Online Dating: A Captain’s Log

January 2, 2014

Signs up for online hoping to break her streak of bad boyfriends/dates/crushes and to not die alone.

January 26, 2014

Receives first message from single male: “Hello. Would you like to join my shadow puppet club?”

January 28, 2014

Desperate thirty something uses terrible pickup line about polar bears and ice breaking. Captain sighs.

January 29, 2014

Another desperate 30 something with atrocious grammar and spelling asks for favorite dinosaur and uses the word ‘baby’ excessively.

February 1, 2014

Captain receives message that was promising until he said, “You have pretty eyes can I touch them?”

February 7, 2014

Gets asked out on a date (finally!) Captain can’t seem to coordinate schedules with male interest. Date TBD.

February 9, 2014

Matched with a male wearing a jedi outfit and holding a lightsaber in daily matches. Online dating stereotype fulfilled. Captain passes. Another online dating stereotype fulfilled.

February 12, 2014

Ditches one website in favor of another. Immediately starts getting texts from all sorts of guys.

February 15, 2014

Matched with dreamy boy that has an adorable puppy and a house. Desperately wants to go on a date.

February 16, 2014

Male love interest senses desperation and disappears. Captain can’t blame him

February 21, 2014

Captain is so over online dating

February 27, 2014

Captain matched with young man that has a job and a sense of humor. They arrange to meet

March 7, 2014

After rearranging twice due to their busy schedules, Captain and Bagel go out on their first date. It doesn’t suck.

<End of Log>

Back in the Saddle Again…

I promised when I started this blog not to get into “Dear Diary” territory because the internet didn’t need to know about my personal problems or my dating life and no one wants to read more emo thoughts on the internet. Those are the stuff of private journals, right? Right. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, still. But, it’s come to my attention, that a problem area in one part of my life has bled into the other. I’ve had a Gestalt moment (what you call a “lightbulb” moment), an epiphany, a revelation, or whatever you want to call it. And in order to explain this I’m going to have to tell you a story.

Some time ago at a party I met a guy—nay, a man —who charmed me and let it be known how much he liked me. We started dating and I was showered with compliments and attention. He told me I was that rare kind of woman who was not only beautiful, but smart and funny and sexy and on and on and on. He treated me like a queen. I felt so secure in this relationship and it was a feeling I’d never had before. “See Emily!” my friend Kathryn told me. “This is how it’s supposed to be!”

And then he cheated on me.

This opened a whole Pandora’s box of other problems I won’t get into. Suffice to say, I was upset. But, it wasn’t that long of a relationship in reality, so I let myself cry for a day, indulged in retail therapy and finished out the holiday season bound and determined to start afresh in the new year.  When I told my two of my friends, Milynda and Kate, about what happened they reacted as all female friends do and were supportive. And then they said something that I told them I knew, that I wouldn’t forget, but in reality I did. “Just because he did this does not mean you are not smart and funny and beautiful,” they told me. My response was to assure them that I was a big girl, I could totally handle this, I had it together, blah blah blah.

As the new year started I started online dating, which is interesting (and a topic for a whole other post), but I still found myself frustrated. I complained to my friend Kathryn about the process and the crop of guys. It felt so disingenuous to me and why was that? Match guaranteed me I’d find someone! Why was this experience sucking?!

Well, I was right about one thing, it was disingenuous, but it wasn’t the guys. It was all me.

I missed the validation I got from that guy last year and I started to look for it in all the wrong places and for the wrong reasons and as a result my creative life, the part of my life I find the most fulfilling and rewarding, suffered. I lamented over and over again on this blog how I felt stuck, creatively drained, and I was overwhelmed by playing host to a variety of anxieties.

When I don’t indulge in my creative life, I seek the validation I get there in other forms. Writing makes me feel worthwhile and when I was frustrated with that I sought out other ways (re: boys) to make me feel worthwhile again and that made my writing life suffer even more. What a mess, right?

And now we’re at the part where I explain what I did about it. The thing about this blog is that I document all my experimentation, for better or worse, and some things fail and others seem to work for me. The creative process fascinates me and when starting this I was determined to have this blog be a chronicle of my own process so I could learn a little bit more about myself as a writer. This was a recent revelation, so the things I’m doing now are all experiments to get myself back into that creative mindset.

I read two great books by Steven Pressfield my friend Briana recommended. I cut myself off from distractions and put my dating life on the back burner. I focused my energies on finding my very own apartment, “a room of one’s own” as Virginia Woolf would say. I watched videos about creativity on YouTube, plugged into some good Ted Talks like the sucker I am and reached out to my writer’s group and my writing friend for help with the draft, which they gladly and so generously provided.

