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Speculations on Speculoos 

I’m playing in the kitchen this evening in preparation for tomorrow’s festivities. Actually, I would have been making these this weekend regardless of whether Christmas was approaching or not, as I am currently obsessed with speculoos butter (aka “cookie butter”).

Let me back up for a moment. Have you ever heard of this magical sustenance? I imagine if you are European or shop at Trader Joe’s regularly you are already privy to the heavenly-ness of cookie butter. If you happen to be living under a rock and haven’t heard of it yet, let’s discuss:

Speculoos cookies are crispy little treats of Belgian origin. They have a subtle sweetness with notes of caramel. They’re spiced with warm spices, like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, which gives them a similarity to gingerbread, but aren’t quite as in-your-face. They’re quite tasty on their own, but then some brilliant person came along and said “You know what would be even more delicious? If we ground up these cookies until they have the consistency of peanut butter and then we can spread them on everything.” It sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? Spreading cookies on things? But oh, it’s fucking glorious. I wish I knew who was responsible for this act of genius because that person deserves a lap dance.

So, know that you know about cookie butter, let me tell you about tonight’s creation. I took some semi-sweet and dark chocolate and heated it over a double boiler with heavy cream. Once the chocolate was completely melted I stirred in some cookie butter and finely chopped speculoos cookies. After chilling the ganache for about an hour I rolled them into tiny balls and coated them with cocoa powder.

25660272_10103845737323795_4264643661580695977_nErrr, I may have gotten a little carried away.
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Holidays and Eating Disorders (“The Rib Roast Conundrum”)

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The holidays can be one of the worst times of the year if you’re someone with an eating disorder or any kind of food issues. With Thanksgiving, there’s usually an abundance of food, but at least it’s only one meal. Christmas, however, is a horse of a different color. For whatever reason, people have decided that Christmas basically starts the day after Thanksgiving. That means we get to celebrate and be surrounded by holiday “treats” for practically an entire month before the holiday even gets here. YAY.

😕

After a few months of working on myself and working on my food issues I’m starting to feel like I am making some progress. It’s not like I climbed a mountain or anything, but there have been enough baby steps that I’m at least able to see a way out of the forest. (That terrible metaphor is giving me flashbacks to my trip to Banff for some reason. *shudders*)

Even with the progress I’ve made the holidays are starting to stress me out. If you could see the break room in my office right now you would see approximately 5 gift baskets, plates of assorted cookies and pastries, boxes of chocolate covered everything, and a really ugly cake that someone paid a lot of money for. (I’m embarrassed for them.) There have been holiday get-togethers, special lunches, etc. In an attempt to maintain the slightest bit of my sanity, I’ve declined offers to a few social gatherings lately. Too much forced socialization makes my social anxiety skyrocket, so I’ve been trying to avoid doing too much this year. I’ve been trying to stick with my normal routine as much as possible – going to dance class and keeping up with exercise, reading and spending time at the book store, and cooking healthy meals for myself at home. Still, I can’t run away from everything.

There will be not one, but two Christmas dinners with my boyfriend’s family this week that I feel obligated to attend. One of these dinners will take place this evening. I’ve been doing my best to prepare myself for the occasion, but, to be honest, I am stressing over it a bit. For starters, I am not always super comfortable around his family. This is no fault of theirs, as I am uncomfortable around the vast majority of people I encounter. Most of the family dinners I’ve been to involve me sitting in the corner, being quiet and trying to focus on not saying something stupid (which I always fail at). On top of the general feelings of awkwardness, there’s the food situation. We’ve already been informed that dinner will consist of a fancy (and probably expensive) rib roast. For most “normal” people, there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a lovely thing to serve for Christmas dinner. But for me, with all my eating issues and my general anxiety surrounding food this time of year, this is not happy news.

My eating disorder manifests in the form of excessively healthy eating, sometimes to the point that I don’t get enough calories. There are a number of foods that my warped brain has deemed “unhealthy” or “bad” and I do everything in my power to avoid those foods. One of those foods is red meat. I don’t believe I’ve eaten red meat since I relapsed, 6+ months ago. Even with all the baby steps I’ve taken towards recovery and the slow progress I’ve made, I’ve still been avoiding red meat. Now, this evening, we will be presented with a lovely piece of slightly bloody animal carcass and I will be expected to eat it. (I don’t even know what else we’ll be having, but I expect that some of it will involve other foods that I actively avoid.)

Do you see the conundrum?

Obviously, I can’t go and avoid eating altogether because that would be rude and draw attention to my already weird behavior. (Also, this is exactly what my eating disorder wants me to do, which is why I shouldn’t do it.) This means that I will have to go and eat food that will make me anxious and most likely bring up feelings of guilt and/or self-loathing later. I envy those in recovery that can handle these situations graciously. I am ungracious as fuck when it comes to these situations. On the outside I will try to act “normal” and pretend to be enjoying myself, but on the inside I will be panicky, angry, and envisioning myself picking up said rib roast and throwing it at the host’s head.

