Ambition, Perspective, and the Art of Sugar Cookies

The idea behind the name of this blog lies in a lofty hope that somehow, some way, my experiences in the kitchen would help me grow out of my natural pessimism and into a more optimistic way of living. Without a doubt, this blog and the experiences that fuel it have helped me to grow, but this past weekend I encountered a food-related dilemma-turned-epiphany that really made me think critically about how I tend to approach life.

Sunday, I had ambitious plans to bake and decorate a batch of Fourth of July themed sugar cookies. It was partially to help me get closer to my New Year’s Resolution of mastering the art of sugar cookie decorating, and partially because…well, any excuse to bake festive treats is a good one in my book! I took the butter out of the freezer to soften, made a list of last-minute ingredients to pick up at the store, and took one last look at the designs I had chosen for the holiday before kicking L out of the house and telling him I was really sorry, but sugar cookies are a full-day endeavor and I didn’t think we’d be able to see much of each other that day. As I closed to door behind him, it hit me like a ton of bricks – I didn’t want to bake sugar cookies that day. I already had an unbelievable (and much simpler) dessert planned for Monday, so these were just going to be extra, and I felt an unshakable sense of disappointment in thinking about spending a full free day slaving in the kitchen.

It isn’t that I dislike baking or that I regret making my resolution at all. Quite the opposite, in fact! However, I realized as the minutes ticked by, debating at the kitchen table To Bake or Not To Bake, I realized that I was pressuring myself to devote a huge amount of my limited free time doing something that I just wasn’t in the mood to do, and for what? To put a check on my self-made check list of things to do that day, that month, that year. I’m driven, to a fault in fact, and if I create a goal for myself I put blinders on until I reach it. I lose sight of why I made the goal in the first place, and create almost a competition (in which I am the only contestant) to see how persistent and successful I can be.

I didn’t make sugar cookies this weekend. I’m excited for my next opportunity to practice my decorating skills and hopeful that I can yet “perfect” this culinary art, but I’m so glad that I saw that emotional red flag this weekend and listened to it, for once. I didn’t let some arbitrary deadline get the better of me. No matter what, I don’t want cooking, baking, or this blog to become a chore or a job. I want to put my all into all that I do, including cooking and blogging, but the day that I have to force myself to bake a batch of cookies or write an entry is the day I know I need to throw the towel in.

One of the reasons I have so much trouble with pessimism is that I look at everything as being able to be improved upon – that is, nothing is good enough. I can always work harder, push myself further, and accomplish more. Like I said, driven to a fault. But now it’s time to put an end to that. It’s time to concentrate all of my stubbornness and iron will into doing things that I love, when I love them. It’s time to listen to my inner self - not ignore responsibility and duty, but certainly learn to be less rigid and militant. 

And, because I still feel guilty about not having festive Independence Day sugar cookies to share with you, and because you have officially sat through my monstrous catharsis-of-a-post, here is a brief account of my last attempt at sugar cookies. I have to say, I almost struck gold with this recipe – it was almost exactly what I’ve been looking for in a sugar cookie. It was buttery but still decidedly sugary, soft and chewy, and beautiful even with white whole wheat flour (always a plus)! However, they spread too much and definitely need to be thicker than how I rolled them. I’m also concerned that they’re too fragile for sugar cookies, but despite all of that…boy are these cookies delicious! And dangerous – I ate 5 of them in one sitting without even thinking. L gave his seal of approval, too. So definitely try them, but maybe as drop cookies instead of roll-and-decorate ones – just make sure you have a friend (or two, or three!) to help you eat these…you won’t want to share, but your arteries and friends will thank you for spreading the love around.

Soft & Chewy Sugar Cookies
For the sake of this post’s length and your patience, I’ll send you over to the original recipe at Brown Eyed Baker. I still used the royal icing recipe from Annie’s Eats, but I’ve been having issues with it and am considering trying a new one the next time.

Oh, and this “next time” I keep referring to? Think Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 themed cookies. Oh, yeah. You did hear right. And there might be butter beer in this blog’s future, too. Just saying.

Happy July!

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