And then two crazy things happened. The first; I wrote over 20 pages one day. It just poured out of me. The second; I went on a really nice date with a really nice man (not a boy because I don’t date boys, I date men, an important distinction). Who knows what will come of that date, if anything, but if I never hear from him again I won’t complain about it and if I do I’ll be pleased and I’ll go out with him again.  Either way, it’s not my main focus anymore.

Perhaps my mom is right (ugh. AGAIN), if I focus on the other parts of my life that I benefit from, the rest will fall into place.

So, I feel rejuvenated, y’all! I’m back at it. Until next time, I’m out.

Read It or Skip It: Leading Ladies

While continuing with themed editions of Read It or Skip It, I noticed that a lot of recent books had female protagonists. Ranging from fabulously feisty to self-conscious and melancholy, these six books feature a strong voice  and make for damn good reading.

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Read it if you love historical fiction, fictionalized biography, and lyrical stories seemingly set in the early 20th century. Skip it if you’d like to keep a high opinion of Charles Lindeberg.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld 

Read it if you like boarding school stories and books with a cast of unique and fun supporting characters. Skip it if self-conscious, teenage narrators drive you crazy. Or you didn’t like Catcher in the Rye.

A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute

Read it! I was surprised by how much I liked this book. Jean is a great leading lady, well before her time in the 1950s and I just adore the love story. If you like the British classics of modern day and yesteryear, stories about Austrailia’s early beginnings, and WWII, then this is the book for you! Sometimes there were too many details, which would be my only reason to skip it.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters 

Read it! This was the literary equivalent of a breath of fresh air. It’s funny, insightful, and beautifully structured. If you like old Hollywood, travel stories, and novels that incorporate a huge cast and lots of different writing styles, then I especially recommend it. I would never say to skip it. 

Witches of Eastwick by John Updike 

Read it if you like a sexy, small town story, enjoyed the movie and TV versions, or just want to enjoy Updike’s wonderful prose. Skip it if you want books about witches to actually involve the witches performing magic (they do, but it’s a background thing.)

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

Read it if you like an ‘against all odds’ love story and if you have a particular passion for people with special needs. Otherwise, skip it. Her memoir Riding the Bus with my Sister is much better.

Where does writing fit in when my life changes?

Hello everyone! I’ve been MIA from my little blog for a while because my life went from 0 to 60 in the span of a week. I got a job for the fall, a new apartment, and another job working at a bakery to help pay for said apartment until I start said job. While I keep vowing never to go back to retail, here I am again. Bakeries are fun though. Plus, we all know how I feel about sensitive bakers, so perhaps I’ll find one there?

Anyways, with a move and new job comes an ever expounding to-do list. Seriously. I woke up this morning (which I had off for some strange reason) and felt a crushing metaphorical pain that is my to-do list. I lay there thinking that this whole writing thing was just another thing on my to-do list and maybe I should push it aside. I have a whole calendar year of things to plan, I have to get all my ducks in order for the mountain of paperwork teachers go through, and the responsibilities of my current jobs. Plus I have trips coming up, parties to plan, loads of books to read, and an apartment that I need to finish moving into. All of that and I’m trying to maintain a social life, complete a fun bucket list, stay in shape, and still have time to veg out and catch up on Game of Thrones (I’m perpetually stuck in Season 2).

So where does writing fit in to all of this? So many of these things are obligations. Do I still see writing as one? Or do I see it as a need? I like having time to focus on one important thing, but I also like having lots of different things to do. When I step back and look at my life, everything except for the writing is going well. In fact, the writing is the one thing that’s suffering, and it bothers me.

So, from here on out I need to focus and figure out where it fits in. Do I give up on it totally? That’s a dumb idea, since I know myself well enough to know I’ll come back to it, so swearing it off is stupid. Do I categorize it as a hobby? Do I mark it as a priority?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but I’m willing to keep going.

Guest Post: The Joy of Cookbooks

My life has been stupidly busy lately, but that doesn’t mean total internet silence! Here my friend Sarah tell us about a topic I know nothing about—cookbooks!

Hello, lovely readers! I am excited to be writing a blog post for Emily, but, let’s be honest, I’ve never been very good with introductions, so I am going to dive right in.

For me, cooking is therapeutic, sometimes challenging, and also a necessity (while I love going to restaurants, it’s just not an option every day). In college, my three most oft-”cooked” items were: Pasta Roni, quesadillas, and frozen pizza.

I realize this is not unusual college behavior, but once I graduated, I decided to learn how to cook more creatively and with more variety. From there, cooking became a hobby, especially during law school, because, well, I had to eat, so the time I spent cooking or baking became an enjoyable respite from the endless studying. (And, also, it led to such as dilemmas as: make banana bread or review for exams.)

