It is with a very sentimental and somewhat heavy heart that I announce the impending closure of this particular blog chapter. Unless you’ve shared the good, bad and everything in between via a blog before, you probably cannot understand the attachment I have to a place that has given me the ability to connect, express myself, create, celebrate and even share about some of the most personally difficult times with many who would be strangers to me had this platform not existed. My blog is not disappearing into the ether, but it will be reinvented… revamped in a way that will actually benefit everyone who visits, with better performance, easier to find recipes/posts and improved navigation overall. But, despite the far-from-optimal navigation on this blog theme that has seen me through all these years so far, I have loved my non-slick, unpolished little corner of the internet. And the move to a self-hosted site feels very incredibly overwhelming right now.
On an emotional level, it is not unlike the move from our first apartment in Stockholm (a 34m2 studio, with one window and the smallest bathroom in the world) to the first home we owned with actual bedrooms in 2009. I remember shedding tears one night as I sat in our bed (that folded out from the lounge room wall), saying to my husband that I was scared of “all the space” in the new apartment, even though I knew the move would bring new opportunities for us. He assured me that I would get used to it and that I wouldn’t miss the old space (lack thereof) as much as I thought I would. And despite my initial concerns, he was absolutely right. There hasn’t been a single day that I have regretted our decision to move back then. Nor to move again to the place we currently call home.
Because I don’t know how long this blog migration journey will take (hopefully not long) and because there is only 1 month left until my first cookbook, Naturally Sweet Vegan Treats, launches I thought I’d take you on a retrospective little trip down blogosphere lane. I am sure there are many of you who don’t know the origins of this blog, so here goes. In August of 2011, when my little guy Louie was a not-yet-crawling-baby-bundle-meets-kitchen-companion, I came across an ad somewhere for free blog hosting. Having cluttered my Macbook desktop to the point of literal distraction with recipes, crafting projects to-do, personal photos and musings, I decided a blog could be a perfect place to both collect all this digital stuff and keep me accountable to following through on my domestic bucket list. Because I wanted to remain anonymous, I chose a variation on a nickname I have had since I was 9-10 years old as my blog/pen name (that would be Miss Marzipan). And because I didn’t have any money to sink into it, I chose a free blog theme. I wrote some words, I clicked “publish” and thus my first blog post went live on August 8, 2011.
I began cooking, crafting and sharing, keeping my blog and my domestic pursuits completely anonymous. Whereas some people like to announce a project such as this on Facebook to build support from the get-go, I wanted to keep my blog to myself. If I am honest, I suspected that anyone who knew me irl would find this caper all rather lame and uninteresting. With my secret blog there was no prestige (hence not being overly concerned about the absolutely abominable Ericsson/Nokia [circa 2005] phone photography), no self-imposed “rules”, no pressure to perform, no need to justify my choices or interests… and no subscribers. I was genuinely happy doing my own thing, keeping a record for myself of my daily “adventures” at home with my first baby, without self-promotion… even if it meant I was playing to an empty audience. In fact I assumed I’d be sharing to myself for quite some time.
And then I embarked upon the first of many blog “challenges”. Having returned to veggiedom during my pregnancy with Louie, I was already deeply indebted to and in love with all things wholesome and plant-based, but an episode of Oprah led me to partake in her One-Week Vegan Challenge which I documented, along with everything else I did that involved food. It brought the first visitors to my blog, which in turn led me to discover other people’s blogs and, lo and behold, I was possibly the last blogger in the history of the blogosphere to find out there was a “community” here. As my passion for cooking grew, I began to attend food related workshops and talks (both here in Sweden and in Australia), to follow a couple of blogs (the first was Cupcake Project) and to document just about everything I did at home, from making my own toxin-free cleaners to baking for babies. I started to invest money in kitchen implements and appliances that would have seemed ludicrous to me at other stages of my life. KitchenAid ice-cream maker attachments, deluxe Wilton cake decorating caddies, 24-hole cupcake carry cases… you name it, I was geeking out over it and spending stupid amounts of money on it.
