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resolutions for 2015 – because, resolutions.

resolutions, 2015.

my ultra-sophisticated office, also known as “the dining room.”

I witnessed a breakdown happen in mid-December, just before the holidays really kicked into gear; it was abrupt, tense, and filled with emotion…and it was on Instagram. I don’t know this food blogger/Instagrammer personally, but it seems she was overwhelmed by the pressure to live a perfect, beautifully-lit, gorgeously photographed “life” on social media. It seems as though she had a big plan to push her brand into the spotlight, but it had somehow fallen apart, dramatically and publicly, and now there’s zero trace of her anywhere – account, deleted – shortly after she posted all of this.

I can’t stop thinking about it. For me, it’s a cautionary tale, and it’s also more than that: If I’m 100% honest with myself and all of you, variations of these thoughts have crossed my mind, and I would bet (and I know) they’ve crossed some of yours – bloggers, Instagrammers, Guardians of the Social Media Galaxy – because pressure in this business? It’s everywhere, on all levels, and from all sides. Mostly, though, the pressure we place on ourselves is what takes us out. I should say here that I’m actually not winding up to have my own breakdown in this post: quite the opposite, in fact. So let’s chat about life. *pats chair*

This year was turbulent, and not just for me, either. Filled with bumps and detours and distractions. Some of you got married. Some of you had babies. Some of you got married and are also now having babies (file under: overachiever), had family emergencies that took priority, moved, moved and also had big deal school things, or just simply hit a wall. There seemed to be an almost universal struggle to stay on a regular posting schedule, to streamline thoughts and ideas, and to keep up with social media. And when you think about it – considering most of us have jobs and families and things having nothing to do with food which take up a decent portion of our time – it’s amazing any of us write or cook food at all.

I am lucky enough to actually have a job relating to food (aside from my job as Mother of the Year  *ha!* to the Wee One, that is), and I still struggled. Writing my column became loads easier: it was the unexpected perspective on food that threw me for a loop. Everything food-related became a project, a contest, a mystery to be solved. I couldn’t just make recipes, oh no: I had to alter and adjust and improve or there was no point in even starting…and if my post frequency is any indication, most of the time there was yes, no point in even starting, because I had analyzed my way into a corner with every. recipe. I looked at. I think there’s a lot of benefit to having a very analytical brain, but when allowed to roam free…problems. You know the scene in A Beautiful Mind where Russell Crowe is furiously scribbling equations on library windowpanes? That’s what it felt like every time I started to think about food.

And that sucks. And I’ve always done it with virtually everything in life, because that’s me and it’s how I operate when left unchecked. But now, I’ve checked myself before, as they say, I wrecked myself.

Which feels awesome. Because this year taught me that even with all that crap going on, I can write. And I can write pretty well; I just have to carve out the time to focus. When I do that? I feel AWESOME, because I love this space, and I love making food, and I love talking to all of you. No breakdowns this year, people! I have officially hit my stride, and I feel more psyched than ever about 2015 and moving this space forward. That being said, here’s the plan – and this is the part I had to rewrite like 4 times because the very writing of it went against one of the goals, which is:

Write Tight(er) – Because I couldn’t be worse at that. Words are a forest I love to meander through, and very rarely do I take the beaten path. It can be a good thing, but so can paths, so I plan to make my words count more. Say things with less letters but not less feeling. Be more thoughtful about the words I write. *this paragraph would have normally been 3: I did it!*

Quality Over Quantity (but let’s not go overboard) – This is a perennial goal, and it’s a good one…except for when either of those things take over. Too much quality, I end up working hard on things which never see the light of day. Too much quantity, and I’m backlogged on posts which, you guessed it; never see the light of day. I’m going to (once again) work on balancing these things with a few internal rules and regulations behind the scenes, but i’ll say this: i think i’ve really got it figured out this year. We’ll see though, right? Because it’s mid-January and I’ve done precisely nothing. Although that’s a lie: i’ve been cooking, just not writing. Yet.

