I apologize for being away so long. Covid hit us hard back in October with both hubby and I down for a month. A hospital stay this spring, resulting from my pesky weakness for developing pneumonia, did not help matters. It’s been a period of reflection, frustration, and grabbing the good as fiercely if your life depends on it…and perhaps it very well does.
Have any of you seen the movie,‘Under the Tuscan Sun’? It’s in my top ten list, so deeply a favorite in fact, that the wedding in the film inspired aspects of our own. The movie is about a successful writer (played by Diane Lane) who, while at a reception for her newest book, is served divorce papers. The movie does not go into the dynamics of the relationship, and the husband is never really seen, but the story delves into the gut-punch of her shock and depression and then really takes off when she is offered a ticket to Italy by her best friend.
In the ticket scene, they are having dinner together, at a luxurious, five star restaurant. At the end of their meal, an aproned waiter brings out a chocolate confection swirling with fudge frosting. “Cake!” the friend exclaims, “a marriage begins with a cake and it should end with one too!” It is an intriguing idea to think that even in the pits of life something might be worth celebrating, even it’s just a harsh lesson well learned. Perhaps celebrating might not always be about the here and now, but daring the future to be better. Perhaps celebrating is a way to summon hope and inner strength, and perhaps, indeed, the ultimate way to do that is to throw caution and calories to the wind with a luscious cake.
I thought of this scene a great deal during last year's riots and pandemic ruminations. Our anniversary is in August, and I felt the need for something bigger than just a romantic dinner out. Besides, wearing a mask across a candlelit table didn't sound very appealing, anyway. Wouldn't it be fun, I thought, to do something more over the top, and yet at the same time, inexpensive and at home?
As you probably have seen on this blog, I ADORE changing up the décor in my house monthly. Every month has a flavor, an aspect to focus on and enjoy. I decided that instead of just an anniversary day, I would decorate for an anniversary month, using our wedding colors of salmon, orange, peach and silver. It's like we are having a party here everyday, and it never fails to make me smile. I did it quite inexpensively, mostly using objects around the house. In the picture below, the wedding invitation I designed myself is framed and the tray rests on part of the tulle from my wedding dress.
In the front hall entryway, I simply used a scarf I had, complemented with a piece from Hobby Lobby. Except for the sign art, and a couple of dollars worth of silk flowers, I really didn't buy anything else. The little white accent daisies in the front were clips I wore in my hair at our reception.
Downstairs, I kept it simple, but special none the less. Just a touch of the bright saffron orange I carried in my bouquet. The figurine at right has a special meaning; it symbolizes how hubby and I resolve conflicts. For the past 17 years, whenever we get into a heated argument, we force ourselves to sit facing each other. We hold hands, and look deeply into each others' eyes. It has an amazing effect, reminding us that we are sitting across from our best friend, and de-escalates the selfishness of the conflict.
The ribbons were from the hand-fasting that was part of our wedding ceremony. This is a Celtic tradition, where the couple’s hands are wrapped and tied together. The ribbons are removed at the end of the ceremony, and knotted firmly. The knot is a symbol of the marital union.
I decided that it would be fun to summon memories by serving up an elegant, but simple, Italian dinner, reminiscent of the one we had enjoyed at our wedding reception in 2004. The menu included a chicken parmesan casserole that was easily assembled ahead and a caprese salad (tomatoes and fresh mozzarella garnished with a light dressing) served on chilled heirloom plates. We set up our card table with touches of our wedding colors and dined ‘al fresco.’
And of course, now we come to the pinnacle of the meal. The anniversary cake was made from scratch, but really was not a lot of fuss. I baked the layers weeks ahead of time and froze them, wrapped in plastic wrap. Even professional bakers do this because it keeps the cake moist and frosting spreads on a frozen cake almost magically with no trace of crumbs. I also mixed up my homemade frostings ahead of time as well, and then assembled, frosted, and decorated the cake the day before our event. This one was made up of two layers of yellow cake, with a center of chocolate. The middle layer's frosting was a rich browned butter, with a thin accent of raspberry jam to cut the sweetness. The outside was covered in vanilla buttercream, also homemade. I have to admit that it was such a hit, my mother-in-law requested the same one for their 50th anniversary party, and it received many compliments.
There is much to wring our hands over these days. But all the worry in the world won't get the dishes done, and it certainly won't set a pretty table. Turn off the raging TV apocalypse, and with it, those frantic thoughts that are doing nothing but racing around and tormenting your mind. There are so many better things to ponder and so many more effective ways to shape and glorify the day. Grab the good with all you have and hold on. Find something to celebrate.
Life is still sweet, and yes, there should always be cake.