I was a good experimenter, but not a good blogger. I took long breaks from posting during travel and when I returned to work briefly after my first period of maternity leave (and I’m still not great in the ol’ consistency department, as you will no doubt be aware if you are a subscriber). I know it is probably hard to fathom, but for some reason I was terrified about people finding out about my blog, while paradoxically wanting to connect. As such, I took paranoid public blogging to the next level and refused to use even my first name here or even identify the country in which I resided. And selfies? Ugh. The thought of me posting a picture of myself made me physically anxious. Only one person with whom I connected here knew me in real life (hi Kim!) and we chatted intermittently via post comments on each other’s blogs about the things we liked that had nothing to do with our real jobs at the office in which we both worked, she as a copywriter and me as an art director.
I did many things that career bloggers clearly don’t do… and after a year I had around 7 followers as a result. And then came the event that changed everything; my pregnancy with Lillian. It was high risk and I found myself in and out of the emergency room at our local hospital, me and my tiny unborn Lillian surviving hemorrhage after terrifying hemorrhage, before I was eventually put on bed rest with a diagnosis of “a very large” and threatening SCH. At the end of weeks of strict bed rest (and meditation, journal writing, gratitude lists and whatever I could do to save my sanity and my baby), I had to take it very easy, but was finally able to move around my own home. I began to cook and bake with a never seen before fervour that was fueled by a combination of boredom, gratitude and pregnancy hormones. And I began to share what was going on for me on my blog. This changed the way I communicate online and it is something that has stuck to this day (once you start sharing in a certain way, it is hard to go back). I realised that it’s not so terrifying to let other people see glimpses of your life in its roughest, rawest and most downcast moments. There is beauty in the realness… and relatability too. That’s when people really started to find my blog. And I started caring less that they were finding it. In fact, I started to feel more “me” and began to connect with certain fellow bloggers and subscribers in a more personal way. I am happy to say that many of those people are still here today, Gallivanta, Violet, Clanmother, Mimi, Sophie, Laura and Mazigrace included (I am grateful to all of you who have hung around and shared your lives and work here too).
Another pivotal moment was my trip back to Australia in 2013-2014. I was not only introduced to Poh Ling Yeow (thanks to a hook-up from my awesome brother), but I was given the opportunity to work alongside her, assisting at the opening of Jamface. It was the first time I had worked with food in this kind of way, let alone with a celebrity cook, although my history working with food stretches way back to my very first job working in what is now a gastropub in Adelaide (then it was more of a regular pub… with food) as a teenage high school student. Poh was baffled as to why I didn’t have an Instagram account and encouraged me to get one, promising to stay in touch with me via my account if I did. And so I got Instagram. I also finally saw the benefit (after 3 years!) of sharing blog posts with images taken with an actual camera. Because, up until that time, this blog had been the equivalent of a personal journal shared online, it had never crossed my mind to up my game in terms of visual presentation. Which is actually crazy considering my professional background is art direction, graphic design and visual communication (including photography). Somehow I had never seen the two paths merging. What I created for work was completely distinct from what I shared on my blog in every way imaginable. Anyway, around the same time as my day at Jamface, I spontaneously picked up a copy of Sarah Wilson‘s I Quit Sugar for Life at the check-out of a store in Adelaide. And so began a new wave of cooking, sharing and eventually joining the IQS8WP, my experiences of which I documented… everywhere! This, I suppose, is pivotal moment number 5 (if we are keeping track of numbers of pivotal blog moments!).
By the time I eventually joined Instagram in 2014, I was well-practiced at sharing about the happenings in my life with a degree of openness that was pretty uncommon in amongst the punchy one-line captions signed off with witty hashtags of many a Macbook and marble-featuring flatlay. However, it took me some time to get to grips with this new platform. For one thing, I did not understand the mechanism of hashtags and thought they were some kind of cool internet speak, not realising their actual function was to make posts discoverable. Yes. Pathetic, I know. I quickly learned, however, when my posts were “miraculously” found by people unconnected to me (which was 99.999999999999% of the Instagram population as, once again, I could count my followers on two hands). I continued to cook, share and connect with new people, many of whom were also interested in more wholesome food of a veggie and less sugary kind. The newly formed I Quit Sugar community was supportive, engaged and engaging. I made good friends, many of whom I have since had the chance to meet in real life. I even had breakfast with Sarah Wilson herself at a cafe in Sydney around the exact time her book, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, launched. But that’s skipping way ahead in the story.
