I QUIT SUGAR… AGAIN! (IQS 8-Week Program, weeks 1 & 2 in review)

Right at the very last minute, literally a day before the registrations closed for the new round of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program, I found myself not only signed up, but appointed an IQS Ambassador* by the IQS team!

I hardly ever check personal mail at work (and never Facebook), but I happened to log in to my email account the day before the 8WP kicked off, and read a mail sent from IQS HQ, asking whether I’d like to become an ambassador.

My response?

“If I wasn’t surrounded by colleagues right now, I’d be squealing! “

And I meant it!

Within a 24 hour period, I received that mail, a copy of I Quit Sugar for Life *signed* by gorgeous Sarah Wilson, and word that Diana Tencic from Body Be Well was going to be on the panel of experts for this round. How could I NOT take part?

Before signing up for this round of the IQS 8-week program, I wondered whether there would be a great deal of repetition in regards to recipes and information (I had, after all, just completed the previous round). I am truly shocked (in a good way!) to discover that, not only do most of the recipes so far appear to be new ones, they have become some of my favourite recipes EVER! IQS must have sugar-free pixies working overtime in order to have come up with the new features and developed all these new recipes… for two programs, I might add!

WHAT’S NEW THIS ROUND

  • All the amazing new recipes, for starters!
  • There seems to be even more enthusiastic forum activity/participation
  • The new Movement Plan (hooray!), which is designed to complement each stage of the IQS program and is adaptable depending on fitness level
  • There where many experts available to support participants last time, but it certainly seems like there may be even more on board this time around, from personal trainers and nutritionists, to hormone balancing experts and psychologists… an impressive line-up!
  • The new webinars, tips, snack ideas, etc.

 

WHAT I HAVE BEEN EATING

 

Week 1 kicked off to a brilliant start, with a fabulous Sunday Cook-up (thanks to hubby being on kiddie duty), during which I managed to prepare elements for a grand total of 9 of the week’s recipes. I was thanking myself all week for that afternoon’s efforts! The recipes were amazing, from the Open Spinach & Ricotta Sandwich (I used feta, as it’s what I had on hand) to the Sesame Carrot & Pecan Salad. The Layered Vegetable “Lasagna” was bound to be a hit and I loved the Choose Your Own Oats breakfast concept, which not only caters to individual tastes but makes breakfast a breeze thanks to prepping in advance.

Week 2 introduced more new (and stellar) recipes, including the very clever IQS take on Spaghetti Arrabiata, Zucchini Fritters and Pumpkin & Coconut Curry Parcels, which newly-vegan hubby is still raving about! The Veggie Burger was simply outstanding. Not only does it make my top 5 IQS recipes ever, but it easily makes the top 5 of ALL the veggie burgers I have eaten (and I’ve seen plenty of veggie burger action in my time, I can tell you!).

If you’re curious to see more of what I am eating during the program (including Week 3, which I will cover in the next post), you are welcome to visit my Instagram account.

You can still search for the hashtag #IQS8WPveg that I created on Instagram during the last round of the program, but it appears to have been adopted by others, so no longer features my images exclusively as it did during the last round… but you will get a good overview of the broad variety of dishes in the vegetarian version of the program.

HOW I HAVE BEEN FEELING

In a word, good!

I love being able to get through a whole day at work and pick-up time at nursery school on the fuel that breakfast and lunch provide me with… no unhealthy snacking necessary. I adore getting/being organised, particularly when it comes to meals and family-related routines.

Last Saturday, I beat my previous personal record for a 5 kilometre run… a record I had set during the last round of the program. I beat it by only 3 seconds, but I was thrilled. I am doing more yoga and, as sad as I am to have left the truly lovely small women’s only gym I was going to, I am ever so grateful for the opportunity to train with my husband for the first time since 2009, thanks to the co-ed factor and amazing childcare services/playroom at our new gym (that my kids love so much, they cry when they get picked up!). I am embracing the Hot Mojo, HEAT and Organic Body Work passes available in the “hot room” at my gym. And now that the weather is turning, it’s great to have access to an abundance of brand-new treadmills. Baby Cupcake has also started at my gym, doing Born to Move baby dance classes once a week. Totally adorable!

So what does this have to do with IQS?

My schedule is full-on now. I am back at work part-time, with the children the rest of the time, engaged in many personal projects and I train 4-5 times per week. I have energy to do all of this, despite still not getting quite enough sleep and drinking only one cup of coffee per day.

I am enjoying being part of the IQS community and I’ve loved the weekly intro videos, blog posts and the webinar that was held the other day. Sarah Wilson said something that really struck a chord with me during the webinar:

“Be the message.”

So simple and so powerful.

