5 Fool Proof Cake Tips – From one mom to the next!

Since becoming a mom I have loved making the boys their own special birthday cakes and enjoy decorating them. I’m by no means a professional or have any kind of training – but I have learned a few things along the way as the evolution of photos at the end of this post shows! I thought I would share some of the simple tips that have made a big difference in my cake game, from amateur mom baker to another.

Make it easy on yourself – I don’t make the entire cake from scratch… I’m all about jazzing up a box cake mix (using milk instead of water, butter instead of oil). If you want to try to do a fun decoration don’t feel like you have to DO IT ALL. Make things easier where you can!

Invest in a cake kit. The first few years I didn’t spend the $17 for a cake kit and I kinda wish I had. A turntable, a scraper and a couple decent spatulas can really make a big difference. This is the one I bought this year. They sell ones with dozens of more pieces but I opted for something simple.

Freeze your rounds – this was a tip I discovered last year. Freezing or chilling your cake rounds makes frosting SO much easier!! There’s none of that crumbling you normally experience and it doesn’t take away from the taste or texture. Just make sure to wrap them in plastic wrap tightly if you plan on chilling or freezing for longer than 30 min.

Start small and pick a design or style that you’re excited about – I get most of my ideas off pinterest & I try to pick cakes that feel doable. Over the years I have slowly expanded what I felt like was “doable” 3 years ago I would have never even tried this Cars cake. The idea of doing a fondant checkerboard bottom alone would have been too much. Even this year, I was fully prepared to scrap that detail if it wasn’t working out!

Stop by your local bakery! – did you know most grocery stores will sell you their cake frosting?? This year I went to Safeway and bought a bunch of white frosting directly from the bakery & then dyed it red! I’ll definitely be doing this going forward. Again, make things easier where you can! Maybe someday I’ll have time to perfect my own cake frosting but for now this is a short cut I’ll be taking!

BONUS: Have fun with it! Even if your cake flops it won’t be the end of the world. I have store-bought cupcakes as a back up & I focus on the fun aspect! Also don’t underestimate the power of crumbled graham cracker or Oreo cookie as a way to add texture and make the cake look more detailed!

Cars cake for Will’s 4th Birthday (2022)
Dino Cake for Will’s 3rd birthday (2021)
2021 “Wild One” for J’s 1st Birthday

“Two the Moon” Will’s 2nd Birthday (2020)
Smash cake for Will’s 1st Birthday… to show we all start somewhere!

The Monday in March That Started It All.

For most people March means the welcoming of Spring & St. Patricks Day. But for me, March will always make me pause, make me look around and think about all the different ways my life could have gone. Three years ago on a random March Monday our world flipped upside down. I thought I was taking my husband to the ER for an unmanageable migraine. In the hours that followed, his mentation deteriorated, I held my 10 month old son, and watched as my coworkers work fervently trying to figure out what had caused my high functioning husband to suddenly become unable to finish sentences, use his hands, or even follow commands. I sat beside him as a machine breathed for him, in the same room I had cared for countless intubated patients over the years. Stunned that this was my reality.

About a month after Chris’ “outage” as we jokingly refer to it now, I did write a post about our experience with viral encehphalitis, you can read it here . It’s funny because there are similar threads, thoughts on immense gratitude for life but reading it now it’s clear that at the time I thought “welp processed that, time to move on”. I refer to Chris’ recovery in the past tense, when in reality it would be over a year before he truly felt like himself again. And I would spend the year having intense flash backs and resisting attempts at truly processing it. Perspective baby.

I wish I could say that those nights in the ICU were the hardest part but the weeks and months that followed would be far more arduous. The get well flowers wilted and life outside our apartment walls went back to normal but inside I felt shell shocked. I was on edge wondering if every bout of dizziness or return of a headache was the start of Chris’ encephalitis returning. In the midst of balancing the household responsibilities and caring for our ten month old son the trauma loomed over us. At the time, I remember mostly saying “I don’t wanna talk about, let’s just move on”. Spoiler alert – you can’t just move on from your trauma without ever processing it.

