SEASONED OVEN ROASTED POTATOES- easy, comforting & absolutely delicious

When I was little, roast potatoes were probably the thing I most looked forward to seeing appear on the family dining table (well, other than sweets!). To this day, I still believe that nothing beats my mum’s version of roast potatoes, however these come a close second in my estimation. My children love them too. And that means a great deal, now that I carry the roast potato-making mama torch and, by default, find myself in the lofty position of being one of two grown-ups in our household responsible for creating comforting food memories for the children.

We had these very potatoes for dinner tonight as an accompaniment to veggie (no)meat balls and beans. And these days it’s a rare thing that I blog about a recipe on the same day that I make it, but I feel like comfort food is in order as the seasons change. And, as I comfort myself with cinnamon-y/pumkin-y/parsnip-y/potato-y recipes and stave off early autumn anxiety and melancholy with daily meditation, I am aware that I am not alone with my feelings about this time of year. It always seems the way that as soon as I have fully committed to/accepted a seasonal change, then I can really enjoy it for what it is. But while I am in the transitory mode – with one foot in summer and one in autumn – I am not quite comfortable with myself or the world around me. Knowing that this is the way I seem to “operate” at this time of year is, in itself, a comfort of sorts.

But, yes… Back to comfort food. If you are in need of some, do try these potatoes!

And stay cosy, friends!

❤ Marisa xx

 

SEASONED OVEN ROASTED POTATOES

Prep time: 15 mins | Roasting Time: approx. 30 mins

INGREDIENTS
8-10 small-medium roasting potatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
Salt and black pepper to taste
Sprigs of fresh rosemary to garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 210°C and line a baking tray with aluminium foil or baking parchment.
  2. Wash, peel and cut the potatoes into rough cubes around 2.5 cm in size.
  3. Pop the prepared potatoes into a large bowl, drizzle over the oil, season with spices and toss the potatoes with your hands to make sure they’re evenly coated.
  4. Spread the potatoes evenly around the baking tray, ensuring none are stacked on top of each other.
  5. Roast potatoes for around 28-32 minutes, or until they are soft in the middle and turning golden brown.
  6. If your oven has known hot spots, turn your potatoes after the first 15 minutes of roasting.
  7. Remove tray from oven and place some sprigs of fresh rosemary over the hot potatoes (they will impart a gentle flavour and fragrance that’s pleasant and not overwhelming for little ones).
  8. Serve hot.

50 THINGS ABOUT ME (part 2)

Almost a year to the day after I shared part one of my ‘5o things about me’ post, I return with the remaining facts, in all their randomness… though some are in direct response to questions I have been asked via Instagram.

Again, I was initially tagged to participate in this blogging “challenge” by Cassie (aka superfitbabe) when I read her ’50 things’ post. So I’ll follow suit by tagging any interested parties who happen to be reading this post. And thank you to Mon of monsflavors for tagging me in a far shorter 10 facts about me post, which I’ll respond to tonight (for anyone who hasn’t had their fill of randomness here! 😛 ).

If you feel so inclined, you’re welcome to join in and share your ’50 things’ (or 10!) via a blog/social media post too!

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As a child I was a sugar fiend. My brother and I would receive pocket-money, he’d save his and mine would be immediately spent on candy (or as we knew it back in the day in Australia, ‘mixed lollies’).

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In 2006 I was working in Salzburg. The house where I stayed (which belonged to an Austrian artist) was gorgeous, overlooked a massive field and had a backdrop of mountains. But the highlight for me was that it was located five minutes away from the von Trapp family mansion of The Sound of Music fame.

Staying in Salzburg took me back to a time in 1996, when I forced a couch-surfing Swiss punk boy who stayed in my post-apocalyptic rental abode in Collingwood to sit through the 3 hours + of The Sound of Music on the promise that, upon recognising all the landmarks, he would feel less homesick . Throughout the viewing (which he found painfully tiresome) I kept asking, “Do you know that fountain?… What about that church?…”

He appeared genuinely confused, repeating exasperatedly, “No, I don’t know any of these places!”. As the movie continued he became increasingly more resentful and agitated. Unfortunately, it was only at the very end that I realised the characters had been in Austria all along and would cross the border into my friend’s motherland during the last 10 seconds of the film. He may or may not have used the “b word” at that point, believing me to have maliciously tricked him, when really my pitiful geographical knowledge of Europe was to blame for the innocent incident.

Regardless, I have always felt a special connection to Austria. 😛

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30

What was once a rather painful memory has now become a pleasant one, on account of my brother. Always the sporty and helpful type, he took me to his gym in order to help me straighten my life out (in some small way) back in 1999. I still remember the smell of Deep Heat, the fact that I was the only girl there (with bright pink hair, no less), feeling weak and light-headed, feeling like a bit of a failure… and giving up to go outside for a smoke! My brother actually came out to check on me and, rather than being judgemental, was very kind and even a little proud of me for taking a tiny, tentative step in a healthy direction. It wasn’t the most successful of work outs 😛 , but many years + several (well-used) gym memberships on, I can safely say that physical activity is one of the greatest joys I know. So, Robin, sorry if I embarrassed/worried/frustrated you all those years ago. And thanks for the #fitspo!

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31

Many years ago, my then-boyfriend/now-husband and I were island hopping in Fiji. For some reason I developed a wildly adventurous (for me) approach to exploring. I had never been sea kayaking in my life, but upon spotting some kayaks that were free to use, a young Californian girl and myself decided that an island we’d seen didn’t look too far away (and we’d heard tales of a spooky deserted resort that had once been owned by a Mafia boss). Minutes later, we were off on our adventure. We were all energy and giggles at first. Then suddenly, as the sea started to get choppy, it hit me that I had no idea what I was doing- NO idea. And that we were out in the sea in little pieces of floating plastic. And that there were things swimming around below us. And that we were nowhere near land. And that the island was a LOT further away than it had seemed to be. And that my upper body strength was not as good as I had imagined. My companion was apparently hit with the same notions/sense of panic at the same time as me. Miraculously we both made it to the island without capsizing.

My folly was repeated when, on the same trip, I signed up for a rainforest trek which involved jumping off a waterfall at some point. I am terrified of heights. Terrified. Number 1 worst fear. Did I mention I am terrified of heights?

Me. Waterfall. Jumping. Not a good combination.

But, guess what? I did it*! And it was exhilarating!

And I will never do it again. 😛

*Because I had to. It was the only way to get to the boat!

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32

Those of you who happen to be familiar with the cult television series Thunderbirds, may also be familiar with Tin-Tin Kyrano; the fictional character introduced the mid-1960s. What you definitely do not know is that the hands of Tin-Tin belong to my mum. Newly arrived in London, she’d found herself working in the same office as a puppet creator named John Brown (who was also responsible for sculpting Cliff Richard). If I recall the tale correctly, he was passing my mum’s desk and noticed her hands, immediately offering her the opportunity to be a hand model for a character on a television show starring puppets.

As a teenager I frequented art house cinemas to watch cult classics on the big screen. Thunderbirds Are GO was one such film. And my friends at the time were amazed not only that my mum (or rather, her hands) appeared in the film, but remarked that Tin-Tin’s overall appearance bore a striking similarity to my mum’s. I still believe strongly that she inspired the look of the character in more ways than one (I would post a photo of her to back this claim, but I don’t think she’d appreciate it!).

When questioned about this, her memories of being a model for John and the show in general, my mum simply said that it was all “silly”.

I still think it’s cool!

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33

My first job was in a hotel/pub. My duties involved setting up tables, the odd spot of housekeeping and some kitchen hand work of the most basic kind. I will never forget the chef nor how he interacted with those around him. It’s safe to say, he was not the most gentlemanly of gentlemen, nor sharpest tool in the shed. A co-worker gave me tips on how to “get on his good side” (in short, “praise him, do as he says, laugh at his jokes and don’t share your opinions”), but I couldn’t bring myself to play the game. As strange as it seems, I think he actually liked me in his own way. Which, I suppose, was lucky as he was known to have quite a temper and to hold grudges.

In order to ingratiate me into his world, he said he had to come up with a nickname for me. At the time I had long, straight dark hair, with two white streaks and was rather pale and slim. Ok, you got me. I had goth leanings.

“You look like that chick”, he informed me. “You know, the one… with the hair… from the Addams Family? Sounds a bit like your name…?”

“Morticia…”, I mumbled half-heartedly.

