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Ever since I gave birth, it’s like my creativity is on hyperdrive.  I didn’t just give birth to Ruby, but also, 12 million ideas that keep me from sleeping at night.  Has anyone else experienced this after birth?

I’m not sure if it’s that my body was too busy creating its’ own project for the past nine months or if having Ruby has inspired me in ways I didn’t realize.  Was it that the prior fatigue and anxiety of pregnancy and childbirth were creatively stifling or maybe it’s just an inner need to create to maintain a sense of self?  Hell, maybe a mixture of all of them!  Needless to say, it’s a ‘thing’ to the point where if I’m not able to work on something a few times a week during the rare down time I do have, I get crazy restless.  

All that to say… Strawberries were on sale at Aldi’s for 89 cents and like the bargain hoarder that I am, I bought $26 worth.  I had seen videos recently on Facebook about the new ‘brushstroke cake’ craze, so I’ve been dying to try it.  

It’s easier and harder than it looks.  I’m guessing that if you use candy melt coating, it’d be extremely easy.  I think candy coating tastes like poodely oodley (but sets like a dream), so I tried to find a good quality white and dark chocolate instead.  The dark chocolate worked swimmingly.  The white chocolate on the other hand, not so good.

I watched a tutorial that taught you to add color to white chocolate.  You have to mix the color into coconut oil first so that the water in the food coloring won’t seize up the chocolate on contact.  I had grand ideas to make a Memorial Day Cake so I needed lots of vibrant red and blue.  The chocolate just wasn’t turning red enough so I kept adding more color, more color…and more coconut oil, more coconut oil.

When I put my brush strokes in the fridge, the white chocolate ones never set.  Too much coconut oil.  UGH!!  Did I mention I didn’t sleep at all the night before because I was too excited to make the darned thing? Yup, pretty much pulled an all nighter… So I had that going for me- ha! 

So I tried again.  This time sticking to white and dark chocolate, and some light pink hues.  I also made my brush strokes a little thicker.  (Also important as most of my dark chocolate shards broke to pieces). I have to say I’m grateful for so many failures over the years because one of my strengths I’ve gotten out of those experiences as a baker, is that I can always making something out of mistakes!  According to plan, this was all wrong… But I think it came out crazy funky cool.  *cue TLC*

And umm… Happy Memorial Day?  😉

I topped the cake with red colored white chocolate, dipped some strawberries in chocolate, splattered on a little luster dust and edible glitter (though I don’t trust glitter ever being edible- ha!)  I’m also not a huge fan of white chocolate either.

However, the strawberry cake with cream cheese icing and dark chocolate shards?  Totally a winner.  🙂

The cake is only colored with the redness of the strawberry jam, so you want to use the ripest of red berries, if you can.  Otherwise, you can add a couple drops of food color like I did. 

 

If you get the chance, you should definitely try to make this! It’s super moist and flavorful.  You don’t have do any crazy decorating.  Some big rustic swipes in the frosting and a couple of berries on top, would be lovely and inviting! And who doesn’t love strawberries when the weather starts warming up?  Also, be sure to let me know if post-pregnancy creativity was prevalent for you, too!  Super curious about what my muse has been up to…  Happy Monday!  

 

Strawberry Cake From Scratch
Serves 12
Flavorful and moist 9 inch triple layer strawberry cake from scratch! Full of fresh fruit and iced with a yummy cream cheese frosting.
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PUREE
  1. 4 1/2 c. ripe red strawberries
  2. 3/4 c. sugar
BATTER
  1. 1 1/8 c. unsalted butter
  2. 1 3/4 c. sugar
  3. 2 1/4 tsp vanilla
  4. 5 eggs
  5. 2 2/3 c. all purpose flour
  6. 1 1/2 c. wheat pastry flour or cake flour
  7. 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  8. 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  9. 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  10. 1 3/4 c. heavy cream
  11. 1 1/8 c. strawberry puree
  12. Food coloring (optional)
FILLING
  1. 2 c. strawberries sliced
SIMPLE SYRUP
  1. 1 c. water
  2. 1/4 c. sugar
  3. 3 T. gin
FROSTING
  1. 16 oz. cream cheese
  2. 1 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  3. 2 T. vanilla
  4. 1 1/2 pounds of powdered sugar
  5. 2-3 T. milk (if needed)
To make the puree
  1. Combine 4 1/2 c. strawberries and sugar in a large saucepan or pot. Simmer on low until the moisture is removed and berries resemble a jam. (Should be reduced by about half of what you started with). Cool completely.
To make the simple syrup
  1. In a saucepan or microwave, boil the water, sugar and gin until sugar is dissolved. Let cool.
For the batter
  1. Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a another bowl, combine the heavy cream and 1 1/8 c. puree jam. Set aside.
  3. With a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed in your mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and a couple drops of food coloring (if desired).
  4. One at a time, beat in the eggs.
  5. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and beat until barely combined.
  6. Add 1/2 of heavy cream mixture.
  7. Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients followed by the remaining cream mixture.
  8. Beat in the last of the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
  9. Distribute evenly into three different 9 inch cake pans.
  10. Bake at 325 for 40-45 minutes, turning the cake pans in the oven halfway.
To make the frosting
  1. Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add vanilla.
  2. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar until smooth.
  3. (If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon of milk at a time to thin out).
For assembly
  1. Shave off the round domes on each cake until they are level.
  2. Put one cake on a plate and generously dab with simple syrup. Add a decent amount of cream cheese icing.** Layer sliced strawberries over the cake.
  3. Stack another cake on top and repeat.
  4. Stack the last cake bottom side up (to get a smooth top surface).
  5. Frost with remaining icing and decorate as you'd like!
Notes
  1. ** Be careful when icing. The cake is fairly fragile. The frosting needs to be thin enough to spread easily or you will pull crumbs from the cake. If needed, put in the freezer for five minutes before frosting.
Adapted from Rock Recipes
Adapted from Rock Recipes
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/