I resisted for so long, thinking the walls I was building up would protect me. My decade as an ER nurse has been a masterclass at keeping trauma at arms distance, emotionally detaching myself from immense sorrow. It’s how us nurses are able to go from compressing a lifeless chest one minute & doing a vision test the next. A skill that I’ve since learned should be used with measure. When it came to this, the more I turned away the more it hurt. As much as I yearned for everything to “be normal” again it wouldn’t be. And that was the point. This was meant to transform us, if we’d let it.

I started recognizing that even though I didn’t want to “relive it” I already was, and it was happening out of my control (usually at work). Those memories seared into my brain, played like a movie with crystal clearness. I would get flashes of what happened that day, my coworkers sprinting around. The looks on peoples faces. The same hallway I walk dozens of time per shift, that I sat and sobbed in, all those memories loomed under the surface, red hot. About a year ago I was transferring a patient to the ICU. The patient was going into the same room Chris had been in. When I crossed the threshold in an instant I was taken right back to being at his bedside. The first two nights I had ever spent away from my son. As I wheeled my patient waves of overwhelming heaviness and fear washed over me. Fear of not knowing what life would be like when he was extubated. Wondering what would he remember, how much PT would he need, how far from baseline would he be starting at? Would I suddenly be caring for my son & my husband? All the feelings and fears I never allowed myself feel in real time because I was flexing my detachment muscle as hard as I possibly could.

That night I went home and wrote. I wrote about what it felt like to walk back into that room, I wrote about my fears, I wrote about the last twelve months. I wrote about things I didn’t even realize were below the surface. Some of which would be the skeleton of this post. My younger self used to fill journal after journal growing up. That habit abruptly stopped when nursing school took over my life. Writing in journals suddenly felt juvenile, like something I did only as a kid, before I had real problems. But here I was watching the words pour out of me. Chris’ encephalitis albeit life altering and terrifying has been the single biggest catalyst for change for not only Chris but myself as well.

This transformation certainly didn’t happen overnight, and in writing this, I know it is still ongoing. In some ways this experience feels like yesterday and other times it feels like a lifetime ago. It isn’t until you’re met head on with life’s raw fragility that you’re faced with either growing and evolving or hiding away. I could have continued to turn away, continued to say “I don’t wanna talk about it or relive it” but I’m convinced I wouldn’t have grown. Instead, eventually, I turned into it.

Right away we prioritized physical health – Per his doctors recommendations we did the Whole30 diet to figure out what had caused his body to be in such a hyper-inflammatory state. Chris embarked on Neuro Physical Therapy. I leaned into my at home workouts that I knew were keeping me from totally losing it. We slowed way down. Chris started talk therapy, and I actually agreed to open up about my experience. We discovered our enneagram types and recognized the role they played in our relationship, our daily lives and the way we communicate with one another. I started writing again. And last year I started meditating. Sitting with my thoughts, creating space and stillness has opened entire new worlds for me. I started intentionally choosing to use that experience to shape my life going forward. I recognized that through bettering myself, through facing my trauma I could help others.

This March I felt a very strong pull to lean back into things that bring me genuine happiness. I bought a doodle pad, I dusted off my sewing my machine, I’m reading books that make me laugh and cry. I’m posting here more! I’m planting flowers in every open space in our yard. I’m filling journals again, I’m overcommitting to projects (because I secretly love that)!

So this morning, this March Monday, I’m up before the sun. I’m giving my mind the gift of pausing. I’m moving my body and overall I’m thankful. Because even thought it may not seem like it it. It’s all connected. Your gifts, your circumstances, your purpose, your imperfections; your journey, your destiny. It’s molding you. Embrace it.

5 Things to Add Riced Cauliflower to & not even notice…

Cauliflower rice is one of my favorite ways to sneak veggies into meals! It easily absorbs flavors of other foods which makes it the perfect versatile veggie for adding in. Below are five dishes that go beyond “cauliflower rice”

Fajita veggies – For taco night you can find me making bell peppers, onions and riced cauliflower for fajitas. Inside a taco, burrito or quesadilla you’ll never know extra veggies snuck their way in. My kids will notoriously pick out and onion or bell pepper but the cauliflower is here to stay!