“Morticia? Ha, ha. Yeah, that’s what I am gunna call you…”

And so, I began the first shift of many as Morticia Addams, waitress and kitchen hand.

Years after I had left that job, I found myself on a weekend break in the town of Bruthen in country Victoria, sitting by a campfire next to a member of the local football team who had been hitting the booze a bit too hard.

“You look like that chick”, he informed me. “You know, the one… with the hair… from the Addams Family? Porticia…?”

“Um… I think you mean Morticia…”, I tried to interject, utterly unimpressed.

Not hearing me, he continued, “Yeah… that’s it! Porticia. Your name is Marisa and it rhymes with Porticia, so that’s what I’m gunna call you. Porticia.”

Sigh.

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34

I am quite possibly the worst skier living in the Scandinavian region (the kid below is seriously far better than me, if that’s any indication of my skill), yet I love going on ski trips*.

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*As long as I don’t have to ski.

35

My oldest and best friend and I used to create imaginary worlds to inhabit when we were young. One such place was known as Metropolis Water City. In my mind it was something a little like this…

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In reality it was a pool in my parent’s garden.

36

One of the times I felt the healthiest and had the most energy was on holiday in Crete in 2007. The way that I ate (local “real food”, mostly), the sunshine, the sea, the daily physical activity (running, swimming, hiking) and the joy of being somewhere beautiful doing things I liked with someone I love all played a part, I am sure! I still love the Greek Islands. Interestingly, I was there as an unborn baby in my mum’s belly. No wonder I love Greek food, hot weather and island life.

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37

Speaking of the Greek Islands, if you happen to watch a retro Greek musical and spot a guy in the background pretending to talk and eating carrot sticks, it may well be my dad. This story deserves its own post, so I’ll reserve the rest of the tale for a later date!

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38

I really used to wish I could play it cool socially. Now I realise I am just far too enthusiastic about life and connecting with people with common interests (Game of Thrones, anyone?! 😀 ).

I have also come to terms with the fact that I should never, ever play poker.

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39

The first day I experienced snow in Sweden, I was walking back to my in-laws’ place in Sollentuna, and it felt like I was strolling through the pages of a childhood storybook. I held my hands up to catch it in wonderment. I basked in the stillness of the street I was on and relished the quietness as the magical flakes of glittery whiteness floated down.

The following day it continued to snow. “Oh”, I thought, “still snowing…”.

It continued to snow the next day… and the next.

After a week, the “magic” of snow was wearing thin. It’s been wearing thinner ever since.

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40

When my first son was born, we marvelled at the roundness of his head and the fullness of his cheeks. Then my daughter was born and it was clear that the roundness of Louie’s head had been superseded. Little did we know that Oliver would arrive with the roundest head of them all. It’s safe to say however that there’s a red thread of round-headedness running through the family (and I am pretty sure it comes from my side of the clan)!

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41

To this day it amazes me that the precursor to my career path (which in turn led to my marriage, my life in Europe, my children…) started with a visualisation meditation I was introduced to while sitting on a plastic chair in a community hall in an Adelaide suburb, during which I envisaged myself wearing a painting smock, standing in front of an easel with a paint palette in my hand.

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42

I love challenges. L.O.V.E. Be they structured and “led” by someone else (Oprah’s Vegan Challenge, 31 Days to get Organised, I Quit Sugar, the Chopra Center 21-Day Meditation Challenge™, etc., etc.) or of my own volition and design (e.g., running the Stockholm half marathon), I adore experimenting with all things lifestyle related if I suspect they might improve my quality of life short or long-term. In fact, that’s how this blog began; as a series of posts (really just for myself at first) about my own little domestic projects and undertakings. Some of the things I have tried such as juicing and oil pulling I did not end up incorporating into my life longterm, but I truly believe I have benefited from everything I have tried in some way. Even if the main benefit was discovering that something wasn’t for me.

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43

I used to have a huge passion for belly dance, attending classes, workshops and events in Australia, Europe, Turkey and Egypt. On New Year’s Eve 2005/6, during a river cruise on the Nile, I was asked to accompany the belly dancer hired to entertain us during dinner in a little performance. A similar incident occurred the year before when we were at a dinner show in Istanbul.

The last time I practiced belly dance was during my first pregnancy when I took prenatal belly dancing classes. I never aspired to be a professional dancer myself (and I don’t really miss it, to be honest), but it was something I really enjoyed when I was doing it and it was a favourite form of physical activity for a few years (along with Pilates).

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44

The book that inspired me most when I was a girl was my mum’s copy of The Complete Book of Herbs- A Practical Guide to Growing and Using Herbs by Lesley Bremness. I read and reread it, each time finding myself transported by the recipes, images, illustrations and all the possibilities. And I planned my future dream herb garden. To this day, when I think about that book, I feel moved. And although my very urban life in Stockholm is far from the life I once imagined as I turned its pages, I somehow feel a step closer to realising the dream of a quieter, slower-paced, lavender-scented life with my family. On our recent visit to Australia, I asked my mum if I could have the book and she agreed.

It is now the only book on display in my bedroom. It sparks joy, as Marie Kondo would say.

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And on inspiration and gardens, if you read part 1 of this post you know that I’m no natural green thumb by any means. In fact, as I sit here and type this, I am a little too proud of myself for managing to take care of the three gorgeous indoor plants (which I cannot name) my parents entrusted me with. But there was a time when the acquisition of knowledge of all things botanical was incredibly appealing to me (and I believe it is still in me, only quieted by the passing on of too many indoor plants and many years of living an urban life!).

One thing that has remained a constant is my love of botanical gardens. My favourite in Stockholm, for example, is Bergianska and I usually buy an annual pass. My children love it there too. Once, whilst on a visit to the US with my parents, we purchased Sarah Ponsonby’s The Garden Game, which is probably my favourite board game of all time. In fact, on our next visit to Adelaide I will be sure to see if my parents still have it and ask whether it can join The Complete Book of Herbs- A Practical Guide to Growing and Using Herbs in finding a new home with us in Stockholm.

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Game image: acultivatednest.com

 

46

I have 3 tattoos. One is something I doodled on paper as a teenager for some time before I realised that I wanted it on my arm for the rest of my life. Turns out it’s a Nordic rune. And, more interestingly, that its meaning is ‘fertility’ and/or ‘new beginnings’; two of the great “themes” of my life. Another is my mum’s name written in Chinese characters (it essentially reads “you are beautiful”). The last is an amalgamation of the Celtic tree of life and the ancient symbol Ægishjálmur, also something I doodled on paper, which again references my family (but on my father’s and husband’s sides).

Thanks for the question rainbownourishments!

47

On Instagram thehealthyfoodheaven asked me what the funniest thing that has ever happened to me is. That is truly hard to say! But one occasion featuring a government office, a queue and paperwork (traditionally “unfunny” things) springs to mind.

On the day I went to register myself as a Swedish resident, I waited impatiently for two and a half hours in a queue. It was a warm day and the stuffy office was due to close at 3 pm. I resented the back of the head of the man in front of me as every minute dragged painfully on and the shuffling of papers and asking of questions continued. I made it to the front of the line at 2:58 pm. While I was filling out my forms I noticed a crowd congregating behind the person assisting me and, weirdly, reading my responses over his shoulder. Some of them had cameras. As soon as the paper work had been processed, a woman stepped forward and enthusiastically exclaimed, “Welcome to Sweden!”. Someone else called out “Congratulations!”, and a photographer pulled out a camera to capture my baffled expression.

I thought to myself, “Sweden is known for its generous migration policies, but this is all a bit much!”. Then a woman introduced herself as a Swedish radio reporter and requested an interview. Why? Because statisticians had calculated at 3pm on the 12th of August 2004 the 9 millionth Swedish resident would come into existence (either by birth or through the process of migration).

In commemoration of this fine occasion I gave the lamest radio interview in Swedish radio history. When asked “So, do you feel Swedish?”, I responded “Well, I’ve only been here for a few days… I think I feel more confused than anything.”
My newspaper interview with Aftonbladet (the evening news) was no better.
The headline was “Marisa helped us cross the line”, but the subheading was “She sings in Swedish!” (this on account of me getting nervous and mentioning that I knew how to sing the advertising jingle of a famous Swedish headache tablet brand).

According to Aftonbladet, I came in as Swedish resident number 9,000,001 (a baby was born in Stockholm 3 minutes before my paper work was processed).

I have thusly remained here ever since, playing my part in averting population decline!

