I have always had a love affair with Christmas. Not a Chevy Chase lighting up the neighborhood with obnoxious displays kind of love affair; but more like a little kid waking up at five in the morning, sneaking into the living room to open presents and then taping them back together before anyone else wakes up. Or agreeing on a Christmas morning wake-up time with your sister and then changing her alarm to go off three hours earlier. Not that I ever did either of those things…
Even now, come Christmas morning, I am beyond excited and I still wake up way too early. I pull on my most Christmasy socks, turn on the carols, and sip my coffee in front of the tree. Thankfully, Andy shares this excitement with me, making the holiday season even more special. It will always be a magical time of the year of me.
Now, what does any of this have to do with living bravely? This year, Andy bestowed upon me what I think is my most favorite Christmas present of all time (a close second being that Cabbage Patch Kid I got when I was five). It is a simple silver pendant, in the shape of a circle, with the words “Be Brave, Live Life” stamped on it. It made my cry and I love it with every fiber of my being.
See, Andy has long told me that I am brave, but I always brushed it off, chalking it up to a point of view jaded by love and affection. But he insisted. He insisted that it is brave to quit your very secure and well-paying job without really knowing what you’re going to do next; to make a huge change; to flounder around, trying to find your passion; to put yourself out there for anyone to judge; to risk rejection and heartbreak if it doesn’t all work out as expected or hoped. He insisted that I would find that thing that lit a fire under me and live out my dreams, however big or small they were. And I finally believe him. It has taken a bit of time, but now I think I’m brave, too. It would have been easier to stay in a comfortable job, collecting a paycheck every two weeks, and generally just mailing it in. But I didn’t. I took a chance, and with more support from Andy than I ever could have asked for, I am able to be brave and live life. I have a fire and a passion now, just like he assured me I would.
It may have taken some doing, but eventually I got to where I wanted to be. Even in those times when it would have been easier to quit, I didn't. Seeing this sentiment hanging around my neck reminds me of all of that. Of being brave and living life. Hands down, best gift ever.
Now I know Christmas has come and gone, but with the little vacation I took from blogging, I never got these festive muffins posted. So if you’ve already put away all of your Christmas decorations and taken down the tree, ignore the photos of the stockings hung by the chimney with care. Around our house though, I expect they’ll stay there for at least another couple weeks, along with the tree. It all just makes me too happy…
If you have any sparkling wine leftover from New Year’s Eve (how could that happen?), this is a good excuse to crack open a bottle. And since the recipe only uses a few ounces, you’ll have to figure out what to do with the rest.
Sparkling Cranberry Muffins
(I forgot to write down how many muffins this makes…I think it made 16)
8 ounces flour
4 ounces sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
4 ounces sparkling wine
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup cranberries, roughly chopped
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
Sparkling Glaze (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 ounce sparkling wine
Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. If too thick, add a little more wine until desired consistency is reached.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine wine, eggs, butter and lemon zest. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the walnuts, cranberries and white chocolate chips.
Prepare muffin tins* by lining with baking cups or coating tins with butter and then dusting with flour. Pour batter (about 1/4 cup) into muffin tins. Bake for about 20 minutes, until set.
Remove from tins and let cool on a wire rack. If glazing, wait until muffins are completely cool, then drizzle with glaze.
*Note: The outsides of the muffins were crisper when using the butter and flour method for the tins.
These muffins would be great for breakfast or dessert. They have just enough sweetness to satisfy a sugar craving, but not so much that you feel bad eating one in the morning. Bites have a hint of tart, a bit of crunch and are light and moist. They didn’t last very long, which is always a good sign.