Plum Upside Down Cake

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You know when you want to have a cheat meal without really cheating? That was the predicament I was in yesterday, when I desperately wanted to bake some thing in celebration of mine and J’s anniversary without totally ruining the liver cleanse I’m doing with my nutritionist. I still had a few “cheat” ingredients that don’t completely fit into my cleanse [hence, me calling it a “cheat”] but this recipe is 100% Paleo and delicious!

I got the recipe from Paleomg.com which is a fantastic resource for delicious clean food for every occasion. She uses peaches, but all I had on hand were plums. It was still delicious, and dare I say I may even prefer the plumbs! There were a few other modifications I used that I will highlight below.

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For the Plum topping:

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 3 plums, halved and sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
For the batter:
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • ½ cups tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs at room temperature, whisked
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • ½ cup almond milk (unsweetened)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sauce pan, combine the coconut oil and sugar until sugar dissolves, then toss the plums in the sugar mixture until they are soft. Set plums aside to cool. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients for your cake batter. In a medium bowl, whisk together all your wet ingredients until the sugar has dissolved. Mix both wet and dry ingredients together. In a round cake pan, spray with coconut oil and lie down a piece of parchment paper. Carefully arrange your plums on the bottom, then pour the cake batter on top, smoothing evenly with a spatula. Bake for 35 minutes, then check on the cake. The top should have a brown crust beginning to form. Leave in the oven for 10 more minutes if it does not seem finished. Let cool for 10 minutes before flipping over your cake to reveal the plum topping! Enjoy.

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Yes, I made a small version for myself… for taste testing purposes! Have a good weekend, y’all!

Recovery

We had a busy weekend and J and I are still recovering. Summer is always a busy time in our little town, because the university puts on retreats for high school youth to rekindle their interest in the church. Honestly, those conferences are how I ended up in the Buckeye State to begin with. Anyway, J has weird work hours as the retreats take place over the weekends. Between that, the wonderful wedding we attended and Cora’s unpredictable sleep schedule, we are simply exhausted.

I stopped nursing Cora last week, and like many moms know, that decision came with a ton of different emotions. I went out and bought myself a few new clothes to help with the transition. No, I didn’t go to Macy’s or anything like that, just picked up a few things from Walmart to get me through summer, since the majority of my clothes are currently nursing tops and nursing bras with various clasps and openings that make it convenient to nurse, but aren’t overall that comfortable to wear.

The one thing keeping me smiling is Sophie’s amazing attitude. She is definitely bordering on the “terrible two” stage, but even with that being said, she is a total sweetheart 99% of the time. She is starting to interact with Cora more, becoming more responsible with the little chores and tasks we give her, and more affectionate (my personal favorite).

We have a busy week ahead, but I’m hoping to find respite by watering the garden with Sophie, cuddling with Cora, and going to the weekly moms group I recently discovered.

Our Last Date

The week Sophie was born, I have a very distinct memory of Justin and I going to see whatever X Men movie was out at the time. Despite my love of Hugh Jackman, I wasn’t eager to go being a few days over my due date, but my mom convinced me saying that the time of “just the two of us” was limited, and I should take advantage of the “extra” time I was given, being past due. Its a find memory that J and I recalled frequently during tough times during our first year with Sophie.

At 38 weeks, J lured me up to Pittsburgh to go to The Cheesecake Factory, with coupons for 2 free slices of cheesecake. There was no blizzard like we’ve had the past week, the sun was shining, and it felt so nice to get out of the house.

Now, I recommend a small date or even full on “babymoon” vacations to other women I know who are pregnant. The third trimester is tough, and little outings like this help the end to be a little more bearable! My mom comes in this weekend and I can’t wait to see her. It will be nice to have the extra help and maybe get to sneak in another date before baby arrives.

Valentine’s Day

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We all know it’s coming up!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a Catholic, and so it should come as no surprise to you that Valentine’s day is more symbolic to me than just the cheesy, Hallmark version that gets perpetuated every year. You may be surprised to know that the Catholic church actually knows very little about St. Valentine, except that he was martyred, and many of the stories and miracles attributed to him [that occurred during his lifetime] and dependent more upon legend than fact. Being a student of literature, and particularly fond of fiction, this doesn’t pose a problem for me, as there are plenty of moral lessons to be learned from fictitious tales. Different depictions of St. Valentine’s arrests tell that he secretly married couples so husbands wouldn’t have to go to war, while another variation of the legend says he refused to sacrifice to pagan gods, was imprisoned and while imprisoned he healed the jailer’s blind daughter. On the day of his execution, he left the girl a note signed, “Your Valentine.” This is how the tradition of leaving “valentines” is said to have begun.