Pasta Sauce – I love sneaking riced cauliflower into red sauce that I use for pastas or lasagnas! My kids never notice because the flavor of the meat sauce sauce is front and center.

Protein Shakes – This might sound weird but instead of adding ice to your protein shake, add 1/2 cup of frozen riced cauliflower. It adds a creamier consistency to your shake, plus you’re getting a serving of veggies!

Chili – a dish like chili is SO flavorful by itself it makes adding riced cauliflower easy! These are chili stuffed sweet potatoes & you’d never know there cauliflower in there.

Casseroles – last but not least next time you’re making a casserole try adding in a cup or two of riced cauliflower. Like I’ve mentioned before it absorbs any flavors and easily goes unnoticed!

I also buy riced cauliflower at costco and keep a ton of it on hand. Whenever I feel like we’re running low on veggie servings that day it is my number one go to for an extra serving!

Postpartum Must Haves

Postpartum can be a roller coaster & anything you can do to make life a little easier or comfier is a no brainer. Below are 10 of my postpartum must haves this time around!

  1. After Ease drops – this tincture helps with afterbirth contractions that typically become more painful with each consecutive pregnancy. I added a few drops to my water before breastfeeding & I noticed a big difference when I used it versus when I forgot.
  2. Frida Mom Ice Maxi Pads – These are AWESOME. I know at the hospital they give you ice packs but i found these to work SO much better, colder, lasted longer – highly recommend.
  3. Cute Button Down Pajamas – It’s easy to feel really frumpy & gross postpartum, none of your clothes fit, you want to wear something comfy & easy to breastfeed in. Treat Yo Self & get yourself some cute soft pajamas, you won’t regret it.
  4. Heating Pad – I tucked this into my hospital bag. Depending on your labor you can definitely feel like you got hit by a train. Although my labor was significantly quicker & less dramatic this time around, once my epidural wore off my back was SO sore. I don’t know if it was from the epidural itself, or if it was from a way I was laying, either way a heating pad can offer relief if the advil just isn’t cutting it!
  5. Placenta Capsules – this is by far my top postpartum must have! I encapsulated my placenta my first pregnancy & did it again this time around. Although still not widely practiced here in the US, placenta encapsulation is extremely popular in Eastern Medicine – benefits include: replenishing Iron stores in your body, decreased postpartum depression, decreased anxiety, increased energy, increased milk supply. Last pregnancy I wasn’t certain that the pills helped, I felt good but I didn’t know if the pills were part of that. This time it was our second day home & I remember this feeling coming over me of just wanting to bawl. And I hadn’t taken any of my pills yet, Chris suggested I take one & see. Within two hours I felt SO much better. I felt like myself. Now I take 2-3 daily. I notice a boost in energy & mood when I take them. If you’re interested in encapsulating your placenta but don’t know where to start, I have found that often times doulas will offer encapsulation services!
  6. Nursing Tanks – I like these from H&M they come in a lot of colors / prints & are fairly affordable.
  7. A good water bottle – I personally couldn’t live without my hydroflask, I love ICE cold water so this bad boy serves me well. I’m never without it. When I’m breastfeeding I’m incredibly thirsty & it’s one of the best ways to keep your milk supply up.
  8. Nipple Cream – I used this nipple cream when I was breastfed William. A little 1oz jar will last you for so long.
  9. Hakka Pump – Breast pumps can be SO pricey – this little silicone pump from amazon is a great snag. It’ll run you under $15 & just put it on the opposite breast while feeding & it’ll catch the let down. However it’s not great if you have an oversupply of milk as it can cause your oversupply to be worse.
  10. Tap Light – this little light is one of my absolute favorites. In fact I often gift it to new mamas. It is super light weight, cordless, and can be dimmed & changed from warm to cool lighting. I packed it in my hospital bag this time & I loved having instead of having to turn on the aggressive hospital lighting. Once we’re home I keep it on my bedside table for middle of the night feeds & in fact we still use the one we got for William two years ago!