Every Recipe is not a Project – I know what happened this year…exposure happened. More specifically, local exposure. Ever hear the thing about how introverts would so much rather stand up in front of total strangers and give a speech rather than stand in front of people they know? This year felt like I was living out that scenario a little bit, and I learned from it, but it was scary. To make myself feel like less of a total hack, I overcompensated: everything had to be like the column, everything had to be ultra-interesting and composed and well-thought out. A cake just couldn’t be a cake, it had to be a 10-layer combination of flavors never seen before by humans. And because of that being a recipe for mega-failure, things didn’t make it to the blog as much as they should have. But then I realized…

I Am Cool Enough – I’ve spent a few years being nationally known in a little bit of a way, and aside from an initial mini-freak out of knowing people were reading the blog, I was cool with it. I felt good, even. I love all of you and I wasn’t nervous because you were all, on a multitude of levels, my very encouraging friends who lived varying distances away from me.

And then it hit too close to home. People knew who I was, not in far-off lands like Canada and Scotland, but like, in the grocery store. For an introvert (even one with an outgoing personality) with a generous dash of social anxiety (yep) it was semi-terrifying. I was excited but also weirded out. I value a certain amount of anonymity, and I don’t have that anymore, and it’s taken some getting used to, I have to say. It was hard.

It’s still hard, although so much easier now that I’ve totally settled in to my role at Feast, my role here, and what I bring to both places. I’m the person at the party who won’t talk to you unless you begin a conversation with me; when you do, it’s like I’m the most verbal person you know. Tight knit groups are intimidating to me, like being around a constantly evolving inside joke that you haven’t a clue about. The St. Louis food community? Everyone seems to know everyone, but I’ve been lucky to have a handful of people start the conversation, as it were, with me, and for that, I’m grateful. I hope to be less of a nerd and start a few (awkward) conversations of my own this year. So,

Let’s Do This More Often – Not gonna lie: I love you guys. For your support and encouragement in both tangible and intangible ways. thank you for being my readers, my commenters, my friends. One of my big reasons for doing this is the feedback I get from all of you. I’ve let random things get in the way in recent months, and it’s kept me away from a good portion of my blog reading: I’ve missed it. So i’m getting back to it, and i’m excited to see what everyone has been doing. And I’ll be talking to you, through comments and catch-up emails and the like, because I’ve missed being around regularly. I’m finally going to get around to finding new blogs to love and interact with, so if you have any suggestions, let me know: I already have some in mind. My hardest thing: the dreaded First Comment.

Am I right? Ugh the first comment on someone’s blog is excruciating: do you say how you found them? is that weird? For me, it’s the virtual equivalent of starting a conversation, and it’s always fraught with worry. So here’s what: I’m going to gather my nerve and just do it. And I invite you to as well: I know some of you out there have read this blog for awhile and you don’t comment, and I’m cool with that! Lord knows I know how weird that feels sometimes. But I’m a nerd too, and if you feel like commenting – maybe even for the first time – don’t get overthinky about it: I’d love to hear from you. I’m not really big into numbers – number of comments, number of Facebook likes, number of Instagram followers – but I am big into hearing from you, because I think you can learn from it and find common ground with people. You know me: I am a partially-to-fully open book here. I’d like to know you back. For those of you I do hear from, my unending thanks to you, and I’d love to hear from you more often and get your thoughts on things, which is why I’m working to…

Reboot The Just One Question Project – because how much fun was that? I hate that I have to speak of it as a “was,” but with everything going on with all of you and in my own life, it needed a hiatus. But we started something here, and that something was really informative and nurturing, and I’d love to continue it. If you’re on board, I’m on board: Just One Question Project participants, expect to hear from me shortly.

In the meantime, I have all your answers to the last question, and i’ll be posting them along with a new question in the coming weeks. I’m excited to start the new year off fresh with some really good conversations about this whole writing and cooking and talking about it thing we have going on here, and I hope those of you in the project are looking forward to it as well.

