If I Knew You Were Comin’, I’d Have Baked a Cake

I’m posting the original recipes photo, as it is SO pretty – but, no lie here, mine totally looks like this (minus the carrot hearts). Delicious!

Since having some health issues last fall (massive gall bladder infection/emergency surgery/near-death experience), I have had a miserable time eating. This has been sad, as I am a girl who LOVES food (check out the width of my arse to validate that statement). I have been going through a process of elimination kind of thing, and have determined that wheat/gluten and dairy were causing my issues – so about 7 weeks ago, I quit both. Cold turkey. It sucked. I nearly wept for cheese (okay, I totally did), and I began looking at dinner rolls like they were lined with gold and stuffed with diamonds, but I stuck to my guns (and my restrictive diet). It made a MASSIVE difference – I felt 168% better – woohoo! I am hoping that this change isn’t forever, but that, after a reboot of sorts, I will be able to return to my regularly-scheduled eating. However, in the meantime, I am learning a whole new way of cooking and eating – and, honestly, it ain’t been that bad. I came across this recipe for Healthified Carrot Cake this weekend, and it turned out frighteningly delicious – who knew? My kid even ate some – woohoo!!! Double success!! Here’s the recipe:

Cake Ingredients:
1 cup + 6 tbsp of my gf flour mix {1/2 cup brown rice flour, ½ cup tapioca starch, 6 tbsp sweet sticky rice flour/glutinous rice flour, ½ tsp guar gum}{or, if using a store-bought mix I recommend using 1¼ cups of Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend}.
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 cup maple syrup {or another liquid sweetener like agave, etc.}
½ cup unsweetened applesauce {for a homemade version, see here}
1 tbsp lemon juice
1½ cups finely grated carrots
1 cup of add-ins of your choice: I used ½ cup raisins, ½ cup walnuts {other traditional add-ins you can try: other nuts or dried fruit, shredded coconut}

Frosting Ingredients:
1½ cups cashews, presoaked for at least a few hours {or for 15 mins in boiled water, if in a rush}
⅓ cup water or non-dairy milk, warm or at room temperature {milk would give it a slightly whiter look}
¼ cup maple syrup, at room temperature {or liquid sweetener of your choice}
3 – 4 tbsp coconut oil, softened
2 tbsp lemon juice, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Optional Carrot Hearts Topping:
a few extra carrots and a tiny heart cookie cutter {I used the one that came with my linzer cookie cutters set}

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 350F. Generously butter an 8″ x 12″ cake pan {or anything of a similar size} and set aside.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Add in sweetener, applesauce, and lemon juice and use a mixer to mix everything together. Add in the grated carrots mix through once more to incorporate. Fold in the add-in items. Transfer this batter into the prepared cake pan. Level the top using a spatula to even out the surface.
Bake in a preheated oven for approximately 23 minutes until the top becomes golden and a skewer inserted down the center comes out dry. Remove from oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely.
Prepare the frosting by placing all ingredients in a good blender and process until completely smooth {I used my Vitamix for this}. Adjust the sweetness to taste. Feel free to add a hint more water/milk to help blending as needed. Note that if your ingredients are not at room temp here, the coconut oil will begin to set before the frosting is blended through.
Once the cake has completely cooled, spread the frosting over the top evenly. Place the cake in the fridge for at least an hour or two to help the frosting set a little {unless you don’t mind a very soft frosting, of course 😉 }.
If using the carrot heart topping, simply slice the carrots into thin rounds {1/16″ of an inch or so}, and then use a little heart cutter to cut out a heart out of each slice. Sprinkle the hearts over the top of the cake, cut the cake into slices and serve! {Note: the carrots will brown up after a few hours, so best to make them & decorate with them right before serving}. Enjoy!

