california life nostalgia

Birthday Blue

20 October 2008


[Pacific Ocean from Tomales Point, October 2008.]

How I spent my birthday: up at 8 a.m. to pancakes and lots of coffee, presents in the backyard sun. Then to Pt. Reyes for a 10-mile hike through the dry fields, elk eying us placidly, a slight coastal breeze (just enough to temper all that sun but not so much as to feel cool), a near-deserted trail, the ocean crashing and booming to the left, the bay a blue shining smear to the right. Cheese-and-tomato sandwiches devoured quickly at the point and then the hike back, stopping for pictures and dreamily remembering the last time I was out there when the wildflowers burst in messy profusion over the trail. Then to dinner: champagne, chickpea curry, good red wine, scotch at the very end with the cake. Perfect, and perfectly beautiful all round, with some of my favorite people and sun and wind and sea.

Thirty slipped in the door and despite my pre-evening slight angst, it was a lovely day — a truly blue day, though not in the way you might think. Yes, hearing aloud that I am now thirty years old was a little bit disconcerting but after a few more mentions it didn’t feel quite so strange. What I mean is: It was a perfect day, the last lingering memory of summer, all sky and sea and sun glittering off the water. There was a line of clean, clear blue stretching along the coast as far as the horizon line, the Pacific heaved itself onto the rocks in perfect blueness, Tomales Bay was as still and blue as glass. Everywhere was blue and bright sun and there was no place else I would have rather been.


[Birthday cake, October 2008.]

I was talking to a friend at a party on Saturday night and I realized that while I love so much to plan and throw birthday parties for others for myself I’d rather go low-key. For you, I’ll make eight-layer cakes and cook elaborate meals; I’ll carefully wrap presents and probably make a card. Sometimes I’ll even send packages! I love so very much to celebrate my loved ones but to be honest, much as I joke about it being all about moi I’d rather have a bit of cake, a bit of wine, and a day spent outside near the ocean — presents totally optional (no, really). I could see myself happily doing these things every birthday on into this next decade.

So, maybe, I will.


[Elk, Point Reyes National Seashore, October 2008.]

The weather turned over the weekend into fall (this morning in Sebastopol I got up early to shiver my way through the gloom down to my favorite coffee place here, and we were fog-bound until 11 though the sun is shining now) — the nights are much chillier and the leaves have drifted down into great gold and red piles. I’m so glad I had a stolen, shining day of sun and light wind to ease me into what’s next. We desperately need rain here in Northern California, and I’m trying to mentally prepare for it as well as the upcoming time change which inevitably makes me want to dig in my heels and hold on to these last days of longer light.

In terms of food, I’ve discovered recently that I actually like brussel sprouts, which I think mentioned this summer (more on this in a few days), and that beans on toast with a fried egg might have to become my standard weekend breakfast (more on this, uh, soon

). I’ve been craving lots of roasted vegetables lately — when don’t I, though? — and have been happily indulging in all sorts of roasted potatoes and baked pumpkin. There have been a few souffles, a dinners out, a few cakes baked. I’m already contemplating my contribution to the Thanksgiving dinner table, and am compiling recipes to pore over to make for holiday gifts.

I think a lot about being in the moment, and last Thursday certainly was one of those days when I was absolutely present; while it’s true I wondered a little bit what my next year might bring, for the most part I was firmly planted there along that dusty coastal trail calling to the elk and gulping down water. Perhaps that was the day’s greatest gift: Just to be, for a few hours, with no worry or wonder or stress about what was to come or what had already passed. The thing of it is, though: How can I not think ahead a few months — just the tiniest bit — when there are sure to be days and days of good eating, possibly even a camping trip in the earliest part of the new year, two visits from my brother, and much-missed friends around?

Mostly I think I’m just kind of ready for pumpkin pie and butternut squash soup, gingerbread cookies and cranberry upside down cake. I mean, right? Summer may be long gone but there are lots of good things still to come — I can feel it in the air.

ps: I created a page for cucinanicolina on Facebook … do add it if you like!

  • Frantzie 21 October 2008 at 8:46 am

    Good morning, Nicolina! And a belated Happy Birthday.

    Your Cornmeal Cherry Upside-Down Cake calls for egg substitute for 2 eggs. The directions say that you used “2 T cornstarch mixed with water.” How much water did you use for the 2-egg substitution?

  • Lunch at 11:30 20 October 2008 at 12:25 pm

    still reeling from the whole *elk* thing! definitely no elk in jersey–or baltimore, for that matter. (and how does one call to an elk?? i must know!)

    nicolina, i’m so excited we went thru this whole “30” thing together. here’s to lots and lots of more birthdays together–even if we’re on sep. coasts ;)