So, I shared my sugar-free veggie food on Instagram and I won “Sarah’s Picks” for the mid-year round of the IQS8WP in 2014, and suddenly… BOOM. No more hiding behind my nickname and smoothie jar for a profile pic. I Quit Sugar wanted me to do an interview and they wanted to see what I looked like. And finally, after 3 years of blogging, I decided to share who I was (in a low-key way). The evidence of this event is my profile pic on Instagram, which has remained unchanged since. And though I feel the image still says a lot about me, strangely it might be one of the few occasions I have worn colour in the past 20 years, so in that way is not at all reflective of my life… or rather, of my 99% black wardrobe. Amazingly people didn’t start hating on me or leaving me abusive comments after I shared more of who I was. On the contrary, I started to connect with more people.
Meanwhile, I had decided to invest in an actual camera and found a demo model in a camera store window; a Canon 7D. Having previously gone through my entire university art school degree using a hockshop-bought Pentax from the 1970s and developing my own photos in a darkroom, digital photography was a new and slightly (ok, very) intimidating world. But over the next couple of years of experimenting, I discovered that I could combine my professional background as a creative with my rather expensive food hobby… and actually recoup some of the money I was throwing around grocery stores in Stockholm like confetti. In the summer of 2014 my sweet parents encouraged me to incorporate into our family holidays trips to Finland and England, where photography workshops were being held. I am going to be honest. What I get from these types of situations is inspiration and connection. I am someone who learns the practicalities best by doing, teaching myself and practicing in my own time by working on personal projects. It’s how I went from being completely computer illiterate in 2001 when I started university (I literally did not know how email worked and technology felt like my nemesis… but that is a whole other story), to working on a Mac daily and being versed, to an adequate point, in the entire Adobe Creative Suite. But those workshops were incredibly valuable, well worth it experiences, and I made wonderful friends and connections along the way.
After the summer holidays and prior to returning to my job as an art director, I decided to enrol in an intensive pastry course that took place during the evenings so my husband could be with our two little ones. The days were incredibly long, as I would wake early with two bubs to care for and return from pastry school on the subway close to midnight on occasion. What took me to pastry school was passion; a passion for both baking and learning. I never saw myself becoming a commercial kitchen pastry chef (which would have involved taking extra studies and, most likely, an apprenticeship) and I still don’t. I don’t have the right temperament and I don’t think I’d be able to maintain the momentum necessary to keep things both functioning and interesting. I always saw myself being a happy home baker and, because my time at pastry school coincided with my husband going (ethical) vegan and me quitting sugar, it was a given that I would experiment further at home on my own with treats of a healthier, plant-based nature (my first experiments actually began in 1992 when I was a Morrissey-quoting, lone vegetarian schoolgirl… and, for the purposes of transparency, my food back then was not far short of appalling).
What I discovered at pastry school was that traditional pastries and their contemporary plant-based, white sugar-free counterparts can have very little in common. But I still learned valuable lessons and the overall experience was fabulous. I developed a whole new level of appreciation for the chemistry of baking, the artistic craft of presentation (although my own home bakes still err on the rustic side of the spectrum, ’cause #motherhood), not to mention the practicalities of “organised” baking such as mis en place, timing, the clean-as-you-go approach and the weighing and measuring of ingredients. I tend to work well in group situations especially when I’m 1) placed with other hard workers (I can’t abide slackness) and 2) afforded some degree of autonomy. My baking partner, Linda, and I kept a clean station and stayed on track with timing (I often went a little over when decorating, though!), managing to share an oven, stove top and implements quite naturally.
I continued to bake, share, blog and Instagram (yes, I use it as a verb and a noun) even after I returned to my corporate job. I found myself eating a lot of lunches at Sally Voltaire’s restaurant near my office (the Vegan Salad was my go-to) and dreaming about food. I even made food to bring in for my team (Taline Gabriel‘s Raweos, for example). And despite the fact that I was running, eating well, doing regular yoga and the like, I began to get sick. All. The. Time. My immunity was shot, I was putting on weight inexplicably, my anxiety levels started going through the roof and the commute to work (although short, because I live in the city) became a personal nightmare. Because I literally did not know what was going on for me medically or emotionally, I couldn’t communicate it with my co-workers, as much as I liked them (and still do). I still liked my job too and I can honestly say it was, in general, one of the best I have had for so many reasons. But I knew that something was way off with me and that I needed to find a path out of it.