I didn’t make the heart-shaped carrots (I know my limitations), but I did pull off the rest of this recipe – and I’m totally pleased with how it turned out. Yaa! Even if you aren’t having to stick to a restrictive diet for health reasons, I would totally recommend the carrot cake – it’s pretty healthy, and dammmmmn delicious. Yum. Enjoy!

xxx

In the Mood

Check out this commercial from French supermarket chain Intermarché – it’s adorable:

I miss French thinking – the simplest things in life can be extraordinarily romantic…I don’t seem to see much of that here in the United States. What do you think? Has today’s top speed pace of life, with all its technology and “convenience” killed romance and love and making connections? Sometimes I wonder.

xxx

PS: If you fancy bringing a bit more love into your life, grab yourself one of these Heart Projectors from Urban Outfitters – they are on sale now, and I WANT ONE!!! 🙂

The Sound of Silence

I’ve been in Houston for a couple of days on a work trip – it was an easy, peaceful drive here on Wednesday (I FINALLY got around to listening to the first season of ‘Serial’, and OMG am I hooked! LOVE it!!), I had a great walk around and shop at the Galleria (which is right across the street from my hotel), my conference sessions have been tolerable…it’s been a pretty decent time. I decided to spend my Thursday evening exploring Houston’s Museum District, and am I ever glad I did! WOW!! I can’t wait to come back!! Have you been?

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I started at the Rothko Chapel, where something very strange happened. Are you familiar with this place? If not, here’s a brief description:

The Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational chapel in Houston, Texas, founded by John and Dominique de Menil. The interior serves not only as a chapel, but also as a major work of modern art. On its walls are fourteen black but color hued paintings by Mark Rothko. The shape of the building, an octagon inscribed in a Greek cross, and the design of the chapel was largely influenced by the artist.

Susan J. Barnes states “The Rothko Chapel…became the world’s first broadly ecumenical center, a holy place open to all religions and belonging to none. It became a center for international cultural, religious, and philosophical exchanges, for colloquia and performances. And it became a place of private prayer for individuals of all faiths” 

On September 16, 2000, the Rothko Chapel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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I entered the octagonal room and found a bunch of benches, and a few people in the room, some on the benches and one on the floor. It was absolutely quiet. I took a seat on one of the benches, picked a direction to face, and got comfortable – I wasn’t prepared for what happened to me next. I lowered my head and closed my eyes, and just sat. About 2579 thoughts roared through my head (as per usual), but then they slowed down…and nearly stopped. I’ve never experienced this before. I felt instantly uncomfortable, as if I could smell smoke somewhere nearby and needed to get out of the way of an impending inferno – but I didn’t move. I didn’t even open my eyes. I kept sitting there, thinking about all of the things that have been going on lately, and what I can do to change them. Then I started thinking about all of the good things that I have going on – and that was when the tears started. I still didn’t open my eyes or raise, my head – I just sat there, head down, moisture leaking out the sides of my eyes and dropping onto the floor. For whatever reason, this starkly simple, small room had somehow affected me in much grander ways…I’m still struggling to explain the experience.

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Once I pulled myself together, I sat up and opened my eyes – new people had joined us in the chapel, and I hadn’t even heard the doors open. I studied all of the paintings, moving a complete 360, to ensure that I had the chance to look at each one – and then I silently collected my belongings, and left. As I walked out of the chapel, I felt a calm and peace that I have rarely felt in my life…I think some of it is still lingering. What an absolutely magical place..and I’m hard-pressed to explain exactly where the magic came from.

From there, I moved on to the Museum of Fine Arts – what a gorgeous institution! It was open until 9:00pm on Thursday nights (woohoo!), and it was FREE! Double Woohoo! I LOVED this museum, and wish I’d had the time to explore the entire collection – but now I have an excuse to come back! I focused my efforts on the Impressionists (of course), and I found some true beauties! LOVE!!!! Here’s just a couple:

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I loved my trip to this museum so much, I can’t even tell you! It reminded me of visiting museums in Paris, London or New York (I don’t mean to be a name dropper, but it’s true!) – I can’t wait to plan a weekend here, and come back with the Wee Muppet! 🙂 Yaaa! 🙂

I’ve always had a rather negative opinion of Houston (too hot, too humid, too crowded, etc) – but I need to seriously revise my opinion. Yes, it is all of those things – but it is SO MUCH MORE….I can’t wait to come back and see what other treasures I can find! 🙂

xxx

 