I am not an expert/nutritionist/dietician/doctor… I am a just someone who is interested in and has benefitted from investing in my health. When I treat myself with kindness, the effects spill over into every area of my life. My children, I believe, will do as I do, not as I say. So “being the message” is vital when it comes to raising my children the way I think they deserve to be raised.

 

WHAT I AM LOVING

  • The new 8-Week Program recipes
  • Being more active in the IQS forums, Instagram and other channels with program participants and those who are curious about quitting sugar
  • The adaptability of Vegetarian Program recipes means my vegan husband and I do not have to prepare entirely separate meals. This is a huge time-saver… and everybody wins!
  • That my kids love the food too!
  • That my 3.5 year-old son has started asking for asparagus, quinoa and “avocato” at meal times! (I am not kidding)
  • Having a fridge and pantry stocked with healthy food and a freezer full of labeled leftovers
  • Riding the wave of all this organisation-related motivation and getting other big jobs done, such as donating clothing to charity
  • That the more care and attention I invest in food- from the purchasing of raw ingredients of the best quality through to preparation and cooking- the less inclined I am to waste a single bite!

 

WHAT I AM NOT LOVING SO MUCH

  • That I am still “snacky” when I first get home after picking the kids up/before gym (although I don’t know if this is a “bad” thing, especially when I am training!)
  • That I can’t shake chocolate completely (even if it is raw, homemade and sugar-free)

 

WHAT I AM NOTICING

  • There have been many occasions when I thought I was craving sugar, that I’ve actually been dehydrated. As soon as I drink water, the fake craving goes away!
  • That in Week 2, roasted tomatoes tasted very sweet (not in a bad way, just noticeably sweeter)
  • That preparation truly is one of the cornerstones of success with IQS. I see the benefits of being organised food-wise everyday as I try to juggle work, parenting, training, hobbies, married life and whatever else a 24-hour period brings!

 

Wishing all the other participants of this round of the IQS8WP the very best and, indeed, the same to anyone who might be reading this today! :)

<3 MM xx

 

*An IQS Ambassador’s role is essentially one of helpful support and friendly encouragement for fellow program participants… not hard to do, as they are all quite lovely and I am a big fan of the program!

 

SPICED ALMOND MILK HOT CHOCOLATE

I have decided that tonight I will attempt to catch up on news in the blogosphere. But before I see what my friends have been up to, I want to quickly share a recipe that I’ve had a few requests for via Instagram. The other day, lovely Lillian, the brains and beauty behind Sugar and Cinnamon, posted a recipe on Instagram. She claimed to have perfected a healthy, vegan spiced hot chocolate. With the weather outside becoming increasingly Swedish dismal, when I noted that Lillian’s recipe would be easy to IQS-ify and saw that ginger, clove, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and almond “mylk” were all in the ingredients line-up, I got on it.

To make life simpler for those who have asked to be directed to the recipe, I’ll post it here, giving full credit to Lillian as the only substitution I made was adding rice malt syrup (instead of a non-IQS alternative) and the only additions I made were extra almond milk and some coconut cream to serve.

Bye-bye, Autumn blues!

I hope everyone’s having a great weekend! <3 MM xx

MissMarzipan_SugarandCinnamon_hotchocolate1

SPICED ALMOND MILK HOT CHOCOLATE
by Lillian from Sugar and Cinnamon
Serves: 1

INGREDIENTS

3 tsp raw cacao powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp vanilla powder/vanilla bean paste
A tiny pinch of ground clove
A tiny pinch of nutmeg
250-300 ml unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp rice malt syrup (or 1 tbsp agave/maple syrup if you’re Paleo/non-IQS)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix cacao and spices in a mug/cup/jar.
  2. Boil a kettle and pour just enough hot water over the cacao spice mix to cover everything (approx. 50 ml).
  3. Stir in the rice malt syrup.
  4. Heat the almond milk in a pan until just starting to froth, then pour into the mug. Stir everything to combine well.
  5. Add a dollop of coconut cream on the top (it should go “melty” and rise to the surface). Sprinkle over a pinch of cinnamon and serve immediately.

 

*To make an iced version, leave drink to cool for twenty minutes, then blend with some ice cubes before serving.

 

RAW VEGAN COCONUT CHOCOLATE PRALINES (with pistachios & spirulina)

Hi lovelies! I am posting this recipe due to requests I have received via my Instagram account (hi there, IG peeps!).

The original recipe for both the coconut filling and raw chocolate coating is by the lovely SR Healthy Lifestyle, who was kind enough to allow me to recreate what was already pretty perfect, really.

