It’s Not Me; It’s You

I’ve had this idea in my head for the last few years that if I could just find a nice guy and have a really great date, that everything after that would come naturally and just fall into place. That idea was incorrect.

In any relationship, there’s a time where you have to figure out if you want to move from casual dating into something more serious or if you should call it quits. When I was younger, this transition was pretty easy – mostly because I completely skipped the first step. In middle school and even high school, “Will you go out with me?” really meant “Will you be my girlfriend?” There were still some awkward dates (especially when your date’s mom has to drive you around), but it was ok, because those dates were safely in the framework of a relationship, and instead of worrying about your “status” you could just focus on getting to know each other. In college, I had a lot of weird dates, but as soon as I found someone I really liked, it generally went something like “I like you. You like me. Let’s stay together for the next 3-5 years. Okay. Cool.”

Dating in my 30s has been a completely different ball game. At first, my main problem was just trying to find an interesting guy to have dinner or a drink with. I met a good number of creeps, and I kept thinking, “I just need one good date! Just one!” Then I had a great date, and another great date, and then a not-so-good date, and then he disappeared. Unfortunately, this pattern has more or less been repeating itself for the last couple years over and over again.  I meet a great guy, we have a great time, they seem really into me, and then for reasons that are never entirely clear, they (usually suddenly) change their minds. Because I’m human, I’ve been taking this personally. Am I not pretty enough? Did I always have food in my teeth? Did he get back together with his ex because she’s better than me? Do I laugh too much? Am I too laid back? Did I talk too much? Did I not talk enough? You get the idea. Obviously, this is not a great mind set to be in. Nobody wants to be constantly second guessing themselves, and it’s certainly not attractive. I’d go back through our dates, and I wouldn’t be able to think of one thing I did that would make them suddenly change their minds. I kept saying to my friends, “They liked me 3 weeks ago! I’m the same person I was then! What did I do?”

It’s taken me a long time, but I finally realized the answer: Nothing. I didn’t do anything wrong.

I have some working theories as to why this is happening so much more in my 30s – one of them being that the stakes are much higher now. Once you make that transition from a few dates here and there to dating exclusively, shit gets real. A lot of people in their 30s are ready for marriage and/or kids or at least a long-term relationship, and that’s scary. What if it doesn’t work out? It’s a lot easier to back out after 3 weeks then after 3 months or 3 years. Sure, relationships are scary, but I’d rather spend the time to get to know someone I really like and THEN decide if we think it will work long term than not even give that person a chance out of fear.

But, that’s just me speculating. What I do know is that I don’t know what they’re thinking. I don’t know their past relationships or what’s currently going on in their life or any of the million other things happening that have absolutely nothing to do with me. It’s disheartening when something with promise fizzles. It’s especially frustrating when you think you’ve been misunderstood, judged unfairly, or not given the chance to open up. It sucks, but 9 times out of 10, the circumstances are beyond your control. I’ve spent a lot of time beating myself up over things I have no control over, and it’s oddly liberating to finally accept that sometimes there is just nothing I can do.

At the beginning of this year, I was feeling pretty low. I was texting with my mom and I mentioned that I was really sad, but I was sure I would eventually be fine. My mother, in all her loving wisdom wrote, “You are right. You’ll be fine. You won’t feel fine all the time, but you will be fine because you’re not in control of other people’s reactions, and you have no way of knowing exactly why they act as they do. It probably has nothing to do with you most of the time. That doesn’t take away the sadness and frustration, I know. But the plan is for good, not evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

It’s been hard over the last few months/weeks/days to remember this, because it IS sad and frustrating, but ultimately, her words have been the best advice in the world. I don’t know why people act the way they do. I can beat myself up over it, feel slighted, grow bitter, or I can keep trying to be the best version of myself and be confident that the plan is for good, not evil, and I have a future and a hope.

 

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Time Travel and Cherry Lemon Cheesecake Galette

As much as I enjoy a good night out, it’s not uncommon for me to spend a Friday night at home by myself – usually by choice. I enjoy a good solo Netflix and wine night, and I’m often so tired from my week that I wouldn’t make it out very late anyway.  On one of these nights last winter, I found myself at home alone again, and was taking full advantage. I had changed into my pajamas at 6 p.m., ordered a pizza, and cracked open a bottle of wine. My face was covered in some sort of rejuvenating mud mask to try to combat my most recent breakout, and although I was keeping myself busy by binge watching The Good Wife and painting my nails, I still found myself glancing at my phone every couple of minutes just to see if the guy I was sort-of-I-think-but-I-don’t-really-know-for-sure dating had miraculously texted me to tell me how perfect I was and why in the world was I spending Friday night alone instead of with him? Oddly enough, I never got that text.

Somewhere around the third fifth glass of wine and second fourth piece of pizza, it occurred to me that if time travel were possible and the 16-year-old version of myself from 1999 was all of a sudden transported into this exact moment, she’d be… appalled. I mean, sure, there would be a couple of minutes of exclaiming about how cool the future is and staring in disbelief at my phone, but once she calmed down and fully processed the sad situation in front of her, I can only imagine how extremely disappointed she would be to see that when it comes to the important stuff, absolutely NOTHING had changed in the last 16 years. She’d see that the bad skin never went away (even though I was told repeatedly that it would as soon as I turned 18). She’d stare in dismay at my pajamas and the  pizza box and wine bottle (and then take a swig from it of course), and then, she would see me staring longingly at my phone and (because she’s me) she’d know that I was waiting to hear from a boy. And at that realization, I can’t help but think that she would burst into tears because she would know that after 16 years of relationships and dating, it’s still the same old bullshit.