To Make You Feel My Love

Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching, and love is (hopefully) in your air – here are some ideas of goodies to give to your lady love, your BFF, or even yourself. Happy shopping! 🙂

I want one of these! LOVE!
Parisian Love Lock & Key — I want one of these! LOVE! Available from Olive and Cocoa
I'm so taken with the simplicity of this necklace :-)
I’m so taken with the simplicity of this necklace 🙂 Available from Olive and Cocoa
Amethyst Air Plant - I'm crazy for these and want to get a couple for mi casa...maybe I can actually keep these babies alive! ;-)
Amethyst Air Plant – I’m crazy for these and want to get a couple for mi casa…maybe I can actually keep these babies alive! 😉 Available from Etsy

 

I will never get over my love for magnetic poetry
I will never get over my love for magnetic poetry. Available from Amazon

 

You can never go wrong with perfume - this is one of my all-time favorites!
You can never go wrong with perfume – this is one of my all-time favorites! Available wherever fine fragrances are sold

 

Another great perfume!
Another great perfume! Available wherever fine fragrances are sold

 

You will never go wrong with a Kate Spade purse - this lovely is on sale at Zappos for $209...or check out the sales at your local Kate Spade Outlet store!
You will never go wrong with a Kate Spade purse – this lovely is on sale at Zappos for $209…or check out the sales at your local Kate Spade Outlet store!

 

If jewelry is something you’re thinking is in the cards for you and your Valentine this year, how about giving a moonstone ring some thought?? I am WILD about moonstone – check out these stunning options (all available on Etsy):

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So. Beautiful.

Hopefully I’ve given you a few ideas for the lady in your life (or yourself!) — check back again soon to see my roundup of suggestions for the men you know and love! 🙂

xxx

The First Noel

The First Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds
in fields as they lay;
In fields as they lay, keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

 

Happy Christmas Eve, my friends! I hope that this finds you surrounded by friends and family, the people you love most in this world, with a gorgeous feeling of peace around you. I’m planning to spend the next couple of days with my folks and my Wee One, doing nothing too terribly exciting – but enjoying every moment that I have with them. We always have appetizers on Christmas Eve, and this year we are bypassing the traditional Christmas dinner and having fondue instead – yaa! Fondue is one of my favorite meals – I am pumped! 🙂

I hope that you are well, my darlings – Merry Christmas. 🙂

xxx

 

PS: I made this dip for our meal this evening – it’s HEAVENLY, and so so so easy! Enjoy!!

 

Dill Pickle Dip
Recipe from: Created by Cathy Pollak for NoblePig.com. | Serves: 3 cups
Ingredients

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup pickle juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
2 cups diced pickles
Directions
In a large bowl add cream cheese, red onion, pickle juice, garlic, Old Bay seasoning and pepper. Combine with a hand mixer. Add pickles and continue mixing until fully combined. Refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to three days before serving.

 

 

Start Me Up

Do you know what “gaslighting” is? I’m not terribly hip, so I somehow missed out on this phenomenon – my friend Soupsie mentioned it to me recently, she told me to Google it. Here’s the definition I found: a form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts and sanity, giving the abusive partner power and control.

The term “gaslighting” comes from a 1938 stage play called Gaslight, in which a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights in their home (which were powered by gas), then denies that the lights change when the wife asks him about them. Once an abusive partner has used gaslighting to break down the victim’s ability to trust his or her own perceptions and beliefs, the victim is more likely to stay in the abusive relationship, because he or she no longer believes it’s possible to survive without the abuser.

Gaslighting usually happens gradually in a relationship — so gradually that the abusive partner’s actions seem harmless at first. Over time, a victim can be confused, anxious, isolated and depressed, and even lose sense of what is actually happening.

