Defining Success (Recipe: Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies)

As many of you know, I recently returned from San Francisco where I attended a food blogging conference. I’m not going to write a whole recap. I’m not going to gush about all the wonderful people I met and got to see again. Connecting with those friends was a wonderful experience, but I’m honestly just not up for that. What I am going to do is get something off my chest that has been bugging me since I returned home.

Blogging has changed a lot since I began doing it 4 years ago. Success has been defined in so many different ways, even though I firmly believe that success, when it comes to something like blogging, is extremely subjective.

The air of the conference and many of the people who seemed to be “experts” made it seem like if you weren’t the next big thing, just forget it…why bother? Should I feel that because my goal is not necessarily to write a cookbook that I’m not successful? I don’t have a desire to be on The Food Network, so am I not successful? What happened to just blogging and being the best at blogging you can be and that equating to success? Why is it that simply blogging…sharing our gift and life with the world through this platform, seems to not be good enough anymore?

I am incredibly proud of my friends who have taken the next step in their careers by achieving their goals of cookbooks and shows and a zillion Facebook fans and blog followers, but I’m equally as proud of my friends who are finding their voice and refining their sites in an effort to fine tune what they are delivering. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Becoming the best you that you can be, not the best you someone else thinks you should be?

And I’m being ornery again and throwing in a completely random recipe. Well, maybe not so random… we could all be our own little cookie cutter versions of what someone else thinks is successful, but I certainly think life is a lot more interesting when there is a whole bunch of variety thrown in, don’t you?

Kittencal’s Slice N’ Bake Sugar Cookies from

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature ( no substitutes)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract ( can use 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • white sugar (optional)
  1. In a mixing bowl cream the butter with sugar for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add in egg yolk and both extracts; beat until no sugar granules remain.
  3. Beat in vanilla pudding mix until combined.
  4. In a small bowl combine the flour with baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture and beat until combined (the mixture will be dry and slightly crumbly).
  5. Remove the dough to a surface and gently knead the dough until it comes together (this will take only a few seconds).
  6. Roll into one large log or two smaller logs.
  7. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until hard (about 4 or more hours).
  8. Set oven to 350 degrees F.
  9. Slice into slightly over 1/4-inch thickness (you may coat the slices in sugar if desired).
  10. Place onto a greased baking sheet/s.
  11. Bake for about 8 minutes or until light golden brown.
  12. Allow to sit and harden slightly in the pan before removing (the cookies will harden upon sitting in the pan).

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  1. Melanie says

    I’m not a blogger just a mighty blog reader and I agree with what you said whole-heartedly! I hope you just keep doing what you do and enjoy the heck out of it! Can’t wait to try the sugar cookies.. they sound fab!!

  2. says

    Wow; could not have said it better myself…and funny, while I have been sad that because of an injury that I’ve not been able to attend ANY conferences this year; after the fact reading of a lot of commentaries have made me less sad about that fact.

    I have been putting recipes online for 15 ( yes, FIFTEEN) years. First as a convenient repository for myself and then as a resource for friends, family and yes, even strangers. In truth…I chose to change a regular website format to a blog because professionally I needed to work with WordPress in my ‘real’ life as a web developer and using my own site for that learning experience was a good choice. In doing that, and getting involved on Twitter I found myself in the food blogging community; something I did not know existed until that effort.

    I’ve made some wonderful relationships; some true friends and have enjoyed being a part of this community but I have always struggled with the notion that so many food bloggers are only doing this while waiting for their idea of the real deal. The book deal, the TV appearance, whatever. It actually makes me wonder sometimes…do they love to cook or is it all about using blogging as a public stepping stone to what they ‘really’ want.

    I’m lucky in that I have no big aspirations regarding my blog; I plan to continue with what I’ve been doing…make what I love, take photos and tell a bit of a story. I’m sometimes most amazed at the discussion of writing involved and the book business. Makes me wonder…are people blogging JUST to get a book deal and not because they love to blog? Even wonder if they are cooking for the same reason. What a shame…sort of discredits that whole notion of authenticity doesn’t it?

    I am so glad to see your honest commentary and the equally honest comments of your readers. I’m so not impressed with people that are highly impressed with themselves and like Jeanne seemed that way even from afar; so not my cup of tea.

    I also really identify with Pat’s comments; I may be older than a lot of the attendees, with two children aged 27 and 30 and one very comforting thing about reaching a certain age is exactly what she said…I’m not in competition with anyone else and certainly will not define my success based on theirs. I know the real value of staying true to personal ideals and not dancing to someone else’s drummer; you’re right Pat, it is a happy place!