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Rani of You Totally Got This asked me what I wanted to be when I was little. The first thing that I can remember being truly passionate about was design. From the time my memories start (around the age of two) I loved to draw. As a school-aged child, I’d make my own books, design clothes, make collages, etc. I told people I’d be a designer when I grew up. After many diversions, side street career moves and periods of lost and angsty unproductivity, I ended up applying for art school, eventually graduating with a Bachelor of Visual Communication before going on to work as a designer and then, for the past decade, as an art director.

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My veins are notoriously “tricky” and even the best nurses and medical professionals struggle to find them. As a result of many painful experiences, bruises and apologies, I hate, hate, hate needles.

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So, why “Miss Marzipan”?

This is one of the questions I am asked most.

In primary school, when I was around 10 years old, I had a friend who liked the idea of the girls in our group having funny nicknames. She referred to herself as Julie Jellybean and to me as Marisa Mars Bar. Later, as a teenager, the nickname Mars/Marz was resurrected and has stuck in some variation since then.

When I started blogging in 2011, I intended to do so 100% anonymously. I told neither my friends nor family members about this blog and I used the name Miss Marzipan in lieu of my real name. As a bit of a sweet tooth and a lover of baking I also thought it was fitting.

I actually hated marzipan as a child. But 13 years of living in Scandinavia eating semlor and princess tårta has cured me of that!

 

 

 

If you’ve made it this far, kudos! You’re a reading champion! 😀
But seriously, thank you!

Have a wonderful new week… and if there’s a question you’ve wanted to ask me that you’ve not had answered by my two rambling posts of random facts, ask away.

❤ MM xx

REFLECTIONS ON CONNECTICUT (food, images, gratitude… with a side of Cowboy Caviar)

It’s safe to say we’ve travelled more this year than we ordinarily do (and we ordinarily travel quite a lot!). From our several thousand-kilometer Aussie road trip, to our last Royal Caribbean cruise in the Bahamas, and our most recent trips to Swedish Storsjön and Turku in Finland, it’s been a year of discovery… both internal and external. For this edition of Wellness & Wanderlust Wednesday*, I thought I’d share some personal reflections from one of the stand-out family trips we’ve done along with a recipe inspired by it.

I can’t count the number of pleasant surprises we have had in amongst all the meeting of new people/making of new friends/having of new culinary experiences/immersing ourselves in new environments. But somewhere near the very top of the ‘pleasant surprise’ list is Connecticut. I’ll admit, my geographical knowledge of areas of the U.S. I’ve not previously visited is limited. And, having never ventured to New England before, I knew absolutely nothing about Connecticut. Rather than hoping for big things of the place itself, I concentrated my pre-trip thoughts on being up to scratch in terms of the work I was there to do.

We arrived in Hartford in an exhausted daze after a connecting flight from Detroit (via Amsterdam) at around midnight. By the time we came to our hotel it was 1:30am and we’d been traveling for close to 24 hours. It was cold. Very cold. And we were beyond tired.

I cannot tell you what a comfort it was to enter the lobby. The warmth and charm of Saybrook Point Inn was not lost on my tired eyes and our room was picture perfect, with its open fireplace and invitingly sink-inable beds.

 

I am still a little mystified as to how we mustered motivation to head out on the morning of on our first day rather than stay in and rest. I can only assume it was the sound sleep we’d all had combined with a hearty room service breakfast, an enticing view from our window and crisp Connecticut air. Our first stop was Food Works, a local answer to Wholefoods with an impressive selection of healthy and free-from foods, fresh produce and organic products. We then drove to Overabove to ensure we’d be able to locate it easily the next day.

We ate lunch at Mystic Market, a drive-by discovery that my intuition told me would make for a worthwhile stop (thank you, intuition!). High on my list of recommendations are their Falafel & Hummus Roll, the Eggplant Hero, the Roasted Portobello Panini… And, lest I forget, the outstanding Cowboy Caviar!

Fuelled and energised by our wholesome, ample lunch, we embarked on an easy afternoon trip to Gillette Castle State Park, located between the towns of East Haddam and Lyme. Originally a private residence, the castle was commissioned and designed by William Gillette, the American actor most famous for his stage portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.

We didn’t stay long, but the outing was enjoyable, giving us an enticing overview of the magnificent countryside of the area and some absolutely charming towns en route from Old Saybrook. Back at the hotel, the children made good use of the indoor pool. The pool area was a highlight of our stay, of course, and time spent relaxing in the warmth evoked serious summer holiday feelings… despite the fact that it was January and at times snowing heavily outside.

Monday rolled around and we headed off with excitement to the Overabove studio in Essex. I can’t speak highly enough about our experiences with the Royal Caribbean team, Ralph Guardiano and the crew at Overabove (including make-up squad Linda and Valerie Gengras). Their professionalism and their kindness (and the amazing catering, thanks to Coffee’s!) was so appreciated by all of us.

Having not worked on a project of this scope and nature before, I’ll admit to walking into it with some trepidation. However, when you are in the hands of consummate professionals, working with something that you genuinely love, in the very worst case you’ll have a fun experience. And in the best case, you’ll be part of something over which you end up proud. 🙂

Most of our days at the studio began in the morning and ended after lunch. The children were kept entertained by my husband, volunteers from the Overabove crew and our beloved Von Family when they were around. Afternoons and evenings were largely free for us to rest and explore. And this meant more visits to Mystic Market, pizzas from Pizza Works, a spot of shopping in Old Saybrook, and time spent in the pool, spa and gym.

We took advantage of the offer to have fires lit in our room too. Such a luxury! There couldn’t possibly be a cosier end to a busy day than one spent enjoying the warmth of a crackling fire after a bubble bath.

I have a confession to make. I have been more often disappointed than impressed by the salon/spa experiences that I have had over the years. And yet, being the diehard optimist I am, I still persist in making bookings and hoping for the best, especially when visiting a new locale. I am thrilled to report that my massage at Sanno Spa did not disappoint. In fact, I count it amongst the better experiences I have had. My massage therapist (Sarah, I believe) was excellent, the staff at the reception desk were very friendly, and spa premises themselves were wonderful.

On one occasion we were generously given the opportunity to experience a private banquet room for a spontaneous pizza party organised with our good friends, the Von Family. On several mornings we put the room service menu to good use, and I can heartily recommend everything that we tried (most of the menu, I believe!), but especially the granola pancakes.

The staff at Saybrook Point Inn’s restaurant, Fresh Salt, went above and beyond to accommodate our family, cater to our children and make us feel welcome. If you dine there, do yourself a favour and order the sweet potato fries!

On our final free day in Connecticut we visited fabulous Mystic Seaport, America’s leading maritime museum meets research and education centre. Located by Mystic River in Mystic, Connecticut, it features a working shipyard, exhibit halls and more. With more than 500 historic watercraft and lovely recreated New England coastal village, visitors can experience maritime history in an immersive and interactive manner, and our own mini historians loved the Children’s Museum, where they played ‘swab the deck’, cooked play food in the galley and asked questions about ship life.

We ate brunch at Somewhere in Time, a thoroughly unpretentious cafe diner with an extensive brunch selection that is clearly hugely popular with locals. I can recommend the veggie sausage, waffles, pancakes and banana bread French toast (all delicious). Despite being very full and not particularly buggy-friendly, it most definitely is a family venue, and the children loved choosing from the incredibly appealing menu options and colouring the activity sheets they were given while they waited for their food to arrive.

After a little more exploring, we returned to the hotel to get ready for the wrap party at fabulous Cafe Allegre, owned and operated by award-winning Executive Chef, Silvio Suppa. As popular with locals and families as it is with celebrities, Cafe Allegre offers a true farm to table experience starring delectable, authentic Italian dishes. The restaurant itself is charming and elegant, and the service welcoming and warm. It’s everything you could want in a dining experience, especially if you appreciate true Italian flavours!

Hearing that Lillian’s 4th birthday was a few days away, Nathalie most kindly organised a cake and present for her, and the entire gathering sang happy birthday for her. Ralph made a thank you speech which was incredibly generous, and humble Chef Silvio made a heartwarming appearance. The food kept coming and the celebration rolled on into the night. As a gift, I received a copy of Chef Silvio’s book (as if I wasn’t emotional enough already!) and I am waiting for a special occasion to try out one of the truly delicious looking recipes in our new kitchen.