Crazy, right? But this has totally happened to me far too many times in my life – and I’m willing to bet that someone in your world has done it to you as well. This is what I really don’t get – people claim to care for you, yet think it is perfectly okay to mess with your mind like this. Ridiculous. We should all remember this:

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This is the absolute truth – I don’t care how angry you are at someone, you do not do anything to them that messes with their mind. Gaslighting? Messes with the mind – and only assholes act that way. Shame on them.

Now that I know what gaslighting is, I’m interested in talking about what to do if this shit situation happens to you – here’s some suggestions: if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t — trust your intuition; believe in yourself and your own capabilities — you’re awesome, and shame on the fool that tries to tell you otherwise; realize that somebody manipulating you means that they’re crappy, not you — their desire to control you is on them, and it’s gross; don’t worry about trying to be right in this situation, because you are, even if the other person will never acknowledge it — being right doesn’t matter, but going out and living your best life and  being happy is by far the best revenge.

 

Are you familiar with gaslighting? I hope that, if you are, it’s something that happened to you long ago, and isn’t part of your current situation. If this is something that is going on with you now – give me a call….we can get through this.

xxx

 

 

All These Things That I’ve Done

I had one of my very favorite students come to visit me yesterday afternoon – she’s still a student at my school, so I see her pretty much every day in passing, but this time she stopped by for a visit. She wanted to talk about how things were going with her, her stresses, her boyfriend drama, her family relationship issues…all of the regular stuff that gets teenagers down. While we were talking, she made a couple of self-deprecating comments about herself and her appearance – and I was all over her ass. I am the queen of comments like these, but I have made such a concerted effort to stop it lately – and I think she should, too. It does nobody any good to put themselves down like that, even if it is meant in good fun. I wish someone had told me this when I was 17 years old; honestly, I wish someone had told me something – anything – like this when I was 17 years old. All it takes is one person to show an interest, to express concern, to care  — and it can (and likely will) completely change the course of your life.

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We don’t start out our days being so insecure and sensitive (thank the Lord) – somewhere along the way, though, life gets in the way and changes the essential make up of our brains. Read this passage from a great book that I read last year:

“When we’re born, we have an instinctual understanding of some of the most important basics of life that includes, and goes way beyond, bending at our knees instead of our lower backs, to pick a beer can up off the floor. We’re born knowing how to trust our instincts, how to breathe deeply, how to eat only when we’re hungry, how to not care about what anyone thinks of our singing voices, dance moves, or hairdos, we know how to play, create, and love without holding back. Then, as we grow and learn from the people around us, we replace many of these primal understandings with negative false beliefs, fear, shame, and self-doubt. Then we wind up in emotional and physical pain. Then we either numb our pain with drugs, sex, booze, TV, Cheetos, etc. Or we settle for mediocrity. OR we rise to the occasion, remember how truly mighty we are, and set out to relearn everything we knew at the beginning all over again.” (From Jen Sincero’s “You Are a Badass”)

 

So true, eh? I remember being a kid that sang all the damn time, whether anyone wanted to hear it or not. Then, when I was about 13 or so, I completely quit singing out loud – unless there was A LOT of booze involved and a group karaoke situation, I NEVER sang. Never. However, as I have aged, my give-a-shit has loosened (I think it’s broken, actually), and I have begun singing again. A lot of the time. I even rapped an Eminem song last year. Imagine. I remember singing a song with my Wee One at my mom’s house one day, and my mother being absolutely amazed at the sound of my voice – not that it was particularly good or anything, but just at the actual sound of it…she had forgotten what I sounded like. Funny, eh? Now, why did I care so much what other people thought of my voice? I kind of think my pathetic dance moves fall into the same category – I don’t dance EVER anymore. I know that my rhythm is sketchy at best, and I am not the most coordinated girl in town, but…why should I care? I remember the last man who asked me to dance actually prayed to God to give me rhythm while we were still on the dance floor –  which made me not want to dance anymore…but that is completely stupid. Who cares if I have rhythm???? Who gives a shit????! I guess I have in the past, but I need to stop. Life is too damn short. Grr. I think I will just dance…it’ll be okay. 😉 (I hope you caught that Gaga reference)

xxx

Where You Lead

I had never seen an episode of “Gilmore Girls” until a year and a half ago – when I binged the entire series on Netflix in an alarmingly short period of time (no life, what can I say). I loved the show, thought the characters and their mannerisms were ridiculously charming, and have a more than passing interesting in moving to Stars Hollow (even the bloody name of the town is magical) — it reminds me a lot of my hometown in Canada. I was pretty excited about the four movies that were released on Netflix this past Friday, and I’m currently forcing myself to watch just one, then wait two days, then another one…to prolong the joy of the experience. As I said, no life – I’m okay with that. 😉

Look at this picture, will you?