Hey folks!  Today we’ve got a whole wheat waffle recipe courtesy of my new heart healthy lifestyle.  As I wrote in my previous blog, my high blood pressure followed me home from the hospital after giving birth to my daughter.  In this blog, I share my blood pressure journey, imperative information everyone should know before getting their blood pressure checked and some heart healthy deliciousness.  Hope you enjoy!

*******************************************************************************************************

Before leaving the hospital, the doctors warned us about the potential that my blood pressure was going to get higher.  At that point we were entirely exhausted and frustrated, and knew we would feel better being in our own beds.  Those conversations, however, shook me a bit.  They sternly warned me about the risks of postpartum preeclampsia and chronic hypertension.  High readings could lead to blood clots and stroke.  I didn’t know if I felt wonky because of high blood pressure, c-section recovery or being on meds, but these warnings got in my head.  While I was grateful we left the hospital when we did, I was also happy to have a follow-up visit with my midwife.  Having heard all of my shenanigans, she wanted to check my blood pressure while I was there.  It was in the high 130’s.  “Borderline,” she said, based on my history.  At her suggestion, we got a blood pressure cuff to monitor everything while home. 

My anxiety was pretty high.  On one hand, I had a newborn that I just couldn’t believe was ours.  She was just such absolute joy, I miss how small she was already!  But at the same time, there was this shadow side of my health that terrified and exhausted me. Seeing the cuff everyday was a uneasy reminder of the lurking unknown. 

The cuff itself was difficult to master. I felt like I could never properly get the cuff on right by myself and the readings were a bit all over the place, sometimes in the 150’s and low 160’s. That was terrifying to me. With the most helpless and pathetic gift of a little newborn now under my care for life, I couldn’t fathom anything happening to me. For her sake and my own paralyzing fear, I got an appointment immediately at our local clinic.

The General Practitioner there said my blood pressure was too high, put me on metroprolol and had me do an EKG and a lab test.  She mentioned to have blood pressure this high is very dangerous.  She didn’t sound nonchalant. She made me feel like if I didn’t make changes now, I would have major complications pretty quickly. Having heard the blood clot/stroke spiel from the doctors where we delivered, as much as I tried to trust the universe with healing and peace, my anxiety was through the roof.  

From that point, every time I went up the stairs holding Ruby I was terrified I was going to have a stroke.  Pain in my upper thigh, I was sure was a blood clot and it was only a matter of time before it moved to my lungs.  If I ate something I didn’t realize was high in sodium, I could feel my arteries clogging.  

To my readers, maybe this fear seems a bit far out and unnecessary, but when you feel in a fog recovering from surgery and taking care of a newborn, and when you don’t feel entirely well regardless, it’s very easy to believe there is something wrong with you. We also live at a fairly high altitude and this effects me sometimes as well. Those doctors really got in my head and with Lliam at work, holding down everything for us, my fear was a conversation I really could only have with myself. 

I immediately began eating insanely heart healthy.  I researched what to do, which foods to eat and which would be bad for me.  My daily intake now consisted of things like spinach, nuts, whole grains, oats, fruit and veggies– like nobody’s business.  I removed all salt, sugar, red meat and fat as best I could.  A few days later, I went down the mountain for my first OBGYN visit.  My blood pressure had stabilized in the lower 120’s.  Oh, the relief.  While still shaky and nervous, because I was still scared I had a blood clot, I had a little validation that the medication was working. 

I got a phone call from my local clinic for a follow up appointment.  They said the General Practitioner really wanted me to talk to a midwife nurse practitioner that came in sometimes.  I was told this nurse knew more about postpartum health situations.  I arrived waddling, just barely into my c-section recovery, carrying my daughter in her heavy ass car seat.  

They took my blood pressure and it was in the 150’s.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had been so relieved and now it was back up again!  I explained to the nurse that I definitely had ‘white coat syndrome,’ was probably panicked from everything we’d been through during our hospital stay and I asked her to take it again.  She did and it was even higher.  “See, now I’m even more anxious! I really think I’m fine.  I just need to calm down and, like,  get zen.”  

She said she would wait a few minutes and take it again.  “This is the time to get zen,” she said, “because otherwise, I really want you to head back down to the other hospital.”  (Our local clinic has no OBGYN). They asked whether or not my husband was at work, if he could come pick me up and take me if needed, etc. I was so in my head.  

They left and my heart was racing.  I could not ‘get zen,’ I was overwhelmed with anxiety.  I looked at my little girl and had no idea what was going to happen.  Lliam was working as a temp for the county at the time.  He was trying to get in good with them to win a permanent position.  The last thing we needed was a consistently sick wife taking him away from work.  Not to mention, with a newborn and being strapped for cash,  to be working less was hardly ideal.  They came back in and took it again.  They didn’t tell me what the reading was, they just said, “We need to get you to the ER.  Call your husband. This is a ‘leave work now’ situation.”