Since that night I’ve been using this as a kind of test for everything I do. When I get dressed for a date, I think “Would 16-year-old Ellen be impressed or sad with my outfit and more importantly, with my date?” As I leave work every night I think, “What would 16-year-old Ellen think about my job? Would she think it was cool or wonder why the hell I haven’t moved on yet?”  Here is what I’ve decided she thinks:

On my wardrobe: Love it! The jean size has gone up a lot more than I would have thought (seriously, lay off the pizza), and I would strongly suggest investing in a few more flannels, but who cares – look at all these clothes! And shoes! We wear dresses now! We’re so grown up and adult and fab.

On my apartment: Holy shit, we finally got our own place. There’s a couch! And a bed! Do you have boys over?! This is so cool – there’s even a balcony. Wait, why is the ceiling falling down? How come nothing in here works? Is this seriously all we can afford? What kind of job do you even have?!

On my job: Weren’t we supposed to write a book by now? Or be in the Olympics? At the very least you could have tried out for American Gladiators.

On living in Cleveland: What’s Cleveland?

On my diminished metabolism and other signs of aging: Seriously? This is what happens when you get old? Gross.

On my still being single: First of all, online dating is freaking awesome. This is a million times better than an AOL chat room! And you can chat from your phone?! What is this trickery?! I can’t believe how many guys we’ve been on dates with! And made out with! We clean up kind of nice, huh? But seriously what happened? What happened to Justin? Weren’t we in love? Didn’t we meet anyone in college? How are you STILL dating after 16 years?!

On my Cherry Lemon Cheesecake Galette:  We bake now?! Can I get the recipe?

No matter what 16 year-old-me might think about my eating habits or dating life, one thing I am 100% confident about is that she would be extremely impressed with my baking skills, and especially with this ridiculously awesome pie-cheesecake-danish thing. So, per her request, here’s the recipe.

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Cherry Lemon Cheesecake Galette
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Pastry
1 1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
8 Tbsp. very cold butter (unsalted), cut into pieces
1/4 c.  plain Greek yogurt
3 to 4 Tbsp. ice water

Filling
1 c. fresh cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 c. sugar, divided
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 large egg plus 1 large egg white (save the yolk)
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Finishing Touches
1 egg yolk beaten
1/2 tsp. water
1-2 tsp. regular, turbinado or coarse sugar for sprinkling
1-2 Tbsp sliced almonds

For the pastry: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a medium-large bowl. Drop in the butter pieces and then use a pastry blender, two forks or your hands (I always use my hands) to work it into the flour. Work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Spoon the yogurt over the mixture and continue to use your hands to combine. Add the cold water 1 Tbsp. at a time, only adding more if the mixture seems too dry. It will start to form large clumps which you can then form into a ball. Transfer the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Wrap it up and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

For the filling: Combine the cherries, 1 Tbsp of sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir together and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, use a hand or stand mixer to beat the cream cheese, egg, and egg white until light and fluffy. Beat in the 7 Tbsp remaining sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Putting it all together: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch pie pan 9 (you can also use a cake pan or tart pan) with baking spray and set it on a baking sheet.

On a floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a large circle. Drape the dough into the prepared pan, and don’t worry about it hanging over the edges (that’s what we want.) Pour in the cream cheese mixture and then spoon in the cherry mixture and swirl it around. Gently lift the dough that’s hanging over the edge and pinch it into creases. Lay the creases down over the filling.

Lastly, combine the egg yolk and water in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to coat the crust. Sprinkle crust with the sugar, and sprinkle all of it with sliced almonds.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.  Then move it to the fridge and let chill until fully cold.

Serves 8

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2015: My Noble Search for True Love

I’ve recently been reading Mindy Kaling’s book, Why Not Me?, and I’ve realized that Mindy and I have a lot in common. Well, except for the part where she’s a successful comedy writer living in LA with beautiful skin who gets to regularly make out with Chris Messina. But, when it comes to men, we’re looking for the same thing: “I just want a boyfriend who is sweet and trustworthy. That’s it. And no neck tattoos.”

It seems like a pretty simple and reasonable request, but my search for this sweet and trustworthy boyfriend has been a pretty tumultuous one. The best and worst thing about dating is the roller coaster of emotions that come with it. There’s the nervous excitement before the first date; the constant checking of your phone to see if he’s texted yet; the minor heart attack after hitting “send” on an ill-advised text; the jubilation after a date finally goes well; and then the constant state of nervousness during the first few dates wondering if this is really turning into something or if you are just being punk’d. And, of course there’s the crushing disappointment when he doesn’t call, or when he’s nothing like you expect, or it just falls apart for no real reason.

In looking back over my year, what I mostly remember is all the small ups and downs of my dating life, and how exhausted I am. Since I don’t have any particularly awesome major milestones to look back on, I’ve decided that instead, I will recap my year of dates. Get ready for a bumpy ride:

2015

January: The year started out great. Ohio Against the World. My Buckeyes won the National Championship, and I watched all of the playoff games with my boyfriend. I was finally in a real relationship and very optimistic about the future.

February: Things are good. My boyfriend and I have really cute Valentine’s day plans, and although they don’t quite go as expected, I’m still optimistic.

