Respect

Motherhood is full of lessons. Starting with learning to aim your pee at a stick, then how to put on shoes with a basketball belly, how to not get peed on changing a diaper, and how to strap a screaming, squirming toddler into a car seat… it goes on and on. One of the biggest lessons for me by far has been learning to respect my body.

Respect is a positive feeling or action shown towards someone or something considered important, or held in high esteem or regard; it conveys a sense of admiration for good or valuable qualities; and it is also the process of honoring someone by exhibiting care, concern, or consideration for their needs or feelings.  -Wikipedia

Let’s break this down.

A positive feeling towards something held in high regard

Photo credit: Fiona Margo Photography

Your body, as a female, is miraculous. Dudes are cool too, but having ovaries and a uterus means you can GROW A HUMAN. Not all women do it and it certainly does not make you any less phenomenal if you don’t. The possibility and reality of your body as a mother though, is truly astounding.

Lately, I’ve seen so many beautiful stories online of women celebrating their bodies in motherhood. From Katrina Scott of Tone It Up, to Chrissy Teigen, to Bikini Body Mommy, and so many others, stories filled with positivity in celebration of the pregnant, postpartum, and amazing female body are on the rise. And that should truly be the focus of all of us. Not stretch marks, not pregnant cankles, not undereye circles or any of the other criticisms we throw at our poor bodies that work so hard for us. But a freaking cel-e-bration, people.

Hold your body in high regard.

This was a huge area of growth for me. I spent years criticizing every little bit of my poor body. If I was out of shape, I would think negatively about my arms, belly, thighs, or butt practically every time I moved or saw myself. If I was in shape, I would pick on my skin, my nose, my chin, or some other thing. Basically, no matter what I did, my body was never good enough. Becoming a mom, particularly to a little girl, made me realize that is NOT how it should be. Through the lens of motherhood, I finally recognize and appreciate that my body is strong and capable of hard things (like really, really hard things!) and deserves praise, not judgment.

The process of honoring something by exhibiting care for its needs

This was even harder for me. My first pregnancy, I was a resident physician working 80 hours or more a week. I was used to being able to disregard my body’s wants and needs, like, ahem, sleep, food, etc… But then, I was so run down I puked until I needed IV fluids and started having premature contractions. I knew exactly what I would tell my own patients, but it took me sitting in Labor & Delivery triage, watching a monitor show me the effects of my actions, to give myself the same respect.

So then, I had it, right? Nope. Decided to whip my poor postpartum bod into shape after having baby number 2. Went on a crazy diet, worked out like a madwoman and what-do-you-know, my milk supply tanked. I struggled with this, refusing to treat my body with kindness, understanding, and yes, respect. Then, I beat myself up some more about having to give that baby formula too. Guess what, she’s healthy and I eventually, through coaching and kindness and respecting my body’s needs, got into the best shape of my life.

Finally, now, with this third baby, I’m *starting* to get it. I took leave from work when my body needed it in pregnancy. I listened when I needed to change my birth expectations. And today? Today I’m spending the whole dang day resting, drinking tons of water, and nursing my baby because I did a little too much the last 2 days and I’ve learned to listen and treat my body with respect.

Photo credit: Jordan Marie Photography

Moving forward

How can you start to show your body more respect? How can you honor it, show care for its needs?

Step 1: Look yourself in the mirror and say, out loud, “My body is incredible!” Or whatever you want your positive message to be. Not only does this make a difference in how you feel, but we are also teaching our children how to view and treat their own bodies. Setting this intention will guide even your subtle, subconscious actions to show it to them, and the world.

Step 2: Treat your body how you would want a loved one to be treated. For whatever reason, I have to get all 3rd person to figure out what is best for me. My internal drive to just soldier on is not always the best thing. If this is you too, imagine your sister or best friend or even your child telling you how they are feeling. What would you tell them to do? Give yourself the same consideration.

What are ways you all treat your body with care? Tell us in the comments so we can share ideas!

Photo credit: Little Wonders Photography

Dr. Annie is a mama of 3, family doctor and lifelong learner of how to follow my own advice.

 

Life & Littles Podcast!

Exciting news!!!

Our own Dr. Annie is on this week’s episode of Doctor Mommy, MD’s podcast talking about second trimester of pregnancy. The Life & Littles podcast may just be your new favorite listen, friends!

Photo credit Fiona Margo Photography

“Imagine your best friend is a doctor and a mom, what questions would you want to ask her over a glass of wine? What questions would you text her in the middle of the night?” Sound helpful?

