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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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American Gladiators and Peanut Butter Pantry Cookies

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an American Gladiator. Ok, fine, I still want to be an American Gladiator. I even dressed up as one for Halloween 4 years ago:

Gladiator

But, that’s not the first time I dressed up as a Gladiator.  When I was about 6 or 7, I got out a bunch of bandanas and wrapped them around myself strategically. I made an obstacle course out of pillows and couches and ran that obstacle course like a champ. As soon as my mother saw me dressed up like that, she made me change. But it was fun while it lasted.

Also, when I was little I would wear my bathing suit and tights and “skate” around on the hardwood floors.

When I got a little older, I would wear a pink training bra with lace on it, a denim jacket, spandex pants and create dance routines to my Amy Grant cassette tape.

After that, my outfits got a little more boring. But I remember them. I have this weird knack for remember outfits. I might not remember what exactly was said, or what the date was, or who was there, but I could tell you exactly what I was wearing.

When I was nine, my brother accidentally hit me in the face with a golf club. I spent the whole afternoon in the ER, needed stitches, and still have a scar on my cheek, but what I was mostly upset about was that my yellow shirt with a bunny rabbit on it was completely ruined. My striped yellow and blue shorts were only sort of ruined.

On my 13th birthday, I wore an old man’s golf hat that I bought at a thrift store. I thought it was cool.

On the first day of 8th grade, I wore a black ADIDAS shirt and baggy jeans. I thought I was cool.

At my first “grown up” boy/girl party, I wore a pair of wide-leg jeans and a blue and white striped polo shirt. The party was really lame, and the boy I liked ignored me. Its okay though because he asked me out the following Monday at school.

When I had my first kiss I was wearing a green sweater and flare leg jeans.

When I got in my first real fight with my first real boyfriend, I had on a white shirt and I wore a blue scarf in my hair. It had little silver stars on it. I thought I was cool.

On my first date with my college boyfriend, I wore a grey and pink sweater and corduroy pants.

Currently, I’m wearing yellow socks, neon colored flowered pajama pants, and an Ohio State t-shirt. I’m still cool.

When I made these cookies, I wore an apron with red peppers all over it. I should clarify, I wore an apron with pictures of red peppers all over it. I should also clarify that I had clothes on underneath the apron.

These are some of my favorite cookies to make because once you make the base, you can pretty much add whatever you want to them. They’re basically modified monster cookies, but I like to call them pantry cookies.

 

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Peanut Butter Pantry Cookies:

Adapted from Recipe Girl

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups chunky peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups Old Fashioned Oats
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the peanut butter, butter, and sugars on medium speed until well combined and fluffy.  Mix in eggs and vanilla for another minute. Mix in oats and baking soda until well combined. Then stir in chocolate and butterscotch chips with a wooden spoon.  Drop the cookies by tablespoon onto a prepared cookie sheet (spray them with cooking spray or line the sheets with parchment paper).  Bake 10 -12 minutes. Cool cookies for 5 minutes on baking sheets and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an air tight container.

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Dating: I think I’m doing it wrong

You know how sometimes, in the movies, the protagonist is divorced or widowed and decides to start dating again and they realize they don’t know what they’re doing? They say something cute like, “The last person I dated was my wife, and I was 18. I don’t know what I’m doing any more! The game has changed! How am I supposed to do this?”

I feel like that. I have no idea what I’m doing.  But unlike our movie protagonists, I have no excuse. I never left the game. I’ve been here all along. Yet I still feel like it’s somehow left me behind. It’s changed, and I can’t keep up.

A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with a group of friends (most of them married), and naturally, I started talking to the only other single person there (a guy). In the morning, I got a text from one of my friends that said, “So, how did it go?!?!” Confused, I wrote back, “Good. I went to sleep.” When I talked to my friend later, she questioned me more. She couldn’t believe nothing had happened with us and asked if we had at least exchanged numbers. While I had enjoyed talking to him, the fact that he might be interested in something more than just pleasant conversation hadn’t really occurred to me. I told my friend that I had just said goodnight and that was it. She shook her head and said, “Ellen, he could have been trying to kiss you – literally leaning down, trying to kiss you — and you wouldn’t know.”

She’s basically right.  I’m oblivious.

