Some of the most delightful things come when we stop struggling to do things the way they've always been done and we open ourselves up to the unconventional.
When I turned 30, I set a lot of big-picture goals for myself, vowing to stay open minded and positive no matter the outcome. It was terrifying to embrace that sort of vulnerability--the kind that asks you to sprint towards doubt with eyes squeezed shut and hope for the best. The last few years I've embraced change and taking risks. I know that the most liberating feelings happen once I leap outside my comfort zone and decide to just do it already.
Keeping this all in mind, I faced this year with relentless optimism. I dreamed big. I prioritized my own happiness. I mustered up the courage to apply to my dream job [and was lucky enough to get it]. I let love in. I learned when to walk away. I embraced my flaws. I found an apartment with amazing light and a farmhouse sink. I learned to say no. I rediscovered what it meant to be part of a community. I let myself mourn. I embraced my affectionate side. I traveled to Hawaii with some amazing human beings. I jumped out of an airplane. I failed a bunch.
Normally after such huge emotional endeavors, I'd fill pages of my journal with reflections about the dreams I'm chasing, the doubts that seep through the cracks of my confidence, moments of overwhelming gratitude and questions I have in the midst of uncertainty. Despite all these epic achievements and important plot points, I realized that, unlike previous versions of my journaling-inclined self, I hadn't written much.
Looking at this seemingly deserted blog (no pun intended), it's also a bit unusual to note that in the flurry of emotion, I didn't leave much space for writing here either. Normally, I'd worry that my feelings would evaporate into the ether if I didn't give them a permanent place in writing. I'd spend a few hours scraping the barrel of my memory to try to recall all of the tiny moments of awe and importance and frantically jot down what was left of them. I didn't make time record the joyful experiences while my cheeks were still curled up in a smile, or scribble down some of the doubts and anxieties I had while my heart was still racing. Looking back, I realize that's perfectly okay.
In the midst of all these moments, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on grace. Specifically, what it means to extend grace to myself--when it's okay to fail and how to show myself a little extra compassion when I miss the mark. It's always been much easier for me to empathize and forgive others. This last year has taught me that I need to grant the same grace to myself. This means zooming out and seeing the bigger picture, fully experiencing a moment instead of rushing to record it, not assuming responsibility for things out of my control, not always striving for perfection, and recognizing that lessons live right behind failure. And sometimes, it means knowing when to stop trying so hard.
Take these marshmallows, for example. The idea for Nutella marshmallows was swirling through my brain for two weeks. I had everything I needed to make them, but when I grabbed the bottle of Frangelico, I realized quickly that the top wouldn't open to the bottle. I tried and tried and tried to unscrew the cap, but my grip was no match for the sealed-shut top. I'd abandon the project, forgetting about it for a day or so only to have it march back to the forefront of my thoughts waving its arms, demanding my attention. I'd find myself back in the kitchen trying to pry open the bottle with every last bit of upper body strength I could muster. All with no luck.
After a long day this week, I headed to the kitchen to try to unwind with some baking therapy. I absent-mindedly grabbed the bottle and started making small twists with my hands. I had too much on my brain to pay much attention to what I was doing, and yet, after a few minutes of mindless, tiny twists, the cap suddenly loosened. My Frangelico was free and I was able to make what turned out to be my most delicious marshmallow flavor to date. It makes me wonder what other awesome discoveries that could surface on their own if I stopped trying so hard to force them and tried something new instead...
Boozy Nutella Marshmallows
Ingredients for the Marshmallows
- 2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin (or, 3 packages Knox)
- 1 cup water, divided
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- pinch salt
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Frangelico
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
For dusting the pan
- 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/3 cup corn starch
- 1 T canola oil or non-stick spray
- Pour 1/2 cup water into the bowl of a stand mixture. Sprinkle powdered gelatin over the top and allow to bloom, approximately 5 minutes. (Note, the mixture will shrivel and congeal and look a little gross. Don't be alarmed!)
- Meanwhile, combine corn syrup, sugar, and remaining 1/2 cup water in a small pan. Heat on medium until mixture reaches soft-ball stage, or 240F. Remove from heat.
- Turn stand mixer on low, slowly begin drizzling hot syrup into the gelatin in a thin stream. Once combined, turn speed up to medium. Whisk for 5 minutes.
- While the mixture is whipping, spray an 8x8" square straight-sided pan with non-stick spray. Combine corn starch & confectioner's sugar together and use to dust the pan with. Tap to remove excess.
- Turn mixer to high. Whisk for 7 minutes. Turn speed to low and add in cocoa powder. Once combined, add in Frangelico and whisk until all the alcohol is combined. Turn off mixer
- Using a greased off-set spatula (It’s gonna get sticky and messy so if you want to sit and play and be messy, go for it. Otherwise, grease it up!) evenly spread the marshmallow out into the pan. Allow to set for at least 4 hours.
- Once set, cut into squares or shapes using your favorite cookie cutter dusted with corn starch/confectioner's sugar mixture.