Thursday, October 15, 2015

Kind of Famous Pumpkin Muffins

Forever ago I had this idea to make a cooking blog just for myself to save all my favorite recipes. Well, then along came Pinterest and I didn't need it anymore. I kind of forgot about it until I started getting random messages that people were loving my pumpkin muffins. Huh?

Come to find out, this recipe on that tiny blog has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. What? And it's pinned all over Pinterest. Who knew! Well, might as well post this on my "real" blog then.  Especially since I've developed the process just a bit more.

I must say, they are seriously yummy. It's my mom's recipe with just a few adjustments. 

It's best to double the recipe. You'll want to share. Enjoy! 

Natalie's Pumpkin Muffins

1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice 
1/2 cup milk ((room temperature
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled but not solid.
1 egg (room temperature
1/2 cup raisins (opt)

Mix all wet ingredients. 

(Having everything room temperature insures that the butter won't solidify. If you add hot butter, you will curdle the eggs.)

 Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to wet ingredients.

Stir until batter is just lumpy. Do not over mix. 

Spoon into cupcake liners, sprayed with cooking spray, or into a well greased muffin tin.

Sprinkle 1/4 tsp sugar on each muffin just before baking to create a crust.

Bake at 400 degrees for 16-20 mins. I start checking at 15 minutes. 

I think they are best hot with butter. 

Yum. Fall, you rock my world.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Fall Flower Arrangements - less calories than chocolate!

If you follow me on Instagram (@natssentiments) you may have noticed I like to "Stress Bake". When I get stressed, I immediately turn to my pantry to come up with something to fill the house with baking smells and tastes of dough (usually chocolate). However, I am trying to quit my sugar addiction. This is not easy, in case you were wondering. 

Luckily, my second favorite way to de-stress is flower arranging. (Calorie Free.) And guess what? I got the best happy mail last week, huge box of Fall flowers from ProFlowers. I also had a little event I needed some festive decor for, so I decided to clean out a pumpkin, stick in a mason jar and make a little pumpkin arrangement. I could have also used floral foam, but with such a deep pumpkin, it didn't seem necessary. I wanted it up high so it could be seen above the food on the serving table, so I found an old candle holder (I'm pretty sure I bought in Israel over a decade ago!) removed the glass holder and just used the base. The mason jar was a little too high to be completely hidden, so I tied a large silk ribbon around the base to hide it. I used a similar color as the greenery since I didn't want to distract from the pumpkin.

Or straight on the table works too right?

But what to do with extra flowers???

Just a few mums and a cluster of berries, and some greenery. 
Terra-cotta pot (hobby lobby) plus a bit of wet floral foam.

Wet Floral foam makes arranging flowers really really easy. Really. 

Same idea, just greenery instead of berries. 

I've seriously had this pot (urn?) for years and never known what to do with it. 
This seemed to work nicely. Again, used floral foam.
I added a gourd from the grocery store. I just put it on a wood bamboo stick I normally use for grilling kabobs. I added a few plastic berries so I could shape them.

Just look at all the calories I saved arranging flowers all afternoon! 
Now I must go bake the goodies for the party. 

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Cookie Cake!

It was my birthday last week, (Happy Birthday ME!) so when I went in to do some marking photos, I had birthdays on the brain. I love how this simple cookie "cake" turned out. You don't get much easier than this. I used cookies from Entreat Soda and Cookie Shop, but store cookies or similar cookies from Sodalicious or Swig would work perfectly.  
I may need to experiment with many more cookie cakes. I owe it to the culinary landscape. 

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

D-MER - Breastfeeding's Darker Side

I haven't blogged in a while, but as it's World Breast Feeding week, I decided I wanted to write a post I've been thinking about for, well years.

I want to start by saying I love breast feeding. I love the way I am able to connect with my babies in such a powerful and tender way. I love the sounds of their tiny sucking mouth and the way it slowly lulls them to sleep. I am so grateful I have always had ample milk supply to let them eat to their little hearts content. When my three children eventually self-weened at 18 months, 11 months and 12 months, I cried at the loss of that precious bonding time.

Not that breast feeding is always easy. The first month is very very painful, even though my lactation specialist assured me that my babies latches were good. It just hurts a lot of women. But it is so worth enduring that pain until your breasts become acclimated and nursing becomes second nature.

But for some women, breast feeding takes on a very unexpected, and terrifying aspect.