Grab a coffee or glass of wine and tune in on iTunes and subscribe to get all the upcoming fun times!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/life-littles-with-doctor-mommy-md/id1451847392?mt=2&i=1000429939961

You can also find Shelly on Instagram and Facebook @doctormommymd and should check out her gorgeous blog while you’re at it!

Xoxo!

Sexy as a M*ther

There’s a new sexy in town friends, and I would argue, it’s even better than before. It’s mom-sexy. We may not have the bouncy bounty of hair and bikini top filling of yesteryear, but we have some new moves that can light the 🔥🔥🔥 of romance like none other. (Literally. Because no one who’s not a mom would do this stuff…)

Wardrobe

Those young folks are all rocking flowy, low-cut tanks and dresses that show a hint of side or underboob here and there. The sexy implication being a nipple could be exposed at any moment. Enter: nursing tanks. This garment has the significant advantage of being able to actually whip out a titty in 1 second flat. Hey-yo!!!!

Shock Value

Sure Victoria would have you think your partner wants you in lacy little get ups 365 days a year. Let me tell ya, when all they’ve seen you in for months is spit-up stained sweats and then you slip on a real nighty? Firecrackers!!!

Naughty Naughty

Remember those teenage trysts making out when you knew your parents might walk in and bust you any minute -so hot, right? Well, as a parent, you get to turn the tables! You never know when a kid might wake up with a need for an escort to the bathroom and discover you and your partner “practicing stretching” or “having a tickle fight” 😳

Exploration

Another level of kink factor is available for all you cosleepers. Kid is in your bed so that’s off limits (at least I hope, because, wow! Boundaries, people). Hello, laundry room! Or take it to the bathroom counter. Nothing makes for creative sexcapades like having a literal cockblocker in your bed.

You said it!

New Turn Ons

Totally aging myself here, but… Remember when Devin Sawa’s bowl cut was the hottest thing (or were you a JTT gal?)? And then a few years later, it was boy band moves, then Abercrombie store dudes in barely-not-showing-pubic-hair-low cut shorts? What turns you on changes with time. And let me tell ya, once you’re a parent, there is basically nothing sexier than your partner going above and beyond with home & childcare.

Tell Me What You Want

What you really really want…. I’ll tell you what I want, what I really Really want. Because I’m a mom. And ain’t nobody got time for that Oh-let’s-pretend-this-is-fun-because-I’m-too-shy-to-be-honest sh*t. We know what works (hopefully!!) and we know how to get it and THAT, my friends is sexy.

Pregnant Sex

Ok, this one is transient, but can be ahhhhhmazing!! Increased blood flow? Yes please! Embracing your new curves? Oh yeah! Those pregnant boobs? 🙌🏻🙌🏻! If comfort allows, this can be one of the biggest perks of gestation. Get. After. It. There is a big ol’ dry spell (literally, so dry down there) coming up after baby. Store up some good times to last you through!

As always, keepin it Real

Real Talk

In all honesty though, it can be hard to feel like your former sexy self as a mom. Your body is different. It might feel better, it might feel squishier, it might feel completely foreign – no matter what, it changes. You may not have time for basic self care, much less a “beauty routine”. But instead of beating ourselves up about it and missing out on the fun, why not embrace it?! Your body can LITERALLY grow human beings. It’s miraculous. This is a special season in life and won’t last forever. Get out there and have a spicy Valentine’s Day, mamas! I, for one, think you’re SMOKIN!!! 😘

Dr. Annie is newly a mom of 3, a family doctor and finding new ways to be sexy all the time 😜

 

 

Bringing Home Siblings

This post contains affiliate links to help you find the products we have found helpful. We may get a tiny reward if you use our links but the recommendations are our own. Pretty Photo above credited to Jordan Marie Photography

All of us Real Mothers have gone through the fun adventure of bringing home a second or third baby to the family and I think we’ve collectively had just about everything go wrong that the rest of you could expect. The inspiration for this post was a friend’s recent experience of her 2-year-old trying to help “calm” a fussy 1-week old brother by very silently and sneakily feeding him an almond <cue full mom panic by proxy>. Luckily she was watching and everyone is ok.

We thought we’d put together a rundown on what will help avert disaster in sibling-land and make the transition as smooth as possible. Most of this is directed toward families bringing home a new baby with a first child (or multiple children) between the ages of 1-5 years old. Older kids are generally a bit easier to explain about baby safety, mom’s recovery, etc… hopefully.