I couldn’t believe what was happening. In just a matter of days, I had gone from partially relieved to being hospitalized.  I called Lliam and he came over as soon as he could.  They hooked me up to a blood pressure monitor and gave me labetalol. It wasn’t working. I looked at Ruby, still in her car seat.  I didn’t bring enough formula for her.  I didn’t expect this. This wasn’t supposed to happen.  Lliam eventually went home to stock up on diapers and bottles.  They upped my dosage of labetalol.

The hospital smelled like an old folks home. The poor guy next to me couldn’t stop vomiting.  I had barely a thing to eat all day and the drugs were making me feel even worse.  It was like another surreal nightmare.  I was soooo grateful Lliam was there but how long would I be in the hospital? Would I have to be monitored for days? What would we do with Ruby while Lliam was at work?  If he took time off, how would we survive financially?  So many thoughts… 

The ER doctor looked a little out of his league with my situation so I wasn’t surprised when he eventually called down to my birth hospital and talked to an OBGYN there.  They said to put me on procardia, and if my blood pressure went down below 140, I was okay to leave.  The procardia worked!  After six hours, I was ECSTATIC to be going home.  I had a new prescription… and about 120,000 new fears.  

About a week later, I had another follow up with my OBGYN. My blood pressure was taken and it was in the low 140’s. While wary, they didn’t seem too concerned.  I was relieved!  After being hospitalized I was terrified it was going to be sky high again. From where it had been, and my nagging feelings of death looming, that number felt low and I was grateful.  

Later that week, I had a follow up with the local clinic to go over my lab results. I was feeling really good, healing well and I was excited for this to be my last appointment there.  However, things took a turn pretty quickly.  The labs showed that I had really high cholesterol and that my EKG showed a couple of anomalies.  She also mentioned a Vitamin D deficiency but that’s pretty common.  I could tell by the stern look on her face I was being judged.  “This isn’t good! Really unhealthy! Very dangerous!”

F*******ck!!!  Again I thought I was out of the woods and now I was REALLY terrified about strokes and blood clots.  Anomalies on an EKG?  I was being referred to a cardiologist at 39 years old? What… the H!!!

Quick sidetone: What I DID find hilarious, however, was that of all the years I have worked professionally as a baker or managed bakeries, the one thing I did NOT have was diabetes. Everyone and their grandmothers have always told me I was going to end up diabetic but alas, suckas!  You gotta find your humor (and minor win) somewhere, right? Ha! I kid…

But back to our story… At another follow up with the OBGYN– Yes, Holy Doctor Appointments, Batman!– I showed her my lab results.  Her verdict on my cholesterol, “Yeah… that’s really high.”  She explained that eating healthy wasn’t going to cut it and that exercise would be important for me.   Neither the hospital nor my local clinic wanted to put me on medication for cholesterol because I was partially breastfeeding but she also said they would continue to monitor my blood pressure closely. 

I felt really helpless so I reached out to my stepmom who is a nurse.  She was excited like only a nurse can be– obviously, not for my fear but for having  a fun conundrum to figure out.   Thankfully, she relieved me a bit by giving me ideas and not making me feel like I was going to die. She suggested I get my own General Practitioner, a doctor that I could see regularly and follow up with about my blood pressure when the OBGYN appointments were over. 

Since leaving the hospital after Ruby’s birth, I had been seeing a doctor and going to various appointments– whether for me or my daughter– 2-3 times a week. Every appointment we had was 45 minutes away and the winding road down the mountain leading to those appointments drops 4,000 feet in elevation in thirty minutes.  To be out for hours with Ruby was a challenge. I would lug her around in her car seat, holding her away from my body as best I could so as not to knock her against my knees.  I was relying solely on my arm strength (which was pretty nil after leaving the bakery and those 50 pound bags of flour).  I had no core strength due to the cesarean… it was an exhausting work-out.

She was struggling to breastfeed and latch properly, so the hours away from home unable to pump decreased my milk supply. Breastfeeding is a nightmare in itself and everywhere you go there is such judgement. “You know, you really want to be exclusively breastfeeding.” Uh-huh. And I’d really like for you to have a clue about what I’ve been going through before you say REALLY STUPID THINGS…. ahem.  Obviously, I was stressed…

Aside from these appointments, I was also taking care of the animals, cleaning the house, washing the dishes, doing laundry, pumping, changing/burping/snuggling/breastfeed-attempting, and cooking healthy constantly because gone were the days of a quick hot dog. Thank you GOD, I have a supportive husband and we have a pretty agreeable baby. *knocks on wood*

Finally, I went to a General Practitioner down the mountain.  He might have been 12 and looked like a young Ryan Gosling, but he actually listened to me.  He went over my labs with me piece by piece and the weight of the world came off my shoulders. “Is this cholesterol high?  Yes.  But is it high enough for me to even put you on medication?  Not at all.  This is fixable.”  

WHAAAAAAAAT????  I was BLOWN AWAY!!!  Everyone had me believing my cholesterol was through the roof.  “400’s or 500’s is through he roof.” My cholesterol was 293. He also told me diet is more important than exercise because if you eat a box of donuts, running a mile isn’t going to make a difference.  (Personally, I think it’s a mix of diet and exercise but what woman in her right mind is going to fight with a guy who will one day grow up to be Ryan Gosling?) 