March: I get dumped. In a very cruel and hurtful way. I realize my “relationship” was a giant joke. I don’t really remember much else about this month.

April: Newly single and sad, I hang out with my friends as much as possible.  At the end of the month, I invite myself along to a guy’s night at a video game bar, and I meet a guy! He’s very drunk and I’m pretty sure he won’t remember meeting me, but it’s ok because I’m back in the game!

May: Guy’s Night Guy remembers me! We go on a date, and although I cry on the way there thinking about how much I hate dating, once I’m actually on the date, I realize that Guy’s Night Guy is sweet and funny and immediately puts me at ease. We continue to date for the rest of the month.

June: June starts off pretty great. I’m still casually seeing Guy’s Night Guy (GNG), I go on vacation to Mexico, and life is looking pretty good compared to a few months ago.

July: Minor set back. GNG tells me he’s not sure he wants a relationship and goes across the country for a month on vacation. After he leaves, I join Tinder. My life is changed forever. “Playing Tinder” takes up a lot of my time, and I even get most of my friends to play it for me. I talk to a few guys (including a psycho who only wants to meet me if I agree to come to his house), but one in particular seems very promising. He’s a vegetarian skateboarder who thinks I’m adorable. We have a pretty magical first date, and the next few dates are just as good. We plan a fun weekend together, and then…. he never shows up. I don’t hear from him again. I vow never to date a vegetarian.

August: GNG is back! Woo! Things are great! I also meet a very tall, large man I refer to as the “Viking.” The Viking is hilarious, and we have three amazing dates full of lots of beer, hot dogs, tots and trivia. Then… I don’t hear from him again.

September: GNG and I are still hanging out. Since I am an excellent communicator, I have an awkward, unclear conversation with him about the status of our relationship, which I grossly misunderstand.

October: A few significant things happen in October. First, I think that GNG and I are exclusively dating until my friend sees him on Tinder (which I no longer think is fun). This leads to another totally awkward conversation where I realize that while I thought we were a couple, he did not. We then (and I really don’t know how) come to the conclusion that we should keep dating but also “explore other options.” So, I explore other options. I call the cute boy I  met a couple weeks earlier, we have a great first date, he tells me he had a great time, and then… I never hear from him again. I then go on a date with a guy who offers to clean my apartment naked. He never hears from me again. I turn 33. I go on a date with a 26 year old who “vapes” and tells me lots of weird, racist stories. He never hears from me again.

November: November starts off with another first date. This first date lasts past midnight on a weekday, and we continue to date throughout the whole month, bonding over comic book shows and emo music. I was feeling optimistic once again. (Also during this time, GNG slowly stops talking to me completely.)

December: Emo guy stops talking to me. I do eventually get an explanation that is mostly him telling me how he’s WAY not over his ex. I pull my hair out. Right before Christmas, I go on a date with a guy who sounds pretty perfect on paper. However, in real life, he is a hyperactive crazy person who is in love with his cousin. As a last-ditch effort, I agree to meet a guy for an afternoon drink on New Year’s Eve. He is 5’2″ and never stops talking. I left around 8 to spend New Year’s Eve with my friends – where I probably should have been all along.

The End

 

 

 

 

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Guest Blogger: 18 years of Dates, 18 years of Feelings

Hello! I’m Jen, and I am guest blogging for Ellen. It’s her birthday month, so as part of her present, I am giving Ellen the month off and blogging for her. I have no baking (or, honestly, dating) skills, but I have all the feelings when it comes to relationships. And, hey, don’t feel like I’m a stranger – I was also the witty (her words!) friend Ellen featured here.

Recently, I was commiserating with a friend, and I said, “I feel like dating is one of the only things that the longer you do it, the less you feel like an expert at it.”  I have been dating for almost eighteen years. 18 years. My dating life is now legally allowed to vote, and it’s campaigning for change of my relationship status.  It’s saying no to four more years of first dates.  After this long in the field, I should have a goddamn Ph.D in dating, but instead I am continuously failing out of remedial classes such as “Deconstruction theory – what did that okay really mean?” and “Mystical Realism – is he busy, or is he ghosting out?”

Over the summer, I briefly dated a guy, and, although it was casual, I thought there was potential. (Ah, that sweet, sweet optimism of a great first date). I believed we were on the same page, but it turned out I was skipping several chapters ahead while he was hesitating on the title page. So it ended. I wallowed for a weekend: drank too much with friends, drank too much at brunch, drank too much after brunch, and drank too much alone while crying over a large carton of ma po tofu during a binge-watch of New Girl episodes (wipe that judgmental face off your head – the blog’s called Baking My Feelings, not healthily expressing my feelings).  And then I got over it. I mean, in the long opera that is the history of my breakups, this played out in the minor key.

But here’s the thing. When you have been dating as long as I have, breakups don’t exist in a bubble. Each breakup has the weight of aaalll the breakups that came before it  (no matter who ended it).  They become very much like that dogpile game I played as a neighborhood kid (back then we called it the very unPC name of Smear the Queer), where you would pick a kid to be It, and then everyone piled on top of that unfortunate soul: The first person goes, and it might hurt, but it’s no big deal. A couple more pile on, and ok, it’s getting uncomfortable now, but you can handle this. Then the hits keep coming, the bodies keep falling, and oh my god you can’t breathe, you’re pretty sure part of you is broken, and you DON’T WANT TO PLAY THIS GAME ANYMORE.