Talk early and often

IMG_3444Being pregnant while managing a tiny terrorist is hectic in and of itself. If this is baby #3 or more for you on the way, that craziness is compounding. It’s easy to forget to talk to your kids about what to expect with a new baby ahead of time because frankly, you’re just in survival mode 90% of the time as it is. However, it makes a HUGE difference and it is much easier to manage baby’s arrival at home if you have had a few convos ahead of time and set realistic expectations for big brother(s) and/or sister(s). Some strategies include using books (see suggestions below), children’s shows (also below), incorporating a little Q&A or “talking to baby” session into bedtime, or talking about it for a bit when you see other people with small babies.

Don’t Miss Topics:

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Photo credit: Fiona Margo Photography
  • Where Babies Come From: This is bound to come up in one form or another. Rather than just avoiding the conversation, do yourself a favor and have these books: What Makes A Baby and Hello in There!, for a low-level detail, kid-targeted, but medically accurate way to explain how the baby got in there and how it gets back out. Some other great books are in This Fatherly Blog Post.

 

  • Shows: This is a parent and sibling win-win situation. Your kid feels like they are being treated to TV time, and you get help explaining the sibling transition from familiar children’s characters. Some of our favorites include “We Can’t Wait to meet the Baby” and “The Baby is Here!” (also books!) from Daniel Tiger. You can also view some great short videos about welcoming baby on  PBSKids.org.

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  • Baby Safety: As reviewed above, kids love to “help” mom with baby and are often distressed by the baby’s distress. Go over specifically:
    • Never put anything in baby’s mouth (including pacifiers because you don’t know where that thing’s been when the toddler finds it). If your kid is older the rule could be “without asking a parent”, but err on the side of never. Since younger kids understand positive “DO” commands better than negative “DON’T” commands – you can frame this as always bring things to a parent BEFORE giving to baby.” This also is important because younger kids may want to share small (CHOKING HAZARD) toys that they may not understand are dangerous to baby even if they are not put near the baby’s mouth. More than one sibling in our crew has tried to share a lego or two to cheer up their new baby, and they need to understand that sharing with a baby is ONLY okay when a parent approves the toy.
    • Never put anything over the baby’s face. Kids also love to “play peekaboo” or give stuffed animals to the baby which can smother tiny nostrils easily. Again, the positive spin on this is that blankets/toys/etc always go on the legs, NOT the face. Include not putting things in the crib/basinet with baby – little kids are remarkably good at “sharing” when you least want them to.adorable baby beanie bonnet
    • Never pick up the baby without a parent’s help. If your kiddo is much older, you can adjust this to their ability. But again, err on the side of caution when baby is tiny and needs head support. A positive way to frame this is “always ask for a parent to help you pick up or hold baby.”
    • We also find it helpful to have a “no-touching-on-the-face or hands” rule to manage germ transition. Point out they can kiss the toes or top of the baby’s head. And keep antibacterial spray such as this kid-safe one from CleanWell ALLLLL over the house.close up of baby feet
  • Mom’s Body: As a second (or third or fourth)-time moms’ belly grows larger, it somehow becomes an irresistible target for kids’ boisterous jumping, bouncing and otherwise projectile launching. You can be reassured, the baby is very well protected in there – but of course if a direct hit results in ongoing pain or bleeding, go get checked! Talk a lot about ways to be gentle with mom’s belly each time this happens.

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    Photo Credit: Kimberlin Gray Photography
  • Birth and Recovery: Also take the opportunity to talk about what the plan will be while mom is at the hospital or birth center. Go over how mom will be very tired and have some “ouchies” after the baby comes out and talk about ways the kids can help out – getting ice packs for you, rubbing feet, making faces or telling stories to the baby, helping to fetch diapers, etc…. Most kids love being able to help. Emphasizing their “big kid-ness” helps them feel special. If your kid is reward-motivated, you can even set up a points-chart that they earn a sticker for each helpful act to earn a new toy or privilege.

Gift From Baby

Picking up a special time-occupying gift for big kid “from the baby” goes a long way to establishing the baby-is-your-friend status we all want. Some good ideas can be found in this post: Plane Travel with Littles: Carry-On Packing List. Do yourself a favor and DO NOT buy toys that make noise. Boys and girls alike usually like to have their own babydoll of some kind to “mirror” what the parents are doing with the real baby, here are a few other options by age.