I wanted to make something that would present as a praline (the Belgian/Swedish definition of praline*, that is), although it must be said that my pastry teacher would freak if she knew I’d referred to these as “pralines” at all! Her sister is a renowned chocolatier and these are pretty far from the Belgian-style tempered chocolate praliner I have been taught to make!

But they’re cute, yummy, sugar-free and healthy… so I forgive myself.

Before I share the recipe, I need to confess that I really am getting the guilts about my recent fly-by posts :( . This week I am making it a priority to catch up on reading, comments, etc. Bear with me, please.

<3 MM xx

*As opposed to the nutty caramel/brittle kind.

RAW VEGAN COCONUT CHOCOLATE PRALINES WITH PISTACHIOS AND SPIRULINA
Base recipe by SR Healthy Lifestyle

FILLING INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp rice malt syrup
3 cups shredded coconut
4 tbsp coconut milk
1 tsp spirulina powder

CHOCOLATE COATING INGREDIENTS

125 ml cacao powder
125 ml coconut oil
, melted
3 tbsp rice malt syrup

FOR FINISHING

2-3 tbsp chopped pistachios mixed with a good pinch of spirulina

DIRECTIONS

  1. Blend all filling ingredients together in a food processor.
  2. Remove half of the mix and tip it into a 20cm x 20cm baking paper-lined tin, pressing it down firmly and neatly to create a smooth, even layer.
  3. Pop the tray into the freezer for a couple of minutes while you create the green layer.
  4. Add a teaspoon of spirulina powder to the remaining half of the mix in the food processor and give it a blitz.
  5. Take the tray out of the freezer and evenly flatten out the green half of the mix on top of the white layer. Pop the tray back in the freezer.
  6. Combine all chocolate coating ingredients in a small saucepan and stir on a low heat until well incorporated.
  7. Remove the tray from the freezer after an hour or so and cut the coconut filling slab into small squares with a sharp knife.
  8. Pop the squares on baking paper and drizzle over chocolate coating. Turn each square around, dabbing each side in the puddles of run-off chocolate to coat all sides evenly (yes, it gets messy right about now).
  9. Place coated “pralines” onto a clean, baking paper-lined tray and sprinkle with the spirulina-laced chopped pistachios.
  10. Refrigerate/freeze to set and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Remove from fridge/freezer a few minutes before serving.

 

MissMarzipan_coconut_pralines_pistachio_spirulina copy

*Visit srhealthy.weebly.com for more recipe inspiration.
*To make them Paleo, use agave or honey instead of rice malt syrup.

 

MISS MARZIPAN’S JAVA CHIP FRAPPU-CHIA-NO (a healthy, sugar-free, protein-packed, vegan, paleo-inspired, frosty mocha smoothie you can make at home!)

It took a long time for a certain coffee chain from Seattle to reach Sweden’s shores and, for many years, the highlight of my time spent sitting in airport transit areas was the rare opportunity to sip on a coveted Frappuccino. When I started becoming Pinterest-obsessed a few years ago, I noticed many a DIY take on the Frappuccino, but I really wanted to try inventing my own version, keen to tick a few boxes including sugar-free, vegan, healthy and protein-packed.

No regrets whatsoever! I think I am in <3


MISS MARZIPAN’S JAVA CHIP FRAPPU-CHIA-NO
Serves 4-6, depending on glass size and how much ice you blend in

INGREDIENTS FOR SMOOTHIE BASE

6 tbsp chia seeds
4 tbsp almond meal (finely ground raw almonds)
400 ml cold coffee*
500 ml almond milk
1 tsp vanilla powder (100% vanilla)
1 tbsp rice malt syrup

INGREDIENTS FOR CHOCOLATE SAUCE
3 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp raw cacao powder
3 tbsp rice malt syrup**

FOR SERVING
Crushed ice
400 ml cold coconut cream, whipped with a pinch of vanilla powder
Raw cacao nibs

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine all smoothie base ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mix well with a spoon, then place in fridge for at least 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, you can make the chocolate sauce by simply combining all sauce ingredients in a small pan and heating through while stirring over a low heat. Remove from heat and let IT cool (it will thicken up a little after cooling).
  3. Give the smoothie mix a little stir, add 3 tablespoons of the chocolate sauce to the mix, then blitz it until smooth in a blender. Pour 3/4 of the blended smoothie mix back into the mixing bowl.
  4. Throw a handful of ice cubes into the blender with the remaining 1/4 of smoothie mix. Blitz then pour into a large glass/regular mason jar. Repeat process until all mix is used/glasses are full.
  5. Top each smoothie with whipped coconut cream, cocao nibs and a drizzle of the remaining chocolate sauce.

 

*I used freshly ground organic coffee beans to make coffee in a French press. To make it more Paleo-friendly, use decaffeinated coffee.
** To make it Paleo, use honey instead of rice malt syrup.