I remember very clearly, the first time I expected what I then called "the wave". A couple weeks into breast feeding my first baby, Lydia, I felt something very strange about a minute into nursing. I was having a perfectly nice day. Lydia was happy, I was enjoying nursing my squishy little baby in my sunny room. Then, very slowing, I felt an ebbing sensation of dread take over me. I remember staring at the wall in complete terror as every possible emotion of loneliness, anxiety, self-loathing, depression and despair converged on me and held me in it's embrace. I couldn't speak, I could hardly see out of the darkness that had overtaken me. And then, as unexpected as it came, the feeling slowly washed away. And I was left feeling perfectly normal and happy again, though completely bewildered. As if I had just imagined the entire experience. All of this happened within two minutes. I thought I must have gone temporarily insane, but as I felt no residual effects of these terrible moments, I just put them out of my mind.

Until a few days later, when it happened all over again. My sweet moment with my baby swept away by the wave of misery, and then leaving me back in the moment as if nothing had happened. Something was definitely awry.

My first baby was not easy. She cried a lot and did not favor sleep. But even in the very stressful time of new motherhood, I was aware that I was not experiencing postpartum depression. I had none of the symptoms. Even in the stress and exhaustion of it all, I was able to continue normal function and enjoyment of life. I was happy with my marriage, little home and new baby. But "the wave" continued it's assault on my breast feeding.

After several months I made an appointment with my OB/GYN to discuss my experiences with "the wave". I explained first that even though I was sleep deprived and dealing with a very fussy baby, I was emotionally well. I discussed my breast feeding success and how much I enjoyed the lazy afternoons just holding my baby as she ate. Then I told him what sometimes happened to me. How right before my milk let down fully, in the midst of whatever emotion I was feeling, the wave of despair would take over me and hold me captive anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. I explained the horror of it all but emphasized that once the experience was over, the feelings left me completely. I was not left with any residual feelings of dread. I felt as I had before "the wave" happened.

"Do you feel like you want to hurt your baby?"

"What? No, of course not. When it happens I'm too overcome to even really notice that she is there."

"Do you feel resentful to your baby about your loss of freedom?"

"Huh? No, we tried to get pregnant for two years, I couldn't be more thrilled she is here. This problem has nothing to do with how I feel about my baby."

"Do you find yourself not wanting to get out of bed during the day?"

"I have a new baby. I would sleep all day long if I could. But I get up and do all my mothering duties just the same. It wouldn't matter if I was having a terrible day, or if I was at Disneyland and I had just discovered that I won the lottery and that my jeans fit again. The feelings still happen when I start to nurse."

The doctor considered me for a moment and then told me that he believed I had postpartum depression and would like to medicate me for that. When I explained that I definitely did not have postpartum he just shrugged and said "I don't know what you want me to do for you then".

I left incredibly angry that my doctor dismissed me so completely, and equally as confused at what could possibly be happening to me that an experienced OB/GYN would not have seen in his practice.

Lydia breastfed for 18 months and the barrage of "the wave" just become part of nursing. It only lasted a minute or two, and after than, nursing became lovely once more. So I just endured. My husband understood that when I held my hand up to him while nursing, it meant that I couldn't speak and he just needed to wait until the anguish passed.

My son, Collin, was born a few years later, and a week or so into breastfeeding, "the wave" returned. This time, differently though. Instead of a slowly ebbing wave, it was a powerful rush. It was as if all the color in the world drained and I would never feel happiness again. Every negative emotion converged at once. I remember seeing the Dementors in Harry Potter and yelling "that's what it feels like when I nurse!!!".

My last baby, Elise, was born two years ago. Soon after her birth I was at home, nursing my tiny perfect child. I remember thinking how content I was. Her nursery was full of cheerful treasures I had created for her, or that had passed down from her siblings. She was newly bathed and cozy in the softest jammies. I was touching her delicate skin as she ate. Then the familiar darkness entered from nowhere and overtook me. For two minutes I was bound in loneliness and despair.

NOPE! Not this time. When it finally passed I made a decision that this time I would figure out WHAT THE HELL WAS HAPPENING!

I put the baby to bed and sat at my computer with the resolution I would not stop until I figured this out. I had searched many times before, but this time I did a search on a difference phrase. When trying to explain to my husband what I was experiencing, I called it "the anti-orgasm". So I tried doing a web search. Suddenly I discovered I was not crazy. I was not alone.

I have Dysphoric Milk Ejection ReflexD-MER. 

I discovered other women describing my EXACT symptoms. It was like reading posts I had forgotten I'd written. Down to the exact detail. 