But, sigh, I continue to stay in the game. Just like Charlie Brown with that damn football, no matter how many times I fall on my ass (literally and figuratively – I have many charms but grace is not one of them), I remain optimistic…mostly. And for the times I’m not, there’s always wine.

Recipe: Well, the last thing I baked in my oven was a frozen pizza (it was organic, so eating the whole thing was healthy, okay), so here is a picture of the delicious, mint chocolate chip cake Ellen baked for my last birthday.  Best eaten with friends, while in pajamas, during a lady snow day.

cake pic

 

 

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“Never” – The Internet Explains my Love Life

For the last 15 years and 11 months, I have been consistently confused when it comes to dating. Am I doing it wrong? Am I doing it right and everyone else is doing it wrong? How do I play hard to get if I actually want to be got? Why do guys only like crazy girls? Am I actually one of those crazy girls? Is there a hidden meaning when he texts me “Hey”? Does he really mean “You’re so pretty, let’s hang out”?

The good news is that I finally have a reliable source to go to for answers: internet quizzes.  Some geniuses out there have figured out who my boyfriend was in a past life just by asking me what my favorite color is and which flower I think is the prettiest. It has to be true. Algorithms and stuff. SCIENCE.

Last winter when I was having a particularly rough time in the dating scene, I may have typed “Why am I still single?” into Google and found this gem of a quiz. According to wewomen.com… NOBODY KNOWS why I’m still single. Apparently the reasons behind my status as an unmarried woman are a giant mystery to everyone!  I was hoping for a pep talk or some solid bit of advice, but instead I got “We’re a bit baffled as well! It certainly seems that you’ve got everything going for you.”   Right?! But, as we all know, the internet doesn’t lie. So, I went with it, and I took a few more quizzes. Obviously.

I learned:

My real soulmate is pizza (Which carb is your soulmate?)
The sexiest thing about me is my sense of adventure
The first thing guys notice about me is how smart and intimidating I am (and apparently my luscious booty)

I’ve also learned that my true calling is to be a chef (or a philosopher, or an artist – there seems to be some disagreement among experts),  I should live in Sao Paulo, I’m an excellent sleeper, I’m exactly like Snow White, and I see the color blue extremely well, but red not so much.

After results like those, how could I doubt the wisdom of the internet and its quizzes? The next logical question to ask the internet quiz algorithms (this post is all about logic) was the oh so important question of “When Will I Get Married?” The first time I took the quiz, I made the mistake of going too specific and taking the At What Age Will You Get Married? version. I dutifully answered the questions (something like -favorite color, green; favorite season, fall; favorite thing to do on a Friday night, Netflix)

48.

The freaking internet told me I would get married when I’m 48. That’s 4 times 10 plus 8.

Everyone is allowed to make a mistake at some point, even the interwebs. So, I gave the “geniuses” who somehow calculated those 48 long years a break and wrote it off as an anomaly. I decided that getting an exact age might be a little too much to ask, so I asked the more general question of just “When I am going to get Married?” Once again, I answered their questions as honestly as possible, and waited for the internet to tell me my destiny.

Ready?

Never.

When am I going to get married? Never.

Apparently I am too bad ass to get married. But don’t bad ass, adventurous, big bootied chefs who look like Snow White deserve to get married too?

I’m blaming it on the algorithms.

 


 

I’m currently…

  • Reading: Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
    I just started this, so jury is still out, but history plus crime makes for a pretty unbeatable combination
  • Listening to: Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats
    I’ve listened to SOB about 25 times just today, but I could listen to his voice singing pretty much anything
  • Eating: Homemade spicy black bean chili (and two pieces of cake)
  • Wondering: How many times my dog has rolled her eyes at me today and  if dogs can roll their eyes

 

 

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Biscuits, please: Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake

Over the weekend, I got the chance to catch up with my best friend from high school and her parents. While we were talking with some of her parents’ friends, someone mentioned my blog. Like a good friend, Amy started talking me up. She heaped praise on my recipes and my writing, and I was starting to feel pretty good about myself. Then, also like a good friend, she called me out for not posting enough.

She’s right. I have about 20 drafts saved, but nothing has made it out of the brainstorming stage.  Last fall and winter, I was in a blissful state of ignorance which seemed to hamper my ability to write with my normal self-deprecating wit. Then, I had the opposite problem. Everything I wrote was way too self-reflective and depressing and nobody wants to read 80 pages about how shitty I let some guy make me feel.

It’s taken some time, but things have finally returned to normal, and I’ve found myself back in a familiar state of mild malcontent.

I’ve been keeping busy binge watching Orange is the New Black, eating my feelings, vacationing in Mexico, running a half marathon, and awkwardly trying to date. Sometimes, when I have to carry a 40 lb bag of dog food up 3 flights of stairs by myself, I feel like crying. But most of the time, I’m too busy to cry or worry too much. Distraction can be a powerful tool. Another good distraction is strawberry shortcake. Sweet biscuits. Cream. Strawberries.

It’s not a bad life, friends.

