Friday, November 22, 2013

Carrot Cake... and Other Sweets

I didn't mean to take a two-week blogging break, but hey, things happen. Things like a sick baby, work projects, a few appointments and events, and an early Thanksgiving celebration with the in-laws.

I'll also be taking next week off to spend time with family and celebrate Thanksgiving. But before that, I'm leaving you with a peek at my birthday celebration (which happened at our place earlier this month) and the desserts I made for Scott's family's Thanksgiving gathering.

Plenty of treats to satisfy any sweet tooth!

My birthday was a low-key afternoon party with desserts and drinks. I served up a spread of puppy chow, compost cookies, pumpkin bars, chocolate chip cheeseball, and a banana cake with chocolate icing (just used a box cake mix and added an over-ripe banana to the batter).

And for Scott's family party, I made oatmeal carmelitas and a carrot cake. Lots of butter in the bars... and lots of sugar in the cake... so very good.

Carrot Cake
Recipe from my mom

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups flour
2 to 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 cups grated carrots

1/2 cup butter or margarine
3 oz. cream cheese
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 to 3 Tbsp milk

In mixing bowl, combine eggs, sugar, and oil; mix well. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Beat into eggs mixture. Stir in carrots. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round pans. Bake 35 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pans.

Frosting: Cream butter and cream cheese. Gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla. Add enough milk to desired consistency. Frost cake (I chose to only frost the top of each layer). Garnish with a few grated carrots if desired. Refrigerate.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Writer's Mindset

Just popping in today (on my birthday!) to announce this month's newsletter theme.

During November, Sarah and I will be sharing some of our tips and strategies for getting into a good writing mindset -- how to stay motivated, ward off procrastination, feel confident, and be productive.

It's these little things that can make a big difference in the quality of writing you produce. As I have said before, there is no "perfect" time to write -- but a positive mindset and a good working environment will help you do your best work.

If you haven't signed up yet, you can do so here. The first newsletter of the month arrives in inboxes tomorrow (Thursday) morning.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Give It Time: The Crazy, Strange Postpartum Period

I've been thinking about writing this post for weeks now. About a month after becoming a mom, I came across this article on those first blurry weeks with a newborn. Reading it, I felt like I wasn't alone. (Seriously, if you're a new mom, read it!)

Having a baby is a wonderful blessing, but I don't think we talk enough about how rough the first weeks and months can be. Perhaps it's because we're in survival mode then, and by the time we emerge, we've already forgotten how truly disorienting it was.

For me, I felt like a different person. I'd been so focused on labor and delivery that I didn't give much thought to recovery. I remember looking in the bathroom mirror at the hospital at my body after giving birth and thinking, is this really me? Thanks to Duchess Kate, I knew my belly would still be there and slowly shrink down over time, but I didn't feel like myself.

The night my milk came in, I cried -- partly from the pain of rock-hard boobs and partly because I was so hormonal. I remember saying to my mom and Scott, "I feel so out of control." My body didn't feel like my own. Everything was so different.

Physically, I was in pain from giving birth and adjusting to breastfeeding. I was sleep-deprived and my hormones were out of whack. I was sweating all the time. My breasts felt full constantly. When Evelyn would fall asleep, I'd race to take a shower. Getting clean felt good, but the water hurt my sore nipples and I'd have to carefully towel off and quickly get dressed before I started leaking milk. I let my hair air-dry and didn't have time to put make-up on. I'd eat a PB&J for lunch. On top of it all, I was trying to learn how to take care of a newborn.

Some days, I felt like all I did was sit on the couch and hold Evelyn, nursing her and trying to get her to sleep. I couldn't get anything done around the house -- and I couldn't imagine how it would get to the point where I ever would! Doing one load of laundry was a huge feat. Getting out of the house was a gigantic accomplishment.

Many times, usually in the middle of the night, I wondered if Evelyn would be an only child.

I distinctly remember running a quick errand by myself, while Scott watched the baby at home, and feeling like I was separate from the world. It was as if everyone was still living their lives as usual and mine had completely changed. It was surreal and bizarre and uncomfortable.

Everyone kept telling me, "Give it time." It was hard to be patient. I wanted to savor all the little moments, but I also wanted to fast forward a bit.

And then somewhere around four weeks postpartum, I made it to the pediatrician with Evelyn on my own and then went to Buy Buy Baby to pick up a few things. The whole outing went pretty smoothly. By that point, I wasn't in as much pain and my milk had regulated so my breasts didn't feel so full all the time. I started to feel a little more confident. I could put the baby down and she wouldn't cry immediately, so I could get a thing or two done -- make lunch, do some laundry, unload the dishwasher. It felt like a small turning point.

Slowly, things started to get better. I felt better. I felt more like myself. A different version but myself.

I'm still wearing yoga pants most days and rarely dry my hair or put on make-up. I still have stretch marks on my hips and a belly that pooches out even though I'm almost back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I still have some pelvic pain (which is a bit unusual and something I'm working through). I still can't get as much done as I used to. And I'm still slightly sleep-deprived.

But I can get out of the house to run errands, take a walk, or go to the grocery store with Evelyn. I'm more comfortable with her. We have a routine of sorts. I take a shower every day, make myself lunch, get things done around the house, and I've even been squeezing in work during nap time. We're getting more sleep. I feel more in control.

And let me tell you, the sweet baby smiles really make everything worth it. Melt my heart.

Life is definitely different, but I can already see that the craziness of those early weeks is in the past. I'm settling into a new normal -- a wonderful new normal. I'm trying to let go and cut myself some slack. I'm recognizing how amazing my body is for producing this new life and serving as her source of food. I'm noting the small victories. And I know I'm still in the midst of adjusting. Things will continue to change. They will continue to get better.

It's difficult to put it all into words, but I wanted to share my experience, not to scare anyone but to let other new moms know they are not alone. We don't talk enough about what happens after the baby arrives. It's hard. But I'm here to tell you, it does get better. Give it time. Give it time...


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