The Edible Christmas - End of year round up and brigadeiros

It's that time of the year again, when we stop for a few heartbeats to take stock, make a balance, ponder on the twelve months behind us. As I started re-reading through this blog's files, searching for a reminder of what my year was, I came away with the realisation it was a rather good one, on many aspects. In the midst of what may seem or sound like despondency and under achievement, bitterness and failure, giving up and quitting, I find the thread that tells me it was exactly the opposite. This was a year where clarity finally came my way. Where I finally focused on what I need to focus and placed everything else on the backburner, so I could advance with what makes me happy and fulfilled, and that is writing. Not selling, not getting tons of reviews, not publishing, but writing. That first line, that first chapter, that first draft. Then re-reading through it all, wincing at the really bad parts and promising to tackle them later on, heart speeding at the really good ones and assuring myself that I am good, after all. I am talented enough to do this. It was a year of realisations about my own self worth, and the way I see myself. It was a year of successes, even if I only noticed them now, right at the end. It was a year that sped by with so much work done, on my own, with no safety nets, no one's help. A year where I took control of what matters to me and worked on it to my own satisfaction, to my own growth, a year where I am proud of all that I've achieved and all I've done.

Of course in order to do this, it took me twelve months of just living through a lot of inner battles and inner struggles. I had to pull myself out of what to me were toxic environments - even those of the online kind! - and had to break all sorts of contact with people who were toxic to me, who diminished me and my efforts, my experiences, the way I deal with my demons. People who made me feel useless, undeserving, not enough and guilty because I write what I write the way I write. I had to force myself to face the fear of hurting their feelings by cutting them off my life, and this was really scary for a Libra like me. I detest conflict, I loathe hurting anyone's feelings - I'm honest to a dot, but elegantly so, come on, there's no need to be cruel when we can be gracious and still speak our minds and share our feelings - but those people and those environments were doing precisely that to me: they were creating conflit inside me. So I had to pull away. I did cut all contact with some, with others, I chose to just pull back a little, not be so present and so available, as my time is precious and short, so I'm present for those who do the same for me. I had to take this stand, and in the end, it feels good. All my life I've been catering to others in detriment of my own needs, all my life I've been a giver, and ended up depleted and with nothing left for myself. So this was the year to break that cycle and learn not to expect from others what I tend to give. Learn also not to give so much of me I end up losing sight of who I am. It was a year to place myself in front of others and understand people say a lot of stuff that isn't really true, in the end. A year where I stopped wasting my time with those who don't even deserve me.

Because my time is indeed precious, and this year proved me just that. I worked my arse off. I don't think I've ever worked so much, so hard, so intensely, my entire life. In the span of twelve months, I didn't take a break from my work - this comprises everything from writing, editing, cover designing, formatting, revising, publishing, marketing, publicising, that has to do with my novels, but also styling, photographing, editing and writing posts for this blog. I found myself going from three posts a week to two, to one, to posting on this blog occasionally, whenever I fancied, because my time was needed elsewhere, where results were coming. And that was not blogging. This year has made me realise food photography is a hobby for me, not an obligation, and it must take that place. This is another creative outlet, not a bread-winner, this is supposed to give me pleasure, this is meant to be fun, not stress me out, not worry me, not make me feel frustrated and a failure. This year, I understood this and let it sink in. Because this year, I fell out of love with the whole food blogging, food instagramming, food photography community. And I fell out of love with reading and commenting on other blogs, I fell out of love with reaching out to others, I fell left out of the whole community and invisible to the point I didn't even know if I was actually breathing. I resorted to writing as an escape mechanism, where I could hide away for hours and forget about the world out there, my failures, my lack of talent and work ethics, my inadequacy, my lack of capability to be like others, do like others, reach others and be liked by the communities I thought I was a part of.