…and this scenario just pertains to one dinner. One holiday function of the several I have been invited to. This situation will play out over and over again for the better part of a month, with every dinner/party I am presented with, compounded by dozens of holiday gift baskets and ugly cakes with baby Jesus on them.

This is why the holidays are so challenging for people with eating disorders, even those of us in recovery. Even if you have other things to try to distract yourself with, like decorating, charitable work, or religious traditions, there’s still usually a lot of food around. Unless you refuse to leave your house for a month, there’s no way to avoid it all. *sighs*

Sorry for my long-winded rant today. I may or may not be under the influence of a lot of cold medicine.

Now, excuse me while I go warm up my rib throwing arm.<<
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Christmas Wish List

There have been lots of Christmas wish lists and gift idea posts popping up in my feed this week. Given that Christmas is less than 10 days away I suppose that it’s appropriate. I don’t ask for much for holidays or my birthday. Usually, if I ask for anything it’s for one of the books on my ever-growing TBR list. This afternoon, while I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor, bored to tears, I came up with this list of things that I’m really hoping to get this year.

  • A $10,000 gift card to Barnes & Noble
  • A TARDIS that I could escape in
  • My Hogwarts letter
  • A coffee fairy to follow me around and provide me with coffee whenever I want it
  • A lifetime supply of Reese’s cups
  • All the homeless cats and dogs
  • A magical cure for bruises (Pole dancing leaves me bruised all the time)
  • The next season of Game of Thrones
  • Permission to wear leggings to work

~~~

Do you have a wishlist this year? What’s on it? What are the odds that I’m going to finally get my Hogwarts letter? 

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Christmas Traditions

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I haven’t been into Christmas the last couple of years. I used to be, many moons ago. There was a time when I loved Christmas. As I’ve gotten older and things have gotten more difficult in my personal life, however, it’s gotten more challenging to be excited about the holidays.

Once my ex and I got separated all of the holiday traditions that I used to look forward to went away. We used to decorate the tree…or, I mostly decorated it, but he and the cats liked to help. I really enjoyed decorating the tree. I even hand-made some ornaments for it. Now I don’t even have a tree or any Christmas decorations. I let him keep all that stuff. I don’t even have any of the ornaments that I made.

Even more exciting than the tree was the holiday food! I used to bake a ton of stuff around the holidays, for both my profession and just for fun. Sometimes it would be tedious, but for the most part I enjoyed it. Even when it was “work,” baking holiday goodies was still a fun activity for me. Now, I don’t really feel like I have much reason to do it. There are no clients looking for my treats and my friends/family aren’t asking for it either. So why bother? It seems silly to bake hundreds of Christmas cookies when nobody wants them. I used to make a big Italian dinner for Christmas Eve, similar to what my family did when I was growing up. We spent most of these holidays with a group of friends that felt more like family to me than my actual family. I’d cook practically the whole day and we’d be drinking wine the whole time. It was fun. Now, those people we spent the holidays with no longer live here, which makes me sad. Some of us barely even talk anymore. I can, of course, keep up with the Italian tradition, but it’s definitely not the same if nobody is around to help you cook/eat all the food.

Although buying gifts for people stresses me me out sometimes, I’ve always loved buying presents for my fur babies every year. It’s so adorable, because they actually get excited on Christmas when they get their presents. I went to Petsmart this weekend to buy presents and my heart broke because Nooch won’t be here for Christmas anymore. It didn’t help that there were kittens up for adoption in the store that day. When I went over to say hello to the kitties the lady volunteering asked me if I had a cat…and I started to cry. 😦

I know that life changes all the time and that traditions change. I think I’ve felt extra sad and lonely these past few holidays because I haven’t made any new traditions to take place of the old ones. Sure, I get invited to parties and do some things with friends, but it’s not really the same. None of them feel like my traditions anymore or have given me something to get excited about.

I guess I need to start working on some new traditions,  but I don’t even know where to begin.

~~~

Do you have holiday traditions? What are some of your favorites? 

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What is “Self-Care?”

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The holidays can be a hard time for people. Whether you’re someone who struggle with mental health issues, are experiencing some kind of major change or loss, or are buried in financial problems, the holidays can create an excessive amount of stress that make this “season of joy” anything but. As I mentioned earlier this week, I was already beginning to feel anxious over the approaching holiday social gatherings I will be expected to attend. Now, in addition to that, I’m trying to cope with the loss of my fur baby, Nooch. 😥

…Oh, have I mentioned that my therapist has been on vacation for 3 weeks now? Does anyone else smell a major mental breakdown in the air!? *Joker laugh*

I’ve seen countless reminders on the internet lately reminding those of us who struggle during this time of year to practice “self-care.” But what does that mean, exactly?

