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Let’s talk about boundaries. It’s not easy at first to set boundaries for yourself, nor to then communicate them to other people. If you’re anything like me – a people pleaser – it can be really hard to say “no”, or to recognise when your boundaries have been crossed. Because here’s the thing: for so long, I had been letting other people’s ideals override my own. I wasn’t respecting myself by allowing other people to decide things for me. Really, it was the pangs of guilt about setting certain boundaries in the first instance, and then being afraid that others might think poorly of me that created difficulty voicing it.

When I was eleven, my dad would chat with me about alarm bells ‘going off’ in my head as a warning sign for something not being quite right. At this point in life, it was to alert me to the fact that there are situations as a young female that I’d need to recognise were dangerous to me. Now, as I approach my 30th birthday in 2020, these alarm bells ring true to the signs of ‘wait, I’m not happy with this’ or ‘hang on, I’m not ok with this’. It taught me to proceed with caution, work out what boundary was crossed and what that meant to not only me, but the person or people involved and the relationship I had with them.

When I realised this, it was actually empowering and I suddenly didn’t feel so “bad” anymore. I realised I deserve to respect myself and do the things I want to do, that make me happy. Being around people that make you laugh, support you no matter what and lift you up is super important. It can be tricky recognising when things aren’t so good or even just acknowledging it and being “ok” with that. If you’re not on equal footing and one person is dictating how you should live your life, deciding what does and doesn’t happen, then that isn’t healthy. Treading on eggshells and people-pleasing to be sure you don’t upset them in any way isn’t how a friendship should work, or how it will flourish. Being honest with one another and being able to have an adult conversation about how things make you feel is what any relationship requires. However if, when you try to instigate your own or balance things out, they shut down, disappear, get confrontational or try and manipulate or control the situation (and subsequently – you), that’s the point at which it’s best to recognise it’s time to step away.

I have some incredible people from all walks of my life and I’m entirely grateful to spend time with them when I can. Whatever you do with friends – from a walk, to coffee, a gym date or run in the park, or just cheese and wine at home one evening, it’s about the mere act of spending time together and enjoying each other’s company that we should value. No matter how long it’s been since you last saw each other, things should be easy, flow naturally and feel like you haven’t spent time apart at all. I always find with great friends, you pick up where you left up and can just have fun together.

When something isn’t good, remember to look around you. Look at all the positives, all the wonderful people and everything there is to be grateful for. If you’re not being respected or supported, rest assured there are many more people that would let “you do you”, and compliment you life in the process. Sure, it takes time to get better and more comfortable at saying “no”, protecting your personal boundaries and space, and recognising when things aren’t healthy or adding value to your life, but the journey in understanding all this is hugely important.

These pan-banging ginger molasses cookies are delicious and seriously, I’d make these for any of my amazing friends, family, colleagues who encourage me to do my thing and be my best. A big part of my life is cooking, baking and enjoying food with great people. Cookies are super simple to make, and put smiles on faces when they’re an unexpected addition to the day. Ok, I certainly don’t advocate eating cookies every single day (although if I could, I probably would) but a treat every now and then in moderation is totally fine. The pan-banging makes these. It’s a technique coined by Sarah Kieffer, the voice behind the Vanilla Bean Blog. It creates beautiful crinkles and ridges on the surface of the cookies which will make you want to eat them even more.

Pan-banging ginger molasses cookies

Makes approx. 10 cookies

249g plain flour
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp + 1/8tsp salt
2tsps ground ginger
3/4tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of cloves
12tbsp unsalted butter
297g granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
2tbsps mild molasses
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat your oven to 350F/175C. Line three baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Set aside.
  3. Beat the butter on medium speed with an electric whisk until smooth and creamy. Pour in the granulated sugar and mix until fully combined, and light and fluffy. This should take 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the molasses, egg, and vanilla, then mix on low to combine.
  5. Add the flour mixture in thirds, mixing to combine, then remove the bowl from the stand mixer, and using a spatula, scrape round the edges of the bowl so everything has been completely combined and the dough is a uniform colour.
  6. Roll the dough between your hands into 55g balls, weighing each one before rolling the balls in granulated sugar to coat. Place four balls an equal distance apart on a prepared tray. They’ll need space to spread so be generous!
  7. Put the tray in the oven and bake for 8 minutes, until the cookies are puffed slightly in the centre.
  8. Here’s the technique that makes these cookies so crinkly: remove the tray from the oven and lift the side of the baking sheet up about 4 inches. Gently let it drop down against the oven rack, so the edges of the cookies set and the inside falls back down (this will feel wrong, but trust the process).
  9. Pop them back in the oven and give them 2 more minutes. Then repeat the lifting and dropping 3-4 times (baking for 2 minutes in between each) to create ridges around the edge of the cookie. They should be baked for 13-16 minutes in total, until the cookies have spread out and the edges are golden brown but the centres are much lighter and not fully cooked.
  10. Transfer the baking tray to a wire rack; let cool completely before removing the cookies from the tray.