Which was actually a very good thing. After having been presented with very harsh critiques to my work from members of the online food photography world, I fell out of love with sharing my photos, with writing this blog, with taking pictures of my cooking. For a long time I'd been feeling the exact opposite to support from what I thought were my fellow peers and my tribe. Turns out I was the one in the wrong, this was not my tribe, AT ALL. I so wanted to belong, to be cherished the way I cherished their talent and their work, to be encouraged the way I encouraged them, and failing to get that, I ended up feeling really low, frustrated, a failure, not good enough. Then, suddenly, people from other walks of life and other communities not food and photography related started commenting on my Instagram how much they liked my feed, how my photos made them drool and want to eat my food, how much the images I posted made their browsing of instagram a delight, for their cosiness, their mood, their beauty. Suddenly, I was falling in love with food styling and photographinga again. And I had a vision of what I wanted to do, in that aspect. Where the community I had so longed to be welcomed into and made a part of failed to accept me, I had found support where I never thought to look for it, and it made all the difference. So for the next year, I'll keep up the blogging schedule of posting when I feel like it. No obligations. But I'll continue to work on my photo skills. And I'll explore other avenues, routes that are mine and mine alone, not the trendy fashion of styling and photographing that happens to be hip at the moment. Next year, I'm stepping even further away of the aesthetic perfection of a well composed, well balanced instagram feed where everything looks the same and becomes sacharine and cloying after a while. Next year, I'll explore poetry and creativity in my photos, as seen by me, not what the trend setters deem correct.

It was also a year of personal growth. Of taking steps that were courageous and brave. Of facing demons and putting them out there in the world. A year of very intense work and moods. I wrote seven and a half books, this year. And published a trilogy, which for me is my most important work so far. Because there's a lot put into it, and because that trilogy tried to go beyond the mere entertainment stories I write. It was a series of books that dragged a lot out of me and woke up old ghosts and old mindsets I found myself having to fight again. It dragged me to dark, dark places, me, who am usually to be found in the shadows, drapped in darkness. But this was a different kind of darkness, and I knew I had to face it and allow myself to be smothered by it, so I could come up breathing, and changed, and having shed old skin. Ready to move on. The Blood Trilogy will always remain my most personal and significant work, I think. It was intense, writing those books, and they divided opinions right from the start. I knew they would, starting with the covers and ending with the subjects breached in those pages. But they did moderately well, and most of the people who read BLOOD have really loved it. My favourite will always be SCARS, for reasons my own, it's so cloying and obsessive, so claustrophobic in its writing and the repetitions, I wanted to showcase what certain types of minds work like, and I think I did. Most people who read the trilogy didn't like SCARS as much as they did BLOOD or MARIANNE because of it. But in the end, I did get good results. Not only with this trilogy, but from my other novels too, so it's been a winning year. Perhaps when it comes to numbers, mine are modest and very small, but the truth is, when I first started publishing two years ago I didn't even think I'd sell a book, let alone as much as I did this entire year. It's reason enough for me to be proud and pat myself on the back for a work well done, and the amazing achievements I accomplished so far. I am rather amazing, and should see myself that way more often. 2019 will be the year where I do just that. I'm no loser, after all, I'm pretty much a winner.

Like these brigadeiros. They've been a winning recipe over Christmas, but can be great on your New Year's Eve table. I played around with two varieties, chocolate (cocoa) and coconut, and can say both are to die for. The kind you can't stop eating. Here's the recipe:
  • 2 cans of condensed milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup of shredded coconut
  • 1 cup of raw cocoa powder - you can use chocolate if you prefer
  • shredded coconut, cocoa powder, chocolate powder - for coating

Start by making the cocoa mix. On a pan, heat one can of condensed milk with the cup of cocoa powder and the butter. Cook on a low heat, stirring constantly, until the mix thickens enough that it allows to trace a 'road' on the bottom of the pan. When it reaches that consistency, bring out of the heat, pour into a clean bowl and refrigerate for one and a half hours, until the mix sets. Repeat the entire process with the coconut, and pour the mix onto another clean bowl, refrigerating it for the same amount of time. Pour some coconut flakes onto a deep dish, some chocolate poweder onto another, and cocoa onto a final deep dish. Bring the bowls out of the fridge and start rolling small sized balls with your buttered hands - yes, you must spread a thin coat of butter over your palms, so the mix doesn't stick to your hands. Coat each ball in either coconut, cocoa or chocolate and place them on a tray. Keep in the fridge until serving time. Try to eat just one. Nah, don't, you'll fail!

So, I hope you have a delightful New Year's Eve and that the new year brings you joy and health. As for me, 2019 is the year I'll take it slow. I'll be writing just as much, I think, it's far too ingrained in me. But I won't be publishing two, three books a year anymore. I intend to publish one novel later next year, because I want to do more work on it and the ones that follow. Seeing I already have eight books published, I figure I can take my time with putting others out there for the world to read. I still haven't found my audience, my constant reader, my target public. They're out there, and I will keep searching for those who can benefit from my work, the readers that will take something other than just mindless entertainment out of my novels. Until I do find them, I plan to enjoy the ride and the search as much as I can. All the while cooking and eating very good food!!

                                                      HAPPY NEW YEAR!