 

 

CHECK IT OUT ON INSTAGRAM

 

MY FIRST HALF MARATHON (I did it!)

Hi all! Just wanted to check in here quickly and report that my first half marathon experience was a success. The atmosphere was amazing, the bystanders were generous with their support and my fellow runners were a huge inspiration from start to finish. The route was great too, winding its way around many areas of Stockholm that I know but have never explored in such a way. I adored the sense of freedom I had running alongside others through tunnels, under/over bridges and on roads without cars.

I was arguably untrained, in the sense of not having followed a training program (nor run for 2 weeks prior to the race), and no doubt ill-prepared, collecting my bib just after the pick-up stations were due to have closed. To top it off, I had 5 hours of sleep the night before running and awoke with the beginnings of a cold…
But, I made it to the finish line in tact and ran the entire way, even sprinting the last kilometre. I am currently counting my blessings for my cheer squad and ginger tea/cold and flu medicine/echinacea, and I am really looking forward to doing some yoga and getting lots of sleep this week!

Too tired to write a recap now, I will pinch what I wrote on Instagram when I posted my first ever “selfie” (not technically one as I didn’t take the pic myself) today and copy and paste it here*…

“Ok, bear with me folks! This is my first #selfie on Instagram, in honor of the completion of my ✨first half marathon✨. It was an awesome experience and, as with all the scary yet positive challenges I have undertaken, the nerves beforehand were actually worse than the event itself. There were times during the #run when I felt truly amazing and times where everything hurt and my legs didn’t want to continue. But I achieved my personal goal of running the entire distance 🏃… and I had fun!

This pic was taken 30 minutes after I finished, on the walk back with my family (cheer squad) from the city centre. I am not wearing my medal here, as my baby daughter 👶 had already pinched it… but I ran in part for her, so giving her my medal is an appropriate gesture.

As you might have noticed, I’m not one for selfies. For 3 years I blogged completely anonymously, using neither my name nor my face publicly online. And, as a former makeup addict, showing a bare face after a 21.1 km run is also kind of a big deal for me (even if this is b&w and a bit more post-race-face-friendly!) 😜lol! For those of you who don’t like selfies, fear not; this will no doubt be a rare occurrence. And for those of you who wanted me to introduce myself, hi lovelies 👋👋! Sending 💕 from #stockholm !

To those who wished me well and told me it would be a mental challenge more than a physical one, thank you! Just prior to the race a friend shared the famous #edmundhillary #quote

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

So true.  💪❤🙏”

 

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! I intend to catch up on everyone’s news soon… and get back to blogging some recipes and less personal stuff! :P

<3 MM xx

*Lazy, I know! Please forgive hashtags, emoticons and annoying social media-speak (poor grammar)!

THE LONG ROAD TO MY FIRST HALF MARATHON (and why I started running in the first place), PART 2

Tomorrow I am due to run my first half marathon. I cannot say I am set, as it implies “prepared”… which is something I feel far from. But I thought I should post this now and hopefully, sometime 18 hours or less from now, I will have good news to report.

THE POWER OF VISUALISATION

So, anyway, when I left you last time, I was in India. It was February 2008, I had recovered from my medical mishap and was able to enjoy the rest of my time there with a newfound appreciation for my health, travel and my life in general.

I returned to Stockholm to be greeted by the comforting smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns in Arlanda airport, the cold, crisp, clean winter air outside, and the promise of new opportunities. Thankfully, despite having recently been through some intense and tumultuous times, it seemed that as soon as I visualised something positive, it manifested in my life. Remembering an exercise I had done around the time I first started exploring self-healing and meditation, I had created a visualisation mood board (I am a big fan of these, as you can see here and here) in January 2008. It featured cut and pasted images of smiling, happy young women, artists/designers at work on pretty projects, bowls of fruit, healthy, yoga-loving people, exotic travel destinations and shiny new Apple Macintosh computers. I won’t say that scoring my dream job was easy. In fact it felt like I was having some surreal pop idol reality TV experience… sans a stage and cameras. Each week I was called to a new interview or asked to undertake creative/IQ/personality tests. I would make it through to the next “round”, only to discover a new challenge facing me. And week after week (the interview process took around 6-7 in total), I found myself making the cut.

