I’m turning 40 in a few days and I’ve spent a lot of this month cycling through many feelings about this milestone. But after varying degrees of anticipation, anxiety, and ennui, I’ve reached a generally zen state. It’s a big birthday, which calls for some introspection, some celebration, and some indulgence — all things I enjoy.
I also loved the wisdom my friend Melanie passed on from her dad: “Getting older is just a sign things are going according to plan.” And so, as I think about the current plan, it’s a pretty good one. Continue to fill my life with delicious things, vibrant people, and small-scale adventures. Take care of myself and those around me. Try to channel good back into world in my own small way. And have lots of fun.
Julia Turshen’s chocolate cake, perfect for birthdays or just because
Here are some things adding joy and life to my world right now:
Processing 1619: As Black History Month comes to a close, I have been making an effort to save book, movie, and shopping recommendations to explore throughout the year. I also spent this month revisiting the 1619 Project, created by Nikole Hannah-Jones, and includes a book, podcast, and television series. I remember reading the special NYT issue when it came out and being struck by how ambitious, revelatory, and stark it was. Now, I’m slowly working my way through the book and the new Hulu series, both of which expand on the original project and place it into the very current context of banned books, political rhetoric, ongoing racially rooted tragedies. The content is heavy but also inspiring and soulful — it leaves me wanting us all to do better.
Taking a page from 15% pledge: I’ve also been thinking a lot about the spring of 2020 and the commitments many of us made about supporting Black-owned businesses. While I try to use spend my dollars thoughtfully, it is easy to fall into old patterns. That’s why I’m choosing a few things I use regularly and swapping to amazing Black-owned brands. For coffee, my new go-to’s are Kahawa 1893, which has smooth, extremely easy to drink blends, and Red Bay Coffee, which I find richer and more assertive. For beauty, the two products I run through fastest are brow gel and cream blush; my new staples are Uoma’s Blow Out brow gel which has silky pigment and grabs onto every last hair; and Ami Cole’s Desert Date Cream Multistick in Flame. As an ongoing resource, I love 15% Pledge’s Business Equity Community, an ever-growing database of Black-owned brands across beauty, wellness, home, and more.
Finding a new fitness home: Since 2020, the thing I have missed most is group workouts. I deeply love jumping around in a room with other strong, fitness-loving people. It makes me feel like myself and exhilarated in a way that I can’t replicate at home, as much as I love my Peloton sessions with Tunde, Robin, and Jess Sims. That’s why it’s no exaggeration that finding a new gym — MTHD by Oscar, a studio started by charismatic force of nature Oscar Colon IV that also happens to be a block from me— has dramatically improved my mental health and day-to-day happiness. I’m starting my 40th birthday with a group workout there – thanks in advance to all my friends for sweating through burpees with me!
Pits, peaks, and plateaus: We were having kid bedtime issues and called in help from my friend and brilliant sleep consultant Brittany. She suggested “resetting” the nightly routine to remind kids of the schedule, and adding something that allows them to share and feel close to us. We borrowed her idea of Pit and Peak, where the kids each share their daily highs and lows. Lilly also added Plateau, for “something that is happy and sad at the same time.” It’s now my favorite part of the evening and leads to some very cute answers, not to mention the ability to acknowledge and move on from things that aren’t so good.
Just because birthday cake: A few weekends ago, it was 10 degrees outside, the kids were grumpy-manic, and I needed something to turn the ship around. Enter: Julia Turshen’s Happy Wife, Happy Life Cake, which I had flipped past in her cookbook a million times but never had an occasion to make. It was exceedingly easy— even the frosting, which usually drives me nuts — and so good we couldn’t stop eating it. The kids also insisted on lighting candles and singing, just for fun. Recipe here; we left out cocoa to make it vanilla but will try the original version next time.
A transitional cocktail: Once upon a time, I lived across the street from Clover Club and spent many an evening there drinking Perfect BQE’s and eating potato chips. I’m now only a few blocks away but get there much less frequently. That’s why I was delighted when Rob reminded me of this cocktail, which is made with whiskey, sweet and dry vermouths, Chartreuse, and maraschino, and feels like the ideal transition from deep winter to early spring.
Comics that helps kids and parents: Friends with slightly older kids have always raved about Raina Telgemeier and after finishing Guts, I now understand why. Drawing on her own experiences, Telgemeier makes topics like anxiety, fear, and therapy accessible and fun/funny — we both loved it and it was also a good springboard for talking about scary things. (Lilly has also recently been asking about death and I found this Dr. Becky podcast helpful.) We’re on to Smile next and I suspect many years of Raina fandom to come.
Romcom interludes: With reading, I’ve gotten into a rhythm of alternating between something semi-serious — recently just reread The Goldfinch and had forgotten how dark it was — and smart romantic comedies that lighten the mood. I’ve also fallen for a new generation of writers who are shaking off some of the category’s cliches while maintaining the laughs and squishy feelings. I loved Emily Henry’s People You Meet on Vacation, about best friends who fall in love, and Book Lovers, about a sharp literary agent and grumpy editor; and Jasmine Guillory’s Party of Two, about a lawyer who accidentally falls for a politician. I’m currently reading Trust, Hernan Diaz’s slippery novel about wealth and financial institutions (it’s very good but also a bit mind-bending), and have Talia Hibbert’s Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute queued up for when I finish.
That’s it for now. Take care and see you in the next decade!