2012 and I met in a fantastic sort of way. Maheen and I rolled into Jodhpur (Rajasthan, India) around 11pm or so on New Year’s Eve. Our hotel room was beautiful, with a huge window that looked out to the Fort sitting high on the cliffs at the edge of town. The kitchen was closed but they did managed to whip up warm chicken sandwiches with a side of crisp fries for us. We ate the meal cuddled up in a bed whose headboard was probably older than both our respective countries (Pakistan and Bangledesh) under a quilt that is the pride of Rajasthan. Now I don’t mean this particular quilt specifically, but quilts like this that are made in Rajasthan. It’s called the 100 gram quilt. Maybe one or two inches thick but somehow warmer than any down comforter I’ve ever buried myself under. Then, at the strike of midnight, the sky burst to life with fireworks from every direction. I rushed out to the balcony to get a better view but the cold wind drove me back to our room. It didn’t matter though. We still got a wonderful view of reds, greens, and sparkles across a pitch black sky with the Fort in the background. Right at that moment, I felt like 2012 was going to be a great year.
Have my feelings changed since that night? I don’t know. Now I know people expect food blogs to always be happy and optimistic, but I don’t know is a truthful answer and so that’s what I wrote. Not to say anything bad has happened; the year has been really lovely to me so far. Since that night I’ve seen more of Rajasthan and other parts of India. We spent hours at Jasvant Thada in Jodhpur where I spent a good 45 minutes chatting with one of the workers about the state of South Asian culture in different parts of the world. Maheen and I bought a painting that we’d been admiring for months in Delhi that is a complex conversation starter. Well, for us at least. We also got the chance to visit the Taj Mahal. It’s been an awe inspring year so far. But I don’t know. There have definitely been days where I’ve been uneasy. Restless. And I’m not quite sure why. Then I read 6 Bittersweets’ post and something clicked. I miss being productive. Like really productive. I’ve held down a job for most of my adult life, and even before the New Year I was posting or working on the blog regularly. I need that routine again.
And that brings us to the point of this whole post. Xiaolu from 6 Bittersweets said something that made sense to me – “[resolutions are] usually too vague and easily forgotten.” And she’s right. Resolutions are absurd because I never stick to them, but I do love a good bulleted “To Do” list with tasks that I know I can accomplish. I’ve had most of these ideas floating around in my head and it’s a good idea to get them down on (cyber) paper. This blog, and by extention I, need focus so here we go – my 12 goals for 2012.
1. Get that smooth lovely finish when frosting a cake. I’ve read posts. I’ve watched videos. I’ve tried and tried until I’ve got more frosting on my hands and the turn table than I do on the cake, but still I can’t quite get that beautiful smooth finish. Hah, most of the times I just give up, swirl my spatula a bit and go for the “rustic” look.
2. Part two and an extension of #1 is learning how to cover a cake in fondant. Maybe sign up for a Michael’s class or just try on my own, but I want to learn to cover a cake with fondant and get those crisp edges.
3. Practice piping accents on cakes. Yes I realize this is all very cake oriented but stay with me. Now I’m not talking about piping like the scroll work borders you see on cakes from your local grocery store bakery, but serious art. I know miracles won’t happen overnight, but someone needs to give me a good kick in the behind just to start practicing. I’m hoping to get in some work on a weekly basis. Fingers crossed.
4. South Asian inspired recipes. Yes I know I’m South Asian (Pakistani Sindhi specifically) and I grew up in a house where we ate more chicken korma and pulao than we did Hamburger Helper, but Lord help me I have no idea how to replicate those dishes in my own kitchen. My mom is part of the school of thought that doesn’t believe in measuring out spices. It’s all very “teaspoon of this, handful of that, etc.” Oh and by “teaspoon” she means a heaping pile scooped up in whatever spoon she has laying in her drawer. So this year I need to get a better grasp on a basic korma, one other curry base, biryani, snacks like samosas and pakora.
5. Also tied to #4 I want to focus on more healthy recipes. Home style desi (South Asian) food is pretty healthy. Not too much oil, good tomatoes and onions, and lots of veggies and lentils. I want to learn to make good, homestyle, healthy weeknight meals so I don’t fall back on take out as much as I do.
6. Oh! Another one tied to #4! South Asian desserts. I feel like this needs a whole section just for itself. I need (yes NEED) to learn to make a good kheer – thick, creamy, spiced just so. And gulab jamun. And jalebi. And my mom’s gajrelo – a sort of carrot based kheer. Yes it’s as amazing as it sounds.
7. Tackle macarons. The tutorial from The Brave Tart assures me I can’t mess up too badly, but I do need to get my act together and at least try!
8. Get over my insane fear of yeast. It just looks so… complicated. And what bothers me the most is that if you’ve screwed up, you don’t even know it until like three days later (exaggerating but you get the gist). But I know if I stare back, not blinking, then eventually I can make things like bagels… and donuts… and.. wait for it.. fresh bread! Are those angels I hear?
9. Ehm. Yes. Getting back to the list. Original content. No sorry. Original quality content. Looking back at the (very) few posts I published in 2011, I realize that my most popular post was my Honey Truffles. It’s a recipe I put together myself and tested out a few times. The story is something that’s real. I guess that’s what everyone’s really looking for in this post that you can’t find anywhere else – my story and my recipe. So yes. More original quality content that shows who I really am so people actually want to come back.
10. And with those quality posts, I need to take quality photos. Plate to Pixels has been a huge help so far, but I need to finish the book and take all the lessons to heart. There have been some recaps of Alt Summit 2012 on the web lately, and one thing I remember reading from one of the panels was (paraphrasing of course) “Don’t just roll out of bed and put together a post. Really think about it.” I think that applies to food photography too. That’s what styling really is, isn’t it?
11. Getting a better understanding of Google Analytics. I’ve got a few buttons that I know how to push but man… I need to really understand the tools and work them to my advantage. I’m a Tech gal for goodness’ sake! I should be able to do this!
12. Now with all the points above, it brings me to my last goal. I’d like to post at least twice a month, or every other week. I’ve seen some people who post a few times a week and it astounds me! Personally I think they are marvelous to push out that many posts, but I know I’m too darn lazy. There is no way I can sustain that. But twice a month? That sounds more do-able.
So there you have it! Phew. That list got long didn’t it? Even just typing all that out has me feeling more amped than when I first started the post. There are going to be ups and downs this year, there are always bound to be, but there are also as many opportunities open to me as I’m willing to take on. So here we go. Hello 2012, it’s nice to meet you. Shall we make this an awesome year?