By the time I finally walked through the office doors for my final face-to-face interview (there was still one more to go, via phone!), I was certain I was destined for a desk there… somewhere. I knew without doubt that it was the right fit for me and that I “belonged”. Apparently my soon-to-be-manager thought likewise and has since told me that as soon as she saw me, her voice of intuition said “She’s hired.” My first day of work was the official opening of the Stockholm head office and, my word, did the company put on a show. I entered the reception area to find a cocktail bar complete with ice sculptures being set up, there were generous gift bags, visiting dignitaries, multiple venues hired (that myself and my new 350 + colleagues moved between over the course of the day), meals, drinks, entertainment, hugs from the 5 fellow Aussies I discovered amongst the crowd, Sahara Hotnights playing as surprise after dinner guests, etc. It was a rather unusual first day on the job… but an amazing way to enter a new era of hard work actually paying off!

Yes, it's dorky, but here I am with a bouquet of "welcome" flowers sent to my home address by the HR team during my first week on the job. Note the slight look of disbelief on my face! There were many "pinch me" moments that year.

Yes, it’s dorky, but here I am with a bouquet of “welcome” flowers sent to my home address by the HR team during my first week on the job. Note the slight look of disbelief on my face. There were many “pinch me” moments that year.

I found myself in an all female team with women that were lovely, talented, creative and fun to be around. There was a bowl of fruit stationed behind my desk that was replenished daily by a fruit delivery guy, there were in-house yoga classes and I had a shiny new Apple Mac, complete with an IT support team’s help, should things go technically awry (the relief!). Less than 2 months later I was sent to leadership training and found myself in a swanky hotel in Moscow, literally jumping on the bed out of the sheer excitement of being there. A couple of months after that, I received a promotion. There were even bigger things to come that year career-wise and, in hindsight, I should have stuck a picture of a mansion, a million dollars and J.Lo’s butt on that mood board!

ALONG CAME TTC

Obviously India had fuelled in me an even greater interest in taking care of myself. But, somewhere in amongst all the busy-ness and success of that year, the desire to take care of someone else snuck in too. In fact, that little whisper of longing eventually became my focus for everything, namely because TTC (or trying to conceive as it’s known in non-TTC circles!) wasn’t the proverbial bed of roses I expected. I might elaborate further in a future post, but I will say now that the road to motherhood was a long and, at times, heartbreaking one for me. Somewhere in amongst landing my “dream job”, TTC, miscarriage and trying to improve my health, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a condition for which I am on medication to this day. A string of bad luck in the health department saw a broken arm and mild pneumonia thrown into the mix. I was fortunate that, by this point, I had a solid foundation upon which I could rely in terms of a support network, self-knowledge and an increasingly healthy lifestyle.

Feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin, despite having a team of hair and makeup artists to doll me up for the gorgeous event that was my brother's wedding. Only two weeks before this day, I was given notification at the hospital that my HCG levels post-miscarriage had dropped to a point where it was deemed safe for me to travel. And so I went back to Australia for a visit, newly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and generally feeling pretty low. Feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin, despite having a team of hair and makeup artists to doll me up for the gorgeous event that was my brother's wedding. Only two weeks before this day, I was given notification at the hospital that my HCG levels post-miscarriage had dropped to a point where it was deemed safe for me to travel. And so I went back to Australia for a visit, newly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and generally feeling pretty low.

Feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin, despite having a team of hair and makeup artists to doll me up for the gorgeous event that was my brother’s wedding. Only two weeks before this day, I was given notification at the hospital that my HCG levels post-miscarriage had dropped to a point where it was deemed safe for me to travel. And so I went back to Australia for a visit, newly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and generally feeling pretty low.

ALONG CAME PREGNANCY #1 (EVENTUALLY)

My world changed forever on the morning of the office summer party in 2010, when a little pink line appeared on a pregnancy test. I had been so scared to find out the result of that test myself that I had sent my husband, with the test, out of the bathroom while I tried to distract myself by washing my hair.

“It’s positive…”, he said shakily as he reentered the bathroom a minute later.

“What?”, I responded, almost rudely. “What? What?…”

Disbelief.

“It’s positive.”, he said again with more conviction, as I collapsed in tears in the shower. He sprang in to hug me, still wearing his clothes.

I was thrilled to have this belly in 2010!

I was thrilled to have this belly in 2010!

My pregnancy was joyous beyond words, but gifted to me not without some difficulties, including 40 extra kilograms of weight, chronic edema, carpal tunnel syndrome and, eventually, sick leave. Yes, despite being health-focused, caffeine-free, doing prenatal yoga 5-6 times per week from week 13 through to 9 months pregnant, taking pregnancy dance classes during the second trimester, eating organic, mostly home-cooked, vegetarian food, and being generally overjoyed to be pregnant, my pregnancy was hardly free of issues. A traumatic birth experience involving an emergency c-section, blood loss of 3.2 litres and subsequent transfusions, meant a longer road to physical recovery than I would have liked, but I bounced back. I started going to a local womens’ gym, working out for as little as 15 minutes per session (depending on baby L’s napping), but going consistently… around 5-6 times per week. I did little to change what I ate, sticking primarily with homemade, vegetarian food. Within less than a year, I was more or less “back to normal”. I had a brief “pit stop” back at work and then…