Everything.
Everything.

I love this, don’t you? It’s kind of the best philosophy to take when approaching all kinds of relationships: find someone that you think is nice and want to hang out with for as long as you’re around for. Love this! Here’s something similar from HBO’s “Girls”:

The truth
The truth

I love this Hannah-ism from “Girls” (the final season begins in February, and I honestly don’t know that I am ready to say farewell to this show) – the writing on this show is brilliant. 🙂 It makes me happy. 🙂

 

So far, I’ve seen one episode of the new “Gilmore Girls” – and, while I can understand some of the criticism that has been tossed its way, the show is bloody delightful. For real! It’s wonderful to see the familiar faces (and not just Luke’s gorgeous mug!), to hear the banter, to see a really positive mother-daughter relationship on TV (#parentinggoals)…it’s just awesome. If you’re thinking about checking it out, DO  – you will not be disappointed! 🙂

xxx

PS: Logan (Matt Czuchry) is back – yum. 🙂

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You’re welcome 🙂

Repost: Expect No Mercy

I have written before about my struggles with managing my expectations, and I thought for the longest time that I was one of the only people who had a hard time with this. As I looked around, it seemed to me that everybody else was really great at this, going through life with what they wanted being in perfect alignment with what they got, and everything just hunky dory. It pissed me off, wondering why everybody else seemed so good at this, and I completely sucked. I spend most days thinking that I want certain things, that I deserve some stuff, and yet – nothing. It’s so frustrating.


Release-Expectations-Ransom-Note
Thankfully, I’ve had a few situations come my way recently that have shed some light on this one for me. This weekend, a girlfriend of mine called, all upset about a situation she was going through. She had met a really nice guy recently and was totally into him, and was feeling pretty positive about the two of them and the possibility of things blossoming into a relationship. However, there was one thing missing: sex. They had only tried to get it on twice during their dating time, and it didn’t ‘work’ either time. The wind wasn’t in the sails, if you get my drift. She tried talking to him about it, and his response was that he was really nervous, which was affecting his performance. She had a most unusual reaction to this – whereas most of us may take this as a sign that he likes us a lot and embark on a quest to put him at ease and help him relax, she responded with, “If he’s nervous about being with me, then he thinks he’s dating up and that I’m too good for him, and if he thinks that then he’s probably right and I am too good, so …maybe I should end it and find someone much better looking who is more of my equal”.(she clearly has a rather inflated sense of self, but…that’s a story for a different day) Her expectations were that he should be boning her 24-7 and thanking his lucky stars that her lady business welcomed him in – and the fact that there’s a tiny bump in the road wasn’t part of her plan at all. I’m not sure how this scenario will play out, whether she will dump the guy and move on to someone more Zoolander-ish, or whether she will stick it out and try to work through this rather awkward situation. What would you do? 🙂

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Every day I work at managing my expectations – I regularly think that things ought to go a certain way for me at work, and when they don’t and there are roadblocks, I get frustrated and wonder why I expected so much in the first place. When I want to spend time with people and they aren’t as gung ho about it as I am, I get annoyed and can’t understand their indifference…why do I think they are every shade of awesome, and they are kind of ‘eh’ about me…that bugs the shit out of me! 😦 The worst part is that as much as I expect of those around me (which is too much, I know), I expect WAYYYYYY more from myself – and do I ever get pissed off when I fail to live up to my own hype. It sadly happens far too often. 😦 The experts have a ton of opinions on how to make expectations more realistic, how to manage your ideals of your self, and how to give yourself a break – here’s a few of their tips:

  • Discover that everything we need to be happy, we already have inside ourselves
  • Realize that our happiness does not have to be contingent on people, places, or things
  • Learn to differentiate between reality and unrealistic expectations
  • Engage in relentless communication with ourselves and those around us. Surely we are intelligent enough to realize that all we really have control over is what’s happening right now in this moment. 