He put me on a higher dose of Vitamin D because “the one you’re on is too low and this dose is totally useless.”  He said the EKG was “unimpressive” and looked like a “cover your butt” situation.  And mostly… he was really excited for me.  I told him what I had been eating and the changes I had been making and he was grateful because many patients spend a good deal of time in denial about their health issues.  He even had the Attending Physician come in and talk with me to ease my mind.  

Together, they agreed the cholesterol wasn’t that big of an issue but that the blood pressure was the big concern with my history. They wanted to up my procardia a smidgen because my reading that day was in the 140’s.  I began to panic again.  No, no, no!! I felt okay and I had been eating super healthy. I know it’s always a little high at first.  He said the meds were part of the journey for a short time but that if I continued on this path, I wouldn’t need them forever.  Being off the meds completely was our goal.  I agreed to take the extra bump but also asked them to take my blood pressure again at the end.  It was now in the 120’s.  WHO’S HEALING WHO HERE, PEOPLE?! (I should totes have been a doctor…) 😉

They told me to follow up in two weeks. I went to schedule my appointment with Dr. Baby Ryan and found out he would be on vacation for two months.  NOOOOO!!!!

Finally, the appointment with the cardiologist came around.  There, my blood pressure was 118/76.  I was PSYCHED.  That’s the lowest it had been.  They took their own EKG and while they also saw the same anomalies, they agreed the referral was a ‘cover your butt’ situation.  

And come to find out, anomalies aren’t fact.  They’re curiosities– like going to a dermatologist for a weird mole but knowing just because it’s weird doesn’t mean it’s cancerous.  To be on the super, super, super safe side, they scheduled a stress test and an ultrasound of my heart for later this month.  They said I was doing beautifully with my life changes and I left feeling on top of the world.

Last week, I went to another follow up appointment with a General Practitioner.  My blood pressure was 144.  Again, this was a new doctor who didn’t know me at all.  Based off of this reading and my supposed history, he said we needed to consider putting me on additional medication at this point.  I just… I couldn’t.  I felt so much better, I was READY to be healthy and I just couldn’t believe my blood pressure was high. AGAIN, it always goes down after a bit!!!  It lowered to the low 120’s last time! But did Dr. Baby Sexypants put that in my notes?  No! They always and only include the first reading. Ahhhh!!  From the condescending nod, I know Dr. NOT Ryan Gosling doesn’t believe me. 

He’s beginning to make assumptions about who I am and the thought of that is so frustrating, I begin crying.  (The worst possible timing, OF COURSE I DO).  He asks why I’m crying but where on earth do I begin? It’s also difficult to formulate cohesive sentences due to ‘mom brain’ without sounding pathetic and unstable. He then starts asking me how I’m doing at home with the baby because now he thinks I have postpartum depression.  “No, I’m HAPPY at home! I love my baby! My husband is awesome!”  He tells me it’s okay to be overwhelmed with a baby. “I’m not overwhelmed with my baby– THIS! THIS is what stresses me out!”  He asks what am I doing for my anxiety.  “Typically I mediate! But I haven’t been because–” He tells me there are counselors I can talk to at the hospital.  “It can be really helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed.” My skin is crawling.

I’m not sure what I said but my stubbornness won.  If I wasn’t going to go on extra meds, he pointedly suggested I get a blood pressure cuff at home.  (We returned the one I had previously because I don’t feel like I ever got it to work properly).  This way, it would help me, help them, treat me correctly.  He totally didn’t believe me. I left feeling defeated, like I had taken 100 steps back.  

I was zero percent enthused about spending a chunk of money we didn’t have on something I wasn’t sure would work properly, but I went to Target and looked around.  They had a wrist monitor!!  The best decision I could have made for my history. I’ve named her Betty. She is totally loyal and I love her so much.  She takes my blood pressure and my pulse.  She does averages.  And the best part? I never have to were a STUPID FROGGIN CUFF.  (Ahem)…  I trust her readings.

What I have learned from Betty is incredibly eye opening.  The first reading I took was in the mid 140’s.  But in the span of five minutes, it went from the high 140’s to the low 120’s.  If I am moving and have just set down my daughter, it’s in the 150’s.  If I take a minute to sit and do some deep breathing, it’s in the 130’s.  If I take another minute, it’s in the 120’s or lower.  If I take five minutes to relax, as the directions suggest, it is always in the low 120’s. 

With readings all over the board, you can imagine my frustration and fear. Which reading was the correct one?!  If I really did have high blood pressure, I wanted to know! I began to do some research and my jaw dropped.  According to this Berkley Wellness website, blood pressure is often taken incorrectly and myriads of people are probably put on medication unnecessarily.  

Did you know that to get a correct reading ideally, you should:

  • wait five minutes in a quiet room before being tested
  • there should be no talking during the test
  • you should be sitting on a chair, back supported with feet on the floor 
  • forearm supported at heart level by your nurse
  • wear an appropriate cuff size
  • readings should be done on both arms, one five minutes after the other

I couldn’t believe it.  I still can’t!  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. my blood pressure has been taken, it has been as soon as I walk in the door, typically only a minute after lugging around Ruby when my heart is racing and I’m out of breath.  The nurse talks to me through the process. Sometimes, they’ve taken my reading while I’m seated on the examination table, feet dangling.  And it took hours of asking for them to give me an appropriate cuff size at the hospital. They would never take it manually. And for sure, they’ve never tried both arms. To do or not do these things, for me, is literally a change of 20+ points!!