Either way, this was a man who was the depiction of love; love of God. His example of love, in any of the given stories, is one to be celebrated. It brings to the forefront of my mind, not only the love I have for my family but also my love of God [which is arguably more important]. So yes, I hang cheesy, red and pink heart decorations around the house. My husband and I exchange gifts and usually go out on a date. We even exchange gifts with Sophie, as that was a tradition my mother used to with us that always made me feel special and loved. Not to mention, I like an excuse to eat chocolate just as much as the next person.

So take time this weekend to tell the people you care about that you love them! There’s nothing stupid or overrated about showing love and appreciation to the important people in your life.

Hubby’s Birthday

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J turned 28 yesterday and we had the most fun celebrating him this past weekend. So, let me take a minute to brag about my husband… pretty much every morning, for the past 10 weeks, J has gotten Sophie out of bed, allowing me to sleep in, he feeds her breakfast, gets her dressed, brushes her teeth, and then tucks her into bed with me [and some times my cell phone on “kids mode”] before he leaves for work. This allows me to sleep in even longer, as long as Sophie is content to be in bed with me. That is just ONE of many things he does to try and make my life easier.

Since we plan on moving in the near future, he’s only showed me more how great of a father he truly is. He works hard to provide for us [and clip coupons for us], making sure we have enough food for the week [thank you coupons], that I can have the heat on as long as I want during these frigid Ohio winters, enough clothes [thanks again to coupons], and finally a home. Becoming a home owner is a big deal, and as the sole provider of this family, I’d think the process would stress him out or be a burden on him, and all I’ve heard are remarks of anticipation from him, and how he can’t wait to build a home with me and our 2 baby girls.

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He is silly, makes me laugh, is kind and tender to this overly-emotional, some times seasonally depressed California girl. I feel so blessed to have him in my life, and I couldn’t have concocted a more perfect spouse for myself if I tried. Now, I’m not saying he’s perfect, that’s definitely not the case… but I see where his weaknesses collide with my strengths, and vice-versa. Furthermore, I see how our chemistry together will help us to raise beautiful, God-loving girls.

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So happy birthday to the best dada and hubs I know! You bring so much joy to my life!

4 Reasons We Didn’t Cohabitate

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Disclaimer: typically I hate disclaimers, because I shouldn’t have to apologize for having an opinion or sharing my life experience with my readers, but I’ll give you one anyway. This is not a condemnation of couples who choose to cohabitate, nor is it a religious post… these are 4 logical reasons J and I decided not to cohabitate before marriage, and why I recommend it to every engaged couple I know.

I have an amazing marriage. Even though it’s not without it’s problems, I credit a lot of our success to our more “traditional” practices, including not living together before we were married. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my news feed was full of couples announcing their engagements which made me feel happy and nostalgic about mine and J’s engagement period. I began to think about how “different” we are than a lot of other people our age, but how I wouldn’t change a thing about the way we prepared ourselves for marriage. So, without further ado, here are the reasons why we chose to live separately:

  1. It was cheaper. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard couples try to justify living together before marriage because “it’s more affordable.” Really? Allow me to explain why you’re wrong. I was splitting the cost of rent and utilities with 2 other women. J was splitting his costs with 3 other men. The more people you have sharing the cost, the less each of you have to pay. I really don’t see how J and I living together in a house and being responsible for all the costs would have been the more economical choice.
  2. We were trying to practice chastity. Now, I don’t want to argue with you about chastity, but I will say this… remember those days of raging teenage hormones that had you in a perpetual state of lusting? Yeah, chances are you didn’t make the best life decisions back in those days, at least I know I personally didn’t. When I went away to college, I promised myself I wouldn’t be guided by sexual desire ESPECIALLY when it came to looking for a future spouse. Why didn’t we ‘seal the deal’ after our engagement? Because, contrary to popular belief, engagement is still a trial period. Granted, it’s a more serious, more committed time in your relationship, but it’s your last chance to make sure you’re picking the right person to spend the rest of your life with. I knew if I gave myself over physically and emotionally, my judgment would be completely clouded. I can’t tell you how many of my friends I have seen justify their boyfriends bad behavior because they gave themselves over too soon. Again, not a judgement, just my personal experience. I wanted a clear head. It was much easier to commit to chastity when I wasn’t going to sleep next to the love of my life every night [and trust me, it was still hard, even though we lived apart].
  3. “How do you know if some one is good for you unless you live with them first?” I’m calling BS on this argument too. In fact, I think living together before your married tells you LESS about a person as opposed to more. When you live together, decisions are easier. You don’t have to coordinate pick ups or drop offs, you just do what you want to do together. When you live apart, every choice involves communication. “Where do you want to meet? What time do you want to go? What time do you need to be home? Is there anything you need to get done before we leave or can I come over before?” Any old married couple will tell you how key communication is in a relationship. Living apart forces you to communicate with your future spouse, and I think that practice makes perfect. There is a lot of coordination and communication that has to happen when you live apart, and it made a huge difference for us in learning how we  communicate.
  4. Bachelorette Pad. I got married 10 days after I turned 21. That’s pretty young, especially for some one of my generation. What I hear most often from college sweethearts is that they feel like they didn’t get to take advantage of their “best years” before tying the knot.  Living apart from my future spouse gave me one last shot at living it up as an unmarried woman. I could dance in my underwear, invite all my girlfriends over late at night, binge on ice cream while watching chick flicks endlessly, have people stay the night, be as clean or as messy as I wanted to be, have pink curtains and a hot pink bedspread… I mean, the list goes on. I didn’t have Justin waiting up for me, expecting me home at certain times, wanting to eat every meal with me, or not wanting to have all my crazy friends over at what would have been “our house.” I got to spend time with him, and then go get to be a crazy girl on my own time. The fact of the matter is this, the “two” hadn’t “become one” yet, so there was no reason to pretend or act like we had. I mean, if you’re getting married you literally have the REST of your lives to figure out how to “become one” …it certainly doesn’t need to start the moment your realize your boyfriend is “the one.”

Anyway, I know every person/relationship is different, but I am so glad J and I did things the way that we did. I feel like we had a really solid foundation before I walked down that aisle, and the ways living separately forced us to grow, were invaluable tools that helped us survive that first year of marriage.

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Sugar Rush Monday

This weekend was dreary, wet and cold… true Ohio fall weather. While the grandparents had Sophie for the day, J and I decided to head up to Pittsburgh to see a movie. We left early to account for traffic plus extra time it may take to drive slower in the rain. Since we ended up in the city a whole forty minutes before the movie, we decided to swing by my favorite gluten free bakery, Gluuteny. And yes, I am a glutton for their goods.

Hubs always pokes fun at me over how excited I get for “over priced cupcakes” but the reality is, I don’t think they’re over priced, especially if you’re a gluten-free, home baker. If you want a quality product at home, you have to buy weird ingredients you’re only going to end up using a teaspoon of [I’m looking at you xanthan gum and arrowroot powder…] and a good recipe usually requires 3 different types of flours [almond flour, coconut, tapioca, etc.] Finally, even if you produce a delicious batch of gluten free goodies, they don’t last long. You can try to refrigerate them, maybe even freeze them, but they don’t quite taste the same due to the nature and texture of baking with gluten free ingredients. So, am I willing to pay $4 for a single g-free cupcake? Yes! No work for me, it’s delicious, and not wasteful. Win, win, win.

Anyway, walking through the doors of that bakery always makes me nostalgic since I had them make the top tier of our wedding cake, and have used them for countless other events in our lives. Here’s what they had when I stopped in on Saturday:

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Macarons [commonly mistaken for macaroons] I have no problem laying down some cash for these cookies. They are extremely hard to make… I mean, it took me 3 batches to get them right for Easter last year. The tan looking one was Caramel Macchiato which I immediately jumped for! I love coffee but for some reason, I get horrible reflux when I drink it while pregnant. This sweet treat reminded me of all those quiet mornings I used to spend nursing a warm cup of coffee in the fall. Now, I wrestle a 1 yr old while trying not to spill my tea. The pink was raspberry, also delicious!

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Mini Bunt Cake – this was actually in the “day old” section, but I didn’t care. These little cakes make me particularly nostalgic because I bought 2 the week of my wedding. One to eat while I got ready [cake for breakfast, don’t care] the second I ate at the airport while we waited to board our plane to Punta Cana. When I took out this cake and smelled it, I was instantly transported to the memory of waking up on my wedding day.

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Little Debbie Copycat – I love these cupcakes. They are an elevated twist on a school girl classic. Those Little Debbie, chocolate cupcake, filled with whipped cream? That’s what these are! All gluten free and glorious!