Ultimately, It’s This – And I’m stealing this one a little from Ashley at Local Haven (incidentally, a blog i’ve read for awhile but never commented on, but plan to), from a post I saw on her Instagram account: I’m going to slow down, do good work, and love what I do. That’s like the best group of goals ever, and I think in some way it applies to all of us, no matter how we approach our respective corners of the internet. I want to do good work; the best work I can, for me and for you. I want to be delighted by it.

Now if you’ll allow me, I’m doing something right now I’ve wanted to do for awhile: I’m going through some of the recipes I’ve bookmarked, and I’m making them. The me of last year would have said some of this was boring: the refreshed me thinks it’s high time I got some of this posted, because maybe some of you will like these recipes to. Expect those in the coming weeks as I retrain myself to just. make. food. (and then write about it).

Back to blogging, folks: see you in a few days with some tight writing.

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  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats January 13, 2015 at 10:59 am

    SHANNON!!!!! Oh how I’ve missed you! (and your blog). I’m officially back at work which means I have slightly more “free” time 😉 And obviously my priority is to catch up on your recipes and life (tho I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who let blog-reading slip by the wayside.) It’s definitely hard not to compare one’s life to other’s lives these days, what with social media, etc. But honestly, it’s so easy to paint one picture online and have another one behind the scenes. I’ve come to realize that even if all of these bloggers or friends seem to have it all together (and maybe they actually do), that I’m just not as good at multitasking as them. I’m easily overwhelmed and can only handle doing one or maybe two things at a time…and right now those things are taking care of my baby, and attempting to find time to eat so that I don’t waste away to nothing. Poor Nate has unfortunately dropped down to #3 🙁 and blogging? Well, it might finally be making it back on the list, but certainly not with any frequency.
    You’re so lucky that you now have a job where you get to write (! because you’re awesome at it) AND it involves food. That’s really an amazing opportunity. I think the “Every Recipe is not a Project” point is an important one. As bloggers we want to come out with the next trend, or just super creative recipe. But honestly, when I read blogs sometimes I’m just looking for something quick and easy to make for dinner! Nothing fancy or time consuming or creative. I think that’s what I often post as well. And now with a baby, I’m thinking I’m gonna become a slowcooker queen (hopefully).
    Wow, I totally never knew that’s how you felt in social situations, but it’s like I’m reading something I could have written myself. “I’m the person at the party who won’t talk to you unless you begin a conversation with me; when you do, it’s like I’m the most verbal person you know.” <– ME!!! So let's make a deal that we both initiate the conversation with each other when we finally meet in person 😉 But as far as people liking you, it doesn't matter what "cool" is to you (you're actually not cool, btw, you're A.W.E.S.O.M.E), people are going to like you and people aren't. But who really cares who doesn't like you? It's usually people you don't like back anyway.
    I'm looking forward to what you've got coming this year, even if it's away from the blog 🙂

    • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats January 13, 2015 at 11:01 am

      omg, i totally wrote a novel on your page and didn’t realize it til it actually posted…and it was the first comment and now i’m TOTALLY self conscious!

      • Reply shannon January 13, 2015 at 3:16 pm

        Well i wrote a book back to you so we’re square. 🙂 TWO BIG COMMENTS IN A ROW! and you know i love a novella on the comments section; consider my day made.

    • Reply Dana Staves January 13, 2015 at 2:52 pm

      I loved your reply here, Amy – I think you hit on something really key: we all want to be the one who sets that next trend. We want to be the one who came up with cupcakes or quinoa or sprinkles or whatever. I myself have become so stalled out in the face of that kind of pressure that I’m like, screw it! Cereal for dinner!

      • Reply shannon January 13, 2015 at 3:17 pm

        Cereal FOREVER, Dana. You just described my almost everyday feelings.

      • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats January 13, 2015 at 3:42 pm

        Thanks, Dana 🙂 I think you could totally have a blog, or at least an instagram account, about cereal for dinner.