We said goodbye and thank you to our new friends and drove back to the Inn knowing that 3 hours of sleep awaited before we’d be heading to the airport and ultimately California. Abby Von had made farewell gifts for us all. Rachel Von and I promised to stay in touch (and we have!). As I packed our belongings and watched my children sleeping in their cosy beds, I was struck by a deep sense of gratitude for our time in Connecticut, the people we’d encountered and all our experiences (both with and without food involved!). We truly had the perfect home base in Saybrook Point Inn. With its unpretentious yet luxurious appointments, excellent service and stellar location, it offered us what I imagine to be the quintessential New England shoreline experience. Every sunset and sunrise framed by the marina (with the sweetest lighthouse ever in the foreground) was a work of art.

Who could ever tire of this view?

And we’d recommend Connecticut heartily to anyone interested in visiting New England. To quote John Mariani, “Connecticut is Hollywood’s ideal of New England at its prettiest, its richest and its smartest—rather like Hepburn herself… Such idealization is not without foundation, most beautifully evident in eastern Connecticut towns like Essex, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook…”

Have you visited Connecticut? Or would you like to?

If you have no immediate plans to travel there, here’s a recipe that teleports me back to Mystic Market and maybe you’ll like it too…

❤ Marisa xx

COWBOY CAVIAR

Dip meets salad in the best way!

Inspired by one of the tastiest yet most simple take-away meals I have ever eaten, I decided to attempt a recreation of Cowboy Caviar. Delicious with corn chips or sweet potato fries, perfect in place of salsa, a fabulous side dish and a great addition to any buffet table, this humble dip-meets-salad is a new favourite at Marzipan HQ!

INGREDIENTS FOR SALAD

2 ripe avocados, diced
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
250 ml sweetcorn kernels
1 tin black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 tin black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed well
2 spring onions, sliced finely
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
80 ml parsley (or coriander), finely chopped

INGREDIENTS FOR DRESSING

60 ml olive oil
2.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
A squeeze of lime juice
A squeeze of lemon juice
A dash of maple syrup (optional)
1/4-1/2 tsp garlic salt
Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Pour dressing over salad and toss. Serve immediately or keep for a day or two, covered and refrigerated and serve as required.

 

*For a baked version of sweet potato fries, check out this old post for Crisp(ier) Sweet Potato Fries

 

THANKS & CONNECTICUT LINKS

We’d like to extend our thanks to our talented and amazing friends at Royal Caribbean for the opportunity to visit Connecticut in the first place, to Overabove for being the generous, professional and excellent people they are, to Saybrook Point Inn for exceeding every expectation, and Mystic Seaport for offering us the perfect day out and some fascinating lessons in local maritime history.

This post is unsponsored and all views expressed are my own, as always. As I have mentioned several businesses, I’ll include links to them below:

Saybrook Point Inn: 2 Bridge St, Old Saybrook, CT 06475

Overabove: 8 Railroad Ave, Suite 110, PO Box 8 Essex, CT 06426

Food Works: 940 Boston Post Rd, Old Saybrook, CT 06475

Mystic Seaport: 75 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic, CT 06355

Cafe Allegre:  725 Boston Post Rd, Madison, CT

*It’s now officially Thursday here as I post this, though it’s still Wednesday in Connecticut 😉

SWEET POTATO NACHOS (with quinoa & bean mince)

This is what happened when my love of sweet potatoes met my love of nachos… a delicious plant-on-plant combination, that’s satisfying, protein-packed, tasty and very sharable.

As sweet potatoes and quinoa featured heavily in my recent cooking workshop, I thought it would be nice to share another family favourite with a wider audience while dedicating it officially to the lovely course participants (thank you, guys!) who may well have some sweet potatoes and quinoa leftover.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful week so far and that you’ll enjoy this dish if you try it! Oh, and here’s a link to the recipe video on Instagram if you want to cook along with me (at super speed 😀 ).

❤ Marisa xx

PS

SWEET POTATO NACHOS
WITH QUINOA BEAN MINCE

Makes: 2-4 portions depending on hunger level

FOR POTATOES

6-8 sweet potatoes (I recommend 2-3 per person)
2-3 tbsp olive (or coconut) oil

MINCE INGREDIENTS

1 packet organic crushed tomatoes (around 390 g)
460 g black beans (2 tins), rinsed
2 roasted red bell peppers/capsicums chopped
4-6 sundried tomatoes finely chopped
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
200 ml quinoa, cooked in vegetable stock
A pinch of coconut sugar (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

TOPPINGS & OPTIONAL EXTRAS
Guacamole
Dairy-free cheese (or cheese of choice)
Salsa
Fresh herbs (cilantro/coriander or parsley)
Fresh chilli
Cherry tomatoes

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 200-215°C. All ovens are calibrated a little differently, and if yours has known hot spots, opt for a lower temperature. Line a baking tray with foil or baking parchment.
  2. Peel and slice sweet potatoes (into discs of a thickness of approximately 1/2 a centimeter). Pop slices into a bowl and drizzle over oil. Toss to coat evenly.
  3. Lay the slices out flat and ensure they do not overlap. Pop the tray in the oven and bake the slices for around 20 minutes, checking after the first 10 minutes to see if you need to turn the oven down a touch.
  4. Add all mince ingredients to a large frying/skillet pan and simmer on low-medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. When sweet potato slices are done, arrange them on a plate as you would corn chips and top with quinoa and bean mince and additions of your choice. Serve immediately.

 

*The mince can be made well in advance and even frozen for later use. Will keep for a week in the fridge and up to 6 months in the freezer.

7-DAY PLANT PANTRY MEAL PREP WORKSHOP- save time, save money & cook with me! Starts July 19

It’s not often that I post announcements on my blog, but I’m breaking with tradition today as my very first online cooking workshop goes live tomorrow! How does delicious, wholesome, budget-friendly food – prepped to save you time – starring 2 inexpensive, healthy pantry staples sound? All recipes included in the workshop are made with real food ingredients and are vegan-friendly, white sugar-free and gluten-free. What’s more, running this workshop in conjunction with Live to be enables all participants the opportunity to cook and engage at their own convenience, regardless of schedule or timezone.

Interested? Read on! And I hope to cook with you soon!

❤ Marisa xx

What will you learn?
Join me for a week as we make some of my honest-to-goodness favourites (and my family’s)!
Learn my key to eating well while balancing career, creative pursuits, travel and 3 children and chat with me daily for support, encouragement and tips.

What will you receive?

  • Recipes, advice and information
  • A suggested meal prep plan
  • A shopping guide specific to the workshop
  • Support in the form of direct communication
  • Encouragement from me and your fellow participants
  • Grass-roots meal prep tips to save you time & money
  • Permanent access to all recipes provided

 

HOW IT WORKS

Everyday you will receive a recipe/s + cooking tips on your mobile device.
Cook in your own time and share your experience in the group chat.
Ask questions and receive warm, personal support in the chat or in private.

HOW TO REGISTER

Register here http://bit.ly/MM_workshop and download the free Livetobe_ app on your phone. Easy!
Day 1 is free. If you like what you see, you can continue cooking for the 7-day period.

CHOCOLATE KNICKERBOCKER GLORY WITH NECTARINES & A SESAME WAFER a new plant-based spin on an old tradition

We’re welcoming the warmer weather here in Sweden with this somewhat healthier spin on an old-fashioned British treat. If you’re not from the UK or familiar with the term Knickerbocker Glory, you’ll no doubt be curious as to what kind of concoction it is. Supposedly invented somewhere down by the English seashore in the 1930s, this layered ice-cream dessert is still popular with modern-day Brits. Traditionally made with fruit, vanilla ice-cream, whipped cream and a fruit sauce, the dessert is almost always topped with a cherry.

Give this one a go if you’re in the mood for something on the lighter side of indulgent. And by all means, share with someone you love. We actually shared this one as a family. Yes, all five of us!

It was my graduation day celebration treat (I had to go out on a fancy note!).

Happy weekend, all!

❤ Marisa xx

 

 

CHOCOLATE KNICKERBOCKER GLORY

with vegan nicecream, nectarines & a sesame wafer

Makes: 1 large sundae

INGREDIENTS
One nectarine, chopped in a dice fashion
A handful of fresh raspberries
2-3 scoops of chocolate nicecream (recipe below)
Melted dark chocolate
Whipped coconut cream
1 cherry
1 sesame wafer (recipe below)

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a tall sundae/milkshake glass add chopped nectarine.
  2. Pop raspberries on top.
  3. Melted chocolate can be drizzled either around the inside or outside rim of the glass.
  4. Top the raspberries with three scoops of chocolate nicecream.
  5. More melted chocolate can be drizzled over, if you like.
  6. Top the nicecream with whipped coconut cream. Place a cherry on top and add the sesame wafer.
  7. Serve immediately with a long ice cream spoon.