Sunday Sunsets

Last night we spontaneously decided to head over to Baker Beach for the sunset and it ended up being one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve probably ever seen. This past week was so busy, Chris was gone Monday through Thursday for work, I worked 3 shifts including Saturday night. I celebrated a friends birthday & Sunday we went to Dim Sum for a red egg & ginger party. So Sunday was the first day Chris, William & I were all together for a whole day in a week!

Before having Will I used to take Juno to the beach weekly. It’s truly her heaven on earth but now days it’s a two person job. One to wrangle the dog and one to wrangle the toddler. I’m acutely award that we won’t live 10 minutes from the beach forever so I’m trying soak up all the beach days I can & even though it can be hectic I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Chasing Fireflies & other sweet things in the South pt. 2

Part 2 of our trip to Tennessee & Georgia! These photos are from the wedding we attended in Bell Buckle Tennessee. As you can tell by most* of the photos William had a blast. We got to spend some great time with family, we all stayed at a B&B together & were just a few blocks from the rehearsal & wedding.

Mommy Mondays

Mondays always feel like a fresh start, there are certain things I try to do on Mondays, I try to always work out (usually bbg legs), I try to start the week with a tidy house, & I also like to reflect back on the weekend & previous week. I thought I’d start trying to consistently post on Mondays. Today I’m sharing some favorite moments & some favorite things from this week.

Our week started with an Auntie Date at the science museum. William absolutely loved being able to run around the exhibits on his own. We bought a family membership to the Cal Academy when he was 4 months old. It’s remarkable to watch his brain just take in more and more everytime we go. This time he loved the aquarium & was trying to kiss the fishes, & he loved walking around the rainforest. However the museum is likely where he got his first cold ever that later caught up to us 36-48hrs later. The second half of the week was gray & rainy, perfect for getting over a cold.

I made protein muffins because I knew my sick guy would eat these. They’re made from Kodiac Cakes – I use the recipe on the box for muffins but I add 1.5 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of nutmeg & 1/2 cup blueberries. I also got these silicone baking cups & have used them a handful of times. I can’t believe it took me so long to get these, they’re a new found favorite!

This Spray! Seven Generation disinfectant spray. Will caught his first cold ever these week, poor guy (definitely not a favorite). So I’ve been using this to disinfect his toys, and pretty much anything his little hands are touching. I love that it’s no rinse required and there’s no alcohol whatsoever in this, plus it smells heavenly. I can’t recommend this spray enough, it’s so mild.

This new neighborhood art is a favorite from this wee! These flamingos are just a couple blocks from our apartment & are on a route I take when I walk Juno & Will. This bright statement on Cabrillo makes the neighborhood look so nice & bright & I love it, I think it’s so fun plus they’re sidewalk garden is total urban garden goals & they also added cool seating.

Another favorite I have is a hack for getting stains out of baby clothes!! It’s so simple. All you have to do is put the clothing item in a large glass bowl & pour boiling or near boiling water on top. I just heat up water in our tea kettle. This trick seriously works like a dream. William spit out some Tylenol I was giving him on his shirt and there was a huge cherry red stain across his chest. This trick works best the sooner you can do it after the stain happens but it’s so easy that even if it’s been a minute it’s totally worth trying. Let me know if you try this & it works!

Below are some favorite snaps from the week & weekend.

Hope everyone has a great week!

William Hayes Birth Story

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I gave birth to my son. Parts of my birth experience still feel so incredibly fresh in my mind.

I was 40 weeks & 3 days when I went in for my non stress test. The two weeks leading up, I was trying my best to induce labor, walking flights of stairs, eating spicy foods, getting acupuncture 3x a week. After one of my accupuncture appointments I walked a mile to an apothecary store in the Mission in SF to get a special tincture that was supposed to induce labor. I tried it all. So when the nurse told us my amniotic fluid was 25% lower than what they expected I realized this was the start of my birth story. Right after our NST we went to my OB’s, I already had an appointment scheduled & we were supposed to be picking a back up induction day. “Good news, I have your induction day, today!” that was what my doctor told us. We were scheduled for 4pm, she encouraged us to go out to a nice lunch & then head back to the hospital. I went in for one last accupuncture appointment in hopes to make my induction as smooth as possible, then we went out for brunch. We ended up being an hour late to our induction, it was so hard to leave our apartment. It was such a surreal feeling of knowing we were leaving & we would come back & our house would never be the same.