    • Reply shannon January 13, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      Amy, I’ve missed you too! And it’s been so great seeing updates from time to time on the blog and on your Facebook about how you and Nate and Berkeley are doing. I can say this with certainty: mothering is hard, and it’s all-consuming, and when they’re that size? Your arms are busy all the time. So take your time, and just know that probably none of us has it together, and all of us probably push stuff on to the back burner simply because it’s just one more thing. Well, some of us may have it together, but let me be clear: I do NOT have it together. I am a hot mess like, 95 to 98% of the time. TRUST.
      I am lucky, and grateful, and challenged, and all the things. mostly, i’m thankful I was asked to do it because it allows me to experiment and get better, which is awesome. You’re so right about wanting to set the next trend or make some super-pinnable, super-genius recipe that is adored by people far and wide. I have dreams of Food52 stardom: not kidding. I aspire to be THAT blogger; the artsy one who just can’t. stop. rolling out. the awesome. And then i realize what you just said: recipes can be simple, and fast, and beautiful, and unfancy, all at the same time. I’m working on that b/c it’s probably what stopped me last year from posting more. If you need slow cooker tips, you let me know: i have some good recipes (bookmarked in my mind) because I use mine quite a bit. 🙂
      OMG i’m like a total idiot in social situations, Amy! Jeez, you should see me…it’s really something to behold and it’s a wonder ANYONE comes up and talks to me. 🙂 Let’s do make a deal: how about we hug and get it over with no matter if it’s awkward or not b/c that should break the ice. I’m in! And thank you for that, you’re going to make me teary (lie: you HAVE made me teary), and you’re so dead on: who cares who likes me and who doesn’t? because everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and what’s more, I just don’t think everyone is ready for this jelly, if you know what i mean. 😉
      I’m looking forward to things this year too! I feel like it’s going to be a big year in all aspects of life: like blog and work and home and all of it. I’m bracing myself but i’m super excited.

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats January 13, 2015 at 11:02 am

    What a seriously AMAZING post! I can’t even begin to tell you how much I echo a lot of the same thoughts (minus all that ‘famous’ stuff) ~ I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings you (and us!)

    • Reply shannon January 13, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks EEEEEEE it took all the thoughts to write it! I feel like a lot of us think that same way and have those same thoughts, but who really wants to talk about them in a public forum? THIS NERD, that’s who.
      Yo, i am super excited for 2015…for all of us. Maybe this is the year you’ll realize my fame is all a sham? Perhaps.

  • Reply Ashley January 13, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Lady, you’ve totally got this and are going to rock 2015 with your resolutions and your inherent awesomeness! I agree with the sentiment behind your resolutions, and if I were blogging (I know I’ve said it before, but hopefully soon!), I’d want to do the same things – take care of myself (as a person who isn’t perfect and who sometimes can go overboard with a project in pursuit of perfection), accept that I am who I am and others will take it or leave it (even though I’ll try to buy their affection with cookies), and do the activities I love and want to so instead of those I think I should. Except for finding a job. I both should and need to do that, despite enjoying my days home with kitteh and finally catching up on blog reading (I also fell behind over most of December, then decided I really need to cut some blogs out that I no longer cared about). I’m so excited to see what you do in 2015 and I hope I can keep up! 😉 Team Shannon!

    • Reply shannon January 13, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      Ashley, you have been Team Shannon for like, many years now, and I can never begin to thank you for that; your encouragement has meant so much to me, and our friendship even more. I’m eagerly anticipating your return to the blogging world – i don’t want to rush you but i miss your voice out there. 🙂 I love your goals: they’re perfect, and yet so hard for most of us to really do, right? They don’t sound lofty, but taking care of yourself and accepting who you are is so much harder than it sounds, i know…i struggle with those things daily.
      I’m excited to see what YOU do in 2015! And good luck with the job hunt – i hope you find something that you love and which also allows you a good amount of blog-writing time IS THAT SELFISH OF ME? 😉