I started screaming and laughing and crying all at once. I called my husband. "I have Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex!!!! The anti-orgasm! It's a real thing!!! I'll explain when you get home, I need to read some more blogs!"

I cannot express the joy I felt in knowing this is a real medical condition. And also the anger at the several doctors who dismissed me.

This is what I learned about D-MER

Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex is a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes.  It is caused by an inappropriate dopamine activity at the time of the milk ejection reflex.

Dysphoria is defined as an unpleasant or uncomfortable mood, such as sadness, depressed mood, anxiety, irritability, or restlessness. Etymologically, it is the opposite of euphoria.

D-MER is not a psychological response to breastfeeding.

D-MER is not nausea with letdown or any other isolated physical manifestation.

D-MER is not postpartum depression or a postpartum mood disorder.

D-MER is not a general dislike of breastfeeding.

D-MER is not the "breastfeeding aversion" that can happen to some mothers when nursing while pregnant or when nursing older toddlers.

  • D-MER is like a reflex. It is controlled by hormones and can not be controlled by the mother. She can not talk herself out of the dysphoria.
  • Dopamine is known for having an effect on moods and in a mother with D-MER dopamine is behaving somehow inappropriately in its drop. It is in this very quick and immediate drop that a mother with D-MER feels her dysphoria. As dopamine levels restabilized, the dysphoria is gone. 

Finally understanding what was happening to me allowed me to continue to breastfeed my baby without fear and confusion. When my dopamine levels plummeted during letdown, I waited for the despair to pass, understanding what was happening to my body. When I brought up D-MER to my new OB/GYN she said she had only heard of it in passing. She has been practicing for over twenty years. 

THIS IS SOMETHING NO WOMEN SHOULD HAVE TO EXPERIENCE WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING WHAT IS HAPPENING TO HER. Countless women over countless generations have experienced this terrible feeling alone. Nothing should diminish the beauty of breastfeeding. Especially not unawareness. 

There are wonderful handouts available on D-MER.ORG for lactating women, their loved ones and their doctors. No one should be afraid of breastfeeding. 

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hi there.

You guys are sweet. Thanks for checking on me through email and Instagram. This has been my longest hiatuses from blogging in the last eight years. 

But thanks to Pinterest, my page views never went down, ha! 
Take that people who say we should not slack.

So, why gone so long?

The reason I started this blog was to deal with the loneliness of having a husband who traveled all the time. It started when Lydia was not quite one. After a long day of mommying, blogging seemed like a better outlet than TV. And if I didn't have an outlet of some kind, I didn't know when to stop the never ending chores of being a mother. When Shane is home and the kids are asleep, he relaxes. And that tells me I can relax. But without him home, I just keep working. That that makes for a very worn out Natalie. So, I blogged. Or made jewelry. Or embroidery. Or read. Lots and lots and lots of books to fill the quiet time at night.

So in ways, Shane's travel was a blessing. I started new hobbies, stayed well read and made new friends in the blogging world.

But things have changed for our family. At Christmas we received the amazing news that Shane won't be traveling for a couple years. Daddy's home every night. It's wonderful.

Now I have to figure out how to keep up with my personal little world of diversions when I don't have an empty home. 

And it doesn't help that I have three children. It's a lot more than two.

We are often all in bed with lights out by 9:30. We are just a very tired family. 

But I miss blogging. So, I'll be around here a little more often. 

Just an update, for those of you that aren't on Instagram.  (I'm @natssentiments by the way)

My hubby has a new downtown Boise office, which has a great view and perfect for makeout sessions. 

Collin's family portrait. Shane's valentine card. Family selfies, my Christmas gift to the kids and Elise's first day of nursery!  

Lydia turned NINE!

Birthday updos with her best friend. 

Doughnut cake. Just didn't feel like baking.

(Three dozen doughnuts, bamboo sticks and long candles. Took 5 minutes.)

Seriously, could they be any cuter?

Dear Shane. THIS is what I do all day.

And sometimes pacify my 18 month old with reddi-whip so I can internet shop.

And, TV works too.

Yep! Still alive over here!

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Insta-Friday #61 - Christmas time is here!