PREGNANCY #2

… and with it a whole world of complications. I had my first major hemorrhaging episode during my second pregnancy literally the day after announcing the big news to my parents and in-laws over dinner. I was devastated when I awoke the following morning, drenched in blood. In the ER, I was told point-blank by the doctor that there was no hope for the pregnancy. She couldn’t see any sign of a baby in my uterus, I was clearly bleeding heavily and my endometrium was “too thin”. Concerned about a possible ectopic pregnancy, she scheduled blood tests to check my HCG levels. I went home, crawled into bed and grieved and cried for days. I suffered terrible cramping and heavy bleeding and, when it was over, I returned to work determined to throw myself into a huge project and be as massively distracted as possible. Sitting at my desk one day, I received the surprise phone call of a lifetime from a doctor at the hospital. My results had been delayed for some reason, but my HCG numbers had risen from 186 to 960.

What?

He continued by saying that, based on those numbers alone, he could predict that my pregnancy was not only viable but “normal”.

What?

By this stage in the conversation I had moved from my desk to a corridor, where I stood shaking and on the verge of a panic attack… not so much from any renewed hope or joy, but from absolute shock and confusion.

Another ultrasound brought more confusion and anxiety. The doctor (a new one) seemed perplexed and told me that he could see “something” but it was not the shape/form he would want or expect to see. My heart sank yet again. A specialist was called in and another ultrasound was performed. The verdict? That everything looked just as it should in the case of a perfect, viable pregnancy. I burst into tears. Again.

The next 4 weeks went by and the shock and trauma gave way to happiness… and nausea… and regular pregnancy stuff .

During my next ultrasound we saw a precious little heart beating. I was told by the doctor (yet another one) that everything looked perfect and that I shouldn’t have to worry anymore. Relief! I was beyond happy.

At around midnight that very night, I awoke from a horrible nightmare that I was losing my baby, to find myself laying in a pool of blood… yes, I was bleeding (and cramping) again! I couldn’t believe it. Back on the phone to the hospital, I was told that I could indeed be losing the baby and if I was, there was nothing they could do to help me. I was crushed again. This pattern continued; bad news following good news, bleed following bleed after bleed. 13 weeks brought contractions my way (yes, contractions!) and hemorrhaging so extreme that I ended up hospitalised and on medication after being told (rather tactlessly) “We will be keeping you here for observation and will check to see if your baby is alive in the morning”. Try to sleep after hearing those words!

At 16 weeks I put myself instinctively on full bed rest. I had already been on modified bed rest for 3 weeks at that point. I asked that my anatomy scan be pushed forward as I really wanted to have some peace of mind before heading back to work. We looked forward to good news and to finding out whether we were expecting a boy or a girl.

Then, almost half way through my pregnancy, I finally discovered (after 13 ultrasounds!) the truth of my condition and that, although my baby was doing well, I had a large blood clot inside the wall of my uterus (larger than the baby) that could threaten to cause “spontaneous abortion” and a host of other very nasty complications.

The SCH (subchorionic hematoma) extended all the way from behind the placenta to the cervix. There was nothing that could have prepared me for that shock, nor hearing the high risk specialist say that “some babies make it, some babies don’t”. I was told that there was nothing I could do (other than rest and wait), nor was there anything the hospital could do to save my baby at that point should the worst happen.

As I lay there on the examination table I was too devastated to bring myself to ask the baby’s gender. I began spiraling into a depressed state and I felt like the SCH was a ticking time bomb inside of me.

Just when I needed to hear this message more than ever, I watched an interview with Deepak Chopra where he said “You can believe the diagnosis, but not the prognosis”. Those words were a light in the darkness. And they changed my perception of my condition.

MissMarzipan_blessingway

Decided that, no matter what, I was celebrating my baby and pregnancy. My blessingway was beautiful, and these cuddles with little L at the end of the day were the icing on the gorgeous cake.

All in all, I ended up having a whopping 23 ultrasounds during my pregnancy, I was on sick leave for over 28 weeks, I was on bed rest (modified and full) for 10 weeks, on pelvic rest the entire pregnancy, I didn’t lift my 2 year-old son for at least 15 weeks (which broke my heart at times), I drank an absolute ton of water, I did lots of healing visualisation meditation, I donated money to various charities, I blogged (thank you WP friends for being here!) and I did what I could to stay positive, even whilst laying in bed. I believed that my baby was a fighter and it was my duty to fight too.

Me (with baby belly #2) and my Cupcake via 3D ultrasound... (just one of many!)