  3. says

    Hey lady, great post!!! i thought the exact same thing these past weeks with everyone talking about SF conference and i was so fed up with it all i couldnt even look at my damn Twitter anymore from people glorifying the conference and people whining and crying about the horror of not going. it’s pathetic and its almost embarrassing to be part of this community at time. I don’t understand why blogging needs a conference! you aren’t supposed to be taught to blog, that isn’t what a blog is, the blog is your own journal. Im so glad you wrote this down because i have been thinking about writing a very similar post, but with my writing style it would probably come off a bit harsh….i started blogging about 4 years ago too when i was 20 and there were barely any blogs worth note aside from C&Z, Bron Marshal and Tartine Gourmand, the famous blogs hadn’t even started yet! it’s just crazy how much of it has changed, how it almost seems like an industry. that’s what is is, people are turning food blogging into an industry that you must network, be popular and spend lots and lots of money in to be the best rather than simply doing what you like to do for yourself and for your sanity. blogging is private on the inside with words and images as the only interaction with the public, thats how it should be. I moved from the US to Brazil so im absolutely certain there is never going to be a blog conference here any time soon. And there really aren’t many outside of the US….as with everything Americans have to pump testosterone into everything. why are we like that!!! well anyways, glad to read your words and im sorry the conference seemed so elitist. the best thing in the end though is that no one can ever tell you how to blog!!

  4. says

    I think it is fabulous to come home from the conference and share with everyone what you experienced. I too felt that I had so much to say. I came home from a different conference last year and funny enough what you said above is really how I felt. It was almost like I was in high school again at the conference. It was really “who you knew.” Yet I came home from BlogHer Food and I felt that a large majority of the people attending were very authentic and present. I felt that most people took the time to say hello to me because they wanted to. Not because they wanted another number to follow them.

    At the same time, I do hope to make blogging a business and like anything in life you have to put yourself out there in order to make money. This includes bringing up numbers, having a following etc. But I don’t personally feel that makes me inauthentic for wanting money for something that I love doing. I adore writing and to think that I could get paid for it makes my heart beat faster. I think with everything there is a balance. Most of the people that I met at BlogHer wanted their blog to be more than a hobby and they were there to gain knowledge on how to be a better writer, to take better photographs, to feed their children healthier lunches, how to take advantage of SEO and how to use their voice.

    And I will add that I did go to Penny’s session and really, that passion she has is what I took away from the conference. In fact my first post was mostly about her. It made me love what I do, the writing and photography, seem important. As if I had a story to share with the world.

  5. says

    Thank you for this post. I’ve never been to a conference (probably never will), I gave up “keeping up with the Joneses” a long time ago. I blog because I love to share my thoughts, recipes and photos. It keeps me connected with my family in other states and allows me to share and connect with some amazing people I’ve met on this crazy world wide web. When I make something delicious, I get to share it with hundreds of people. That’s pretty cool.

    I refuse to feel the pressure to post X number of times a week. I doubt I’ll ever write a cookbook (although I’d love to have that to share with my family), or have million followers, heck a thousand followers would freak me out.

    I would love to sit and hang with some of the fantastic folks whose blogs I read daily, but if that never happens, I’ll be ok with that.

    Once my blog becomes a chore..I’ll be done with it.

    I’m thankful that I have a handful of faithful reader. If it becomes bigger, that would be awesome and if it stays just the way it is now, thats fine too.

    Thanks again for opening up this issue to discussion, I really enjoyed reading all these responses.

  6. says

    It’s kind of like high school. All you want is to make friends and get the best grades you know how to get, but instead you get so caught up in wearing the right shoes, sitting at the right lunch table, and being perceived the way you think you should be. The irony? The successful bloggers are just as insecure as the unsuccessful. We all just want to be accepted, and if any of us think that’s going to come from a million fans and a cookbook, we’re wrong. Thanks for the honesty. And the gorgeous photo of cookies. [Drool.]

  7. says

    When I went to BlogHer earlier this year, the thing that bothered me the most was how many people were more interested in dropping names and trying to figure out who the “in” was out of all of us than actually talking about blogging and food and writing. And I absolutely hate that atmosphere. So I know how you feel. I wished I could go to BlogHer but more to meet some of the bloggers who I’ve interacted with on-line day in and day out for the past two years…to put names to faces and posts. Not to try to sell myself to any company. And if that’s what people’s main motives were for going, then I think that’s kind of sad.

    Great post.

  8. says

    Oh my, your post and these responses are wonderful. This is exactly what this community should be about – a fabulous open forum of ideas, suggestions and inspiration. No matter what the goal, if heart and soul are going into the task than the message should remain true.
    I always say “take what you like and leave the rest.” If you don’t like someone, walk away. You don’t like a food on your plate- -don’t eat it. If we all follow our paths with great intentions and smiles on our faces then we should all have great success, no matter what that success is.
    I am very happy that we spent time together this weekend. I think you are a wonderful woman & you throw a damn great party :)

  9. says

    I think that we as individuals need to define success. If I help one person try something new I am a success, or my blog gives me an outlet because I now live in a rural area and don’t know that many people, etc. I don’t think our success should be defined by others. I think I occasionally get caught up in what is seen as ‘success’ and occasionally need to remind myself why I started my blog in the first place!
    The cookies look good (I’m all for a cookie recipe that takes out the rolling out of cookie dough multiple times!)