That’s some good advice, don’t you think? Some researchers at The University of Texas Austin had the following suggestions on managing your expectations when it comes to relationships:

  • Communicate what your needs and expectations are; expectations should be kept within reason.
  • Be willing to negotiate and compromise on the things you want from one another.
  • Do not demand that your partner change to meet all your expectations. Work to accept the differences between your ideal mate and the real person you are dating or married to.
  • Try to see things from the other person’s point of view. This doesn’t mean that you must agree with one another all the time, but rather understand and respect each other’s differences, points of view and separate needs.
  • Where critical differences do exist in your expectations, needs or opinions, try to work honestly and sincerely to negotiate. Seek professional help early rather than waiting until the situation becomes critical.
  • Do your best to treat your partner in a way that says, “I love you and trust you, and I want to work this out.” 

I think there are some really good ones in there, don’t you? I personally find it really hard to handle when I am disappointed by someone, when I expect them to be one way and do things a certain way…and when that doesn’t happen, well, I find it sometimes crushing. A lot of it comes down to effort – I try my best with most things that I do, I mean well, and I expect that from others…which can be, at times, unfair. People are who they are, and they do what they do, and the sooner I – and all of us – realize that, the better off we will be. Do you agree? 🙂

 

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I have been doing a lot of reading recently on the idea of ‘Manifesting’, and using the power of your positive thoughts to bring things to life. This idea, also known as the law of attraction (as well as about a hundred different titles), is nothing new, and there are many, MANY great believers in the magic and the power of this concept. I love the idea of it – if you think good things, they will happen…it’s kind of like ‘Field of Dreams’ – “if you build it, they will come”. However, the ‘do-er’ in me finds this to be a tough one – for me, it’s not always enough to just think something and believe it with every ounce of my being…I want to, no make that HAVE to, be doing something to make my dreams come true. I often wonder if I gave myself a break, focused more on the positive thoughts and their power in the universe, if I may not find the success and good things that I so crave??! 🙂 One idea of manifestation that I can really get on board with is the idea of not speaking badly about yourself…I have LONG suffered from this one – I’m the first person to insult myself, my sharp and cutting remarks launch out of my mouth as a preemptive strike of sorts, in the hopes that whatever unkind words somebody else may make towards me will pale in comparison to the self-depracating chatter that I already said. Isn’t that ridiculous? I know. I used to think that these sort of self-mocking comments were charming, but they aren’t – not in the least. They are hurtful, stupid, and unnecessary. I don’t need to do anything but sing my own praises – and I sure don’t need to make fun of myself. I may not be perfect, I’m not gorgeous, or brilliant, or talented, or successful…but I am me. And that’s all that I can expect from myself….and it is MORE than enough. 🙂

xxx

Get Happy

I’ve been thinking about Bob Ross a lot lately (not random at all), in particular his quote about there being no mistakes, just happy accidents…and I LOVE that. As a person who has made just about every mistake that a person can make (some I liked so much that I made them over and over again), I like embracing the idea that maybe good stuff has come from all of these screw ups of mine…that maybe it hasn’t been all for naught. Here’s a clip of Bob Ross to bring something awesome to your day:

A quick list of 11 things you can do to make yourself feel happier every day – enjoy!! 🙂

1. Commit to doing one nice thing for yourself every day.

2. Listen to yourself.

3. Forgive yourself.

4. Accept yourself as you are right now.

5. Eliminate toxic people in your life and workplace.

6. Prioritize your health.

7. Stop skipping meals.

8. Breathe!
9. Give yourself a welcoming space.

10. Get some sunlight.

11. Buy premium products for yourself.

Get going on the list – and have a happy day, friends! 🙂

xxx