Choose happy.

by Holly on April 19, 2012

in baking,dessert,happiness,positivity,rambling,recipes,vegan

This is my life.

I’m sitting on my uncomfortable couch biting my fingernails, fighting back tears and slowly yet meticulously typing this blog post to get each word just right. To explain exactly the feeling that’s pulled up a chair and plunked itself down into my life this week.

This is my life…right here in this moment…at exactly 9:54pm.

And I’m learning to love it. ALL of it.

I find it easy to evaporate into the warmth and ease of life when things are good, disappearing into love and friendship and unbridled smiles spreading contagiously from cheek to cheek.

When I’m having a good hair day and can wake up early enough to catch Saved By the Bell reruns and break cheese moratoriums just two days after making them and my head’s on straight and I’m rapping like a total white girl to Jay-Z in the shower before work and taking pride by investing in me and I’m able to be creative and write and create and be smart with my money and meditate and breathe and exercise and eat kale with ice cream and be so so thankful for the enormously full, bursting-with-good-things life I’ve been given. These things are good…all good.

But I find it can excruciatingly exhausting to love my life when the rhythm is off. When one foot won’t quite step in line with the other and something as innocuous as a paper cut sends me teetering towards the edge of sadness and ceaseless worry and what is this all for?

But I must…you must…we must! We must love life just as fiercely and just as passionately when we’re thrown into the tough stuff as when we’re sitting at happy hour with friends sipping a margarita at 5pm on a Friday. I take that back: we must love it even more.

This my friends is the real deal…the secret of life.

Happiness is a choice.

This I am learning and relearning with every decision and thought and courageous step I take in living my life’s adventure. It’s easy to be positive when life is good…but being positive when things are tough, that’s the real test. It’s eating the banana popsicle with a smile when you really wanted cherry. It’s not getting hired for that job you really wanted but holding faith that it’s because theres’s a bigger and more perfect job out there waiting for you. It’s being short on cash but donating money to Sally Struthers and those African children on TV because you know there are people out there much worse off than you. And remembering this EVERYDAY.

Even as the tears continue to well in my red eyes and the jagged piece of wood jutting out from my couch digs into my back and I look down to discover I’ve bitten off nearly ever fingernail I have, things are still okay. I can still choose to be happy.

I can put the horrible day behind me, get in the kitchen and do some soul-soothing baking.

Tahini Cookies, just in case you were wondering.

Served with a cup of peppermint green tea and two episodes of How I Met Your Mother, thankyouverymuch.

Tahini Cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10-12 minutes 

1/2 cup honey or agave nectar
1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 t vanilla extract
2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup roasted + salted sunflower seeds
1 t sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix honey, tahini and vanilla until combined. Set aside.  In a medium bowl, mix oats, chocolate chips and sunflower seeds. Add the tahini mixture and mix well. The batter will be thick.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the batter onto cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until slightly browned. Or, instead of baking into cookies, you can also make trail mix balls by rolling batter into 1-inch balls and storing in an airtight container.

Makes 24 cookies

**All photos by Stephanie, my friend and the lovely photographer behind Agates + Arrows


Ann April 19, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Chin up buttercup. You come across as one of the most well adjusted human beings ever, so I’m sure every thing will be just fine. The bad stuff just make the good even better. It’s all about balance right? (And really, a comfy couch is a great joy. Consider upgrading the cushions.)

I don’t know about these cookies though. They seem like they would taste like gooey oats and sesame seeds?

Bronwyn April 19, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Keep on tugging along, that is life. There is a note of choice in happiness to be sure. And it is sometimes perfect to embrace the moments when you need to cry, instead of denying those feelings.

Those cookies sound delicious, and so simple! Yum.

SingleNerdFemale April 20, 2012 at 12:12 am

A quote I often refer to when I’m going through rough times:
Humor is not a mood but a way of looking at the world. ~Wittgenstein

I also sing “Pennies from Heaven” a lot.