In college, I was at a small party where I didn’t know very many people. There was a group playing cards, and an older guy — who I knew, but not very well — asked me if I wanted to join in the game. I was thankful for the friendly gesture, but told him I didn’t know how to play.  He kindly offered to have me sit with him, and said he’d help me learn how. It was a card game, so it wasn’t too complicated, and I caught on pretty quickly.  Although I knew what I was doing after a few minutes, the guy stuck around – continuing to give me tips, offer advice, and make conversation.  Unfortunately for this guy, I happen to be super competitive.  I didn’t agree with some of his “tips,” and I wasn’t about to let him ruin my chances of winning. So, I politely told him that I understood the game and that I could take it from here. Then I promptly ignored him until he left the table and went into the other room.  I had no idea that he was actually interested in me, and was just trying to get to know me better until days later when a friend told me.

I won the game. The guy went in the other room and struck up a conversation with a girl who didn’t ignore him, and who he later ended up marrying.

oops.

Although I often have no idea what’s going on, this can sometimes work to my advantage. For instance, if I don’t know someone is interested, then chances are I wont make (as big a) fool out of myself. I promise that I’m not normally ridiculously socially awkward, but stick me on a date, and it’s like I forget how to make sentences.  A couple of weeks ago, a guy asked me the totally normal question of “What do you like to do for fun?”  There are many normal ways I could have answered this question, but instead I panicked. So, instead of something like “reading” or “baking” or “watching movies” I said, “I guess I like to drink.”

Seriously. I said that. Hi, I’m Ellen. I’m a lush.

The problem is that even when I think I get it right, I still end up missing something. A few weeks ago, I met a guy who I thought I was interesting, funny, and good-looking. We talked most of the night, I don’t think I said anything too awkward, and when the night ended I was feeling very good about the whole thing. He pulled out his phone, presumably to get my phone number, and then he asked me… wait for it… to be Facebook friends. I’m not joking. Is that even a thing? Am I that out of touch? When did that become ok? No, I don’t want to be your Facebook friend. I want to be your real life friend. I don’t want to read about what music and movies you like, I want you to tell me what movies and music you like, preferably over dinner.

Needless to say, I never hung out with him again.

I’ve had (maybe more than) my fair share of bad dates, awkward conversations, missed opportunities and crossed signals, but I’ve also had some good, really fun dates, and met some pretty awesome people. So, even if I don’t know what I’m doing, I guess I’ll continue to at least pretend I have a clue and hope for the best.

Wow. Lots of feelings. Don’t worry, I’m baking them into Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies, so keep a look out for the next post.

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Blueberry Oat Pancakes for One

Apparently, there is a waffle / pancake rivalry going on all around me that I didn’t even know about.

I have a friend who just moved into a new apartment and declared it a “Pancake Free Zone.”  No pancakes can be consumed or created in their kitchen. Waffles are allowed and encouraged.

To be honest, I don’t really care either way. When it comes to breakfast, I’m more of a bacon, egg, and toast kind of girl.  I rarely make pancakes or waffles, and when I do, it’s usually for other people’s enjoyment, not mine.

But Joy the Baker’s Single Lady Pancakes have changed my world.

When I’m making myself a big, Saturday morning breakfast, or more often, if I’m having breakfast for supper, I turn to these perfec-for-eating-alone-pancakes.  The recipe makes about two medium size pancakes, which is the perfect serving for me. Also, the oats make this a thick, hearty pancake, and it’s a pretty adaptable recipe.  Pancakes, I think, are best with buttermilk, but you can substitute regular milk without any problems. Or if you’re me, and never have milk or buttermilk in the fridge, turns out almond milk also does the trick.

Last week, I made a version of these pancakes with almond milk and blueberries.  They were sweet without being too sweet, and nice and hearty.  Oh, and of course I ate them for dinner. With bacon.

 

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Blueberry Oat Pancakes for One

(Adapted from Joy the Baker)

1/3 c. flour
2 T. old-fashioned oats
2 t. light brown sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
5 t. vegetable oil (plus more for you griddle or skillet)
dash of vanilla extract
1/4 c. almond milk
1/4 c. blueberries (frozen or fresh)

Stir together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small  bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, vanilla, and almond milk.  Add the wet ingredients to your dry ingredients, all at the same time. Fold in blueberries.

Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet with 1-2 teaspoons of oil.  Pour batter into skillet – you can make one giant pancake, two medium pancakes, or 3 baby pancakes – totally up to you! Cook on medium heat until the batter starts to bubble and pop. Flip the best you can and cook until cooked through and golden-ish brown. Top with whatever sounds good! I usually go with just butter, since there is so much goodness packed into the pancakes, but you do what you want!

 

So, What about you? Any strong feelings regarding the great pancake vs waffle debate?  Have a go-to recipe you can’t live without?

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Fridays are for Laundry, right?

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It is Saturday morning, and I was up at 7:58 am. This sort of goes against everything I believe in. I like my weekend mornings to start sometime after ten, have a long leisurely breakfast around noon, maybe get dressed sometime in the afternoon.  But this morning I’m up, so I might as well make the most of it. The reason I am up so early on a Saturday is that I went to bed at 10 pm last night. Yep, 10 pm on a Friday.

I worked a little later than usual, and was looking forward to my big Friday night plans of doing laundry and watching Netflix.  I’m not even being sarcastic — I really was looking forward to it.  I got a load started, changed into some comfy clothes, and decided to take the dog for a long walk.  It was a beautiful night. Not too hot, not too cold, the sun was setting, and I knew the lake would look all sun-kissed and sparkling.  As we were walking home, along a busy street, I heard the song “22” by Taylor Swift blasting from one of the cars stopped at the light. I wouldn’t call myself Taylor Swift’s biggest fan, but it did strike me that that was a pretty good song to get your Friday night started with if you were young – around 22- and actually had plans. I followed the music to a red convertible with 4 teenagers.  I noticed the girls first, two very young, very pretty girls in tiny clothing.  They both had long hair that they were dramatically flipping over their shoulders and you could tell they were doing their best to look cool and bored.  I knew those looks. I’d been there once. But it was the boys that I couldn’t handle.  First of all, there was no way these guys were 22. The whole car had to be just barely 16, and the boys in front…  They were wearing these hats — I’m not even sure what you call them these days, they were sort of like trucker hats – with the broad brim and these weird bright patterns all over them. The hats of course, were not actually on their heads. Instead, they were just sort of placed there, a little bit to the side, so we could see their luscious locks of Beiber hair, perfectly placed and unmoving despite being in a convertible.  Then they were also wearing neon colored large sunglasses. I guess because they matched their hats. I couldn’t see their pants, but I can pretty much guarantee you that they were tighter than the ones I was wearing. I couldn’t help myself, I started laughing out loud. The boys noticed me blatantly staring at them, and probably thinking that I thought they were cute or cool or something, tipped their sunglasses and smiled at me before driving away with the still bored looking girls.  I’m not entirely sure why the whole thing struck me as so hilarious, I just all of a sudden felt so old and out of touch. This is how guys dress nowadays? This is cool? Where have I been? The best part, what made me feel even older, is that I didn’t care! I felt bad that they had to spend so much time with hair gel and neon skinny jeans while I got to go home and eat popcorn on the couch with my dog and watch funny movies and wash my normal colored clothes.

At the same time, though, I did feel a little nostalgic.  The clothes have changed (this post makes me sounds like I’m 80), and I never rode around in a convertible at that age, but the driving around on a Friday night – hoping the boys in the front seat like you, worrying about how your tiny shirt makes you look, those things never change.  So then I started thinking about the 90s and high school boyfriends and fragile egos and short-lived friendships, and by the time I made it back to my apartment and switched over my laundry I was not only happy for my “lame” Friday night, but thankful for it.  And after watching some bad tv and eating a whole bowl of popcorn, I found myself in bed at 10 pm, and it was perfect.

Just feelings this morning – no recipe, but if you’re good, you might get a recipe for “whatever I have in my pantry blueberry pancakes for one” in the near future…

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Full Disclosure

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

  • I am not a real baker. I mean, I am real as in I am a real person. I am a real person who bakes real food. I have no professional training whatsoever. I bake because it is fun and it makes me feel better.
  • I don’t always level my dry ingredients. Sometimes, I just make things up.
  • I googled “baking blog etiquette” the other day. I’m terrified that I’ll do something wrong. Apologies in advance for anyone I offend.
  • I will most likely talk way too much about bacon, my dog, how I’m not married yet, my lack of motivation, and booze.
  • I am a really bad speller. (In fact, spell check just told me that “speller” is spelled wrong.)

Once again, I have no idea what I’m doing.

Here is a picture of my dog. Just because. Get used to it:

stellainthepark.jpg

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