  • Reply Dana Staves January 13, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Oh, Shannon, you kindred spirit, you. I whined to you about 87 times in 2014 about blogging and how hard it was and why did it all have to be so much struggle, and dear God the pressure, and is it really true that if you add vanilla to anything that it makes it new and that might be my big break?
    So I’m very happy to read this post from you because it hits on so many of the things that have made me an anxious blogger in the past year or so (ultimately, this all comes back to me, right?). I’m excited to see you back in the blog, bolstered up by these resolutions that are so succinct, so on point, and ultimately so relatable. This writing game is hard; add that to the complexity of, you know, life, and man alive, what have we gotten ourselves into? You’re shining a light on the path here, and I’m grateful for it.
    Brava to you, dear heart! I’m excited to read your words this year. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go perfect my Vanilla Harissa and begin my hostile takeover of Pinterest.

    • Reply shannon January 13, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      Too bad you don’t remember that i whined RIGHT BACK TO YOU as well, Dana: those talks really encouraged me and actually helped me (believe it or not) write this post. Something you said a little bit ago, totally in passing, really stuck with me: you said that you needed to stop acting like blogging was so precious and just do it. And it hit me like a brick wall, because it was precisely what i was doing, and had been doing, almost the entire year. And you saying that really broke loose some of the things which were keeping me from moving forward, so thank you for that. So much: i’ve said this before, but i really value our friendship, especially because of us being very kindred spirits (agree!) – writers have to stick together in this world. 🙂
      Thank you! and i’m excited that we’re all slowly becoming unblocked…i’ve missed you and i’m looking forward to catching up on reading and seeing where everyone’s at. I”m hoping the Just One Question project helps even more to get the band back together here, so to speak, to sort through some of the issues that seemed to be plaguing some of us in 2014: dear god, the pressure is right! It’s like you can’t catch a breath out there before someone’s on to the next brilliant thing, and here you are baking a dumb cake and wondering when you’ll hit on something amazing.
      I’m now cry-laughing over vanilla harissa, but is it wrong to simultaneously be wondering if it works? Sheesh. The GAME, man. #thuglife #pinterestlife

  • Reply Matt January 13, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    I fully expect that you follow through with your resolution and not just visit my new site, but comment at least once. Sarcasm is encouraged…no, required. Oh, and I’ve got a recipe coming that is loaded with Italian, raisiny goodness. In your face raisin haters!!

    • Reply shannon January 17, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Matt, i will totally stalk you. You barely had to ask, because wood-fired pizza. I’ll bring a side of sarcasm to pair with whatever you’re making.

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs January 13, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Writing well is hard. Throwing out at least half of what you write is the key, at least for me. But it’s fun when you get it right, isn’t it? And you get it right more than many. Good resolutions and a fun read — thanks.

    • Reply shannon January 17, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Agree: edit, edit, and edit again until all the clutter is gone: time-consuming, but so important. It’s great fun when you get it right! I think it’s that “nailed it!” moment that makes all the thinking and deleting seem not so bad. And thank you: i try really hard to get it right: i miss the mark at times, certainly, but i like to think i’m improving and learning as i go.

  • Reply Brianne January 14, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    I love this. I had to stop reading it to go get some tea, and then I just sat back down and got real with this. You say so much of what I want to say right now. The pressure is real; I overanalyze social media so much that it’s not that fun anymore. Life gets crazy, and that sucks up your brain power from doing things you might enjoy if you weren’t doing so many other things. I haven’t even had a chance to sit down and think like this, and I’m so freaking glad that you laid it all out here. This is so helpful and so motivating for me.

    You are such a talented writer and recipe developer! I have really enjoyed reading your Feast column, and though midcoast Maine doesn’t offer much of what you write about, your articles provide enough of an experience with something new that I’m usually not that sad when I can’t find the ingredient at the grocery store. I can’t wait to see what you do with 2015, friend. Let’s go!