 

SESAME WAFERS

INGREDIENTS
125 ml birch sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp rice malt syrup
100 ml sesame seeds
125 ml organic flour (gluten-free or plain)
A tiny pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line baking trays with baking parchment paper.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine sugar/birch sugar, coconut oil, rice malt syrup & vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute.
  3. Remove pan from heat, and add dry ingredients, stirring to combine.
  4. Now there are a couple of ways to form your crisps now; either roll out the still-warm mix between 2 sheets of baking paper on a tray and baking it as a “slab” to cut up while warm from the oven or break up into shards when cool… OR cut into shapes of choice prior to baking and arrange on a baking parchment lined tray with at least 3 cm separating each piece before baking (they will spread slightly).
  5. Bake until crisp and golden, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on size, thickness and desired level of goldenness.

 

CHOCOLATE NICECREAM FOR 1

INGREDIENTS
1 large banana (or 2 medium-small ones), chopped and frozen
2 tbsp cacao powder
3 tbsp coconut cream
A pinch of vanilla powder

DIRECTIONS

Blitz all ingredients in a high-powered blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.

WELLNESS & WANDERLUST WEDNESDAY with professional travel photographer, Søren Thuesen

A VIEW LESS ORDINARY

A conversation with creative explorer, Søren Thuesen, aka s1000

With his eye for incredible composition and tone, Søren has been among my favourite travel photographers since I first came across his work on Instagram. His captivating imagery seems born of an intuitive understanding of the visual impact of scale, geometry, line and colour within a landscape. As a freelance photographer and designer, he travels to the places dreams are made of and captures moments in a manner that teleports you, heightening your sense of wonder… and provoking feelings of reflective solitude.

Working on projects involving the diverse yet related skills of design, photography and front end development, Søren has partnered with brands such as Opel, Olympus, Adidas, The Food Club, Royal Copenhagen, Georg Jensen and Bang & Olufsen.

Impressed? So am I!

Let’s find out more about the man behind the camera…

Marisa: Where did you go on your last assignment?

Søren: Actually my last project was a local assignment; road-tripping in the North of Denmark in an Opel Crossland X with my mom. Opel wanted a set of photos with a domestic touch and my first thought was to take it to the beach, since that’s allowed on certain stretches around the west coast in Denmark. That came out super fun!

Marisa: When heading to a new destination, what’s something you hope to find? (e.g., compelling scenery, a new culinary experience, a friendly local bar, a comfy bed or what have you…)

Søren: All of the above! Most of the time I’m lucky enough to travel with my wife, so preparation for a new destination always results in a mix of everything from great food to great landscapes.

Marisa: What’s your camera of choice? And are there other photography related items you simply cannot be without when travelling?

Søren: I’ve been carrying a Canon 6D (primarily shooting wide on a 16-35 mm) for a long time – it’s great for both landscape and street photography, but for everyday use I’m often bringing my less heavy Olympus EM1 or simply my trusty iPhone. Lately my favourite camera is sitting on a drone though. 😀

Marisa: As the other half of the dynamic duo behind wholesome cookbook Vegetar (made in creative partnership with Ditte Ingemann), I assume you must share a love of nourishing food. Do you have any travel-friendly healthy food hacks?

Søren: Best tip: marry wisely! I definitely share the love of nourishing food, but the real hero on any trip would be the other half of that Dynamic Duo; she will never run low on healthy snacks, water or places to eat while on the road.

Marisa: Expanding on that last point, do you have any general tips for maintaining health and balance while on the road?

Søren: Again, marry wisely! Being on the road with a co-driving food magician definitely helps getting through the day in a healthy manner.

Marisa: Is it possible to stay grounded and present in a moment of enjoyment while also trying to capture it photographically?

Søren: Personally, no. I’m like a kid at Christmas when I find myself in an area of interest, but I’ve realised that’s how I enjoy epic landscapes or great architectural structures best. Actually I often find the moment of enjoyment back in the studio during the editing process. I would like to just say yes, though.

Marisa: Which destination has been the biggest surprise to you?

Søren: I need to mention Iceland. I’ve been there 4 times and every time has been a complete surprise in sheer beauty and shifting conditions. Weather is all over the place and I’ve actually seen all four seasons within an hour- worn shorts and t-shirt in the morning while ending the day freezing in boots and layers of jackets.

Marisa: What has been your most memorable travel shoot experience?

Søren: Again I have to mention Iceland! I was lucky enough to join an expedition with a team of Nordic Instagrammers to test the Olympus EM1, which was a lot of fun and full of memorable experiences. I’ll never forget the sound of complete silence in the middle of nowhere staring at Northern Lights moving across the sky in complete darkness.

Marisa: Any pro tips for would-be travel photographers?

Søren: Do your research. I always use Google Maps ahead of any mission to bookmark/star any potential location, restaurant etc. With satellite maps you can even plan out possible spots to park a car or even peek at a restaurant with street view. Also apps on the phone has made it super easy to plan shoots depending on sunset, size of the moon, position of the milky way etc. I use PhotoPills for all that nerdy stuff and AirMap to plan any drone flight.

AND JUST QUICKLY…

  • Jungle or desert? A combination of the two would be amazing!
  • Coffee shop or cocktail lounge? Coffee in the morning, Cocktails at night 😉
  • Your dream client: I love to travel and I love gear, so I guess that would make my dream client a camera brand that requires a lot of travelling!
  • Your favourite destination: Iceland for views, Berlin for food
  • Best healthy food spot in Copenhagen: Definitely WeDoFood in the Meatpacking District; love the concept of mixing your own salad! Great selection for meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
  • And lastly, is there anywhere particular you haven’t been that you long to visit? What attracts you? Mountains! – living in a country as flat as Denmark make you long for heights and right now I got the South Island of New Zealand quite high on the list, but since Norway is so close I might just put that on the list again.

 

Many thanks to Søren for taking time out of his intense travel and shooting schedule to answer my questions. I hope you enjoyed meeting him too!

If you have any suggestions for questions you’d like me to ask upcoming health/wellness/travel professionals for this blog feature series, please leave a comment below. Actually, feel free to leave one regardless! I love hearing from you, as always! 🙂

To connect with Søren and to find yourself transported on visual adventures, far and wide, visit:

www.instagram.com/s1000/

http://www.s1000.co/

To purchase the stunning book Vegetar, head here:

http://www.ditteingemann.dk/vegetar/

 

FINDING MY ‘NEW NORMAL’ POSTPARTUM- holistically addressing perinatal anxiety, weight loss & more

*Breathing in deeply*
*Exhaling*

It’s Midsummer’s Eve here in Sweden and, rather than sharing a festive recipe, I am sharing reflections from a deeply personal journey. I believe inspiration comes in many forms. I could show you a picture perfect side of my life, or talk only about the appealing side of things, or not share at all and keep things surface. I can’t edit myself or style my life the way I edit and style my food images. Personally, I question whether much of the content we come across online is really “inspirational” in a life-changing sense, or whether it serves rather to create more unhappy comparison, lowered self-esteem and greater distance between those who are #goals or #inspo and mere mortals.

I want to honour where I am in my own imperfectly perfect journey, right here and now. And there might be someone out there who relates to what I am about to share.

Going through all of the emotional and physical stuff I have been while being more active via social channels and more public with my life as a result has been hugely confronting. And, at times, I have had to draw upon all my self-love resources and all the tools I have learned and earned after literally years of self-help/therapy/conscious growth, etc, in order to not buy into negative self-talk and feelings of not enoughness.

I am currently 16 months postpartum and several things have led me to this point in my own health story; a point at which I’ve found myself refocusing attention on making positive, long-lasting changes through taking daily actionable measures… holding myself accountable and reaching out to others who “get it”.