Learning how to cook is easier these days, thanks to blogs, the Food Network and how-to videos on YouTube. I personally don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t google things like “how many ounces in a cup/how to make [insert trendy dish] that I found at [insert trendy restaurant]/corgi puppies. ANYWAY, despite this, I have learned so many dishes and techniques from cookbooks.

Maybe it is the nostalgia of looking at my mom’s cookbooks as a child, but I love having actual cookbooks on my bookshelf. I like tabbing my favorite recipes, flipping through looking at the pictures, and, most importantly, writing notes in the cookbooks. I like to note when something didn’t work in a recipe, when a substitute ingredient worked just fine, or when more or less of ingredient would have improved the recipe. This is really how you learn to cook – not by blindly following a recipe – but by testing, tasting, and improving.

So, let’s get to the good stuff. Below are some of my favorite cookbooks!

Cookbook You Must Own: Joy of Cooking

Joy of Cooking is the best cookbook because it has a large variety of recipes, all the way from the most basic – grilled cheese sandwich, scrambled eggs –  to the complicated – croissants, braised bear (not a joke). But, it also has everything in between; everything a home cook should know how to make, like roast chicken, cake from scratch, fresh bread, and homemade sauces and condiments. Everyone that cooks at home should have Joy of Cooking as a reference.

Best Healthy Cookbook: Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen

Because I love to cook and bake, I naturally like to eat. Because of this, I try to eat somewhat healthy during the week, so that I can indulge more on the weekends at brunch or a new restaurant, and so that I can test out that pastry recipe I have been eying. Super Natural Every Day is my go-to cookbook. I make something from it almost every week. Some of my favorite recipes are the chickpea wraps, green lentil soup, and the bran muffins. And, brunch doesn’t always have to be unhealthy – the baked oatmeal  is my favorite cold-weather breakfast. I first made this during a snow day when law school classes had been canceled, and so now I crave it when it is cold and snowy outside. There’s a sneak peek at the cookbook here.

Best Baking Cookbook – Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe and Joy the Baker Cookbook (tie) 

I chose two cookbooks here because I think one is more for an experienced baker (Flour), while the other is for all skill levels (Joy the Baker Cookbook). Flipping through Flour makes me want to go on a baking spree – it has recipes for everything from homemade oreos and pop-tarts to chocolate eclairs and multi-layer cakes. It also teaches you how to make a variety of different kinds of pastry, bread & pie doughs. The recipes are slightly more complicated, but the instructions are super-detailed, which especially helped when I made a homemade caramel sauce for the first time (which was for the pineapple upside-down cake). Also, a number of the recipes call for equipment that not everyone has in their kitchen. Without a stand mixer, for example, some of the recipes might be off-limits (at least they were to me because I refused to knead dough by hand). But, if you want to put the time and effort into learning how to bake (which, in my opinion, is worth it), I definitely recommend this book.

On the other hand, Joy the Baker Cookbook has simple but delicious recipes, and any home baker could make most of the recipes. For example, the book has an easy no-roll pie crust recipe that makes pie crust a lot less daunting. The recipes are easy, but still delicious and creative. Favorites from this cookbook include the single serving melty chocolate cake and the banana bourbon bread pudding (I love boozy desserts!). The author also has a blog with a great recipe index.

Best Vegetarian/Vegan Cookbook: Vegan On the Cheap

My mom gave me this book one summer when I stopped eating meat. That was a few years ago, and even though I decided to go back to eating meat, I try to make as many meals without it as I can. This book has some easy and affordable recipes: indian-spiced lentil ragu with spinach and tomatoes, curried vegetable salad, and linguine with lentils and roasted butternut squash. And, if you don’t want to use the vegan mayo and cheese that is called for in some of the recipes, use the real stuff! Cooking is about customizing meals based on your tastes.

Best Cookbook Based on a Blog: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

The number of cooking blogs out there is insane – seriously, everyone and their mom has a cooking blog. And, a lot of these blogs now have cookbooks. I have picked out one of my favorites, which I think really stands on its own as a cookbook. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, first of all, has gorgeous food photography. This book tops the list solely for food styling, but luckily the recipes stand up to the photos. I haven’t had this cookbook for very long, so I haven’t tried as many of the recipes but I already have a few favorites. For Christmas dinner, I made the balsamic and beer-braised short ribs with parsnip puree, and I plan on trying the mushroom bourguignon in the next few weeks. This cookbook also has many breakfast and dessert recipes, ensuring that you will get multiple uses out of it!

Hopefully, these cookbooks will inspire to start a cookbook collection, or add on to an existing one. I love the idea of passing on and sharing cookbooks especially with handwritten notes inside – the recipes will have become your own and can continue on with your family and friends. What are some of your favorite cookbooks? Any categories that I got wrong or right? I would love to hear your recommendations!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m hungry! If you would like to follow more cookbook recommendations from Sarah, you can follow this Pinterest board!