    • Reply shannon January 17, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Brianne, i love that you love this! and that you took the time to read it and really get into it: that means so much to me, always, and it’s wonderful to hear. Thank you so much for always like, being here. I think we all maybe started with this great idea to write and take photos and eat our faces off and then yeah…social media pressures, comparisons to other bloggers, etc…it gets out of hand, and i think if you let it get to you (which i have many times) it really makes the entire process lame versus super enjoyable. I hate that feeling. Let’s really do it this year in terms of not letting that sort of insignificant junk get to us, yes? YES. I feel like i’ll need to re-read what i wrote here often through the year, which is why i tried to just be honest: i know i’m not the only one who gets bogged down with the randomness.

      thank you so, so much for that: i’m really enjoy writing the column, and i sometimes am like “geez who the HECK is going to try any of these weirdo things?” but people do! and i love hearing that it’s fun to read even if you can’t find some (or most) things in your stores there. 🙂

      *high fives* I’m all in: let’s go, 2015! BRING IT.

  • Reply movita beaucoup January 15, 2015 at 6:06 am

    You’ve summed it all up. Eloquently and just as I would expect you to if we were sitting on the couch sharing a coffee. Not the same coffee – we’d each have our own mugs. I started trying to have more fun on my blog several months ago, and I haven’t looked back. I don’t know how some people do it. The pressure is immense, and I wear yoga pants all the time! Let’s keep having The Fun, okay? It’s way cooler.

    Somewhat related: in an effort to make sure I could explain how the dough for Finnish Pulla comes together for those new to bread baking, we’ve consumed, like, 12 loaves of sweet bread in two weeks. This is the sort of experimentation we should be doing, according to 2.0. I can’t say I disagree.

    • Reply shannon January 17, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      If we were sitting on the couch sharing a coffee (out of two mugs, natch), i’d be wayyyy less eloquent: i prefer inadvertently wearing someone out with verbiage. And i remember talking to you about your “shift” and return to really having fun, and you can tell it in your writing: you ARE having fun, and i for one think it’s BRILLIANT: i mean, it’s a blog. We should have fun, right? WAY COOLER, AGREE.

      Listen, i’ve been waiting for the Finnish Pulla ever since i saw that Pulla series of jokes on Facebook (stalking is my area of expertise). I fully support and would recommend consuming large amounts of Finnish sweet bread, for quality. you have to know what it tastes like not only just out of the oven, but also at hourly intervals out. I mean, how else are you supposed to write about it? Keep up the good work.

  • Reply elizabeth January 15, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Hear hear! I too am seriously contemplating more resolutions while trying to get into gear the ones I’ve already decided to pursue, and like you many of them are around improving my writing (mainly by writing more often) and striking a balance between quality and quantity. I’m trying to use our recent move as a way to get out of some ruts that I had settled into when we were in Stamford to help spur my creativity and not fall into too many periods of funk.

    I’m SO looking forward to the Just One Question Project coming back–it was such a great series of thought exercises and helped me find some new blogs to follow!

    • Reply shannon January 17, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      *cheers* balance between quality and quantity is a tricky one: i like your resolution to write more often, because there’s something very helpful about frequency, and writing at regular intervals helps to work it naturally into your daily life and in turn, i think it makes it less precious and more relaxed. Forcing regular writing turns into an assignment, holding it in to make sure it’s perfect makes it too special almost: the balance between the two, when you hit it, feels SO GOOD; i hope you find it as you settle into your new place and the new year. 🙂

      I’m excited too! I miss that conversation i got to have with all of you monthly: it made me think and hopefully it got everyone else thinking, also. Really looking forward to doing that with all of you again, and feels good to hear others missed it. I’m hoping to get an email out in the coming week.

  • Reply Emma January 21, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    have you had to start wearing sunglasses in the grocery store to ward off your unrelenting fans? i really really hope so! xxoo

    • Reply shannon January 22, 2015 at 10:22 am

      Well, emma, my sunglasses are so ridiculous that i feel like it may make more MORE recognizable, so mostly it’s about hoodies and sweats.

      (j/k but someday, maybe) 🙂

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