I must begin this story by stating that I honestly did not mind eating more Thai take-away food and veggie burgers than could be considered balanced in the first weeks after bringing Oliver home from the hospital. I didn’t mind lounging around in bed eating beetroot chips and dark chocolate as I recovered from the birth experience and my husband simultaneously recovered from an accident (and broken ribs). It didn’t make me feel “bad” or lazy. I welcomed the opportunity to just bond and chill the heck out. It was a quiet, cosy, nurturing time that we spent cocooning with our third baby and the furthest thing from my mind was “bouncing back”, fitting into my old clothes or anything of that nature. I wanted to rest. And when I wasn’t resting, I wanted to nest. As seems to be the way with me when pregnant or immediately postpartum, I let my instincts take the lead. And it served me well during those first weeks.

HAVING IT ALL MEANS
BEING ABLE TO ENJOY HAVING IT ALL

Listening to my body hasn’t always been easy, but with concerted practice over several years, it has become more so. I moved through the initial healing from birthing – the stitches and so on – and, as time went by, I started to venture out a little more. My schedule began to fill up steadily (as it does!) and by autumn of last year I found myself in the eye of an anxiety storm. And it caught me completely off guard.

On the outside, things looked great; 3 healthy, happy children, loving husband, new home to move into, a course that I was studying (and loving), lots of opportunities (creative and professional) coming my way. I was grateful, happy and excited.

At the same time the overwhelm was immense. I developed urticaria (or “stress hives”) seemingly out of nowhere for the first time in my life and my immunity in general weakened. I didn’t even know what the hives were exactly, and at one point – as crazy as it may sound – I feared I was allergic to my baby Oliver, because I would break out in hives when he touched me. Of course, that supposition in itself was distressing. But not identifying that the stressful happenings in my life, exhaustion, anxiety and the hives were interconnected, I simply took antihistamines (which had only very limited effect), drank coffee and tried to soldier on.

At the culmination of this period I found myself at Arlanda Airport after about 45 minutes of sleep, literally shaking and fighting the impulse to be sick from extreme exhaustion, with 3 kids in tow facing a long-haul flight to America. I broke down in tears in the departure lounge and told my husband that I feared I was losing my mind. He responded calmly and earnestly, “You’re not crazy. You’re just really, really tired.”

It was only after we had travelled and settled into our new place (and I’d had time to sleep properly/reflect/be/breathe) that I realised the connection. The hives? They completely disappeared – no medication required. The anxiety, likewise. And then the residual postpartum weight started to shift also.

I don’t intend to suggest that anxiety of unmanageable proportions has been a constant since Oliver was born, but for many months there has been an undercurrent of not-100%-rightness that I have felt, both physically and emotionally. And this has been punctuated with seemingly random (though not random!) flare-ups of intense overwhelm. In any case, anxiety for me tends to be of the high functioning sort which sees me take on more in an effort to gain control of the situation. Which causes me more anxiety. Yay!

COMPARING MYSELF TO PREVIOUS VERSIONS OF ME

When Oliver turned 1, I couldn’t help but compare postpartum me of 2011 and 2013 with the current version. By the time Louie and Lillian where 12 months old, I had lost all of the so-called baby weight without any dieting and no overbearing exercise schedule. And I had a LOT of extra weight to lose (at the end of my 1st pregnancy, I weighed 102 kg and at the end of my second, 92-93 kg). My approach was balanced, my attitude was great. And it worked.

In the first image below I am 31 weeks pregnant (yes, I still had 9 weeks of pregnancy and weight gain to go) with Lillian (aka Cupcake) in December 2012. I have no idea how much I weighed as I don’t own scales, but I was well on my way to 92 kg.

I didn’t mind, by the way. For those of you who don’t know, my pregnancy will Lillian was high risk. I had a blood clot inside the wall of my uterus that was larger than she was, that caused massive intermittent bleeding episodes and threatened her very existence. Weight gain was the least of my worries. I was thrilled to make it to 31 weeks, fat ankles and all. As seems to be the case when the actual big stuff happens, you don’t sweat the “small stuff”.

The second and third images are of me at 10 months postpartum the following December, weighing 58 kg (according to my parent’s bathroom scales in Adelaide). I look tired because we had literally just arrived back in Australia after long-haul, non-stop travel from Sweden via Dubai during which I had become unwell… and then headed out to a party after arriving in Adelaide! But I was genuinely very happy. And yes, I am drinking lemon squash with actual sugar in it in the image below because I really did consume what I felt like (all things in moderation, of course).

And so, given my history with pregnancy weight gain and postpartum loss , at the end of pregnancy 3 I wasn’t worried when the hospital scale revealed I was back at 93 kg in February 2016. But in February 2017, at 12 months postpartum and still 10 kg overweight with a body fat percentage of 34, I started to suspect that something was amiss.

Despite healthy eating and partaking in regular exercise, the natural, gradual and rather effortless shift back to my normal weight had completely stalled. And, what’s more, I was waking up routinely at 2-4 am with a racing heart and mind. Yes, anxiety was back too, only wrapped in a different package. During the day I’d be out and about… there were social and food situations galore, particularly when we were traveling in America and Australia for 4.5 months. All the while I was operating within an uncomfortably juxtaposed emotional reality; a genuine sense of excitement/happy gratitude (seriously, it’s pretty darn amazing to be traveling the world with your husband and children, meeting and making friends wherever you go!) and an uneasy, persistent, damn annoying background hum of not-100%-rightness that would sporadically ignite into episodes of full blow anxiety.

Through my course (more on that later) I was learning about the connection between cortisol, anxiety, weight gain/retention and sleep. The modules on this very subject couldn’t have come at a more apt juncture in my life! It’s safe to say that between pregnancy insomnia, co-sleeping with babies/toddlers and breastfeeding on demand and working late at night to achieve things that I can’t with the kids around across a 7 year span of time, I have rarely – if at all – during this “motherhood period” had 8 consecutive hours of sleep.

And my natural response to feeling low energy or under the weather? Keep going! Heaven forbid, don’t stop or you’ll crash*!

*Which is exactly what tends to happen.

It’s a vicious cycle. And all the kale in the world wont cure it.

This is what it looks like for me:

Feel motivated and driven > take on too much > feel tired > drink coffee or exercise to increase focus and stamina > sleep less > feel anxious > try to regain some semblance of control > take on more obligations/must-do’s > feel increasingly tired and overwhelmed > caffeine becomes necessary for “functioning” (but causes unease) > exercise is done to maintain a sense of control/restore “normalcy” (but seems to heighten the “tired but wired” factor)  > sleep situation worsens > immunity deteriorates > anxiety increases… and so it goes on.

THE ANXIETY+WEIGHT CONNECTION

Whether or not I have experienced full-blown adrenal fatigue, I’ve certainly experienced adrenal imbalance brought on by long-term stress (from lack of sleep/modern life/my own people pleasing tendencies, etc.). And adrenal imbalance causes both insulin and cortisol to remain elevated in the blood, leading to extra glucose being stored as fat. Guess where? That’s right; the tummy area. It’s a total myth that excess activity always leads to weight loss. In fact, when our adrenals are pushed to the max, we can remain stuck in a perpetuating cycle of excess weight/fat retention (more on that later!).

Add hypothyroid and breastfeeding hormones to the equation and what do you get? Weight (and a post-baby belly) that wont budge. Diastisis recti will only serve to amplify the visual effect of it all. As a result of the postpartum combo deal (weight gain deluxe with a side of hypothyroid and diastis smothered in cortisol, super-sized), I looked like I was in the second trimester of pregnancy for a good year postpartum!

Excess tummy is very normal after having a baby; I know this from personal experience (x 3). But I also know what it is for my body to find its own balance again and “release” excess weight naturally over time through sensible diet/exercise and breastfeeding.

What happens, however, when you do all the same stuff but the formula doesn’t add up to the same result? That’s where I have been the past few months, despite having come a long way if looking at the weight factor alone (which I do not).

My journey back to me is motivated by self-love and a desire to have balance in my life. And because I truly believe that the weight/sleep/emotional overwhelm/anxiety issue is actually the same thing in different manifestations, the only way for me to move forward has been to look at things holistically.

If it’s running on the performance/burn-out treadmill that perpetuates imbalance, then the cycle has to be stopped, firstly. Clearly I can’t abandon all my pursuits and responsibilities to go on a retreat or chant in a cave somewhere. After all, I have three young and very dependant children to care and provide for. I can, however, take simple actions towards prioritising myself again.