We checked into L&D, I was having contractions but they weren’t regular. They gave my misoprostol & I went to bed. Ironically my nightshift nurse was someone I went to nursing school with. (what are the chances!?!) I got started on pitocin that night & I was able to sleep a little bit. Early in the morning my nurse told it me looked like baby wasn’t tolerating the pitocin the way they hoped so they were shutting it off. I remember feeling so defeated. We thought, well our doctor is going to come in & tell us we’ll be having a c-section.

My dayshift nurse the following day was an older woman who was such a badass, you could tell she was a nurse who had seen it all. She was so reassuring that we still didn’t know exactly what my doctors plan was but that there were lots of options & sure enough my doctor wanted to try a balloon that would help get me to 5cm. (I was only at 1cm at this point). So mid morning they put the balloon in. A few hours later it was definitely working, I was starting to really feel my contractions. I had gotten up to to pee, but I couldn’t & was coming back to bed & chris was helping reconnect me to the TOCO monitor & we couldn’t seem to get the monitor on. My nurse came in and baby’s heart rate was low. First she thought the monitor was possibly just picking up my heart beat, she had me lay on my left side, still low. At this point the charge nurse came into the room, I can still hear the TOCO slowing, 90, 80, 70. More nurses coming into the room. As a nurse myself I knew this wasn’t good, even though I was terrifed, I knew I was safe with Margret, she kept reassuring me they were going to take care of us. She had me get on my hands & knees, (the best way to get pressure off the baby, especially if the umbilical cord is being compressed) while they were calling my doctor & preparing for a crash c-section. Within a few seconds of being on my hands & knees baby started responding really well & the heartbeat recovered. Crash C-section avoided. My doctor came by later to check on me, she was reassured that baby recovered quickly.

The afternoon came & my nurses changed. This time I had a nurse who was precepting a new hire. Right off the bat I felt a little uneasy with my new nurses. About an hour into their shift I called them in because I was having a lot of trouble trying to pee with the balloon in. I didn’t realize how long had passed, but it had been about 9 hours since I was last able to pee & I felt like a lot of my pain was being caused by my bladder rather than my contractions. I had noticed every time I came back from the bathroom that the baby’s heart rate would dip. So I told my nurses I was certain I needed to have a catheter. My nurse told me I would have to lay flat in order for them to do this, I told my nurse that previously the baby’s heart rate hadn’t tolerated when I laid flat. She was insistent we do it that way, & as soon as they started baby’s heart rate plummeted. The reassurance I felt with Margaret, my previous nurse, was non existent with these two. They began yelling at each other, telling me baby was not doing well. I had to tell them I needed to get on my hands & knees. At this point the same thing happened with nurses flooding the room, they had already called for a crash c-section. & had called my doctor. Baby once again recovered while I was on my hands & knees. I told my nurses I needed them to catheterize me, I was fine in the position i was in, baby was fine so I wanted them to just do it. I was told “that’s really not ideal”. If you’re a nurse you know that there’s more than one position to put a catheter in a woman. The fact these nurses refused was mindblowing to me. The on call doctor came in, responding to the code they had called. I told her i needed the balloon OUT! She took it out, I walked to the bathroom & literally peed over 2 Liters!!!! I was immediately pain free. The doctor checked me & told me I was at a 0. This was a little baffling to me because the balloon had been in for nine hours & I was at a 1 when it was inserted. You don’t go backward. The on call doctor began talking about next steps. I informed her I wanted to wait until my doctor arrived before doing anything else.