Around this time, the poop hit the proverbial fan with various Instagram “wellness stars” being outed for sharing bogus nutritional advice (along with fake diagnoses). This rocked my world as, naive as it may sound, I had started to buy into the whole green smoothie lifestyle (NB: I still love smoothies, but they’re certainly not a cure-all). I’d begun to feel like a failure because I was trying to live “my best life” and was embracing many of the “clean living” (I hate that expression, hence quotation marks) things I was encountering, and yet I was sick… sick to the point of needing to have lymph nodes biopsied to find out what was wrong with me. It turns out it was terrible immunity and freaked out lymph nodes* (*not the official medical term). When the truth came out about certain wellness figures I’d been following, I vowed to be more mindful about “influence”. I vowed to always share my food from a personal place rather than a dogmatic, preaching one… not to tell people how to live (especially those who were unwell, looking for hope or otherwise vulnerable), but to share what I loved and what worked for me from an anecdotal perspective, even if it was rather unglamorous (and my life is often rather flour-dusted and unglamorous). Non-judgy sharing from a personal stance has always been my way online and I hope it will continue to be so, but this so-called “wellness” influencer fiasco cemented my position on the matter.
And then, pivotal moment 654 (erm, I’ve lost count at this point): Oliver.
When I found out about my pregnancy with Oliver, firstly I was overjoyed. Overjoyed is a gross understatement, actually. I knew he was meant to be here. I knew it. And, despite my medical and pregnancy history and all the naysayers (some people were literally upset with me when I told them I was pregnant again), I knew all would be well. My health improved drastically overnight. And it was by far the easiest and most chill pregnancy of the three. I also heard an internal voice say early on in the pregnancy, “This baby will save you”. It sounds crazy, I know. But in some ways, I guess it is true. I went through some damn stressful periods at work in 2015 and unfortunately the peak of it all coincided with my third trimester. But the gift of landing in hospital with cramps more painful than contractions around Christmas 2015, was that I was able to make a decision, with support from my doctors, to step back. It was hard on one hand, but I had a baby and my health to protect. So I did it.
In the weeks leading up to my due date in early 2016, I finally accepted my first paid commission for food-related work (recipe development and photography). I had rejected all other offers for paid blog or Instagram collaborations up until that point, but this particular offer came from one of Sweden’s largest and best organic food producers and I felt I couldn’t say no. To ensure it was all legitimate, I re-registered a freelance company in Sweden… literally in the same week that Oliver was born. Around Oliver’s due date, I sat in the car park of BB SöS (the hospital where I was due to give birth) having contractions in the car whilst speaking on the phone to an editor from one of Europe’s biggest publishing houses. That very day I was supposed to be meeting with the editor and my co-author to discuss a book project we’d been working on. Instead, I found myself waiting for a midwife to check how effaced and dilated I was. Gotta love timing, eh?
But for some reason, despite missing this HUGE meeting with someone who could potentially change my life forever, I was absolutely cool with how things panned out. And in hindsight I am so grateful that it didn’t come to pass, as it would have been an emotional catastrophe to take on a book project with a (brand) new-born baby and two toddlers in tow! Some people might be able to juggle such weighty responsibilities (who even are you?), but being predisposed to anxiety, it would have resulted in a total breakdown for me. I am sure of it.
As it was, I continued to do what I had been doing… sharing my food by posting online. And then something else happened. I guess I had gotten a little bored of creating recipes of a certain kind, because for some BIZARRE reason I decided to fully embrace my love of all things geeky and fandom-y (I’m a fantasy fan from way back. 1980s… Yeah!) and share my own interpretation of Game of Thrones-themed recipes. I knew this could be a potentially DIRE move. Instagram favours the hip, so I thought, not the nerdy. Yet I felt the compulsion to go full geek. My content at that time was naturally in tune with what was en vogue by chance, not design. I was already veggie and eating sugar-free and even though these were longterm lifestyle choices and not a bandwagon I had jumped upon for the purpose of validation, I suppose my stuff was “on trend”. And Instagram eats trends for breakfast. Thus, because of this and the fact that the dreaded algorithm hadn’t kicked in, my engagement on Instagram was bafflingly high at the time (well over 20k engagements on a slice of avocado toast? Somewhat sad and bewildering, but true). I was starting to be offered more opportunities to make money doing what I already loved to do with brands I actually liked, and people who followed me knew what to expect from me…
And then, overnight, I decided to throw a potential spanner in the works by posting pictures of potions, elixirs and Dothraki-inspired tofu jerky. It was weird, it was whimsical, some people no doubt hated it, I loved every second of it. And I came to realise that I could unapologetically be myself and share what I loved… and it wouldn’t necessarily mean the death of my account or the end of my friendship with every hipster on “the gram”. I didn’t make a cent from anything GoT-related, nor did I set out to. But I did meet others who loved the books and show like I did, and I loved seeing what they created and sharing their work via my channels, regardless of how many followers they had. It was another one of those pivotal decisions. Why? Because I made more friends and became more “me” by sharing more of what I liked… and being unafraid to do so.