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OLD-FASHIONED STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
from the kitchn

Sweet Biscuits (shortcake)

4 cups flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted, cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 Tbsp Turbinado sugar (white or brown sugar will also work)

Strawberries

4 cups strawberries, chopped
2 tsp sugar  (or to taste)

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Using a pastry blender or forks or your hands, cut in the butter cubes to the flour mixture until bean size chunks remain. Add the cream and vanilla and continue working the mixture until a shaggy dough has formed. Place the dough on a dry, floured work surface, and form all the bits into a ball. The dough will be sticky and may not hold together very well, this is ok.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it is about 1 inch thick. Then, cut the biscuits using a biscuit cutter, a jar or a glass, or whatever you have around that will work. Place biscuits on your lined baking sheets and then brush with a little bit of heavy cream and sprinkle the Turbinado sugar on top.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until barely golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.

While the biscuits are baking, prepare your strawberry mixture and whipped cream. You’ll want to let your strawberries sit in the sugar for about 10 minutes to bring out the juices. To make the whipped cream, whip the cream in a stand mixer  (or a hand mixer will work as well) and add the sugar and vanilla. Whip  until stiff peaks form.

To assemble, slice the biscuits in half. Place a spoonful of strawberries and whipped cream on one half, and put the other biscuit half on top – like a sandwich. (I like to put even more strawberries and whipped cream on top of that, but follow your heart.)  These can be served right out of the oven, at room temperature or cold.

serves 10.

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Writing About It: Baking, Break ups, and all of the things.

I’ve been a bad blogger.

This is not new. I’m bad at a lot of things, but I do them anyway. Except for math. I don’t do math.

I haven’t been blogging because this blog has historically been a way for me to get out some frustrations while baking delicious food. However, the last few months have been mostly frustration free. I didn’t have any disastrous dates or long, lonely weekends, or nights spent eating pounds of Chinese food with my dog. Instead, they were full of new plans and hope and all of the great things that go along with a new, promising relationship. I was happy and excited, and then, just as suddenly as it began, it ended.

I didn’t see it coming, and I still don’t really know what happened. I could sit here and analyze it to pieces, but when it comes down to it, it wasn’t right, and there’s nothing I can do about it. You’d think that break ups would get easier as you get older, and in some ways they do. When I was younger – in high school – I remember how devastating a break up was. I was lacking the experience to put it in perspective, and the boy I liked not liking me back seemed like the end of the world. As I got older, I gained some perspective, and a break ups were a little easier to handle. I knew it would suck for a while but that it was just something everyone went through, and I’d find the right person eventually.

But now, at 32, it’s starting to feel like the end of the world again. It’s not specific to this most recent relationship — I’d feel this way no matter who it was, I think — it’s specific to this time in my life.  Going from being alone, to not being alone, and then back to being alone, seems like just too much to take. I’ve been dating and breaking up and dating for 16 years now, and I’m tired. I certainly didn’t expect to be single at 32, and the thought of starting over yet again, just is too much. It feels like long division. Scary and complicated and impossible.

Right now, I’m writing about it because putting some of these scattered and crazy thoughts on the internet for everyone to see for some stupid reason feels like it might help. And then, later, I’ll bake about it. After that, I’ll eat about it. I will definitely drink about it, and at some point when I don’t even realize what’s happening, I’ll forget about it.

I’ve had too many feelings to bake lately (don’t worry, this week/weekend will be full of deliciousness), but in the meantime, I’ve compiled a few of my favorites for you below.

Talking and laughing about it with Stella Louise:

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I’m never dating again and other myths | Chocolate Baked Doughnuts

Do you know how many times I’ve declared that I’ll never drink again? 73.* Do you know how many times I’ve actually given up drinking? 0.

Sometimes, I decide to eat healthy. Then, I eat some carrots and feel good about myself, and I reward myself with beer and fried food.

Other times, I pretend to be a functional adult who takes showers every day and wears “business casual” clothes to work and packs her own lunch and pays her bills on time. Then, I get tired of that and put on sweat pants and order Chinese and buy things I don’t need on Amazon instead of paying my electric bill.

Recently, I was talking with some friends about a date I went on (which was fine, but didn’t turn into anything) and one of my friends said, “Well, at least you got a couple good dates out of it.” I sighed and made yet another declaration, “I don’t want to go on another date ever again. I don’t care if it is good or bad, I can’t handle any more dates! I’m never dating again.”

Then I went on two more dates the next week.

Dating is exhausting. Drinking too much costs money and makes me tired and gives me a headache. Eating healthy is hard and not delicious. Being an adult requires me to be responsible and organized, and I don’t know how to be those things.

But sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do.

So, I’m putting on my big girl pants, sucking it up, and going on more dates. I also might try eating an apple and only having one glass of wine. We all have to make sacrifices.

First, I’ll have a doughnut.

Chocolate Baked Doughnuts

 

Chocolate Baked Doughnuts with Chocolate Glaze
From Joy the Baker
(Makes about 6-10 doughnuts depending on the pan)

I’ve discovered baked doughnuts. They’re awesome. Not as much work as a fried doughnut (and not quite as delicious since we all know fried is better) but still SO GOOD. The first thing you need is a doughnut pan. I, of course, decided to make these at the last minute and couldn’t find a doughnut pan at my local craft score, so I ended up buying this instead. Worked like a charm!

These are pretty versatile. Once you make the actual doughnut, you can go crazy with different kinds of glazes or icings and of course sprinkles!

Doughnuts:

1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 light brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
4 tablespoons butter, melted and browned
1 teaspoon vanilla

Glaze:

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
pinch of salt
2-4 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
spinkles!

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F and spray your doughnut pan with non-stick baking spray.

Melt the butter on medium heat until lightly browned. Set aside and let cool.