Jumping back to the topic of my course, some of you may be aware that I have been studying Health Coaching for the past year. It has been an absolute revelation, not merely in terms of knowledge acquired. The greatest lessons have been those of a personal growth nature. Having said that, one interesting fact that I learned in a recent lecture with Deepak Chopra* (*hello! I am still pinching myself that after years of doing his meditation experiences [as documented on this very blog], he is one of my lecturers!), that weight loss programs have a 24% success rate when a person engages solo, and a 55% to 66% success rate when done with emotional support. To me this is further proof of what I have seen to be true in my own life; that our physical and emotional lives are inextricably linked and taking care of both is the key to optimal health, balance and happiness. Health Coaches may refer to the non-nutritional elements that “feed” us as primary food. These things include our careers, relationships and spiritual practices. What we consume in terms of nutrition is referred to as secondary food. As a result of doing my course and practicing health histories and consults with other students, I have been getting ample support in various areas, particularly in primary food. I feel like I have been in therapy. In a good way. 😀

WHAT IS WORKING FOR ME:
ACHIEVING BALANCE WHILE DIMINISHING
PERINATAL ANXIETY & EXCESS WEIGHT

Looking at both my primary and secondary food areas, these are the things that have worked for me and have resulted in a MASSIVE reduction in anxiety (as in, I haven’t had it at all for a few weeks now!), a huge difference in my belly and simultaneous weight loss of around 5 kg over a 4 week period.

Eating healthy food at regular intervals. So not nothing at all, followed by massive meal, followed by endless snacks at midnight 😛 , in other words.

Cleansing. Eating “clean” in smaller portions. Drinking lots of water (more than I think I need!).

Eating nutrient dense foods for sustenance rather than reaching for something sugary/empty processed carbs/a caffeinated drink. This should be a no brainer for someone who has been around IQS circles as long as I have, but it still can happen.

If taking supplements works, I do it. I am not a big fan of taking medications for symptoms (unless absolutely necessary), but I don’t have any problem with adding certain supplements to my diet. These can included multi-vitamins (I took prenatal ones daily throughout all my pregnancies), probiotics and so on. Personally, I find zinc and B12 have a positive effect on me. And making sure I get enough vitamin D living in Sweden is crucial to my mental and physical health.

Disconnecting. I fully appreciate that these may not seem the easiest things to do in a fast-paced world with an A-Type drive, but I have started implementing a few simple things that are so easy to incorporate into my daily routine that it seems absurd not to do them. These include using the timer system to help me maximise my productivity while minimising my time engaging in one activity. For example, if I have email to respond to, I can set a timer for 30 minutes and attempt to cover as much as possible within that time frame. Once the timer goes off, I take a break, drink water and move on to something else. Another things that sets me on a good path for the day is morning meditation or breathing exercises. I am a huge fan of discovering simple meditation practices and yoga flows online (thank you, YouTube!) and there are several 10-minute practices that are great. Another is a simple breathing exercise that involves breathing in to a count of 4, holding the breath for a count of 7 and exhaling to a count of 8. This is a go-to of mine. It works.

Getting moving. In my experience, when my adrenals are under pressure, certain types of activities that I ordinarily love and gravitate towards only exacerbate the problem. Having said that, movement of some form always elevates my mood and is a natural vitality booster. I love running and hot yoga, but they don’t always love me back. In fact, during periods of anxiety they can add to the downward spiral and manifest in weakened immunity. Opting for walking, laps in a pool, yin yoga, Pilates or Body Balance classes can be much more health affirming during times of stress. The key is listening to my body.

Getting organised. I can’t tell you how much simply writing things out helps me clear the head clutter. What’s more, scheduling my day into digestible portions of time (such as allocating 30 minutes to answering email before taking a break or prioritising 10 minutes for breathing exercises) not only helps me curb my multi-tasking tendencies but also helps me focus as I am engaging in the activities that I have determined matter most. My day is more productive, my head space is clearer and any time left for just being can be enjoyed without guilt or an undercurrent of anxiousness about commitments left unmet.

I created my own daily plan with all my “minimums” included (such as drinking water, etc). I literally use a timer to keep track of my activities, lest I get sucked down the overcommitment rabbit hole.

Just stopping… and sleeping! We all know that an excess of belly can be a spin-off from pregnancy, but stubborn belly fat is also a common sign of adrenal fatigue. Not only does the stress hormone, cortisol, activate glucose, fats and amino acids to keep our body fuelled between meals, but it maintains blood sugar levels and helps our cells absorb glucose. Fat cells have special receptors for cortisol, and there are more of these receptors in our abdominal fat cells than anywhere else in our bodies. Thus our bodies can respond to the stress by inviting more fat to be deposited in this area, perpetuating the cycle of adrenal imbalance. One of the top recommendations for people suffering from adrenal fatigue is to simply slow down and rest as much as possible (aiming for 8–10 hours sleep per night if possible and maintaining a regular sleep pattern). Eating less food late in the day (when we eat, our cortisol levels are elevated), “unplugging” from all technology two hours before bed and trying to be asleep by 10 pm are all simple ways to promote a better quality of sleep and deeper rest.

Focusing on joy. In the midst of emotional crisis and times of healing, there are still things to be grateful for. Gratitude lists and affirmations have served me well for the past 18 years and, although ideally I would do them daily, I will always come back to them in times of need. Having fun, lightening up, laughing and indulging in pastimes that are enjoyable should be prioritised as a matter of self-love and self-care. For me this means cuddles with my kids, fun family activities (such as cooking together), and scheduling time for creative pursuits and exercise.

Decluttering. My anxiety kicked off in full force around the time we were getting ready to sell our last home. It’s when the boxes started emerging from storage that the extent of our possessions (and my overwhelm) met with the light of exposure. I’d long considered us to be minimalists of a fashion. But no. We had stuff. It was just hidden from view. With every box that emerged from our basement came an added sense of emotional heaviness, a mental burden (“What the heck are we going to do with this stuff?”) and a physical, logistical issue of moving/clearing/rearranging. And that’s where Marie Kondo and the KonMari method came into my life. I will share more on that in future posts (an entire blog could be dedicated solely to her method). Suffice to say, it works. I describe the experience as being semi-traumatic and ultimately utterly liberating. I wont go into the clutter and excess weight correlation in this post, but there most definitely is one!

Saying no and setting boundaries. This has been a challenge and a theme in my life for, well… my whole life! Interestingly, just as I was in the process of drafting this post, I took a short break and this article from The New York Times immediately popped up in my Facebook feed.

“Humans are social animals who thrive on reciprocity.
It’s in our nature to be socially obliging, and the word no feels like a confrontation that threatens a potential bond.
But when we dole out an easy yes instead of a difficult no we tend to overcommit our time, energy and finances.”

That absolutely resonates. But for me, as a highly sensitive person with a Type A drive combined with people-pleasing predisposition, I have been known to take “yes” to extremes. And pay dearly for it.

And so I am practicing not only that art of saying no, but saying no without justification/guilt. F.R.E.E.D.O.M!

WHERE I AM AT TODAY

I am still a work in progress in every way (as are we all), but in terms of the physical manifestation of the changes I have made in my life recently, I thought it would be interesting to share  what has occurred over a one month period. I feel it MUST be said that weight loss has not been my primary goal. I’d rather be slightly overweight, comfortable in my own skin, happy and kind to myself and others than skinny, desperate, unhappy, burdened with self-loathing and riddled with judgement of others.

However, for the past few months I haven’t been entirely happy… or comfortable in my own skin. No one with the anxiety levels I had could be! And, as mentioned earlier, I instinctively knew that postpartum weight retention, exhaustion and anxiety were connected in my case. I was convinced that addressing one issue would automatically mean addressing all of them.

As has been the case throughout most of my adult life, the changes I have made have come from a place of self-love rather than self-hate. So that’s my disclaimer.

I am not sharing a perfected, filtered version of reality to make someone else feel bad. I am sharing this because hopefully someone out there can relate (and may possibly feel less alone in their own health/postpartum journey).

I am actually rather shocked when I compare these images, especially considering that during the month these changes have taken place I have embarked on long-haul travel, eaten far more food than I would have otherwise while on our cruise with Royal Caribbean (albeit on the healthier side [more on that in a future post]) and come down with a couple of colds (thanks nursery school germs! 😛 ) that have prevented me from exercising for a week and a half in total.

My husband took the pictures and though we tried to replicate the first stance/angle/position and shoot at the same time of day, of course we couldn’t 100%. The images are un-retouched, entirely unglamorous, utterly unflattering and feature messy morning hair (not Instagramable “styled messy”), 14 year-old leggings and a 6 year-old nursing bra. How’s that for #keepingitreal 😛 ? It’s uncomfortable enough sharing this as it is, so if unkind comments pop into your head, please feel free to leave them there.

