The first days of January are hard to tackle - pains au lait to help sweeten the end of the holidays!
It's a new year, a new month, a new week. We're all back to our daily lives, our usual routines. There's a 6:30 a.m. wake up call again, there's school runs and workouts to be had, there's a book to be written, one to be edited and revised, there's two books to be formated into a print edition appropriate form... there's so much already, and I want to tackle it all. Still, January is a difficult month. It's long and dark and grey and cold, there's bitter winds and rain, there's still a longing for the now over holidays, where Christmas decorations brought light into our darkened homes. I want to move forward and push on, I really want to go back to my normal routine. But my body and my mind are still stuck in those last days of 2016, at our Summer place, where we decided to greet the new year. It's been such a long time since we last spent our New Year's Eve out there, such a long time that I had already forgotten how bloody cold that house can get in the Winter. We were huddled in blankets and throws and warm clothes all the time we stayed at home. But we didn't stay at home much! There always seemed to be something fun to do.
I think our son has had the best New Year's Eve in his life, really. The best mini break as well. We took off Thursday after lunch and only came back Monday morning. In between we had walks by the bay as we watched the sun set and the Christmas lights come up, with the floating Christmas tree in the water all alight in reds and greens and golds; we had market runs early in the morning where we carried home more fruit and veggies than we usually do, we had afternoons at the cinema - Rogue One was just so good!! - we had evenings of playing Catan, Mysterium, Canasta, and watching Poirot, we had lingering lunches and dinners and we had us a NYE party of our own that topped off with THE BEST pyrotechnic show I have ever seen. Those fireworks were just amazing, and we just stood there at the verandah, frozen to the bone, wrapped up in throws watching the display and oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing all the time. It was bloody good, and the perfect ending was to spend a whole Sunday, the first of the year, in pyjamas all day long, doing nothing but playing cards and watching Poirot. I never do that, I always get up and muck about doing somethig or other, even on Sundays - especially on Sundays, my busiest days! - so I never get to really relax and enjoy some rest. I did it this time, and it felt so good to start the new year like that!
I didn't really want to say goodbye to 2016. Although it started with a forecast of bad times ahead, it did not pan out. Like I said before, it was one of my best personal years lately. So I was dread to let it go. But at the same time, I couldn't care less. To me the year changed on the 11th of October, my birthday. And I was ready for that change, honestly. I have been feeling more like myself than I have in a long time. Even my personal style has gone back to who I was twenty, fifteen, ten years ago, before I gave in to society and the expectancies others put upon me and my life. I finally found the strenght inside me to not give in to that anymore, because it only makes me unhappy. I have to do me, be me, despite what family, friends and strangers may say or think. I need to be honest to myself, and that means I have to be this dark haired, dark clothed person who kind of wears too much eye make up and has a deep love for satanic iconography and certain types of loud music. But also that overly romantic melancholic wanna be lady who floats around in victorian blouses and faux leather pants, and reads poetry written by Brontës and Byron. I have to be that person who is very hard to like, who always sounds like she's an arrogant biatch who thinks she knows it all. I have to be that because it's who I am, and I can't let the fact that most people will see me as fake and pretentious, as someone who does and says things only to gain from it. It's not who I am, but it is how I come across, and I mustn't let it hurt me anymore, to the point I try to change the way I live only to not be wrongly perceived. If people who don't know me choose to see me that way, there's nothing I can do about it.
I also need to keep comig to terms with the fact that I am beyond shy, I am an introspective person. I get tired easily when I have to spend a lot of time with other people. I get sick when I think I have to meet new people. I suffer from social anxiety, and platitutes drain me. Pushy people drain me. I feel tired just by the thought of having to be in a social event of sorts where I know certain people are bound to be, because I already know the effect those people have on me. Ever since I cleansed my life of certain figures I have been feeling so much better with myself and with being myself, but I still feel like I can't face meeting people or being around large crowds. I have tried to change that in me all my life, I have tried to be the social butterfly who knows tons of people and hangs out with loads of people and is always there for those people. I have to accept that I am not that person, and if I look around to find I don't really have any friends due to having pushed them away for how horrid I felt around them, then I will have to live with that. I must learn to be alright with the fact that I am mostly alone, aside from close family members. And it's ok to be, at least for me. If society says I suck because of that, well, so I suck. Tough break. I have to be me. And this is who I am.
So truth be said, this year ahead of me, and since October 2016, I have made it a point in me to be true to who I am, to my morals, my truths, my way of living which is how I feel good. If what I enjoy is not having a job outside, a "career" o sorts, than that's just what I will do. If I don't like reading intellectual books or watching certain types of films, than I don't. If I prefer loud riffs in guitars and gutural or screaming voices in my music, so be it. If I am happier when I am at home, writing away, or blogging, then that is what I will do. If a life spent with no glorious travels around the world is what brings me joy and peace, then that's what I want to have. Sure, I'd love to go to Finland, Iceland, New Zealand and Scotland. Those destinies have been dreams of mine for ages. But on my terms, and if I can't afford my terms, then I don't have a problem with staying home, travelling around my own country to the same old places I have known forever - I am always seeing something new in those old familiar roads. We are not all alike. We are all different and unique. I must learn to accept myself as different from most people I know and be ok with that. I must learn to accept that others won't accept my difference, no matter what I do, and I shouldn't care if they can't find it in their hearts to accept different people. In the end, it is their loss. All I can do is walk away from those people who want to push me into their lifestyles and their way of seeing the world. I must be true to myself and that's what I will do. It also means that I will eat what the heck I want to eat, no matter what the fad is. I will eat my carbs, alright. And sweet bread and cake.
Like these pan au lait. I will eat them again and again, as long as my husband bakes them. There's a scent and a memory of my childhood to them, when on certain rare days my mother would walk us into the nearest bakery and let us have fresh baked goods for breakfast. There were many off limits goods, like croissants and creamy cakes, and french patisserie, but we were alowed the simpler bakes, like rice cakes for my sister and pain au lait for me. These remind me of days I would be droped off at my grandparents' during school breaks, after hurrying through the early hours of the morning so we could get ready. Before getting on the train, we would be marched into the bakery and given a rice cake and a pain au lait, and I would know a few days of extreme joy were ahead of me. I loved it at my grandparents' you see. So here's the recipe for these childhood memories in the form of bread:
- 125 ml lukewarm milk
- 10 gr yeast
- 50 gr butter
- 200 gr flour
- 100 gr barley flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 egg + 1 yolk
Turn on the oven at 180º and line a baking tray with parchment paper. On a bowl combine the flours with the salt and the sugar. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm milk, melt the butter and mix it to the milk once it's lukewarm as well. Beat the egg into it and add the liquid mix to the dry one. Knead for five minutes on a floured surface, then return it to a floured bowl, cover with a tea towel and let it rest for one and a half hours. After that amount of time has elapsed, turn the dough over onto a floured surface again and knead briefly. Cut the dough into balls and shape them into an elongated form. Place these balls onto the baking tray and leave some space between them, they will still rise a bit, cover them again with the tea towel and let them rest for another half hour. Turn your oven up to 200º. After the thirty minutes have passed, beat the egg yolk with a dash of really cold water and brush onto the top of each bun. Lowering the temp back to 180º, bake the pains au lait for 15, 18 minutes - until they're golden and lovely and hollow sounding. Bring them out of the oven and let them cool over a rack. Serve with a generous spread of butter or jam, and thank me later. They're really delicious, trust me!