You guys! My baby is sleeping and my kids are playing nicely in the living room. I think I have about 20 minutes of prime time free time!!!! (Prime time free time is any free time that happens before bedtime. It's exorbitantly rare for me. Am I the only one? I really wish I could have a heart to heart with baby Elise and let her know that babies are supposed to take a couple hour nap in the day where their mommy's can shower and pee and maybe, just maybe, do a non-mommy thing. But no. She likes the 45 minute nap plan. Also known as the "mommy is about to lose it plan". )

But right now I have 20 minutes. Well, about 18 now.

Hold up. Kids bumped heads. 

Cry-Cry-Cry, mom kisses heads, "go play."

- 15 minutes left. 

Okay. Here's what we've been up to....


I LOVE our "Merry and Bright" theme. 
It's been a really cool change from our usual traditional decor. 

And my mantel is my favorite.

Took a vintage cheese dome and turned it into this snowy goodness. Miniatures and Epson salt. 
My new obsession.

I'm putting everything in jars and dumping in epson salt. It's kind of an obsessive habit at this point. (House globe from Target. My other obsession. )

I'm finally jumping on the felt bandwagon. I was looking at Pinterest months ago saw a great nativity. I thought "I could do that. What a nice handmade gift for my babies." FIFTY HOURS of cutting and hand embroidery later, and I'm done. The donkey alone took three hours of stitching. All I can say is they better freaking cherish it. 
(Instructions here. I did a lot of extra stitching. Don't do the extra stitching. In fact, do no stitching and you could cut this down to a 10 hour project. But I do like the stitching...)

And then I got tired of stitching and decided to start burning wood. 
It's crazy fun and makes my home smell like a campfire. 

(And this is why you snag fallen branches after storms like a crazy hoarder. )

I thought my projects were pretty cool. Then my sister Abby sends me this made from the drift wood near her home. I know. You can't top this. Wow. 

I'm still working on my embroidery projects. I may get them up here before Christmas. Or I may throw them across the room and shove fist-fulls of fudge in my face. I'm still deciding. 

Hope everyone else is ignoring nightly chores to do fun holiday projects too!
I love Christmas!!!!!

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Perfect Christmas Trifle

Ah, Christmas desserts. The one time of year that utter decadence is allowed guilt free. I've been limiting my sugar this year to the occasional small indulgence. But I'm going to shove my face into every dessert available this Christmas. 

Last year I hosted a big Christmas Day party and I wanted to have a showstopper dessert to go along with the goodies my friends were bringing. I wanted to combine some of my favorite holiday flavors into one dessert. And thus my version of a Perfect Christmas Trifle was born. 

For the cake - Mace Bundt cake. This cake tastes like Christmas. Really, it does. 

Mace Bundt Cake

(Do not preheat oven)

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature + 4 TBS for pan
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 TBS Ground Mace (found in spice section of almost any grocery store.)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, I think better without for the trifle)
  • Cream the one cup butter; add sugar gradually; beat until very light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs one at a time- beating well after each addition.
  • Add dry ingredients to blend, add nuts
  • Grease Bundt pan using 3-4 TBS butter (You REALLY want to get that pan greased up.)
Bake at 300 degrees 50-60 minutes. Watch carefully!
Turn out immediately. Cool to room temperature.

Paula Dean Egg Nog Pudding

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups milk
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg whites, stiffly beaten
Freshly grated nutmeg

Mix together flour, cornstarch and sugar in a saucepan. Add 1/4 cup of the milk to the flour mixture and stir until smooth. In another saucepan, scald the remaining 2 3/4 cups milk; add to flour mixture. Cook and stir mixture over medium-low heat; do not allow to boil. In a bowl beat the yolks; remove 1/2 cup hot mixture and add to yolks to temper them; mix well and return to pot. Continue to cook over low heat for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; add butter and vanilla. Thoroughly fold egg whites into the hot mixture. Place in bowl, sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg and chill.

OR - Just make a pudding mix taste like eggnog! That makes it a bit easier.

I use raspberries for this dessert, but they are a little pricey at Christmas time. I've found if you defrost frozen raspberries, mix in a little sugar, they are fantastic drizzled on the inside of the trifle, buy a tiny container of fresh berries just for the top. 

Layer cake, raspberries soaked in sugar and then pudding. Repeat until almost to the top of the trifle bowl. Lastly, top with fresh whipping cream (flavored with sugar and vanilla of course) and fresh raspberries. Refrigerate for several hours. Served chilled. 


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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Hope it's wonderful!

As we focus this week on all we are grateful for, I keep thinking about these little treasures and how, for right now, they're all mine. Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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Winner of the handmade earring.... HeidiK! Email me and I'll send you your prize. 
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