The shop also had a variety of pumpkin scones and fall decorated sugar cookies [one of which I ate as we sat in traffic]. Our movie didn’t turn out to be that great, but the trip to the bakery was certainly satisfying! Now back to reality. Though, I do recommend starting your week off with a sugar rush! YUM.

Labor Day Review

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We did A LOT this past holiday weekend. On Friday, before we even left for Kentucky, I cleaned this whole house so that when we returned, we could just relax and unpack. Also, the van we were going to be traveling 4+ hours in, also needed a good cleaning. Once that was finished, and the packing was done, we were on the road! The drive was pleasant until we hit a huge thunder storm when we hit Cincinnati. Next, our tire pressure light came on and I started having nightmares about being stranded roadside, and hour from our destination, in a lightening storm, with a crying sleepy baby. Luckily, we made it to our friends house before the tire went flat [that was the following morning’s problem.

Once the tire was fixed, we got to hang in the pool with some friends before heading to Mass and then the church’s festival. The rest of my food choices for that evening can be summed up in one word: carbs. I had a kielbasa sausage wrapped in pretzel dough with cheese dipping sauce, and for dessert I had a delicious waffle from Marty’s Waffle truck. I just got the classic sugar waffle with whipped cream, but there were nutella and salted caramel options as well, that looked just as tempting.

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Then the lightening returned for round 2 of its vengeance… and since our baby was about to pass out, we decided to call it quits on the festival, head back to where we were staying, and watch King of the Hill while our baby slept. For those of you who don’t know, Hubs and I have a secret obsession with Hank Hill. We don’t have cable at home, so whenever we’re on vacation or staying somewhere else, we always try to catch it on Cartoon Network at 8 pm during adult swim.

The next day, we were just beyond exhausted and headed back to Ohio. Our daughter was not pleased with the drive, and the last leg of our trip remains a screaming fussy, blur in my head. We all went to bed early so that we could actually enjoy hubs’ day off. Labor Day itself welcomed us with some flooding in the basement. Well, good thing we came home early and got a good nights rest! Yeah, the morning was spent with me distracting the baby while Justin cleaned out everything that was soaking wet [including my favorite print of the San Diego skyline]. After that tragedy was taken care of, we just hung around the house blowing bubbles… that’s really all we were up for.

So our “restful” weekend was anything but that, yet we still managed to have fun a spend some quality time with family. I hope you all got to relax more than I did, and here’s to the short week ahead! [It’s already Tuesday! Yay!]

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First Trimester Recap

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We’re about to head into the 14th week, here! I can’t believe the time flew by so quickly when it was so excruciatingly long the first time around. I thought now would be a good time to give y’all an update.

If you follow my on instagram or facebook, then you’re probably more informed than most readers. That being said, I haven’t really documented this pregnancy as explicitly as Sugar Plum’s. I did have morning sickness, luckily, it didn’t last as long this time around. At 11 weeks, it began to taper off and by 12 weeks, it was almost completely gone. However, I traded that nausea for lower back pain, migraines, acid reflux, and the frequent peeing [mostly because I’ve been trying to hydrate to get rid of the migraines… you just can’t win]. Oh, and let’s not forget fatigue. Yes, feeling sleepy is a pretty consistent symptom I suffer with daily.

Now that we’ve covered the cons, let’s talk about the PROS this time around. With Soph, I threw up almost every day, some times even twice a day. Out of the entire 13 weeks of this first trimester, I’ve only thrown up TWICE. I know you really don’t want to hear about my vomit ratio, but I feel like I have bragging rights because that is seriously amazing people! The other beautiful thing I want to share is that I’ve been feeling baby flutters lately! Nothing too intense, but I definitely know there is a little swimmer in there because every once in awhile I can feel its little wiggles!

Last, I could not have survived the 1st trimester without these items:

  1. Preggie Pop Drops
  2. Sea Bands
  3. essential oil diffuser + sweet orange essential oil
  4. peppermint gum
  5. TUMS [I like the cherry flavored chews]

I also got frequent foot rubs from my husband and had monthly chiropractic adjustments.

I’m excited to see what the 2nd trimester brings! I have had acid reflux since the beginning of this pregnancy, while not having it until the third trimester with baby #1. It is so strange to me how our bodies can react so differently to the same process. from what I remember with Sugar Plum, the 2nd trimester was a breeze despite having to pee often. Hopefully I will have an easy trimester this time around too!