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure it out. For the longest time I thought self-care was mostly about taking time to pamper yourself with soothing baths, massages, etc. For some reason, images of women lying in the bath tub, surrounded by candles and cucumber slices placed over their eyelids often accompanies articles on self-care, so I don’t think I’m entirely to blame for the confusion. (Side note: as a woman, I feel like a complete failure for never having the desire to buy produce and put it in my eye or smear it on my face. Maybe there are even more things wrong with me than I thought.)

On the surface, self-care is pretty self-explanatory. It’s about taking care of yourself and making sure your personal needs are being met. Taking care of your body through food, exercise, and regular sleep is a good place to start. But is it really that easy? If you’re someone like me than,  unfortunately, the answer is sometimes no. My eating disorder struggles can make eating a highly stressful, tantrum-inducing situation. My depression can make it hard to get motivated to even get up and shower, let alone exercise. My anxiety can keep my brain running at the wee hour of the morning, when I should be sound asleep.

What about other needs? Aside from the basics that we require to keep our bodies functioning, there’s your mental health to consider. Depending on who you are, your needs will be different. They might even change daily. Sometimes you’ll need more alone time, other times you’ll need more social time. Sometimes you need more “fun” in your life, other times you’ll need more quiet time on the couch with a book. For me, trying to figure out what I need to keep my mental health in check can be frustrating. When you’re being pulled in all directions, between work, holiday shopping, family obligations, etc., it can be hard to even figure out how to keep things balanced. If you decide that you do need more alone time, how do you ensure that you’ll get it? Does that mean neglecting some of your other obligations? If you do that, will it just make things more stressful later? What about the unexpected things that will inevitably pop up? How are you supposed to fit it all in?!

I don’t have a clue.

I do my best to practice self-care every day, but it doesn’t always happen. I try to reserve my lunch breaks for spending time at the bookstore, drinking coffee and reading a book. Even though it’s only 40 minutes or so, it helps keep me sane during my work day. I try to set aside time for blogging/writing, dance, and my crafty projects. I take baths periodically when my muscles are feeling tense and need to unwind a little. But is all of that enough? Am I doing it right? I truly don’t know.

Last night I forced myself to go walk around the bookstore for a little while. After spending the better part of the day laying in bed, sobbing over my cat, I knew I probably needed to get out of the house. Truthfully, it didn’t help as much as I needed it to, but I tried. At one point I found myself sitting on the floor of the dreaded self-help aisle, with tears in my eyes. I don’t even really know what I was looking for. Anything to make me feel better, I guess.

Did I do the right thing by forcing myself to go out and try to be “normal?” Is this what I’m supposed to do in the upcoming weeks, as the holiday stress starts to gnaw at me? Can I just skip all the holiday bullshit or is that just “hiding?” Do I need to put more cucumbers on my face?

Again, I don’t know. It’s all quite frustrating.

(Side Note: I really need to stay away from the self-help aisle at Barnes & Noble.)

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The Fear of Putting Myself Out There

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This weekend my boyfriend and I took a day trip to Asheville. With all the delicious food available, fun shops (including one of my favorite bookstores), art galleries, and hippie culture, it’s one of my favorite places to visit. On the drive back we started talking about upcoming social events. Given that Christmas and New Years are just around the corner, there are already invites for holiday gatherings popping up.

*Cue my wicked social anxiety*

Along with the holidays and (most) social events comes anxiety. I feel incredibly awkward and uncomfortable in a lot of social situations, particularly when in the presence of people I don’t know. Upon first meeting me, I am often quiet and proficient in the art of expressing a resting bitch face. Mind you, this isn’t because I’m trying to come across as unfriendly or stuck up. I’m actually just terrified. Terrified that I’m going to say or do something stupid. Terrified that I am going to draw attention to myself. Terrified of what everyone is thinking of me. Terrified that everyone is judging me. I withdraw into the corner, either alone or with the one person that I am familiar with, and usually think myself into a miserable state. It’s SO much fun. :-\

This past year in particular my anxiety has been really bad. I’ve mentioned at some point previously that there had been a lot of changes in my social life. There was a social group I had joined the previous year, which had been a wonderful thing for me. Unfortunately, due to some drama among the members and some jealous exes, I was basically forced out of the group. Several of the people I used to consider friends are no longer on speaking terms with me and I feel like my social life overall has taken a major hit. I was devastated at the time all of this happened and didn’t handle it well. (I imagine this is part of what contributed to my eating disorder relapse a few months later.) It’s been long enough now that I’ve accepted that all this happened. I am not thrilled about it, but I’m not beating myself up over it anymore.