Me (with baby belly #2) and my Cupcake via 3D ultrasound (just one of many!), December 2012

The good news is that, in my case, the SCH did shrink. With every ultrasound, it got smaller. But slowly. And it never fully resolved.

At 40 weeks and 2 days, after going into labour naturally, I delivered my miracle Baby Cupcake via VBAC only 4 hours after arriving at the hospital. The labour and delivery were a dream come true for me and I loved the whole experience, including watching MasterChef Australia while crazily baking Garry Mehigan’s scone recipe during active labour! Unfortunately I had some serious complications following the birth, the result of which led to 4 liters of blood loss (approximately 8.5 pints… or a generally terrifying amount!) and I had to undergo tricky postpartum surgery.

Image copyright Breigh Mattson, Your Little Family Photography, 2013

Newly baked (around 5 weeks old). You were worth it all, Cupcake! (© Your Little Family Photography)

AND THAT BRINGS ME TO RUNNING

In June 2013, around 4 months after Cupcake’s arrival, I put on a crappy pair of decade-old running shoes, stepped on a treadmill, sputtered along for 3 minutes… and felt like I would die. But something in me acknowledged the privilege of such freedom of movement (after all the restrictions and limits of my high risk pregnancy). Something in me told me that maybe, just maybe, if I could push through that pain barrier, running would get easier… maybe even enjoyable.

And then Blodomloppet came along; a 5 km fun-run held annually in Stockholm to raise awareness and encourage sign-ups for blood donation. I was far from fit back then and weighed close to 15 kilograms more than I do as I sit here and type this tonight. But the cause was one close to my heart, given all the blood loss I have suffered and the transfusions I have been the recipient of. So I “run-walked” it with my Stockholm bestie. And it felt great.

I have continued to run since then, sometimes very regularly, sometimes not so much. But I can actually say that I like running now… and sometimes I even love it.

Still, when I think about tomorrow’s half marathon, I am hit by waves of anxiety. At this point the longest I have run is 18 km, which I managed 2 weeks ago. I haven’t run since! And I wouldn’t recommend my training schedule (lack thereof) to anyone. But I have been following my intuition. My body has said “rest” and “yoga”. So that is what I have done. I just hope I have made the right choices.

Wish me luck… and thanks for bearing with me during these incredibly long and winding posts.

I hope it is beyond clear now why not only my health, but the mere opportunity to be able to run, means so much to me.

Have a wonderful weekend!

<3 MM xx

MISS MARZIPAN IN PASTRY SCHOOL (“Whaaa…?”, I hear you think)

Hello lovely people! I have so much to share, very little time left before bed, and I don’t really know where to start, so this is just a short and sweet* sneak preview of my recent pastry school adventures.

Still on maternity leave and trying to complete personal graphic design projects, spend as much quality time with the children as possible and attend night school to undertake an intensive pastry diploma, has meant as little as 2 hours of sleep some nights. I do not recommend this :P .

Of course it has been an incredibly productive time too, and I feel like I have really done all I can with the opportunities afforded me… plus had the luxury of thousands of cuddles and baby cheek-kisses along the way.

I am quietly reflective and slightly emotional as I prepare myself to head back to work tomorrow (eek!) for the first time since it all came to an abrupt stop in August 2012, when I ended up in hospital for the third time with high risk pregnancy complications. As we had a family sing-along (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star) tonight before the kids’ bed time, I felt beyond blessed. I never could have imagined back in 2010 when I went on maternity leave for the first time, how my life would have unfolded.

I will be sure to post a proper run-down of some of the pastry skills I have learned and reflections on my time in class soon, but in the meantime, here are a few images of some of the things I have made, including marshmallows, pralines (which you can’t actually see as they are hiding in egg cups!), mousse layer cake with buttercream frosting, Swedish knubbar (sweet buns), kolasnitt (caramel cookies), brioche, petits choux and more…

But for now it’s farewell summer, farewell maternity leave and hello new chapter of Miss Marzipan’s story!

Much <3 ! MM xx

*a not-so-clever pun!

ROASTED SWEET POTATO & QUINOA SALAD WITH CHILI & GARLIC-INFUSED DRESSING

Probably my favourite salad ever. Won’t beat around the bush, but I ate this every evening last week whilst at night school (that’s pastry night school, folks… will explain all in another post soon!)  if that’s any indication how much I love this recipe!

