|Red velvet chocolate chip, chewy brown sugar, peanut butter kiss, sea salt dark chocolate, oatmeal raisin, carrot cake, toffee potato chip, double layer chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, and gingersnaps.|
I started off this year with my first bout of depression in about 3 years and simultaneously knew I had enjoyed the two or three times I’d made cookies in the past. I wasn’t a baker by any means and lovingly referred to myself as a hopelessly terrible cook. Never did I think I could bake 1) with any consistency or 2) with any shred of talent.
When I start new hobbies, I have a habit of burning myself out or picking things that are unsustainable. For instance, I loved my cross-stitching times of a few years ago, but I could only make so many pieces before it became cluttered. I also didn’t enjoy making pieces for others because it felt like a job, or at the very least I didn’t like it as much. I didn’t want to make things and sell them either. I had to find something that I enjoyed for me.
One of my favorite things about my mom growing up was the freshly baked cookies. It wasn’t every day, but occasionally when I’d come home from school and open the front door, the smell of my mom’s amazing oatmeal chocolate chip cookies would fill the air. If I close my eyes right now, I’m back in that kitchen, with the white cabinets and cut out cartoon bug decals my mom put on the doors, and she’s there with me. I remember helping her make peanut butter kiss cookies around the holidays. She’d always put a bowl of sugar next to the dough and sometimes I’d get to roll the ball in the sugar before putting it on the baking sheet.
I’ve always loved cookies but again, I was suffering from both the I-don’t-care-about-anything-right-now part of depression and the fear of starting something new. So when I began 2017 I decided to make a promise to myself to bake at least once every two weeks; it seemed manageable enough to me. For the first half of the year, I tagged every baking photo with #BakingAwayDepression until I reached my cocoa mint chocolate chip cookies. It was the first time I felt weird about using the hashtag and I realized it was because I wasn’t sad anymore. I posted the picture with it anyways out of reflex, but in that moment it washed over me, the realization: I felt okay again.
|Lemon drop, cocoa mint chocolate chip, raspberry almond thumbprints, chocolate covered cookie dough pretzel bites, cake batter chocolate chip, inside out chocolate chip, strawberry chocolate chip, glazed lemon blueberry scones, and snickerdoodles.|
My depression seems rather cyclical. It pops up once every 2-4 years for about 3-6 months at a time. It’s angering and exhausting when it visits but I’ve gotten better at dealing with the empty feelings. I try to make an effort to acknowledge the feelings and then put them aside so I don’t feel like I’m going crazy or imagining anything. The nagging feeling of imagining my own feelings has been one of the biggest hurdles of my adult life.
Throughout the year I baked at different points. I baked on Saturday mornings in the hot kitchen in the summertime when I’d have to put some ingredients in the freezer to keep them from melting. Other times, I baked when Lou was out of town and enjoyed the silence and isolation of making something. I baked on nights after work in a frenzy to finish the dough with enough time to chill. I baked before trips to bring goodies to friends and family. I’d bake while playing music most of the time, loud blaring pop music I’d take breaks to dance to between batches of sweets. I danced a lot to Kesha’s “Rainbow” album, and the last week it’s been to Christmas music.
I baked when I was happy and feeling on top of the world. I baked when I was worried Lucy was dying when we were awaiting a potential cancer diagnosis that luckily never came. I baked when I felt lonely or stressed out. I baked when I felt nothing at all and it just felt nice to have my hands in something and be doing monotonous activities. When I bake, I don’t have to think about anything other than the next ingredient, if the oven is preheating, and if the dough is far enough away that Lucy can’t grab it when I’m not looking. At various points my once every two weeks margin started to close and for the past couple months, more often than not I’ve been baking on a weekly basis.
Over the year, my skills have definitely improved. I have better tools, both in my knowledge and actual physical baking utensils. My food photography is improving slowly but surely. I’m feeling more confident about trying harder recipes in 2018. Macarons are my favorite cookie in the world and I’ve been terrified to try them in earnest but I have a feeling that will soon change.
2017 has been a year of growth in many ways for me. I’ve paid attention more to what goes in my body, I’m trying to work out (unsuccessfully most of the time) more, I’m trying to be less hard on myself and love my body. I’m trying to feel less guilty for existing or having feelings that aren’t always positive. In 2018, I want to build upon what I’ve learned this year and try to do even more. I want to take even better care of my skin, work out more, get better at makeup, and above all else make a great batch of macarons.
This year has been weird and wonderful and kind of amazing. But more than anything, it’s been delicious. So I want to take a moment and say thank you. Thank you to anyone who took the time to watch an Instagram story that was mostly composed of baking, looked at my baked goods, or even sampled them for me (especially my husband, who’s had many, many cookies in ’17). Thank you for being with me so far, and I’m excited to see what I can do next year.
|Pumpkin cinnamon chip, Autumn spice, apple chai pie, pumpkin cupcakes, cookie dough dip, white chocolate macadamia, sugar cut-out Christmas cookies, glazed cranberry orange scones, and soft peanut butter cookies.|