Fast forward to now, I am now stuck feeling like I have very few friends (the ones I do have I don’t feel particularly close with) and am starting over. I literally have no idea how to even begin making new friends again. (Sharing my crayons with the person sitting next to me doesn’t seem to be working out and has resulted in some strange looks from my co-workers.) I was fortunate when I found the last group. Prior to that I didn’t feel like I had many friends, except for a small handful. Sadly, most of these people have moved away to other states and I rarely get to see them. Even if I were to find some kind of meetup group, it would require a ton of effort on my part to even force myself to go talk to anyone. *Cue social anxiety again*

Some of the holiday events coming up involve people from the group that I am no longer part of. Some of the people in attendance will be those exact same people (or the friends of) that shoved me out. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how incredibly uncomfortable the situation is going to be. There have been a few similar situations over the past few months, none of which I handled particularly well. Truthfully, I don’t even know what the best way to handle any of this is. My brain tells me to stay home and avoid these events altogether, and that being around these people isn’t good for me. Other people disagree with me. They tell me to go and have fun, not to let those losers ruin things for me, etc. I don’t know which of us is correct.

The point of my long-winded babbling is that I’m terrified of putting myself out there for other people to see. Even if I go to one of the holiday parties and decide to just ignore my ex-friends, I’m still going to make myself miserable. I’m going to be afraid to talk much or let loose for fear that everyone else there (including the people I am still friends with) will also reject me. Every insecurity I have will come out and by the end of the evening I will be convinced that I am simply not good enough. The same thing will happen when I try to force myself into some new situation in order to meet new people. Everyone else will have fun and enjoy themselves, while I find myself panicking and desperately wanting to go home.

My fear of judgement can prevent me from doing a lot of things. Until now, I’ve been too afraid to even share my Etsy page with anyone (even my friends/family), because I was afraid they were going to laugh and think my crafts are stupid. Even little things like that terrify me.

I try not to use my anxiety as an excuse. I try really hard to fight it and push myself to do things, when I can, but it’s really difficult. Sometimes I wish I could pay someone to follow me around all day, nudging me forward whenever I start to take a step back.

I really don’t know how I am going to cope with the social aspect of the holidays yet. If anyone has any suggestions, I am listening.

~~~

Are you ever afraid to put  yourself out there? How do you deal with it? 

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Anything But Books Tag

I was tagged by J.W. Martin to do the Anything But Books Tag. Yay! If you aren’t already following his blog: a) You should be, and b) You should go read some of his answers. He has some pretty cool hobbies!

NAME A CARTOON THAT YOU LOVE Bob’s Burgers! I love how weird and dysfunctional the Belchers are, especially Tina with all her awkwardness. I feel like I can really relate to Tina in some ways.

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WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SONG RIGHT NOW? I don’t have one favorite song. I’ve been listening to a lot of Chris Cornell lately, but that’s nothing new. (RIP Chris)

WHAT COULD YOU DO FOR HOURS THAT ISN’T READING? Does wandering around Barnes & Noble count? No? Fine then…Crafty stuff! I can spend hours working on craft/costume/clothing projects.

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WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU LOVE TO DO THAT YOUR FOLLOWERS WOULD BE SURPRISED BY? Dancing. I’ve been a recreational pole and burlesque dancer for 3.5 years now and I love it. It’s very liberating and has helped me a great deal with some of my body image issues. Plus, it’s helped me grow really strong!

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WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE, UNNECESSARILY SPECIFIC THING TO LEARN ABOUT? Baking stuff. As a former pastry chef, I’m pretty into learning new dessert skills. I love scouring the internet for new recipes, new trends, and new baking tips.

WHAT IS SOMETHING UNUSUAL YOU KNOW HOW TO DO? Ummm, I don’t think I have any particularly “unusual” skills, unless my pole dancing skills count.

NAME SOMETHING THAT YOU’VE MADE IN THE LAST YEAR. Lots of decorative stuff, like these mason jar lanterns:

WHAT IS YOUR MOST RECENT PERSONAL PROJECT? Starting my own Etsy page. Getting back to working on my novel. Trying to work on some of my mental health issues. (I feel like I’m always in the middle of 5 projects at once.)

TELL US SOMETHING THAT YOU THINK OF OFTEN. My animals. I simply adore them. ❤

TELL US SOMETHING THAT’S YOUR FAVORITE, BUT MAKE IT ODDLY SPECIFIC. Seasonal Reese’s cups. Particularly the ones shaped like pumpkins or eggs. They have extra peanut butter filling in them and they’re the most amazing thing on the planet. Seriously, there are very few things I wouldn’t do for a Reese’s pumpkin…f0562d4e-9023-491e-9e86-ad43ff556a40_1-18bf18d6b0851afa517000e6f8525990

I tag: ALL OF YOUUUUU! Feel free to take part if you’re interested. 🙂