Working In Joy (aka Sprinkle Cake)

I mentioned before that this year, I decided to jump in with both feet and commit to Ali Edwards One Little Word workshop.  As Ali says on her site, “a single word can be a powerful thing”.  And yes, my word for the year is JOY.  There are a million reasons why I think this is the absolute perfect word for me to work with this year, but I think this quote sums it all up quite nicely:

Joy quotes

Or, as Danielle LaPorte put it,

“Happiness is like rising bubbles — delightful and inevitably fleeting.
Joy is the oxygen — ever present.”

While the start of a new year is supposed to be filled with the excitement of fresh starts, new challenges, and first steps on the path to being a better person, the first few weeks of this year for me have brought more than a few reminders of how life doesn’t always go quite as we had hoped for or planned.

But rather than focus on the dark clouds in life that are sickness and setbacks, I actively looked for the joy in the situation.  For there was joy in snuggling with my little one on the couch while she was home sick from school for two days.  And there was joy in making special dinners with the kids as the Husband worked late.  And there was even joy in changing up my gym routine when I wasn’t able to meet with the Coach (and for those that know me . . . i do NOT like a change in my gym routine . . . some things are sacred and not to be changed . . . EVER).

As the days of January tick by, I’m also starting to realize that it’s a whole lot easier to find joy in life when you wake up each day full of vitality and refreshed from a good night’s sleep . . . the benefits of a clean diet, no alcohol, and lots of physical activity.

It’s also a whole lot easier to wake up early so I can work on my One Little Word project when I am so rested and full of life!

IMG_9002

While the gym is definitely one of my happy places, I am probably happiest in the kitchen.  And this weekend, because the majority of my family’s birthdays happen in January, I found myself in the kitchen all day on Sunday baking birthday cakes and making frosting.  In all, I made 2 four layer cakes and with two different frostings.  The first was a sprinkle cake, for which I am about to share the recipe, and the second was simply the sprinkle cake without the sprinkles.  As for the frosting, I made a simple vanilla frosting for the sprinkle cake and a mocha one for the plain vanilla cake.  I will freely admit that there is nothing nutritionally redeeming about sprinkles, or their appearance in cake.  And while I’m admitting to things, I also used vegetable shortening in my vanilla frosting (yeah, even I was horrified by it) . . .but it made for an excellent frosting that hardened on the outside just that little bit, you know, the way the icing is on a cake from a bakery.  And yes, I did have a slice of cake (the mocha one which didn’t have shortening . . . but cake nonetheless).  And yes, there was a whole lot of joy in that slice of cake!

Vanilla Sprinkle Cake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1 1/2 cups milk (any kind that you have on hand)

2 tbs vanilla extract

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 1/3 cups flour

1 cup sprinkles (I used the thin round ones, but you could also use the little ones that look like balls – other kinds of sprinkles may bleed too much into the batter)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and butter and flour 2 9″ cake pans.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and two sugars.  Beat until they are well combined.  Add in the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light, fluffy, and pale yellow in colour.
  3. Add in the yogurt and mix again.
  4. Measure the milk and vanilla into a bowl.  Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into another bowl.
  5. Add half the milk mixture and half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until just combined.
  6. Add in the remaining milk mixture and flour mixture and again, mix until just combined.
  7. Add in the sprinkles and mix on last time.
  8. Distribute the batter between the two pans and use a spatula to even out the batter in the pans.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes and assess how well done the cakes are.  At this point, I put the cakes back in for another 10 minutes.  I then covered the cakes with tin foil and baked them for another 15 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cakes came out clean.
  10. If you are making these cakes without the sprinkles, baking time may be reduced by about 10-15 minutes.
  11. I cut each of these cakes in half to make a total of 4 layers!

Simple Vanilla Frosting

  • Servings: ices 1 2-layer cake
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3-4 cups icing sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp milk or cream

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, shortening and vanilla together until well combined.
  2. Add in 3 cups of the icing sugar as well as the milk.  Mix well.  If the icing is not as thick as you’d like it, add in the remaining cup of icing sugar.  Depending on how “fluffy” you like your frosting, keep beating it until your desired state of fluffiness is reached.
  3. If you are making a 4-layer cake as I did, double this recipe.

I’m Back . . . On Disney . . . And Why I want a Little Disney in our Life at Home

We’re just back from an extended vacation at Disney World.  I didn’t post while we were gone; not because I didn’t want to, but because I was simply too busy having fun with the kids and all the friends we met up with while we were down there.  And just as I was getting ready to write again, with our trip coming to a close, we learned of the horrific events in Paris, and then I wasn’t sure what to write . . . . the juxtaposition of anything I wanted to say against the backdrop of what was going on in the world just seemed, well, ludicrous.

