January 28, 2013

A Winter Weekend of Simple Pleasures

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 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 everyone 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 extreme 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 has 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 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 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 spring form 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!

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  1. good book, good food, gorgeous photos, doesn't get much better~

  2. This is my third try...I'm having a hard time writing what I really want and need to say.
    That is...you have a gift that I greatly admire. Everytime you post, it always has something to do with what I am experiencing or need to hear at that very moment. The way you string your words together so perfectly amazes me. Your insight into everyday, family, life etc captivates me and gets me thinking...and I love that. Your photos, are always stunning. I come here over and over just to look at them, because they tell their own story.
    I am on a journey this year, a personal one. Maybe it's midlife or empty nest, I don't know but I am so excited to read this book.

    I am thrilled your weekend was so nice. I love to do nothing-except I never do nothing, I'm always listening, watching or thinking.
    Have a beautiful week and thank you for the book recommendation. :)


  3. As always, your posts and photos make me want to be there in this beautiful moment with you. Stunning. Lovely.

  4. My dear Sylvia,

    I thank you so much for this message that comes to me at a very timely hour. I get bored VERY EASILY and always feel as if I have to be PRODUCTIVE. That equals out to never having a moment of inner peace. That was a fantastic message for me!

    OH DEAR THESE PHOTOS are making me extremely hungry, as it is approaching my dinner time! Two things I love together: APRICOTS and VANILLA. I have a wonderful tea that is both these flavors combined!

    How lovely my dear to see you post. I wish you a relaxing and PEACEful evening! Anita

  5. Sylvia. I feel like I'm
    walking in step with
    you. To me, now,
    there is nothing like
    a weekend with NO
    commitments ~ it's
    the ultimate luxury,
    really : ) I want to
    order this book so
    that I can savor it
    and underline it, just
    like you have done.

    As for your mama's
    recipe, I can't wait
    to try it, because I
    love apricots!!

    Happy Week to you,
    sweet friend. I pinned
    several of your images
    to my Pinterest boards ~

    xo Suzanne

  6. Sylvia, when I went to
    add this book to my
    "Want to Read" list on
    Goodreads, I realized
    that I had read Katrina's
    book, "Mitten Strings
    from God" in the past.
    I loved it, and I know I
    will love this, too. Thank
    you so much for the

    xo S.

  7. This is such an inspirational post. I rarely get bored but sometimes I do feel I have a lot of extra time on my hands. Your message rang sound and true. The book sounds wonderful as well, I jotted the name down.

    The tea cake sounds lovely and I'd like to try your recipe. Where would I find apricot compose...by the jams?

    Have a great evening, Sylvia!


  8. Not only does this look divinely delicious, but your post is exceptionally beautiful! Thank you for brightening my day!

  9. I always love visiting you. Your style of writing, along with your photography, is so beautiful and calming. A few days of boredom, sounds wonderful to me...just languishing on the sofa, reading a book or watching a movie would be perfect. I always feel like I should be doing something so I find it hard to relax. Thanks for the book recommendation, I'll have to add it to my list :)

  10. Good morning my sweet friend! Seeing your comment early this morning made my day start off with a huge smile! THANK YOU for your kind words. Now isn't love the best thing we could ever be gifted? It makes me so glad to be alive.

    Now you go and have yourself a SPECIAL DAY MY DEAR! Anita

  11. Beautiful. And so inspiring. A wonderful quote to end. Your gorgeous photos make me want to get serious about photography. And you left such an encouraging and nice comment for me. Some new thoughts for me here. Thanks.

  12. Sounds like a great plan, enjoy your "free" weekend. Gorgeous shots. Blessings, Jen

  13. Enjoy your free weekend, Sylvia. Your photos are wonderful and the cake sure looks good! Thanks for sharing and stopping by.


  14. Ten years ago, after 3 heart attacks I had to rethink life; my life. I used to feel like I always HAD to be accomplishing something. Slowly I've come to enjoy just "being". Thank you for speaking from your heart and soul; we all need to be reminded. And on another note, apricots are my favorite fruit, so I want to try this wonderful recipe. It's a joy getting to know you, Sylvia, you're a blessing!

  15. Your mother's apricot cake looks delicious, thanks for sharing the recipe. I have a gift card for a book so I'll have a look for the Magical Journey. I've read some really good books recommended from fellow bloggers which I may not have otherwise purchased.

  16. Dear sister, you are truly gifted....as an artist, a writer, a human being...
    I am always so inspired when I visit you, and your wisdom, musings, images, recipes....they all feel like home....thank you!
    Weekends with no plans, just blissful "free time"...I, too, am learning to embrace them.
    This apricot cake looks incredible, and I love the ease of the recipe...can't wait to try it.
    Compote was always a staple in my childhood home as well! :)
    Stunning...absolutely brilliant photography....

    So very happy to see your message today....
    May we celebrate love each and every day, dear friend!
    Blessings and tight hugs....
    Have a beautiful week!
    - Irina

  17. This looks so rich and elegant! I can't wait to give it a try.
    Love the book recommendation, I've been looking for a
    good read. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  18. Darling Sylvia thank you so much for leaving a comment on my last blog post. My computer is playing up! damnit. I cannot seem to e-mail you. I owe you huge apologies for not contacting you sooner. You seem to have slipped off my blog list. I shall attempt to borrow someones else's laptop and see what I can do. Your photography is WONDERFUL. I shall read up on recent posts. I have missed SO much. Love and all good wishes from here.
    Ps I still use your spoons every day. xxxxx

  19. Back again, Sylvia. Just wanted to let you know we featured your luscious tea cake this week. Please stop by and grab a featured button.


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