I still have a few kilos (3 or so) to lose to be back at my so-called ideal weight (according to BMI charts, not according to a self-imposed number). The diastisis recti is a work in progress but definitely in better order and I continue to do certain exercises specifically to heal it. As you may be able to see, I still have a linea nigra (the dark line that can appear on the belly during pregnancy due to hormones) and stretch marks (which I did not acquire so many of during pregnancies 1 and 2). It will be interesting to see what happens with those things over time. Feeling good and emotionally stable as I do right now, I am in no hurry. Plus they don’t really bother me.

My skin does at times, however. Here are two images to show you what I consider to be a pretty amazing transformation. Image 1 was taken on the same day as the ‘before’ pictures you see above. Image 2 was taken on the same day as the ‘after’ images. Yes, I have some freckles and hyper-pigmentation (mostly acquired during my pregnancies, as is common), but as you can see, skin that was arguably extra “hormonal” is now “clear”, less puffy and more hydrated.

There have been invisible physical changes too. For example, I had a health check done before we travelled and my metabolic age had gone from 42 to 33. Over a 3 week period.

How can I not believe that all my issues are interconnected? It is glaringly obvious.

To sum up, for me a cleanse or reboot goes beyond drinking juice for a couple of days or eating raw food/low carb/soup/grapefruit/bananas for a couple of weeks. If things don’t happen holistically for me – if the root causes of an issue remain unexplored – the solutions I apply to the problem are proverbial band aids without longterm impact. The saying goes that happiness is an inside job. And I agree. But that “inside job” can have external manifestations too (hence including the images in this post)!

If you’d like me to share more about this particular journey of mine, let me know.

And if you’re in the process of your own health journey, looking for support, tools and an accountability advocate, I have more news. With one week left until I graduate (!), I am now able to offer a free consultation in the form of a one hour Skype session to a handful of balance-seekers on a first come, first serve basis. So please drop me a line if that interests you.

And regardless of where you are on your path, I send you thanks for your time spent reading this and I wish you a happy Midsummer/Midwinter!

❤ Marisa xx

*For your reference, non-metric people, 102 kg is 224,872 pounds and that is the most I have weighed as a result of pregnancy (or at all). 

POTATO & RED PESTO PIZZETTAS WITH ROCKET

Short on time? I empathise! So here’s a short post and a quick recipe.

Yes, I am back with another pizzetta variation. And once again the recipe title probably suggests this isn’t pizza in any traditional sense. But if you’re on the search for something tasty, simple and a little different, why not give it a go? I first made these last year along with a couple of other oat bread “pizzettas” (basically because we had oat bread that required usage!), and by far this recipe was the one most enquired about. So for those who asked, I am happy to oblige… albeit in a rather belated fashion.

Varsågod, as we say in Sweden!

And glad nationaldag to all my Swedish friends and relatives who had a lovely day of sunshine to enjoy on this public holiday!

❤ Marisa

PS If you happen to use the same brand of oat bread I did, it comes in triangles. Ready-made pizza slices, in other words! 😀

POTATO & RED PESTO PIZZETTAS WITH ROCKET

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS
6 tablespoons red pesto
8 Swedish oat bread triangles (or 4 medium-sized flat breads)
4 new potatoes, parboiled (peeled if you like)
A pinch of dried rosemary
A pinch of thyme
Organic olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste
Lemon juice
A couple of handfuls of fresh rocket/arugula

PESTO INGREDIENTS*

150 g marinated sun-dried tomato halves in oil* (approx. 24)
90 ml oil reserved from jar*
A handful of basil leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder (optional)
30 g pine nuts (approx. 5 tbsp)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp white/red wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS FOR PESTO

Blitz all ingredients in a small food processor until desired consistency is reached.

*If not using sun-dried tomatoes in oil:
Cover 24 sun-dried tomato halves with boiling water in a medium-sized bowl and let soak for around 20 minutes. Replace garlic powder with 2-3 cloves chopped fresh garlic and add 100 ml olive oil plus salt to taste to the mix with all the other ingredients listed above. Blitz all ingredients in a small food processor until desired consistency is reached.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 220°C (fan).
  2. Spread pesto evenly over bread of choice.
  3. Slice the potatoes ¼ cm thick and lay them on top of the pesto. With a silicon brush, coat the potato slices lightly with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with a little rosemary and thyme.
  4. Cook in the oven until the potatoes have started to brown and crisp at the edges and appear fully cooked through (if sliced very thin, they will have a translucent quality).
  5. Remove from oven, scatter over fresh rocket, squeeze over a little lemon juice and serve.

 

GRILLED NECTARINE & AVOCADO PIZZETTAS (and some reflections on anxiety)

As summer creeps back in (thank you, Sweden*!), it’s time to celebrate with family, friends and perfectly summery festive food! These pizzettas are a take on my popular Nectarine & Avocado Toasties of a couple of years back. Made simply with Mexican pita breads and cashew cheese, they’re a light, simple lunch or wholesome addition to your party table or BBQ.

On the topic of wholesome food and living, I am currently in the process of a cleanse (detox, if you will). As a result my brain is a little foggy, my skin is atrocious and at times I question why I am doing it at all. But with Oliver slowly weaning himself, my hormones out of whack, finally starting to bounce back after months of intermittent perinatal anxiety, and yet another change of timezone and climate now that we are back in Sweden, I find myself craving total recalibration.

There are a few things I am doing to address this. A cleanse is one, and others include daily meditation, writing ‘morning pages‘, daily yoga (albeit just 10 minutes some days), daily movement in some form for 60 minutes, baths, reading a book instead of having screen time before bed, limiting time on social media/responding to email. It really seems to be working already. And despite the fact that Oliver is still breastfeeding on demand during the night, my overall amount of sleep has increased… as has the quality.

I have finally finished reading two books that are now rather dear to me: Marie Kondo’s the life-changing magic of tidying up and Sarah Wilson’s first, we make the beast beautiful. I don’t know if these books came into my life at this time as a result of need – a student is willing, teacher appears kind of scenario – or whether I would have read them regardless of anxious status (probably the latter). But the fact is that both books have been a huge help. Firstly, I see clearly that I am not alone in my feelings about “stuff”/my home as a sanctuary/my anxiety as a gift-curse conundrum (but ultimately a gift). Secondly, being presented with suggestions for actionable strategies to deal with everything from clutter overwhelm to emotional overwhelm is fabulous for a person like me who loves a challenge (and also has tendencies towards analysis paralysis if left to my own overthinky devices).

Half way through first, we make the beast beautiful, back in
our friend’s beach house in South Australia

 

I won’t dwell too much more on this now, but I do hope to write further posts with retrospective reflections when I am on the other side of processing this remarkable/challenging/beautiful little hump in my life.

❤ Marisa xx

*It was literally snowing here two weeks ago and I don’t have words to describe how that makes me feel!

 

GRILLED NECTARINE & AVOCADO PIZZETTAS

Serves: 2-4

INGREDIENTS

4 small thick pita breads (or flat bread of choice)
2 large ripe avocados
2 ripe nectarines
A handful of fresh rocket/arugula
1/2 a lemon
A pinch or two of dried chilli flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for griddle pan

CASHEW CHEESE INGREDIENTS

250 ml raw cashews (soaked for at least a few hours, then drained)
80 ml water (extra if needed)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Make the cashew cheese by blending all the cheese ingredients in a food processor or high power blender until a smooth, cream cheese-like texture is achieved.
  2. Heat a griddle pan over medium high heat.
  3. Slice each nectarine into wedges (approximately 14 per nectarine depending on size).
  4. Cut the avocado in half, use a butter knife to cut slices of avocado of an even width, then use a spoon to scoop the avocado flesh out.
  5. Add olive oil to the griddle pan and place nectarine slices onto it in rows. After a couple of minutes check to make sure they have griddle marks, then flip them over and continue cooking for a minute or two on the other side. Remove from pan and set to the side.
  6. Repeat the process using the avocado slices.
  7. If desired, toast pita breads.
  8. Spread each pita bread generously with cashew cheese.
  9. Arrange nectarine and avocado slices on top of the pita breads, season to taste and sprinkle with chilli flakes. Top with rocket. Dress with a squeeze of lemon.
  10. Serve immediately.

*The gorgeous little plate you see in the top corner is the work of my friend Kate Kneipp. Her pieces are truly sublime!