Valentine's Day means so many things to many different people. For my recently married friends it's a celebration of their new commitment to one another. To my parents who have been married for 30 years it's a celebration of their dedication and mutual respect. To my dog it's a day filled with extra treats and a long walk in snowy Central Park. And to my single girlfriends in the city I wish it to be a day filled with hope and belief that love will find them.
I saw the movie "Valentine's Day" on Saturday, and though you could cut the cheese with a knife the overall message of love and friendship was hopeful. I think this day is hard for those of us who have felt love in the past and find ourselves alone on this day dedicated to it. But instead of falling into the single girl cliche of chocolates and despair (a la Jessica Biel in the movie) I would hope for all of those alone on Valentine's day to be inspired by the idea of love. That it's out there. That it's all around us. And that we'll find it again if we've lost it or never felt the joy of it. Because despite a year and a half of singledom (and more than enough weddings attended as a party of 1), I'm somehow still hopeful.
I remembered a Whitman poem I studied in college that fit the feeling.
To a Stranger
by Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass)
Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me, as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall'd as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me, or a girl with me
I ate with you, and slept with you, your body has become not yours only
nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass
you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone
or wake at night alone,
I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.
I like that he gives love a tangible personality, showing us how we encounter it in our own personal universe - and leaving us with the confidence that we'll undoubtedly "meet" love again.
A (single) friend threw a Valentine's party yesterday that was equally inspirational. It wasn't an "I hate Valentine's Day" party at an Indian restaurant - it was a celebration of love and friends held at her apartment, complete with candy hearts, streamers, couples and pink roses. I volunteered to bring dessert and after seeing Natassia's Valentine's sweets post decided to recreate Scootabaker's signature frosting-filled heart cupcakes for the party. They were delicate and darling (and easier to make than I'd like to admit) and I'm thankful for her inspiration.
I used Magnolia Bakery's chocolate cupcake recipe and added some red food coloring to buttercream frosting for the hearts. Using a sharp knife, I cut hearts out of the center of each cupcake and popped them out. Frosting in a sandwich-sized ziplock with the tip cut off served as a piping bag to fill the hearts and I think they came out lovely and tasty (and they were a big hit at the party).
Magnolia Bakery Chocolate Cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
To melt the chocolate, place in a double broiler over simmering water on low heat for 5-10 minutes (about; stir occasionally until completely smooth and no pieces remain). Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes or until lukewarm.
Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers; set aside.
In a bowl, sift the flour and baking soda together; set aside.
In a big mixing bowl, cream the butter, using an electric mixer on medium speed, until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for about 3 minutes or until fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beat well after each addition.
Add the chocolate, mixing until incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients, in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overmix.
Scrape down the batter from the sides of the bowl, using a rubber spatula, to make sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
Carefully spoon batter into cupcake liners; fill 3/4 full. Bake in 350 F oven for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in tins 10 minutes. Remove from tins and cool completely on wire rack. Ice when cool.
Vanilla Buttercream Icing
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
6-8 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl.
Add in 4 cups sugar, then the milk and vanilla.
On medium speed of an electric mixer, beat about 3-5 minutes or until smooth and creamy.
Gradually beat in the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well (about 2 minutes) after each addition, until the icing is thick enough for good spreading consistency (you may not need all of the sugar).
Add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly.
Got love yet? For additional inspiration, check out this love-filled post by @tea_austen. It made my heart full.