A post for my fellow law students:
My friend Phoebe and I often talk about milestones. Milestones are those points in our lives that mark a significant change, though too often, we treat milestones as ends in themselves.
To me, a milestone is distinct from an accomplishment. Getting through law school is an accomplishment, but graduation is much more. Many of us, eager to put school behind us, are already looking at what lies ahead: Preparing for the bar exam, taking the bar exam, starting work, advancing in our careers, and so on.
The linear lens is a narrow lens that renders significant turning points like this into mere events, celebrated only in their brief duration and no longer. But it's worth asking: Why are you here? Where are you going? Why this, of all things?
These are all things I assumed would be asked and answered at the start of law school, but in fact, I've only just begun asking exploring these questions with honesty. I had to tune out the chatter emanating from school and other students. I had to sit in quiet so that my brain wasn't constantly distracted by noise (blogs, emails, television). As a result, I went from feeling like a helpless backseat passenger to knowing I was in control. I don't mean in control of life—most of life seems beyond our control. What I mean is that the path I am traveling is one I have chosen and to which I am committed. Knowing this makes me excited, not anxious, for the future.
Before we graduate, take some time to reflect. Ignore what you think you should be feeling or thinking. Turn off the music and television. Stop reading blogs for a while. Stay away from groupthink. Don't listen to what law school is telling you. You won't regret the time you didn't spend on Facebook or out drinking, but you might regret not taking stock of your life. Try it, and you might be surprised at the many reasons you discover to celebrate.
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Pecans
Cupcakes are passe, but I can't help pulling these out whenever I feel particularly festive. I once passed these out for free at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market, and they were gone in five minutes. The Buttercup Bake Shop recipe is dear to me because it brings back memories of my internship at Details Magazine and the many cupcake runs to Buttercup.
I've found that the texture of these cupcakes will vary depending on whether you use all-purpose or cake flour. Cake flour yields a lighter, fluffier cake, which is different than how I remember Buttercup's cupcakes (large and dense). But the recipe is good. I made some adjustments by making a cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream, and adding candied pecans on top. The result is a light cupcake with a tangy frosting and a touch of sweet, toasted nut.
Tip: Save time by making the frosting and nuts ahead of time!
For the Cupcakes:
Recipe from The Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook, available here.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
The standard recipe for cream cheese frosting starts with a stick of butter and an 8-oz. package of cream cheese, and it ends in a mountain of confectioner's sugar. I adjusted the recipe to be more tangy and less sugary sweet.
- 8 oz. Philly's cream cheese
- 4 oz. Philly's lower fat cream cheese (You could use 100% regular cream cheese, too.)
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
You can use a butter knife to spread the frosting on the cupcakes. This recipe makes more than enough for 24 cupcakes. If you don't use the frosting right away, then refrigerate it.
For the Candied Pecans:
Inspired by Smitten Kitchen's Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts
- 1 egg white
- 2 tbsp. water
- Approx. 3/4 cup roughly chopped pecans
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- Preheat an oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Whisk together the egg white and water.
- Toss the pecans in enough of the egg white mixture to moisten all the nuts (that sounds wrong, doesn't it).
- In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, white sugar, and brown sugar.
- Toss the nuts in the sugar mixture and spread evenly on a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper.
- Bake for about thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. When done, remove from oven and let the nuts cool before breaking them up.