In a medium bowl, place your dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Whisk until combined.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla until combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and fold together with a plastic spatula. Don’t over mix, but do make sure to fold until all dry flour bits are gone.  Use a spoon to portion the mixture into your doughnut pan.  Don’t fill them all the way up – about 1/2 to 2/3 full.  Bake doughnuts for 11-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let them rest for a few minutes (about 5) and then flip onto a wire rack to let cool completely.

While the doughnuts are baking/cooling, make the glaze.  In a small to medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  Add the vanilla and 2 tablespoons of the milk. Whisk until combined, and add more milk until the desired consistency is reached.  Once the doughnuts are cool, dip them into the chocolate glaze and return to the wire rack.  Add sprinkles!

The glaze will harden after a few minutes. Keep them in air tight container, but they’re best served within a day or so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A break from baking: Travelling across South Korea

 

I’ve been having dreams about this mountain.

Bukhansan National Park

 

Although the picture is admittedly awesome, pictures can’t even begin to show how it felt to be standing up there.  This is taken at the top of the Baegundae trail in Bukhansan National Park in Seoul, South Korea. In this picture, I’m standing right below the tallest peak which is 837 meters.

But I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself. How did I get from Cleveland to standing on top of a mountain in South Korea?

Almost two years ago, my little sister, Laura, moved to Eumseong County in South Korea to teach English.  When she renewed her contract for a second year, I knew that I couldn’t let another year go by without going to visit her.  I’m honestly still not sure how it happened – it all seems a little unreal – but I just decided to go, saved the money, booked the flight, bought a sweet backpack, and went to South Korea!

I went during Laura’s summer vacation, so we decided to try and cram as much of South Korea as we could into to 8 days.  We both fit everything we needed into backpacks and made our way across the country from Seoul to Gyungju to Busan to Eumseong and back to Seoul.  I’ve always wanted to be the kind of girl who travels all over the place, but the truth is that I haven’t really ever ventured too far from the midwest. I consider myself pretty adventurous, but I’m also super anxious, not very organized, and sometimes I can just be a little lazy. But once I decide to do something, I almost always see it through. I don’t have a lot of travel tips to offer or any grand insight into Korean culture, but what I do have to share is how an overly anxious and scattered midwestern girl spent 8 ridiculously awesome days running around Korea and having the time of her life.


Seoul

I was not prepared for how gigantic Seoul is. I’ve been to New York, but this somehow seemed so much larger and busier to me. There are people everywhere.  Laura and I did most of our travelling during the week, but it didn’t matter what time it was, there seemed to be people everywhere at all times. The city itself also seemed to just go on forever. We went to Seoul Tower on our first full day, where you have a great view of the whole city, and I honestly couldn’t tell when the city stopped. It seemed like tall buildings and busy city streets just went on forever. Laura told me that we only saw about 2% of the city in the two and a half days we were there, and I don’t doubt it.

View from Seoul Tower

View from Seoul Tower

We stayed in a hostel in the Hongdae area near Hongik Univeristy. My first night, we ventured out to find some food and see the city, and although I was exhausted after a 14 hour plane ride, there was something about the city that was so energizing.  There are restaurants on every corner with open doors, and shops and bars along every street.  The scene in Hongdae is a little younger – due to the university – and it has a really cool, artsy vibe.  There were street performers all over the place – young boy bands, singer song writers, and even some rap battles.

We spent the first day doing touristy things. We went up to the top of Seoul Tower, toured Gyeongbok Palace, did a LOT of walking and eating.  The palace was pretty cool – it’s on a very busy street in the middle of Seoul, but the grounds are really peaceful – even with all of the people around. The Korean architecture and design blew me away, and it was also pretty funny to see that all of the doors were super short.  It was a really humid and hazy day, so not ideal for walking around outside, but it wasn’t too bad, and a quick nap in the hostel before our dinner of Korean BBQ was just what I needed.

Gyeongbok Palace

Gyeongbok Palace

 

King Sejong

King Sejong

 


Conquering the Mountain

Our second full day in Seoul is when we ventured to Bukhansan. I had heard a lot about the hiking in South Korea, and it was definitely on my “must-do” list. We had talked about going to Seoraksan – one of the most popular hiking spots in the country – but it would mean cutting our time in Seoul short, so we decided to go to Bukhansan instead since the mountain is right outside of Seoul and only a short subway ride away.  We chose to hike all the way to the peak (go big or go home, right?!) and we were surprised to see that the trail was mostly deserted. Usually hiking in South Korea is very crowded, but we were pretty much the only ones on our trail, and when we did see some Korean hikers they mostly just gave us weird looks.  Turns out we somehow took the “advanced” trail, and it lived up to its name.  There wasn’t much of a trail – it was really just rocks stacked up as steps and once we got near the top, there were just cable ropes going up sheer rock face that we had to use to pull ourselves up.  It was long and hot and tedious, but totally worth it. Once we made it to the top, we got a round of applause from the other hikers (I think they may have doubted the young Americans!)  I’m happy with the pictures I got, but I wish there were some way to capture everything – how it felt, how it smelled, the way the wind felt around my face, and how the world just seemed to stretch out forever.