Keep loving every miserable moment. It will all pass.

Linds April 20, 2012 at 12:29 am

Your post reminded me of one of my absolute favorite quotations by Mark Twain:

“You’re about as happy as you make up your mind to be.”

Thanks for the powerful reminder that happiness is something we have to work toward and for the delicious, gluten-free recipe!

Lauren April 20, 2012 at 5:49 am

I have been feeling this exact same way lately! You always have a beautiful way to explaining it. :)

And a beautiful way of showing it. The cookies look outstanding! I need to use tahini more!

Hannah-lyz April 20, 2012 at 5:53 am

This post is just what I needed today. Things are tough here too, and sometimes I feel like this tiny little bouy floating in an turmoultious ocean, desperately grinning and hoping a small wave doesn’t send me under.
But you are right! We have to choose to be happy :) There are so many good things in my life, and I try to appreciate each and every one of them.
Sure, there will be days when all I want to do is curl up on the sofa, but it’s so important to pick yourself up again, bake something, paint something, and smile :)
I hope whatever it is which is stressing you out passes. You’re a lovely person, and you deserve a life as happy as you’re striving to be!

chelsey @ clean eating chelsey April 20, 2012 at 6:31 am

Such a great post – thanks for the reminders that some days will suck and you just have to keep on trucking!

Hillary April 20, 2012 at 6:57 am

This post was uber-timely. Two weeks ago, one of my former students committed suicide, and I was suddenly thrown into this scary, dark rabbit hole that was painful to crawl out of. If anything good came of her death, it was the fact that it snapped me back to reality and the realization that I have such a good life. I love and I am loved. I am safe. I am resilient. As long as I take a minute of every single day to remind myself of these things, I’ll be a better person.

Hope you’re feeling better already, Holly. Sending you happy thoughts and good vibes.

Alex @ IEatAsphalt April 20, 2012 at 7:02 am

I used to truly believe that things would get easier as I got older. And maybe in a few more years it will, once I feel settled and the pieces are a little more together. Now the highs and lows come much more quickly and sharper. Thank you for reminding me that in spite of everything going on, I can be happy though it. (And as my therapist always reminded me: that I am enough for my own fulfillment.) Sending you love.

Erica April 20, 2012 at 7:36 am

Totally agree….I’ve faced a couple poopie things lately and with the support of my loved ones- realize that those moments are the real test! And cookies always make things better. These are gorgeous

Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon April 20, 2012 at 7:49 am

Well said. I am a firm believer in the statement that happiness is a choice. We always have something going for us…it is just a matter of finding and appreciating those little things. On days when finding that glimpse of happiness feel impossible we can create it. In the form of cookies. Yours look delicious by the way!
I hope the weekend brings you nothing but wonderful things!

Evan April 20, 2012 at 8:39 am

Holly, this post is so wise and articulate. I call myself an optimistic person, yet I often get caught up in hating on my life situation when it’s difficult of things don’t go my way (i.e. lately)…but honestly, it’s easy to feel that way. You have to push through it and CHOOSE happiness – amen.

That’s exactly what I decided to do this past week, and last night, I had one of the coolest nights yet in my career. Reading this post was an affirmation of the power in positive thinking – one of a zillion reasons why I love to read your blog.

Beth J April 20, 2012 at 8:54 am

I’m not a big commenter, but I did want to say: this is a very inspiring post. Very well-written. :)

Elizabeth April 20, 2012 at 8:58 am

This is beautiful. Thank you much. It is something everyone needs to hear and you put it perfectly. And to make it better, those cookies look delicious. I can’t wait to make them.

emily (a nutritionist eats) April 20, 2012 at 9:12 am

Don’t you wish that you could just go back to age 22 sometimes? I feel like everything used to be easier….

Amanda @ MandaKayMakesIt April 20, 2012 at 9:28 am

Good for you choosing to be happy–that’s half the battle in overcoming anything life: always choose to find the positive, look to the brighter side, etc.

