Last week, before the horror that unfolded in France, I wrote the below post about my birthday. In light of recent events, I deliberated for several days about whether or not to post this, but I've decided to proceed in light of the fact that Paris has always and will forever hold a special place in my heart. If you're equally heartbroken over the events of the last week, please consider donating to the Red Cross in your nation, who help cities all over the world pick up the pieces when tragedies like this week's unfold.
Remember how I warned you that I was going to be celebrating my birthday somewhere foreign, but that I didn't know where? Well, on the night before Halloween, Judson made the big reveal and told me we were heading to Paris for the week.
I was so excited, you guys. In case you don't remember from back in March, Paris has always been a super special place for me-- it was the first place I visited outside the US, I lived, studied, and worked there in uni and almost four years ago, Judson and I got married there. It's my favourite place.
And even though I've been there a thousand times-- maybe BECAUSE I've spent so much time there-- I was stoked. I knew instantly that this had been a vacation that Judson had planned with my interests in mind, and I knew it would be great.
So the next morning, we arrived in Paris, knocked on the door of the AirBnB where we were staying and, surprise, a pair of our closest friends from Atlanta answered the door. I gasped, and then I shrieked, and then I hugged everyone four or five times each. And that's when Judson told me the rest of the plan: we were spending half of the week in Paris, half of the week in Berlin, and then heading back to Edinburgh all together where we would hang out for the last few days of our vacation and get to show some of our best friends around our adopted home.
But the next morning, it got even better when, in the middle of breakfast at a nearby cafe, one of my best friend's from grad school walked up to our table as though everything was totally normal and I realised she was joining us for the week, too!
Not only did I get to bean around in my favourite city in the world with some of my very favourite people, but then we got to explore a brand new city none of us had ever visited, and we got to show off Edinburgh to boot. It was, quite honestly, the best birthday I've ever had. We saw some amazing sites in Paris, I got to fulfill my French-speaking quota for at least another year, and I added three more dear friends to the list of people I've visited Paris with. And then in Berlin, we ate the most amazing food, drank excessive amounts of German beer, stayed in an converted factory, and generally just enjoyed each other's company. (I even ate real German sauerbraten-- Eleanor would be so proud!)
Even after we returned to Edinburgh, though, the fun vacation continued as we got to show two new friends around town, and share more amazing memories with Kate, who lived here for the first year Judson and I were here in Scotland. I don't know how to capture for you just how special the week was for me, but I will forever be grateful to Judson for planning this amazing party for me, and to John, Lacey, and Kate for coming all the way to Europe to celebrate my birthday with me.
I'm so grateful to Kate for agreeing to travel to a city she already had been to (Paris) and then a city where she had once lived (Edinburgh). Special shoutout to John and Lacey, as this was their first time out of the country and they kept it a complete secret from all social media so that I would be surprised, and a double shoutout to Lacey because she and I share a birthday (she is one year to the day younger than me), so she agreed to come celebrate my birthday in clandestine fashion even though her own birthday was happening at the same time. And I have the big, huge, mega-insane thanks to give to Judson, for knowing me so well that he knew what would be the best way to ring in 30 for me: surrounded by my favourite people in my favourite place in the whole world.
So I turned 30. The world kept spinning, I kept having fun with my friends, I haven't found any wrinkles, and on the day of my actual birthday, Lacey and I were mistaken for a 24 and 25-year-old, so it's not all bad. In fact, it's all pretty great.
If you're getting your Thanksgiving menu together and you need some inspiration, look no further than this pecan pie. It's insanely decadent without being overly saccharine thanks to the use of golden syrup (and a smidge of black treacle or molasses if you can get your hands on it!), and the added colour gives it a deep, toasty flavour and look that will make your entire house smell amazing. The best part is that the ratio of pecans to filling is so perfect that you don't get that weird 'floating pecan on top of an inch of sugary filling' thing that many basic pecan pie recipes give you, and it all comes together in a single bowl, no mixer needed. Make this pie and enjoy it with all those that you love.
4 spoons out of five. It's easy, it's cosy and filling and it has a better depth of flavour than most pecan pies I've said. That said: if you can't find golden syrup (and I don't know where you would be able to stateside) you can make this just as easily with corn syrup-- but you might want to cut out ½ tablespoon or so of the amount below so that the filling ratio still stays like it is in mine.
Deluxe Pecan Pie
Preheat oven to 175C/350F and prepare your pie crust, then set aside.
In large bowl, stir together eggs, golden syrup, treacle, sugar, butter, and vanilla until well-blended. Mixture will be thick, so stir well to make sure it's uniform.
Stir in pecans until mixed throughout.
Pour into pie crust and bake 40-50 minutes until it's not completely liquid but still not set all the way (filling will set upon cooling).
Let cool well before serving.
1 unbaked pie crust (your favourite recipe)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
¾ c golden syrup
¼ c black treacle or molasses (optional, but if you don't use these, then replace with an additional ¼ c of golden syrup)
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ c pecans