ROASTED SWEET POTATO & QUINOA SALAD WITH CHILI & GARLIC-INFUSED DRESSING

MissMarzipan_roasted_sweet_potato_quinoa_salad2

INGREDIENTS

4-6 sweet potatoes
400 ml of dry quinoa (I used black quinoa)
Vegetable oil (organic olive works perfectly)
200 ml dried green lentils
Lots of fresh arugula/rucola/mixed leafy salad greens
Toasted sesame seeds or furikake sprinkle sesame mix
Salt & pepper to taste

INGREDIENTS FOR DRESSING

1 red chill
2 cloves garlic
60 ml olive oil
60 ml tamari
60 ml balsamic vinegar
1 tsp rice malt syrup (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Peel sweet potatoes, cut into pieces of around the same side, toss in your favourite oil and roasted in the oven until cooked through and starting to brown (around 30-35 minutes on 180 C, fan).
  2. Cook quinoa according to your usual method/pack directions.
  3. Cook lentils according to your usual method/pack directions making sure not to overcook, drain.
  4. While cooking lentils and quinoa, de-seed and finely chop the chili, then pop it in a small bowl with the liquid dressing ingredients. Stir to combine.
  5. Peel garlic cloves then cut them in half and pop them into the dressing. Allow the garlic to sit there and infuse. You can cover the dressing and pop it into the fridge at this point, if you are making it in advance. *Remove garlic pieces before serving!*
  6. Cooked quinoa and lentils can be mixed in advance and topped with sweet potato and allowed to cool.
  7. Just prior to serving the salad, season to taste, scatter over fresh salad greens, sprinkle on sesame seeds and dress salad.

 

MissMarzipan_roasted_sweet_potato_quinoa_salad

*My pan Toasted Tamari Seeds are also a lovely addition to this salad.

**This recipe is inspired by one taught to me a few years ago by the gorgeous Maria Mo, green chef extraordinaire from Sweden.

SPICED CHAI SMOOTHIE WITH COCONUT CRUSHED ICE (pretending summer’s not over)

Firstly, I love chai! Secondly, despite my recent post mentioning some rather intense events that unfolded during a trip to India years ago, there were some truly wonderful moments too. Some of my fondest memories of India involve sipping chai with local people in the village where we ended up staying. The chai I drank there was always hot (despite the hot weather), but here is a cold and frosty version that also happens to be vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free and Paleo (if you substitute the rice malt syrup for maple/honey).

SPICED CHAI SMOOTHIE WITH COCONUT CRUSHED ICE

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp chia seeds + 6 tbsp water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground clove
2 tsp rice malt syrup
1 tsp liquorice root powder (more if you like it)
1- 1.5 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 frozen chopped banana
250 ml coconut water
250 ml coconut milk (on the creamy side)

2 trays of ice cubes
+ extra 100 ml or so extra coconut milk/cream
Extra cinnamon for sprinkling over finished smoothies

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine chia seeds and water in a small bowl. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Mixture should thicken.
  2. In a blender, blend chia mix with all other ingredients (except for the ice + extra 100 ml coconut milk & extra cinnamon) until it reaches a smooth consistency. Divide between 2-3 large glasses or standard mason jars.
  3. Rinse your blender quickly with water then throw in as many ice cubes as your blender can handle and some of the remaining coconut cream. Crush the ice, adding more cream as needed (you can also add extra coconut water too) to creat a kind of coconutty snow/granita.
  4. Heap large spoonfuls of the crushed ice onto your smoothies. Finish with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Enjoy!

 

*Recipe inspired by and modified from this one by paleo king and super chef, Pete Evans found at peteevans.com.au

 

QUICK PAN TOASTED SPICED TAMARI SEEDS

I love inventing simple additions to meals on the fly, and these super-easy toasted tamari seeds were the perfect accompaniment to my Roasted Aubergine and Tahini Bowl the other night (based on the recipe by Deliciously Ella, which you can find here).

 

Impatience led me to using a frying pan (I didn’t want to fuss with an oven) and, a few short minutes later, these tasty little lovelies were ready to add crunchy pops of flavour to our meal. Store-bought tamari seed mixes are so pricey and these homemade tamari seeds were so easy to make. I’ll never buy ready-made tamari seeds again!

QUICK PAN TOASTED SPICED TAMARI SEEDS

INGREDIENTS

100 ml pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
150 ml sunflower seeds
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp vegetable oil of choice (I used olive)
A dash of garlic powder
A dash of cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine ingredients in a bowl and tip into a frying pan to toast (on medium heat, though you may want to crank it up a bit if you’re supervising closely).
  2. Toast seeds, stirring frequently until they are deliciously golden and starting to brown in places. Do not step away from the pan for too long during the toasting process (it should take around 5-6 minutes).
  3. Store seeds in an airtight container. They’ll last at least a week, if not longer. Sprinkle them over salads/cooked grains/roasted vegetables, use them as a lovely addition in toasted sandwiches or eat them as they are.