Climbing Bukhansan

Climbing Bukhansan

 


Goodbye Seoul, Hello Gyeongju

After Seoul, Laura and I packed up our backpacks and took a bus across the country to Gyeongju. Gyeongju is a small city near the coast, and was once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla. It is full of cultural properties left over from that time including an ancient observatory, temples, and ancient burial grounds. Laura and I stayed only one night, but it was a perfect day. The busride from Seoul was 3-4 hours, and we got there mid-afternoon. After checking into our hostel, we rented bikes and pedaled around the city to see the sites.  It was sunny and beautiful, and a little warm, but not too hot. We rode past the observatory, through flower fields, and stopped for bibimbap (a delicious Korean rice dish) for dinner. At sunset, we headed over to Anapji Pond where we watched the sun set over the water, took pictures, walked around in the bamboo, and had a great, relaxing time.  As we walked back to our hostel, we had to stop for some street food which ended up being a corn dog with deep fried potatoes in the batter. What?! Delicious.

 

Anapji Pond in Gyeongju, South Korea

Anapji Pond in Gyeongju, South Korea

 


The Beaches of Busan

After Gyeongju, Laura and I hopped on the bullet train to Busan!  Busan is South Korea’s second largest city, and is located on the southern coast.  Laura had never actually been there, so we were both really excited to see the city and of course the beaches! But although the weather was perfect in Gyeongju, it wasn’t so perfect in Busan. We were there for 3 days, and it rained every single one.  Our first day there, we were still hopeful, so we put on our bathing suits and headed to the beach anyway, but it was too cool and hazy to do anything but sit for a few minutes on the beach and be sad.

We got over it pretty quickly though, as there was still so much to do and see even if it was raining. Busan had a different feel to it then Seoul – it’s a coastal town, but still has the feel of a big city (although not nearly as large as Seoul, it’s still pretty huge). I loved how bustling everything was – people and buildings crowded at the foot of beautiful mountains and beaches.

a busy street in Busan near our hostel

a busy street in Busan near our hostel

For our first night in Busan, Laura and I headed to Gwangalli Beach for dinner and drinks. It was actually one of my favorite nights of the trip, and one of the most relaxed.  We ate Samgyeopsal at a restaurant right on the beach. Samgyeopsal is a pork belly that you grill at your table and eat with garlic and oil and lettuce — oh, and of course Kimchi — everything comes with Kimchi!  After dinner, we stopped for a drink at a bar, but then decided that it would be more fun to drink on the actual beach. There are no open container laws in Korea (just like in Vegas!) so you can walk around with your beer or cocktail. This meant we could buy some beer at the convienence store, along with some sparklers and sit on the beach. Gwangalli Beach is especially awesome at night because the bridge lights up and the whole thing is just beautiful. It’s also one of the only beaches that feels like a “city” beach – the other beaches are a little further away, but this one is right in the middle of everything, and it was just really fun. Although other people had the same idea we had, the beach definitely wasn’t crowded, and we had such a fun, relaxing night.

Gwangalli Beach

Gwangalli Beach

 

Playing with sparklers on Gwangalli Beach

Playing with sparklers on Gwangalli Beach

 

Laura on Gwangalli Beach

Laura on Gwangalli Beach – in front of some fireworks

 

On our second day in Busan, we met up with one of Laura’s Korean friends who showed us around Jagalchi Market – a GIANT fish market – and the surrounding areas. The rain didn’t let up – it poured most of the day – but it was still lots of fun.  The fish market was ridiculous – so big and full of so many sea creatures. Laura’s friend, Sunjun, was an excellent guide. Although Laura had been doing a great job getting us around Korea, it was nice to have a native speaker around. Sunjun was also eager to give me and Laura an authentic Busan eating experience. He made us reservations at a  seafood place near the market, so we knew everything we were eating was super fresh.

The meal was amazing – I won’t necessarily say it was delicious – but it was a really cool experience. Since most of the restaurants Laura and I had been eating in were in big cities, we usually sat at tables which isn’t actually the normal way to eat in Korea. At this place, we went totally Korean. We left our shoes in the entry way of the restaurant and were taken into a private room where we sat on the floor. Sunjun did all of the ordering, and it seemed like food just kept coming! It was mostly raw fish, which isn’t really my jam, but I did my best.  Most things were served whole – fish and shrimp – and Sunjun wasn’t shy about eating all of the parts, including the fish eyeballs! One of the things they served us was raw squid that was actually still moving. I’m an adventurous eater, but this meal definitely pushed my limits! I did draw the line on the still moving squid, but I felt like I had to eat something unexpected, so I did try Beondegi – steamed silk worm larvae. It’s a pretty common snack food in Korea, and it wasn’t too bad. I wouldn’t eat it again unless I needed to for some reason, but I’m glad I did eat something authentically Korean.

Jagalchi Market

Jagalchi Market

 

Laura and I eating fresh seafood in Busan

Laura and I eating fresh seafood in Busan

 

On our last day in Busan, we made it back to the beach. This is embarrassing, but I’m actually not totally sure what beach we were on! I think it was Songdo Beach. Again, it was too cold for swimming, but this beach has a walkway along the cliffs that stretches for miles beside the ocean. There were places along the walkway where you could step off and climb on the rocks or go fishing if you wanted to! The views were great, and running around the rocks was a blast. The only downside was when Laura slipped on a rock and dropped her phone into the ocean! We did manage to make it back to our hotel even without a smartphone. Even though it was our last night in Busan, we were exhausted after a long week and ended up spending it playing games and eating snacks in the hotel. Our hotel also had a bath tub (a luxury when travelling in Korea), so we were pretty happy with our night in.