4.5cm. That’s what my doctor said I was at when she came & checked herself. We chatted for a little bit about our plan. Although she wasn’t happy with how the baby was behaving as long as baby recovers she was comfortable with continuing on trying to have a vaginal birth. I voiced my concerns that I wasn’t being heard by nurses & was having to advocate for myself far more than a women going through labor should have to. If I hadn’t recognized that I desperately need to empty my bladder to take the pressure off my baby & relieve his distress I would have ended in a crash c-section. My doctor completely validated my concerns about my current nurses & asked the charge nurse for an assignment change. My advice to any patient is to advocate for yourself, if you feel like your concerns are not being heard or you just feel like something is wrong, SPEAK UP. We know our bodies better than anyone else!!

The plan going forward was to restart pitocin & then they put in a catheter that would go into my uterus and give fluid constantly to try to cushion the baby since my amniotic fluid was so low and this way they’d be able to more closely monitor my contractions. This took place around lunch time or so. I labored unmedicated the following 14 hours or so. I think I said maybe three sentences in those 14 hours. I had hastily downloaded a nature relaxation album on spotify that they play at my acupuncturist. Well we listened to that for 15 hours… ten tracks of Tibetan flutes all about 90 seconds long, meaning we listened to the album literally hundreds of times.

Finally after being in transition for about two hours I couldn’t take the unbearable pain & finally asked for an epidural. It was a godsend. They placed the epidural & my nurse said she’d let me rest and come back in to place my catheter. When she came back I had gone from 6cm to 9.5 in an hour. She got us all set up to start pushing, we did one push & baby totally crumped. Next thing I knew the charge nurse was in the room saying there would be no more pushing until my doctor arrived. So we waited for about 30 minutes for my doctor to get to the hospital. When she arrived she went through the possible outcomes that if the baby was not tolerating the pushing or if the pushing was effective there was still a chance I could end up in a c-section, or that they would need to use a vacuum to help assist. After four rounds of intense pushing our son William Hayes Dorsey entered the world at 6:34am. The umbilical cord had been wrapped tightly around his neck, that paired with my extremely low amniotic fluid was causing his distress throughout labor. The NICU was standing by & William did end up needing some initial stimulation to get him to take his first breath. But as anyone who’s gone through labor can tell you, hearing that first cry is unlike anything else in this world.

Birth is just amazing. It’s this terrifying, amazing, miraculous right of passage. And no two births are the same. I love that every experience is so unique & can be vastly different even with the same mom! My birth, although incredibly different than my ideal birth plan, is something I’m incredibly proud of. So no matter if you birthed your babe with an epidural, in a tub, via c-section, with 10 people in the room, with Tibetan Flutes in the background, I hope you feel immense pride about your journey.

Happy Mother’s Day – to all the mama’s out there, the real life superheros who work the toughest job in town.

ONE-derful

Our little boy is ONE! Saturday was his birthday & we celebrated at home. He woke up and got to read new books & play with his birthday balloons. Will’s auntie stopped by to have brunch with us. After Will woke up from his nap he got to play with his water table that Chris & I got him. And he ended the evening doing his cake smash before his bath! It was the perfect low-key day, we decided not to do anything big since there will be plenty of years of birthday parties to come so laying low and enjoying time with just us felt like the best way to celebrate.

The past year has simulatenously felt like a blink of an eye and a lifetime. When I think about all that happened this year it just doesn’t feel possible that it was only 365 days. The past month I feel like William has really transitioned into such a little boy! He can wave & blow kisses & give high fives, say yes & hi & shakes his head no. My sweet little guy loves to give Juno treats and pets Peggy. I can’t wait to see all the leaps he’ll take this next year.

8 Months & Christmas Magic

I figured it’s about time to post Will’s eight month photos, before he hits nine months. oops!

I can’t believe our first Christmas has come & gone. We spent Christmas in California & went up to the foothills to visit my family. It was so nice to spend more than just our usual Friday – Sunday quick trips. It felt like we really got some down time. William got to spend time with his two cousins & his highlights were sitting in his high chair watching his cousins open all their presents & sitting on my parents deck watching Juno chase a ball around the back yard. I can’t believe January is halfway over! I feel like I’m going to blink & William is going to be one! I