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3 Years Later — Marriage is Still Hard

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I don’t remember our first big fight. Probably because the love and forgiveness surrounding the conclusion of our discussions, always outweigh whatever it was we were fighting about.

Every year that passes, living out those marriage vows become harder. People often say the first year is the hardest. Well, I’d argue that every year is the hardest. In Catholicism, marriage is a vocation, some thing that God has called you to do, some thing that will purify you, draw you closer to Him, and refine your soul into a saint’s. Surely, that process isn’t meant to be easy and from my experience, it certainly has not been. Last year we had another soul to care for [our baby girl], and we go into this year with me baring another. I don’t mean to illustrate our children as burdens, however, it is no light thing to bring another life into the world either. We are entrusted to protect these babies and raise them to the glory of God. As if being husband and wife weren’t challenging enough roles….

Well a few evenings ago, my car was broken into and ransacked. I had $6 sitting in a cup holder that was stolen, but that was the only thing missing. In fact, the scariest part about this whole ordeal is the day before, I had tucked my wallet into the back seat of the driver’s side before going swimming, to avoid having my wallet stolen at the pool. It was still in the backseat, untouched, despite obviously having our car tossed by some thief. You’d think we would have just counted our blessings that no one was hurt and that my wallet was miraculously saved, but no. I have to admitt there was a argument. Why didn’t I lock the car doors? If I thought they were locked, why didn’t I double check them to be sure? Why did my hubsand park in the driveway, blocking the garage? Why didn’t he move his car, then pull my van into the garage for me? Really, the thief is to blame… even if the car doors had been wide open, you still don’t have the right to troll through a stranger’s personal belongings and take what you want. The reality is, hubs and I felt violated. The car was parked 4 feet from our front door. We are the protectors of our home, of the children God has given us, and we felt like we failed.

The longer we’re married, the more there will be to protect. Are the car doors locked? Do we live in a safe neighborhood? If our house vunerable to break-ins? Are we financially secure? Do we have enough food for the children? These questions will haunt us as we become home owners, as we have more children, as we get new jobs, and anything else life throws at us. The longer we are married though,  the more I learn.

Buuuuuuut this can be both a positive and a negative.

What I learn as a positive: I know that when my husband comes home from work, he is susally exhausted. If I have any hopes of getting him to help me with the baby or chores, I have to let him have at least 10 minutes to unwind and get settled for the evening. This is some thing I have learned over time that has helped me become a more patient wife and maintain peace in our household.

What I think I’ve learned as a negative : My husband is stubborn. Therefore, the next time he is acting stubborn, I will throw this fact in his face as a way of discrediting him and getting my way. Though it may be true that my husband is stubborn, no peace is kept by constantly bringing this character trait to surface.

What we learn during our time being married should be knowledge kept to maintain peace and love in the household, not wielded as weapons against one another. And it’s HARD. You think I don’t tell my husband he’s stubborn? I do. You think he doesn’t point out my flaws? He does. Some times we hold grudges and hurt feelings and anger in our hearts, because we are human. This is something we will face for the duration of our lives. Even if we learn to be more silent and patient with one another, I know at least for myself, it will always be a temptation. Luckily, our marriage is rooted in faith. We always joke about the sacrament of confession, how other churches don’t have it, probably because no one likes it. On the other hand, if no one likes it, it would be hard to argue that Catholics made it up just for fun. It is some thing so contrary to our fallen nature, that the only conclusion can be, that it must come from God. In confession we must take responsibility for our sins, we try to learn from them, then they are forgiven by our Father, and then we receive unimaginable sacramental grace from that one little act of humility. Well, as I said, marriage is also a sacrament. After an argument, my husband is ALWAYS the first to humbly come to me, take responsibility for thing things he said that were hurtful or unfair, this helps me learn more about him and the way he approaches conflict, and it also helps him learn about the areas in his soul that he needs to work on. Then there is forgiveness, and then there is grace. By his example, as head of the household, my heart is always softened to see my husband coming to me for reconciliation. Confession has surprisingly taught me a lot about marriage, and the peace I feel while walking out of that confessional, is the same peace I feel after my husband and I mimic the humility of confession after an argument. And even though I’ve been going to confession ever since I was 6 years old, it is still hard, and probably always will be.

Likewise, marriage is hard. It will always be hard, just as trying to live a virtuous life will always be hard… but thank God for grace.

I love you Justin! Happy Anniversary.

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