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A Trip to the Country Side

After a full week of big cities, Laura and I headed back to her apartment in Eumseong County.  Laura’s little town is pretty small, so getting there required some work – subway, train, bus and of course some walking! But we made it to her apartment mid-afternoon, and it was so much fun to see where she lives and works. We had an early dinner and walked around her town. We stopped at her favorite coffee shop where everyone knew her, and did some shopping for funny English t-shirts and comfy “Korean” pants (brightly patterned, light weight pants that mostly old ladies wear.)

Laura took me up to her favorite spot – the roof of her apartment! I could definitely see why it was her favorite place to hang out – it’s quiet and relaxing, and the view is startlingly beautiful. After so many days of big cities, it was pretty cool to see a different side of Korea. Rice fields stretch out next to Laura’s apartment building and of course there are hills and mountains everywhere.

Hanging out on the rooftop

Hanging out on the rooftop

 

The next day I packed up my backpack for the last time and started the loooong journey back to Cleveland, Ohio.  I have so much more I could say about my trip, and of course more pictures, but I think I might have to save that for a separate blog post. I barely even got to touch on all of the food we ate! SO GOOD!

It’s the kind of trip I never thought I would take, but will remember forever. Getting able to spend the whole week with my little sister – to see the country she’s made her home – was priceless. I did definitely rely on her for most of the getting around and for all of the talking, but I still felt like I learned so much about International travel and certainly pushed myself outside of my comfort zone.

Korea was not somewhere I would’ve just picked to travel to without having a family member there, but I’d definitely encourage you to consider it – it is such a beautiful, friendly country with so much to do and see and eat. People keep asking me if it’s somewhere I’d want to visit again – definitely! I feel like I only saw a small fraction of the country, and I’d love to go back and continue my adventure.

With my trusty travel backpack - ready to rock!

With my trusty travel backpack – ready to rock!

 

 

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I’m so Happy, I’m so Happy, I’m so Lonely

It’s wedding season! Every summer it happens, and I get so excited. In just under a month, one of my best friends will be marrying a wonderful guy, and I’m so happy for them. The past couple weeks I’ve been busy planning her bachelorette party (or lady shenanigans night as we’ve been calling it), and I’ve kept myself busy. I put on my craft pants and got to work – personalized drinking glasses for everyone, homemade gift bags, banners, and of course… COOKIES!

scrabble tile sugar cookies

 

I’m really happy for them. I love my friends, and I think it is awesome that they are getting married, but at the end of last night, after baking all day, planning, carrying things around in the heat, and just generally being exhausted, I couldn’t help but think, “When the hell is it going to be my turn?!”

And then I feel selfish. I feel so stupid and selfish and dumb, because I don’t want to be that bitter, old girl who resents everyone else’s happiness. But mostly, mostly I just feel lonely.

It’s not all the time. I have the best friends in the world, I have the best family, and I have a dog who is always there to cuddle with me and lick away my tears. But sometimes, I just want someone to come home to. I want a guy to miss while I’m at work, and watch a stupid movie with me when I’m too tired to go anywhere. I want someone to tell me I’m being an idiot when I get too down on myself, or to eat my cookies when I bake in the middle of the night just for the heck of it. Really, I just want someone to be there.

Lately, I’ve had guys show interest. I’ve gone on dates, and for a few nights I’ve felt really special and attractive, but these haven’t worked out.  I’m not entirely sure why — either I lose interest, or most recently they just seem to change their mind. It’s easy, during times like this weekend, to feel like dating is hopeless. To feel like I’m somehow getting left out of something, and to wonder what it is I did wrong.  Why does it seem like everyone else gets to find happiness?

Luckily, it usually only takes about one night of wallowing on the couch with a bucket of fried chicken to remember that I’m being over dramatic, and that I’m not the only one with issues. Having a boyfriend or husband won’t necessarily make me happy, and there are people out there dealing with issues a lot bigger than a guy not returning their text messages. I know all of this, I really do.

So, I give myself a reality check and focus on my next project or craft and psych myself up for the next engagement, wedding, or baby announcement. Because I’m happy. I really, really am happy. But I’m also really lonely. And for now, that’ll just have to do.

 

SCRABBLE TILE SUGAR COOKIES

I’m new to the whole royal icing decorating cookie thing (in case you can’t tell by the picture, my hand is just a wee bit unsteady!) so I didn’t actually modify the recipes I used at all. Usually, I change things up a bit and give you my version, but since I went very step by step on these, I’ll just send you to one of favorite blogs where I got the inspiration.

For the sugar cookies, I used this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker: Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

The decorating is pretty complicated, and I didn’t really know what I was doing, but she explains it all very well here: How to Decorate Cookies with Royal Icing

Tips from my kitchen:

If you want to make the scrabble tile cookies specifically, here’s what I did:

First, good luck trying to find a square cookie cutter. I ended buying a small plastic square container that was meant for favors at a baby shower, I think? My cookies were a little bigger than an inch tall and wide – larger than an actual scrabble tile. I would just use whatever you can find to cut the cookies into a square shape.

To outline and fill the cookies, I used ivory colored icing and a #2 tip

To do the letters, I used black colored icing and a #2 tip

To to the points in the corner, I used black colored icing and a #1 tip

I also procrastinated and got these done in the last couple hours before the party. I highly recommend not doing that, and giving yourself plenty of time. Don’t be like me – make the cookies the night before! Trust me, it will really help.

 

scrabble themed bachelorette party

 

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