And I totally turn to baking/cooking, too, when I’m having a crappy day and need a bit of a pick-me-up. The key, though, is not to eat everything you make :)

Charlotte April 20, 2012 at 9:41 am

I will trade you my cherry popsicle for your banana! ;)

I am sure something wonderful is just around the corner for you because you are an amazing person and you deserve it! Love you.

Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table April 20, 2012 at 10:16 am

I feel you on the rhythm being off. I’ve been in a funk lately too. but you are so right about the choice. I’ve been shoveling happy down my throat all week… and I do actually feel a little better (though it could just be Friday talking).

Lots of hugs your way. Now please pass the cookies.

Laura April 20, 2012 at 10:21 am

Thanks for the reminder that when happiness doesn’t come naturally, because it’s just been one of those days (or weeks), we can choose to be happy instead. Putting on a smile or giving and getting a hug both go a long way. And yes baking does wonders too I have learned! Smile:)

Dorothy April 20, 2012 at 10:26 am

Definitely a great post reminding us that the bigger picture is where it’s at, even though sometimes the little difficulties can make us forget…. I’m so guilty of that! Thanks for the reminder and keep up the happy spirits, Holly!

Jennifer April 20, 2012 at 11:33 am

I too believe that happiness is a choice. I also have terrible self-motivation and it’s quite easy for me to slip into the moodiness and ignore the choice at hand. So when all else fails, my go to is my Sex & the City DVD collection and home made popcorn! :)

Uncle Tommie Timbertoes April 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Last night while watching TV I actually drew inspiration from an airline commercial. It was talking about an airplane taking off and showed a plane speeding down a runway. I don’t remember the exact words but it spoke of how the air that pushes against plane to keep it on the ground is the same air that, at the right speed, lifts it off the runway and soaring to its destination. Much like life, I think. The things in life that appear to be oppressive forces designed to keep you from being happy are the very things you need to lift yourself past them. That’s just the way it works.

Kim April 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm


Lauren @ The Climbing Chef April 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Awww, don’t cry!!!! I’m sorry times are rough right now… I’m kind of in a funk too. The cookies look amazing and I agree that baking can fix every problem :)


Chelsea @ Designs on Dinner April 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Life is hard. Friends, laughter, food, and family make it much easier. Thanks for the inspiring post. Once I learned that happiness is a choice, my life became so much better! :)

Lauren @ Recipes for a Quarterlife April 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm

This post could never come at a better time for me. Many thanks! and a virtual hug, for good measure.

Maren April 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm

because this life we live is LEGEN…WAIT FOR IT…..DARY!!!

Love you friend. Sometimes a good, hard cry is what we need to feel better and stay positive. Hang in there! xoxo

Dana @ My Little Celebration April 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Friend, I’m so sorry you had a rotten day! But I love your willingness to be transparent and honest with us – your loyal readers – and am constantly encouraged by your writings.

I’ll say a little prayer for ya today, that’d you’d experience God’s joy in life daily, no matter how up or down it may be.

Now hand me one of them cookies! Or, I’ll just come to your place and we can eat a few while getting our ‘How I Met Your Mother’ on.

Deal? Deal.

Megan (Braise the Roof) April 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm

I’m sorry you had a rough day! You have a great attitude, though, and you’re a strong lady. And you have cookies. :)

Kim April 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Great post, Holly. Wise words that I need to remember and put into action. It’s terribly hard sometimes…but we’re all in this together!

mammaeverythingtarian April 20, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Wise beyound your years…just believe it. Love that Tommy Timbertoes!!!!!!

Matt @ The Athlete's Plate April 20, 2012 at 6:39 pm

I so agree with this. Great post Holly!

Sarah April 20, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Lovely, lovely post – the words, the recipe, and the photos! I happen to adore the stripe shirt as well, since I’m a stripe-aholic.

