twenty-two

every year is the beginning of something. 22 feels like the beginning of a lot of things, but i'm certain that a year that begins with korean bbq pizza is bound for greatness.

though it isn't monumental, there is something to be said for 22. it's an age on the cusp, where i'm old at being young and young at being old. retrospectively, of course. i'll still be carded for my babyface well into my thirties. 

i feel a little older in that my mom doesn't have to tell me to take my vitamins, but i also feel unapologetically young for single-handedly funding the chewy vitamin category. flintstones forever, guys. 

a new graduate, 22 will be the year i finish a near lifetime of school - for better or for worse. i finally feel ready to turn that page. at 22, i'm ever-aware that it's time to start fresh, inevitably flounder a bit, and try on my big-girl pants. and while i don't yet know what's ahead, i think i understand myself better than ever and value my own happiness above all. that's something that 21 taught me, though it wasn't without some hardship. 

more than anything, 21 was the year i began to understand what it meant to be alive. it has been equal parts liberating and devastating. it has made me close my eyes and breathe deeply, and made me squeeze my parents a little tighter every time we say our hellos and goodbyes. it's made me realize, put simply: some shit does not matter. carpe diem. and never skip dessert.

but at 21, expiration was also what terrified me. the pure uncertainty of life and the pressure to live it with meaning frequently fueled nightmares. or worse, kept me up late in to the night, quietly crying in the darkness under the weight of unexplainably heavy thoughts and questions. if you've been through that already then you feel with a full heart just what i'm talking about. and if you haven't, i hope you'll someday remember these few jumbled thoughts strung together, and not feel so alone when you get there.

this newfound awareness is so lucky and unfortunate all at the same time. but please don't take this as a reason to worry about me. i am so entirely happy. my outlook is full of opportunity and optimism. even though i have no idea what's next, i feel unfathomably blessed to stand in my own shoes (and not just because i treated myself to 2 new pairs this weekend!!).

there's a quote by confucius that says, "we all live two lives. the second one begins when we realize we only have one." i'm calling that 22 is the start of this second life. be it emotional and scary and raw: it is my begin again. and i couldn't be more excited about it. 

oh, so you're wondering what i did on this monumental birthday weekend? you know, besides contemplating the heavens and stuff?

i went for early morning walks around all of my favorite lakes. i drank lots of good coffee. i baked cake and ate cake and all but intravenously injected cake in to my body. i sipped a few drinks and i saw a lot of friends. i waited an hour just to eat at pizzeria lola and i also attended the most amazing italian cooking class at whole foods! people gifted me books and baking supplies and even a bike (thanks mom and dad!). but most importantly (and cliche, i know), people gave me lots of love.

when i finally got a chance to slow down on sunday night and scroll through the pictures and well-wishes on facebook, i can tell you i smiled for 20 minutes straight. each call/text/instagram shoutout that came my way on friday is what truly made my day so special and me feel so loved.

you all shape my world, each and every one of you. i hope i get the chance to make you feel that way, too. 

now, about that cake...

for my birthday, i whipped up this topsy-turvy mud cake and it was perfectly fun for a quick treat with the girls. where looks failed, taste rules - this is the best chocolate cake in the world and you already have the recipe for it!

you know that rectangular tub of hershey's cocoa powder that has been sitting in your cupboard for the better part of 3 years. go look on the back and i'm certain you'll find this gem. it's nearly impossible to screw up, and even better when you sub hot coffee for boiling water. seriously, go try it out! 

as for the frosting, here's my go-to for a milk chocolate BUTTERCREAM. i like the lighter color (and taste!) to contrast with the richNESS OF chocolate cake. 

MILK CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM

1/2 c butter, room temperature

2 1/2 c powdered sugar

1/4 c cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 c milk chocolate chips, melted + cooled

mix all frosting ingredients but chocolate chips together with a hand or stand mixer until completely combined, then add in melted and cooled milk chocolate and beat to combine. 

if the frosting isn't firm (aka standing in peaks) add a bit more powdered sugar.

enjoy spread on cake, cupcakes, oreos, your face.