I know this isn’t a great cliffhanger to the story, but I think I will leave part one there. Part two will follow when this blog is shiny and new. In the meantime I’ll be counting the days until my book launches on the 23rd of October (23 is my lucky number, by the way) because it is still completely surreal to me that a published book with international distribution somehow sprang from the very random stuff I have written about in this post.
And I’ll leave you here with a picture taken in front of the very same wall as my Instagram profile picture of over 4 years ago (with an extra munchkin in the mix and my new book baby). Oh, and a delicious recipe… because I am still food-obsessed and if you are reading this, there’s a good chance you are too.
Love, Marisa x
My book is available internationally for pre-order now, and I am in the process of creating bonus material for all who pre-order. So if free extras appeal to you, you can find my book here online at your preferred bookstore.
(Apparently it’s already in store at Dymocks in Melbourne [say wha?!?],
my ultra talented friend Vickie Liu – aka Vickie Yo – informed me today when
she picked up a copy!)
Obsessed as I am with all things skillet/pizza/breakfast/fig-related, I literally dreamed this recipe. That’s right, my subconscious mind invented it while I slept. So if you see it elsewhere, the other creator is either 1) weirdly in synch with me and I with him/her 2) skilled in the art of legilimency. And if you like it, you have my subconscious to thank for it. Seriously though, it’s wholesome, grounding, satisfying, easy and inviting and features a skillet and jammy caramelised figs, so you *will* like it. Please let me know if you try it (comment here or tag me in your recreation post on Instagram if you happen to reside there).
And here’s a tip: if you allow it to cool completely and then slice it, it makes a perfect grab-and-go breakfast or treat. You’re welcome! x
CARAMELISED FIG SKILLET PIZZA-STYLE PANCAKES
Makes: 2 large or 4 individual, depending on skillet size
(Ingredient measurements in US cups & metric)
1 3/4 cups (415 ml) unsweetened plant milk
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp (135 ml) well-mashed ripe banana (approximately 1 banana)
1 tbsp (15 ml) rice malt/maple syrup
1 tbsp (15 ml) baking powder
2 tbsp (30 ml) melted coconut oil (or extra milk)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (80 g) buckwheat flour (or spelt if you prefer)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (60 g) almond flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (70 g) oat flour or 70 g of oats pulsed to a flour
1/4 tsp vanilla powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
A pinch of salt
4 fresh figs, sliced
Coconut oil for frying and brushing over
Approximately 1 tbsp (15 ml) coconut sugar for sprinkling over
- Add all wet ingredients to a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.
- Add dry ingredients and fold through to combine.
- Heat a little coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, preheat your oven grill to 400°F (200°C).
- If using a larger sized skillet, ladle in half the batter from the mixing bowl (approximately 1 1/2 cups/360 ml). Do ensure you are using a skillet with an oven-safe handle. If using smaller skillets for individual serves, add a quarter of the batter to each one. Allow the batter to begin to cook for around 1 minute, so that the mix is just starting to set, then arrange half (or a quarter, if using small skillets) of the figs slices on top.
- Cook for around 3 minutes further on the stove top over medium heat or until you see the edges have cooked and small bubbles are forming on the surface.
- Gently brush a little coconut oil over the surface and evenly sprinkle over coconut sugar (a teaspoon or so will do per pancake).
- Transfer the skillet to the oven and allow the pancake surface to cook under the grill for 3-5 minutes or until the figs are caramelising, keeping a close eye on the skillet to ensure no burning occurs.
- Remove the skillet from the oven. Allow the pancake to cool at least slightly before slicing and serving.
- Repeat the cooking process with the remaining batter.
- Serve the pancake slices with coconut whipped cream, syrup, nuts and/or other toppings of choice.
I served this one with a low-sweetener salted caramel sauce from my book, Naturally Sweet Vegan Treats.