Abby @ Change of Pace April 20, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Hope you’re ok! Baking is soul-southing; well put!
Thanks for another great vegan recipe.

Kate April 20, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Oh girl. I was having the same kind of morning yesterday. It’s amazing how easy it is to feel “together” when things are going right. And how, when you’re feeling down, one tiny thing can make you feel like you’re spiraling toward failure. I hope writing it out – actually writing out that you are choosing happy – made a difference. I know it does for me. Thank goodness for blogs, right? It can be part of that “fake it til you make it” thing in that, if you project happiness – even if you’re struggling for it in that moment – you’ll get there. Really and truly. I hope today was a better one!

Tamar April 20, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Oh, man, I hear you. I’ve had moments…months, even, where nothing seems right and it’s so much easier to let yourself slip into a very dark place. You’re so right that the only way through it is to decide to get through it, because sometimes, it doesn’t get better when you want it to. Thank goodness for baking! Chopping vegetables is helpful, too, I find. I know all of your readers are rooting for you to find some peace.

Madeline - Greens and Jeans April 21, 2012 at 7:54 am

I love you!

elizabeth April 21, 2012 at 10:29 am

I know these moments SO well! And during those times I wonder, “why now, why am I falling apart now, what is my trigger, whyyyyyyy?” When other times I hit a bump, back up and try again another way without breaking stride. My boyfriend says, “I’ve never dated such an emotional girl” when my mom used to call me, “the Ice Princess” because I was so closed off from emotion. I don’t know what happened to me!

I went off on a tangent, oops!

SOMETIMES when I’m having a meltdown I look at what’s upsetting me and see if I can tackle it with brutal honesty and fix it. This doesn’t work for every situation, sometimes we just have to cry it out, however, if you’re upset about finances I find giving them a good hard look straight in the face helps. Truth & Knowledge = Power! So when I’m down I try to remind myself of that equation. It works on more than just finances, too! That was just my example. :)

Chin up, girly!!! You got this!!!

Carter Higgins April 21, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Delurking to say two important things:
Love your blog, your attitude, your wit, and your fierceness.
LOVE these cookies. Bomb.

Frances April 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm

It seems to be a trend, these days— the exhaustion, the sadness, the frustration. I found myself fighting (and often losing to) tears for the better part of the last three days, too. It’s true, though, that the way out isn’t just going to pop up and embrace us with a warm mood again. Stasis is a dangerous state when a crap day happens. Writing helps, and baking helps, and sometimes running or biking or doing twenty half-assed pushups helps. Sometimes calling a friend helps, and sometimes just flopping down on my back in the living room and sobbing helps, as long as I can get up and rally when I’m all cried-out. Whatever it was that made your day rough was passing. Hang in there! Besides the virtual support you’ve got, it seems as though you have your own spirit to help you up. Plus…cookies. Keep it up!

Emily April 23, 2012 at 10:38 am

you’re so wonderful to know Holly, and should love every ounce of that passionate head and heart and all the things they do together. And you should cry when you need to, big, like a little girl of the world, because afterwards, no matter what, life ALWAYS feels better. Not that I spent the better part of Sunday sitting on a boulder sobbing in a neon pink swimsuit, or anything, so I wouldn’t know how it feels….

to a week with either no tears or big ones! life’s only hard when you live it hard, and we both know that there’s no other way.

Nat Neville April 26, 2012 at 10:56 am

Hi…I’ve been reading (lurking) for a while and loving your blog :)
Tried out these cookies, but subbed WW flour for 1/2 the oats (my oat stash was low).
Very good :) Keep ’em comin’!

Barb April 28, 2012 at 10:44 am

“Happiness is a choice.”
This has been my motto for the last week or so.

And, who you surround yourself with is a choice.

I choose to be with people who choose happiness.

Nicole Phinney May 2, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Your blog is inspirational! Additionally, your posts are soothing to read and your style is fantastically unique. I look forward to learning all you have to share!

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