for days like these (nutty chocolate coconut cookies)

nutty chocolate chip cookies

Blame it on the beautiful weather outside, the weekend I took away from the computer, the fact that a headache dominated most of Tuesday—whatever the case, this has been a week where I’ve felt a lot more like reading blogs than writing them. Do you ever get that way?

I mean, it makes sense. If blogging’s a form of communication, why shouldn’t there be days where we feel more like listening than talking, reading than writing? Like in real life, sometimes I’m most happy to let someone else tell me stories, without needing to respond, without needing to join in. Sometimes I just like to sit back and observe, without interjecting. Sometimes I’m doing enough thinking and processing in my own head, the kind that hasn’t reached any real conclusion, that I just want to keep it in there until it’s ready to make some sense.

And that’s fine.

cookie dough on sheet

Or at least, it would be fine, if it weren’t for these cookies.

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the heart of things (sugar and spiced candy nuts)

sugar-and-spice nuts

Two days from Christmas, I can’t imagine any of you are still looking for gift ideas. You’re probably nothing like me, who not only hasn’t finished wrapping presents but also hasn’t finished buying them—not that there are many to buy because, whenever possible, I like to homemake Christmas gifts. This year has been as simple as free cards online, whipping up a batch of my favorite sweet and salty granola and baking some cookies, after which I mainly just had these sugar-and-spiced nuts to bake—two batches, because they’re that good, and, like I said, I know you don’t need gift ideas at this point, but if you ever do, trust me when I say these things make great ones.

You know, in the last post, I told you how sick I’ve been, how I spent the full weekend before Christmas at home, in bed, trying to distract myself from my stuffy nose, and that’s true. It’s also true that Monday night, I spent a half hour holding ice against my face while trying to end my first-ever bloody nose. What a week. I’ve been getting kind of sad about it all, thinking how un-Christmasy this end of December has been feeling, how little of the festive and jolly I’ve been experiencing (or how little I’ve been enjoying experiencing).

But then I think about homemade gifts.

After I’d mixed and baked the blend of walnuts and pecans with cayenne pepper and cinnamon and raw sugar and egg whites that go into this recipe, pulling their trays out of the oven and popping handfuls of the hot, fragrant candied nuts in my mouth, I cooled them and scooped them into jars tied with ribbons, labeled with gift cards made by Everybody Likes Sandwiches, which are perfectly shaped for sliding beneath the gold lids.

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this right now

cream of pistachio

Morning, and the kitchen is quiet, with sunlight streaming across the sink and onto the wood floors, and I pour coffee, grab my lunch, take my keys from the little basket by the door. There will be 20 minutes at least, between me and the office, along expressways of commuters, and I will look at them, talking on their phones, singing with their radios, glancing at their watches, before I park and walk inside, up stairs to my desk, to begin the work day, to talk with my coworkers and double-check spellings at Merriam-Webster and watch the geese fly past my window and onto the roof.

5:30, and I’m getting in my car, like I’ve done so many times, and I’m stopping by the train station, like I do every day, and I’m walking in my front door, and I’m eating dinner, again. It’s spring here—when did spring come? Weren’t we just talking about fall and winter and how I hated the snow? The light lasts longer now, and the days are warmer, rainy. I take it all, eagerly, greedily, like it will never end.

You know, I’m only 26—I find myself throwing the only in there more and more, the way it’s inserted into excuses from guilty children like, I only skipped one homework assignment or I only said that because the other kids did. But as much as I know we are guaranteed nothing, in terms of time, in terms of living, I also know 26 is, usually, not a lot of life to have lived and, usually, it’s not enough time to warrant strong opinions or heavy reminiscing. But I do: I look at the moments around me—the way the grass looks when it’s wet, shiny with dew and fragrant with summer; how my mom makes me laugh when she does, when her mouth closes and her nose widens and her eyes slant, just slightly, as her body shakes, like her mother’s did; the kindness someone shows you when he carries in your bags, so you don’t have to—and I think, I am living this.

This, right here—the morning coffee and the conversation and the drive home in daylight to a cozy evening with a book and blankets—this is life, and it’s a gift, and I am living this.

pistachios

Sunday night, for my brother, I made this soup.

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