  10. says

    Kristen, thank you for having the courage to say what I believe many of us think. We can’t all be the next big {fill in your own blank} but we can all strive to be the blogger that we can, to provide value in our stories or recipes, and to be our honest selves while we do it. I’m tired of other people imposing their definition of success upon me. I feel like I say this constantly, but I’ll say it again…there’s room enough for all of at the table so what purpose does it serve for us to put each other down?

  11. says

    Kristen, one of the things I loved so much about you when meeting you at the Big Summer Potluck is just how honest and authentic you are. I really appreciate you having the courage to write this post, as I’m sure there are so many people out there like me who felt left out or that we’re not in the “in crowd” because we didn’t attend the conference. Often times I get caught up in what everyone else says a successful blogger should be, when most of the time that picture of success has nothing to do with who I am. I started blogging because it was fun, and I want to continue blogging because it’s fun and because I cherish of all the wonderful people I’ve become friends with in the process. Personally, I’ll be happy if I never go to a big food blogger conference…but I sure am looking forward to the next Big Summer Potluck. :-)

  12. says

    As usual your voice is pure and real. I had an incredible experience this past weekend, but I am so refreshed to get to the core of it. Because after biting through the shiny outer colorful skin and the juicy sweet flesh, the core hosts the seeds and that is what truly makes one grow isn’t it? Thank you for your gentle strength and wisdom filled words.

  13. says

    I think you’re great at what you do, and I hope you keep doing it! I love your style AND your recipes! Your blog is indeed one of my favorites. You seem real, and I appreciate that. Not everyone does…seem real, that is.

  14. says

    Well, if success was defined by how many hits you got a day or writing a book, I’d have been gone a long time ago! Yes, it’s fun when I get lots of comments (not a common occurrence) or someone new checks my site. However, I just like putting good recipes out there (or sometimes not so good). As to you, keep going…I reference your site quite often and love the recipes you put up.

  15. says

    I loved this post. I echo your sentiments. And I resist letting others define success for me. I have not pursued a cookbook contract, either, nor do I pine for my own cooking show (if you knew me, you’d realize just funny that would be- me in front of a camera!). I don’t have a publicist. Blogging is- for me- first and foremost a creative act of self expression, with a big dash of helping others cope with living gluten-free. And, yeah. It helps me pay my bills and live life as an artist. But I resist branding myself. I loathe the politicization of friendships. I am not- nor have I ever been- a member of any In Crowd. So, Babycakes, you are not flying solo on this one. Far from it. Keep doing what you do- so beautifully. Do what you love. Life is too short for anything less. xox Karina

  16. says

    Thank you for this post Kristen! Thank you for being real and for being you! I admire you for writing and expressing your feelings about this past weekend. San Fran was my first conference and for some reason I was expecting something else not necessarily from the sessions but from the other bloggers. I came home disappointed and with a lot of open questions. I soon realized that I blog for one reason only…to share and to be creative. I will keep doing that and let the others keep doing what they do because I don’t strive to be the same “best” that they do.
    Thanks again Kristen in more ways than one. I only wish I had the nerve to go up to you and say hello. I was the shy girl who smiled but never said hello. :)

  17. says

    The thing that really resonated with me about what you said was about how the stress was on getting something ELSE out of blogging – the cookbook deal, the TV appearance, whatever. So that is essentially saying flat out that blogging itself isn’t enough, that it is something to be graduated FROM, and that strikes a chord with me because I contend with a similar attitude at work regarding my department sometimes. It’s time to give credit where it is due. I do a real job despite what some people might think, and blogging well is a goal in itself, not a stepping stone to “real” goals.

    I could also start going off about how the environment is skewed at this sort of conference, because it costs a bomb to go to it, so it prices out people who don’t have that kind of money (or paid time off from work!) to spare. But that is a whole other thing, so I’ll shut up.

  18. says

    Thank you. I said it a few weeks back, but I’m not into blogging to be the next big thing. I just want to have fun, but do it well. I’ve gotten more involved in different groups, Twitter, etc, but more because I want to learn (and there is so much to learn!) and also to meet new people along the way. No way on earth would I want a TV show, and the only cookbook I plan on writing is one that I print at home to give to my children of our family’s favorite recipes! It’s so true, that success is different for everyone, and I need to figure out what my definition is, not anyone else’s.

    And thank you for the cookie recipe — it’s perfect for what I need right now! :)

  19. says

    I love this post. Thanks for having the courage to write it. I learned a lot at the conference and met many wonderful bloggers – it was fun to have the opportunity to chat with you!. But I too came home with mixed emotions.

    Your cookies look like a perfect after school treat.


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