How can something so important to diagnosis and prescription, be taken so mistakenly in the medical field? Again, the last doctor I saw wanted to put me on additional medication because one reading is always taken as law.  Can you imagine???! None of these guidelines or my anxiety or mental state have ever been considered or believed.  It is incredibly scary to think of the amount of people potentially misdiagnosed. Am I grateful to have a healthy daughter and to be feeling healthier?  Of course!  But can we do better?  Abso-froggin’-lutley! 

In hindsight, this whole experience has been pretty eye-opening.  I consider myself pretty ‘zen’ for the most part; when I get anxious, I know to mediate.  During my second trimester, when my blood pressure was in the 110’s, I was meditating 20 minutes daily.  I felt relaxed, connected, present and peaceful.  In my third and ‘fourth trimester,’ as they say, I haven’t kept up the practice as much.  It’s especially hard to find alone time with a newborn.  However, to see readings differ significantly based on whether or not I’m relaxed, or after a minute or two of deep breathing, it is a pretty affirming reminder.  In my head, I’ve always had the answers but whether or not I follow through with them in life is a whole other story. 

While this experience has been frustrating and scary, I really am grateful that it happened. I’ve learned so much about the power and magnitude of my fear, and what a huge factor it can play in my health. I learned a lot about speaking my mind and sticking up for myself, trusting my intuition and what I know about my body.  And I’m even grateful that I was so petrified because I’m not sure if anything less would have scared me into a healthier lifestyle.

While my blood pressure has stabilized, I haven’t forgotten or ignored that it has stabilized while still under the influence of medication. Going off medication, would it sky rocket?  I have no idea.  So, I’ve made no plans to throw caution to the wind with my lifestyle.  If anything, I feel more committed to stay on this life path for as long as I’m blessed with one.  If I’ve estimated my pregnancy weight properly, I’ve lost almost 50 pounds.  Two weeks postpartum, at my first follow up clinic, I was weighed and for sure I’ve lost 22 pounds without counting baby weight.  And truly, it’s not about weight.  I stagnated for a week and a half pounds-wise and while it was frustrating, I felt more energetic, felt a bit stronger, my clothes still fit well, etc.  In my heart I knew it wasn’t about numbers and I’ve NEVER felt that way before!

Mostly, it has occurred to me that if I want Ruby to grow up healthy, confident, smart, funny, fearless, strong, loving and excited about this world… who do I need to be to help get her there? If I want to teach her to put herself in the way of beauty in this world, she requires a mother that is truly beautiful.  Gone are the days of low self-esteem and anxiety. I want to be who she needs me to be.  There is a note on my mirror to remind myself of this daily.  

Introducing her to healthy food as delicious and nourishing (rather than making it about weight) is one way I can encourage her wellbeing. And like an episode of ‘Chopped,’ I have personally been given a challenge to make food heart healthy and it excites me!  So today, I’m sharing a waffle recipe I adapted that makes this treat at breakfast delicious but also good for you.  Rather than use all purpose flour, I substituted whole white wheat.  In place of oil, I use unsweetened apple sauce.  I added oats, ground flaxseed meal and a bit of cinnamon– all great ingredients that help to lower blood pressure.  I replaced full fat milk with non-fat and rather than use sugar I use honey.  (Honey is totally sugar but at least it’s got some proven health benefits). 

And the kicker?  (Because I’m NEVER gonna be a ‘4 oz. of plain chicken and steamed broccoli’ girl).  They’re super yummy!  I love the nuttiness of various whole grain flours and oats in baking so I love these waffles!  I don’t feel like I’m missing out on ‘the real deal,’ because they aren’t processed and don’t taste like fat free crap.  They’re just yummy waffles!  

Well, that blog took forever- ha!  Thank you soooo much for reading all of this– and I hope next time you go to the doctor you ask for a few minutes of peace before any vitals are taken.  You owe it to yourself to be properly cared for!  Health & happiness, y’all!  This is really exciting.  🙂  

Heart Healthier Waffle Recipe
Yields 6
Light and fluffy whole wheat waffles with heart healthy ingredients. They still feel like a treat but it's an amazing way to start your day!
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Prep Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/3 c. whole wheat flour (I use whole wheat white)
  2. 1/2 c. rolled oats
  3. 2 T ground flaxseed meal
  4. 1 T baking powder
  5. 1 tsp cinnamon
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  7. 1 3/4 c. non-fat or almond milk
  8. 1 T good quality honey
  9. 1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
  10. 2 eggs, separated
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, flaxseed meal, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.
  2. Separate the eggs. (See note below)
  3. Mix milk, applesauce, egg yolks and honey to dry ingredients.
  4. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the batter.
  5. Ladle mixture onto hot waffle iron and bake until golden brown & crispy.
  6. Top with sugar-free jam, fruit compotes or a light drizzle of the real maple syrup or honey.
  7. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. *In a time crunch, I have completely skipped the separation of the eggs, added whole to the batter instead, and these waffles still turn out great!
Adapted from Genius Kitchen
Adapted from Genius Kitchen
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/

There is something innately drilled into the core of my being: EXPECTATION.  Especially during the holidays! Whether it’s baking or hosting, going to all of the events, wearing Christmas attire or having a perfectly decorated home, I have had a crazy elf-like compulsion since birth to be Martha Stewart (except if Martha were Ina Garten).  I want ALL Norman Rockwell, ALL the time… in my mind. 

