end of the dinner, or for breakfast with yogurt, and mom would bake with it, and dad will drink the fruit juice with delight... I cannot make the compote, but when a couple of days ago, on the store shelf I saw a jar of apricots, I knew immediately, one day I will bake my mom's winter apricot upside-down cake.
The tea cake turned out really great, moist and light. The cheerful orange-ish color of the sun-like dessert, compensated for the grayness and gloominess outside.
On this "empty, bored" weekend, while I was not baking in the kitchen, I was quietly reading Katrina Kenison's book "Magical Journey" snuggling up in a cozy wool blanket. If you haven't read it yet, please, put it on your list. This is a beautifully and eloquently written memoir about soul-searching, self-acceptance, and personal growth. I relate to her story and experience. The voyage she illustrates in the book is LIFE itself, filled with searching, loss, suffering, love, healing, vulnerability, forgiveness and divine awakening. If you see my copy, it is full of underlined thoughts, passages, exclamation marks, words, because her heartwarming insight into life has come to me in the absolute right personal moment and has touched me in a really profound and emotional way. Once again, the author proved that the only journey we, humans, have is the journey within and
it is a magical journey, indeed. 

"Recognizing that life is a moment-to-moment gift meant acknowledging not only friend's mortality but my own as well. The realization that in fact, we all dying, all the time, to something, nearly broke my heart, but it also opened it, helped me begin to recognize the fleeting beauty of all of life. We mourn summer's passing, but winter comes nonetheless, revealing a different landscape altogether, equally lovely in its own way. The sweetest day draws to close, night settles in, and we turn our bodies to one another for comfort..."      

                                                                    Mom's Winter Apricot Upside-Down Tea Cake 


1 cup of sugar
1 cup plain flour
4 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 jar of apricot compote
icing sugar (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a circular springform cake tin. Arrange the apricot halves from the compote, cut side down in the tin.
Stir together eggs and sugar into a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add flour and vanilla and stir until mixture is creamy and double in volume. Gently spoon batter over apricots and spread evenly. Bake cake until golden brown or a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Invert a large plate over the top of the tin and quickly turn it out. While still warm, moisten the cake with cold apricot syrup. Drizzle with icing sugar if you wish. Serve cold or slightly warm.

Hope your days are happy!

Sharing with Savvy Southern StyleHOMEWhat's It WedHome Sweet HomeBe Inspired