Right now, I can't imagine being more content. I'm sitting at my computer in my PJ's with one of my cats snuggled up in my lap (and the other one curled up next to Brandon on the couch) writing this blog post and listening to Christmas music. It's cold and gray outside and our apartment is snug and warm. The fridge is full of food for our Thanksgiving feast in a couple of days, and I have a hot cup of coffee next to me. And - amazingly - what I'm doing right now is my JOB. I get to write and cook for a living! (Well, to be honest, I'm still trying to figure out the "earning a living" part. Maybe one day I'll actually get paid for my work...ha!) Regardless, there's nothing else I'd rather be doing.

Last night, I received an email from a fellow blogger who's doing a Q&A with me for her blog. She said something that really struck me: " I hope you're pinching yourself daily because this is really happening!" You know, she's totally right, and yet it still surprised me. I can get so focused on the never-ending to-do list, on the unknowns (will I find a publisher?), or the fact that my blog traffic numbers aren't what they need to be. But the fact of the matter is: I have the opportunity right now to pursue my dream. I'm creating a cookbook, collaborating with amazingly talented people, and meeting wonderful new friends every week through the process. I am so thankful.


I definitely have had a few "pinch me" moments. Like when Food & Wine featured a story about The Cookbook Diaries on their blog. Or when I asked for recipe testers (expecting to get one or two) and got offers from nearly 50 people around the world. Or when I've been approached by a literary agent or an editor who said they loved the project. But most of my "this is really happening" moments have occurred when the apartment is turned upside down, and Signe and I are shooting together. That's when it seems most real.

It's so fun to make and style the food, visualizing a certain shot in my head, and then having my expectations exceeded by the final product. When I see the pictures Signe has taken so far - like these gorgeous shots of the gingerbread and lemon curd - I am just amazed. That we did this in my apartment, with props borrowed from ABC Home (a dream in and of itself!), on a piece of hardwood flooring sample. It's just so cool.


I am a firm believer that the secret to a joyful life is thanksgiving. It's wanting what you have been given (rather than fixating on what you don't have). It's acknowledging huge blessings – like health, a job, transportation, a warm place to live, plenty of food, clean water, and all of our many freedoms – that we often take for granted. And most of all, it's being thankful for the precious relationships in our life, be it a spouse, or kids, or parents, or siblings, or dear friends, that make life worth living. How sad to go through life, living out of a mindset of lack, rather than one of abundance? Take time today to be thankful for what you've been given. Because no matter how hard life may be in this moment (and I know very well how cruel life can be at times), there are still glimmers of goodness around you if you just take time to look.

One last thing I'm thankful for: this wonderfully spicy gingerbread cake. If I wasn't already planning on making a pumpkin pie Thursday, this would be high on my list of holiday desserts. Dense, moist, and ginger-filled, this bundt cake is as beautiful as it is delicious. The super-easy lemon curd takes the cake to a whole other level. Enjoy!


Tomorrow: Wine pairings for your Thanksgiving day meal.

(All photos by Signe Birck; props from ABC Home.)