Reality, on the other hand, is an entirely different thing.  Reality is the crazy number of hours put in and the guilt-ridden financial costs spent on hosting holiday dinners for 20. It’s the astronomical number of cookie platters you make for everyone you’ve ever met in your life and the devastation they’re not enjoyed due to special diets, eating vegan or gluten free. It’s the panic of going to every single function in the name of Christmas and never allowing yourself an opportunity to breathe.  BUT YOU LOVE IT, RIGHT???  And like a wing nut, in many ways I do.

But oftentimes, rather than be filled with inspiration and the real joy of the season, it can become a quiet comparison– a festering comparison to the instagram Martha Stewarts of the world that are nailing it, leading me to question all of my life choices.

And the worst part?  Even when I do get it ‘right’ and my life looks like a Pier One commercial for exactly 30 seconds, I’m usually let down.  I can control everything until I can’t.  People are late. There is weather.  Health emergencies.  Car accidents. Job losses. And the kicker?  FAMILY.  Oh, the joys of family! Don’t we all just have the PERFECT FAMILY???!!!  

(People, I adore my family but we’re all so different we ain’t never gonna be Norman Rockwell.  We’re more like you’re 12 year old niece’s watercolor version of Thomas Kincaid you bought at the family garage sale). 

This year especially– being eight months pregnant, the expectation doesn’t stop at owning Ina’s ‘Cooking For Jeffrey.’  Following the baby forums online, every post is about “Show us your nurseries!” or “Look at my maternity photos!”  The nurseries are adorably painted and themed, and– oh my God– these maternity photos are out of control.  Many of these goddess moms look like magical unicorns with their fresh flower crowns, big bellies and ethereal see through robes, walking through rivers, so connected to Mother Earth now as pregnant women… 

Having just moved from Washington to California at the start of my third trimester (and the chaos/reality/energy that comes with making major life decisions based solely on faith and trust), your expectations about pretty much everything are OBLITERATED.  

 

When reality set in and the angels whisper-screamed, “We are well aware of what you want, Martha, but you might want to pray to Mother Mary about what you need,” it put things in perspective right quick.  

We were magically taken care of in every way possible.  Within a month, my husband had his pick of jobs, we found a doctor, we got insurance.  Thanks to a young man my husband works with, we found a place to live for an amazing deal.  It was an emotional rollercoaster of a month, and of course we still have very real and legitimate fears and concerns, but when so much is taken care of for you so fast, you trust the journey.  You trust the angels.  You’re grateful your friends made room at their inn, your donkey is a Mazda Tribute and you’re grateful to not be pressured with a Christ-child.

It has made me think A LOT about expectations… and how not a single one friggin matters.  I kinda knew this already but I didn’t.  Never to this extent. 

What does motherhood really mean?  What does ‘successful motherhood’ look like?  What is a nursery? What is actually important? When all the popular and materialistic pregnancy bells and whistles of our culture are stripped away, as they have been for my husband and I in many ways, what does being pregnant really look like? 

Maybe it’s not about unicorn maternity photos.  Maybe it looks like stretch marks and duck fuzz…

Maybe we’re not branding our baby on Instagram or shopping for baby clothes at Ralph Lauren but we have a nursery!  This is what it looks like: 

The simplicity of having no expectations, makes what you have feel sooo abundant. It makes six bags of gifted baby boy clothes over-the-top exciting to put on our little girl.  

It has me thinking about the holidays… Without money for gifts or the energy for the bells and whistles of decorations, dinners, family or festivities– things that aren’t guaranteed for my husband and I this year, what does Christmas look like now? What does it mean? Is it the worst holiday ever or does it still get to be Christmas?  

Maybe it’s not about having your own tree.  Maybe it’s being grateful for a night with your seester, who does have all her delicious and magical bells and whistles up this year:

Maybe it’s not about a table with family and all the fixings. Maybe it’s an old school shout out to the very first Christmas and what that might look like today:

And if you’re really stripped of everything you’re accustomed to, maybe it’s just the audacity and hilarity of a cat’s butt on your neck while you were trying to write a blog about Christmas:

I think it’s worth a ponder…

For me, once I let go of all the white knuckled expectation about the holidays and pregnancy, it’s been a relief. Suddenly, we’re no longer behind. We’re right where we should be. To have people around that love us is enough. It’s sooo much more than most. Every gift you receive becomes a free fall of emotional gratitude. And at the risk of sounding overly sentimental, the situation itself truly becomes the biggest gift of the season. 

 

 

Yesterday was a long day.  I got up early, meditated, packed bags, ran errands, drove up the mountains, made calls, texted contacts, made plans for Thanksgiving, met up with a realtor, looked at some houses, lost my wallet, went to lunch, met up with my honey, had a meeting with our lender, miraculously managed to get to the cabin that was gifted to us for the night without barfing, more calls and texts, unpacked bags.  Then, I found my wallet.  In a fog of severe ‘pregnancy brain,’  I had managed to zip my wallet into my make-up bag thinking it was my purse.   Yikes. Just one day of many…

Remember when I used to bake and take photos?  Was that a dream?