But, after attempting to write this post over the last few days, I think I’ve finally found the words to express my thoughts.

I love Disney.

Yes, I realize that’s not the coolest thing a person of my age and stage can say.  But it’s the truth.  And here’s why.

I love that Disney is a place where you are actively encourage to be happy and have fun.  At every turn, someone is wishing you a good morning/afternoon/evening and telling you that they hope you have a “magical day”.  How can that not make you smile (at the very least because you find it a bit ridiculous); and that feeling is contagious.  I found myself smiling and exchanging pleasantries with complete strangers and vice vera.  Then there’s the parks themselves; where details big and small are designed to elicit maximum happiness.

I love that Disney is a place where you literally see dreams coming true all around you.  It is easy to laugh inwardly at the grown adults jumping with joy at seeing their favourite character; or at the huge groups of families traipsing around the park together in matching disney-emblazoned shirts.  While we may not share the same dream, you have to give credit to these people that have had the courage, determination, drive to make their dreams come true.

And I especially love that Disney is a place where you are encouraged to believe that  anything is possible; like Tinkerbell flying around Main Street just waiting to have her photo taken with small children.

And so now that we’re back at home, I hope to bring some of what I love about Disney into our regular lives.  Even in the face of the current world events, I hope to encourage happiness and joy in my kids and the Husband in the hopes that not only are they happier, but that they can spread that happiness on to others; I want to encourage them to follow their dreams and do what it takes to make them come true; and I most definitely want to instil in my kids and remind myself that truly, anything is possible.

 

It’s Almost 4 Years Since I said Goodbye to my Tumour . . .And Why This Year, I want to Celebrate That Day

I couldn’t do a pose in yoga yesterday . . . “It hurts the seam in my skull”, I told my teacher.  “Right,” she said, “I’d forgotten about that”.  And we both laughed.

It’s almost inconceivable to me that four years have gone by since I had a craniotomy to remove my brain tumour.

Four years ago, I had a nine month old baby, an almost 3 year old, and I was planning for the unknown and unknowable.

Four years since this weekend when the photo above was taken.

Trust me when I say there are no cheery articles to help moms of newborns decide when “the best time to wean your newborn in preparation for your operation” is, or “how soon can your kids visit you in the hospital post-surergy without traumatizing them”.  The irony was not lost on my that I spent hours in a class to prepare for the birth of my first kid, but there was absolutely no instruction available to me on how to navigate the lead up to and return home from a potentially changing surgery.

But this isn’t a post to dwell on the past.  Because I’m at a point where I can honestly say, the past really is the past when it comes to my tumour.

Sort of.

I read an article this week about the effects of trauma on a person.  Specifically how trauma can fundamentally change a person.

I know that happened to me.

Health and happiness are my top priorities now, for me and my family.  And our decisions, as individuals, and as a family usually tend to reflect these priorities.  It’s why we eat the way we do; we buy organic food, try not to eat processed foods and limit the sugar we eat, and why I am happy to meal-plan, cook and bake to ensure that we have good food to eat each day.  It’s why we don’t drink during the week, and why on the weekends, we don’t usually over-do it.  It’s why we’ve placed a priority on being active, even if that means the Husband is up at 4:30 to get to the gym, and I spend so many hours during the week in the gym.  It’s why we’re careful with our commitments, making sure to take time to spend just as a family of 4, and for each of us to have some quiet time for themselves, and for weekend afternoon naps if that’s what we need.  It’s why I try to structure my/our life/lives to allow for the greatest possible flow; without discord and obstacles, we are free to focus on enjoying life, and all it has to offer, and all we have to offer each other in this family.

But it goes deeper than that too.  I am profoundly grateful to be here and to experience this life I have with the Husband and the kids and my/our decisions about what we do and how we do it, reflect and celebrate this deep gratitude.  So yes, we are about to take our annual trip to Disney (it is the happiest place on earth!), and no, our kids aren’t yet in competitive sports teams (another year of a more relaxed schedule, and more time for the kids to decide what really makes them happy).

So, while I am quite ready forget about the tumour and the angst and upset that the tumour brought to that time in my life (a time when I would have much rather have focused on being a mom of a toddler and a newborn), I can’t.  It made me who I am today (a much better version of the me pre-tumour, at least in my humble opinion).

It’s been too easy for too long to focus on what I lost during that time of my life.  It’s time to focus on what I’ve gained because of it.

And that, my friends, is why I’m choosing to celebrate the anniversary of the surgery this year.  And yes the celebration just may involve some sort of sugar . . . because what’s a celebration without cake????

(and if you’re curious, this is the article I read about trauma and the effect it can have on a person – it really hits the nail on the head.)

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