When we got to the cabin, we were absolutely exhausted and feeling a bit down and out.  While so much has happened, and happened in our favor in a very short amount of time, truly none of it has felt easy.  Lliam was able to find work quickly and started his job last week.  Still without a place to live, he has been car camping while I have been visiting my sis in San Diego.  Yesterday was the first we’d seen each other in a week.  With all that’s going on, it felt like a lifetime.

Talking to the lender was both encouraging and disappointing.  She’s totally awesome… But with one income, we are prequalified for about 46 cents, and 54 cents if we can come up with a $4-6k down payment.  She had a lot of fantastic suggestions and she definitely wants to get us a house in a financially healthy way.  But to jump through a million hoops again, as we’ve already done with the DMV, doctors, health clinics, contacting the IRS for W2’s, etc, finding co-borrowers and taking loans from friends sounded exhausting last night and felt hopeless.  Two steps forward, two steps back.  Needless to say, when we got to the cabin, Lliam and I snuggled the hell out of each other. 

This morning when Lliam left for work I said, “Honey, I’m glad you’re my husband, okay?”  My ‘cute’ way of saying that I loved and appreciated him.  “Oh, that’s so nice,” he says back.  A moment later he pops his head back in and says, “Sweetie, I’m so proud you’re my wife.”

I’m not sure why– because we’re pretty respectful and sweet to each other all the time, but the comment plinko-ed it’s way to the bottom of my heart and warmly made its home there.  My husband is proud of me.  All 846 pounds of pregnant, invalid me– swollen thighs, ass like a barn door, wife that can’t walk more than a block due to joint pain in my knees, that gets carsick every single time we drive up the mountain (despite him driving slow), and can’t contribute financially because car camping in my third bladder-filled trimester feels like death… And yet, he doesn’t just love me, he’s proud of me. (WHY???) But I am also soooo proud of him!!!  The man he is, who he is choosing to be.  How much he cares about this family and works hard for us. The way he rubs my belly excitedly and asks, “How are my girls!?” 

This morning it made me think of the Jack/Rebecca relationship in the NBC show, ‘This Is Us.’  The couple with triplets that has absolutely no idea what is going on but trusts everything will be okay because they believe in their love.  Lliam and I are very different characters on our hit show, but our love and commitment to each other is the same.  Or, in a song I wrote and blubbered through on our wedding day… ‘It’s a life I trust because it’s us.’  It got me thinking so hard about how I’ve been feeling and ultimately, about the love around us.

Every day I wake up in fear and anxiety. There are tears and panic.  I want answers now.  It truly is a daily unveiling– a moment by moment surrender. And we signed up for that.  I can handle it because we felt led to move here. There are such amazing lessons and growth in this and I truly believe we will feel unstoppable, in many ways, forever after.

But when this faith and these lessons, comes at the expense and generosity– and continued generosity— of friends and family, the clock ticks and my stomach turns.  Hey angels! Can’t we move this along for their sake?  It is their burden and mine.  It is the heaviest weight I carry and a guilt I drag behind me.  I know this is a tragic attitude in manifesting a place to live so I do my best to surrender this thought as well. 

Instead, I meditate. I listen to Christmas music. I remember the holiday season is upon us and that I decide what the holidays mean to me. I stay proactive for the sake of taking action.  I say no to the friends I moved here for and instead rest as much as I can. I let myself feel what I need to feel in order to keep my spirits up and vibration high. I realize that ‘This is Us’ isn’t one couple’s love story.  It’s not about one family.  ‘This is Us’ is about ALL of us.  

When I let go of the guilt, I am able to see the real story…   I watch my friends become innkeepers, saying yes to the Christmas story in their own way.  (Less Messiah, more Baby Soul.)  When I told my sis I might have to give birth in a stable, she texted me that she had hay, a variety of animals and even an astrologer present to chart the stars for my visit.  Ha! 

We eat bagels and drink iced tea at Starbucks from the $100 gift card given to me by a friend and angel in Mazama.  $200 in cash for our trip, lovely cards and a Mazama onesie for our little girl! I stay at various faux ‘Airbnbs’– apartments, cabins… every day we have a place to stay. A server being overly kind because I don’t notice until I’m back in the car that my eyes are red.  Lliam’s church gifting us a carseat/stroller combination. Friends of friends that offer a slew of baby items I haven’t even begun to think about yet.  (Oh right, we’re having a baby…)  I feel the angels rejoice like its Christmas…

For months I’ve had that goofy song ‘We are Santa’s Elves’ from Rudolph in my head and had no idea why.  I realize the lesson on this journey might actually have nothing to do with what I manifest in faith. It’s soooo not about me. It has everything to do with seeing the world with new eyes– that Demagorgans at the DMV aren’t truth or reality.  Instead, that kindness and acts of beauty in the world exist now more than ever in humanity.  In goodness, we’re all connected. It’s a planet full of Santa’s Helpers. 

This thought is still a work in progress, maybe… But at the very least, I’m grateful to recognize my friends, family and the world around me, in the below clip…  When you have a world this cute and so excited to help, what’s not to be grateful for?  Makes me want to put on some elf ears and get to work because this?  THIS is us. 

 

A couple of months ago, during the height of home renovation, Seattle photography classes and taking on extra articles at our paper, I was asked to do the Fall cover for the Methow Valley Arts Magazine.  It’s one of my favorite assignments.  I love working with artists, hearing their story and doing my best to capture that story in images.  It’s always a unique and interesting exchange.

This issue was dedicated to a local folk singer named Hank Cramer. 

We met for coffee and got to chat for a while.  His wife Kit, a high country wrangler, even joined us for a bit.  They’re really sweet people that have learned over the years what it means for Hank to be a professional singer.  In the process of his successful career, he’s recently been able to help find and produce some other talent (“no egos!”), which it seemed like has been really gratifying for him.  

They live on a ranch in Winthrop, Washington, with horses, dogs and a cat.  

Living in the Pacific Northwest, you may have heard of our wildfire situation pretty much all over our state, coming from Canada and from neighboring Montana, Oregon and California.  The smoke has been thick and intense all summer.  The day we scheduled to shoot, there was an apocalyptic yellow haze that hung in the sky like nicotine clouds.  Not having seen real sunshine for days, we just had to go with it and I did my best. 

I had dreams of horses backlit by golden hour sunlight and dust in the air.  However, without any real light, I’m not going to lie, it was a real struggle to make things interesting. 

Hank serenaded me with his folk music almost the entire time.  It was so nice, peaceful and comforting and yet many times I’d have to make him hold still.  A face captured while singing tends to be what it looks like when you put a movie on pause- ha!  

I think this one is my favorite of the outdoor portraits. 

If you read the biography on his website, you will see that he has traveled all over the country as a musician. It’s pretty incredible. 

I was feeling iffy about the outdoor shots.  I was concerned the haze would feel more gas mask/ war torn than folk singer’s dreamy ranch life, and wanted back-up options. I asked him if we could go inside to get a few more.  I’m soooo glad I did!  He has a little guest house and for whatever reason, the light and the booth reminded me of a cowboy’s early morning cup o’ joe, when the world is quiet, the sun is just waking up to a big day of work ahead. 

Not to mention, I LOVE the moodiness of window light.  The contrast of dark and light can be really haunting and lovely to me.  This is probably my favorite of the indoor portraits. 

And this is probably my favorite of all the shots that day… I just love the light on a musician’s hands.

Since this shoot, I haven’t picked up a camera.  I haven’t edited a picture.  Between all that has been going on to get our home ready for the market, two Seattle photography classes that were within two weeks of each other, this shoot and editing, all while being pregnant with stress fractures in my feet (podiatrist appointment on Thursday- YESSSSSS)…Oh!  And taking on extra article at our paper because our poor editor was down for the count for a couple of months with some crazy back virus…  It was a LOT.  

Now that the house is clean, I pretty much spend all of my extra time meditating.  Ha!  No, really. No check lists, no to do’s, no hundreds of photos to edit… I’ve barely kept in touch with people.  Anything that feels like panic or work or ‘I have to’ has been shelved.  It has been the most amazing few weeks.  I would even use the word BLISS. 

I also packed up all of my baking stuff to make the house look less cluttered, so no baking 24-7 temptations there.  It’s like every instinct in me is saying, “It’s fall- you’re supposed to be making apple pie!”  No, Habit.  I’m really not.  I actually bought a pie at the store yesterday.  Ha!  I BOUGHT A PIE!!!  (Granted the pies at our bakery are kick ass, but still…)

Not to mention, the storage on my laptop is completely full with the photos I have on it. I couldn’t import anything new if I tried!  I bought a monstrosity of an external hard drive months ago in Seattle but the idea of spending time transferring photos right now sounds like a panic attack waiting to happen.  It sounds like death.  Instead, I’m just SO super enjoying the peace, resting in the quiet and recharging as best I can because I know when this house sells, our Relocate-to-California Adventure will require a lot of energy.  

Once we get there, I will be grateful to pick up the ol’ girl again.  Photograph my growing belly, our new life… But in the meantime, I’m focusing on gratitude for what I have right now, manifesting new owners for our adorable cozy cabin and taking in all the beauty our little place has offered us while I still can.  

The past year has been an education in putting away the Type A, 60 hours a week, money is everything, workaholic mentality to learn the joys of a work/life balance.  As dramatic as it sounds, it has been life changing. Now I’m learning what it means to be still.  In that stillness, I’m finding that who I am isn’t defined by work– or even more so, creativity or the projects I’ve finished, it’s who I am in the quiet that is actually me.  The crazy thing is that in doing nothing, I’m not even remotely bored.  I’m just in utter gratitude.  

I’m curious how this all plays out when our little one joins us, crying at three in the morning, needing constant attention.  Maybe the angels know how important this time is for me– to really know and recognize the spiritual being in this physical body bag before our lives flip upside down.  Whatever happens, big changes are ahead and I feel like I’m looking on a future that is so different and incredible than one I’ve ever lived, I literally have tears of gratitude and I don’t even know why yet. 

Also, I love our little Baby Soul… I finally felt a real kick the other night.  WOW.  She was dancing up a storm on her ultrasound the next day.  I can’t wait to meet her… Yes, big changes are ahead.  I know it is going to be such a special time.  As backwards as it seems, it’s– strangely– making me insanely grateful for every moment of right… now.