1-2 year old: Buckle Toys, Latch Board or Latch Barn

 

 

2-5 Years Old: Magnatiles, Dollhouse and Green Toys Cars + Track

Also consider a tablet loaded with educational games, see Fave Fridays: Smart Screen Time for ideas!

 

Of course, you know your kid best, get them something you know they’ll be excited about and will play with relatively independently for a while. Avoid toys with choking-sized parts even for bigger kids until you know they’re on board with the “nothing-in-baby’s-mouth” rule.

Lower Your Expectations

Most kids go through some form of regression when a new baby comes home. That can take a lot of forms. Potty-trained kids might have accidents again. Kids who have no trouble sleeping alone at night might suddenly be getting up. They will want to play in the baby’s bouncer, ride in the stroller, suck the pacifier. It’s a normal phase and will pass if you don’t overreact. Acknowledge it, talk about it briefly and move on.

Also lower your expectations for getting stuff done. Enlist more help. You will not get those luxurious “nap when the baby naps” moments as easily as when there was just one little being taking your time. (Did those really ever happen anyway?!) Set yourself up for success with a decluttered house, easy food in the freezer and loved ones on board to help as much as possible. If you have trouble asking for help, make a list ahead of time of things that would be helpful or set up a MealTrain or other chore-registry to delegate.

love sweet face portraitThis post is about preparing the kiddos, but part of that also involves preparing your coparent and other family/friends who will be helping. Make sure they know the priority is helping with the housework and the big kid(s). Your job is the new baby. They’re NOT there to hold the new baby while you ‘get stuff done’. I repeat: THEY ARE THERE TO GET STUFF DONE and only as much of the new baby stuff as you want to delegate. Liberally use the phrase, “My doctor/midwife said I need to be holding the baby as much as possible for bonding, immunity and milk production, so can you please <do the dishes, fold the laundry, go to the store, make dinner, take Jimmy to the park, etc…> while we go take a nap together?”

IF and only if you desire a moment away from new baby to shower, snuggle your big kid or whatever else, then others get to hold new baby. No one has a “right” to new baby time except YOU.

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Photo credit: Stacey Petersen Photography

If you don’t have family or a community to help, look at neighborhood list serves like NextDoor to hire a middle or high school aged “mommy’s helper” – cheaper than a nanny or babysitter, literally they just come over and do chores or play with your big kid while you’re home taking care of baby.

Enjoy the Before

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Photo credit: Jordan Marie Photography

The one guarantee with bringing another little life into the family is that things will be different. Better in many ways, harder in many ways, and just altered in many, many ways.

Watching siblings grow together and love one another is one of the greatest joys of parenthood.

Try not to worry too much about how you’ll manage it, because you just will. Do your best to try to soak in the remaining time while the newest addition is still easily portable, fed and clean on the inside of your body. Plan special outings that will be harder with a new baby like going to a movie or kids’ museum. Take a moment every day to pay attention to the little life on the inside as you did with the first baby without even realizing you were doing it.

Good luck multiples parents-to-be, enjoy the ride!

Anne is a mom to three (including one beautiful brand new baby) and family physician in California. Christiana is a mom to three, military spouse, attorney, and currently a stay-at-home mom in New England.

Finance Friday: Financial Resolutions

When I ask my clients, “So, what’s your 2019 resolution?” I get a lot of very similar responses, particularly with the uncertainty of the stock market as of late.  A lot of people are saying:

“I want to go on a financial diet.”

person holding piggy bank

BLLLEEECH.  “Diet.”  That dreaded word.  It makes it sound so… boring, and restrictive.  Yes?  Ok, so let’s rebrand it.  Let’s call it a “Financial Reawakening!!!”  No?  Too much?  Ok, well, whatever you want to call it, here’s what I suggest you consider doing right here, right now, in 2019, to improve your finances without feeling like you are sacrificing things and experiences that make you happy.

1.  Take a Good Look at Your Budget

I highly suggest you either use something like Mint.com (free!) or a good old-fashioned spreadsheet.  Whatever you use, the important thing is that you look honestly at what you are spending and why.

pexels-photo-870902.jpegStart asking yourself, “do I really need the gym membership/pet insurance/lawn service I’m paying $100 per month for?”  Or, “Am I really watching my cable or do I only watch Netflix/Hulu?”  See if you can cut out things that are monthly (re-occurring) expenses that aren’t really adding anything to your life, that you can afford to live without, or are costly services that you can manage to take on yourself.

2. Take Control

Speaking of re-occurring expenses, get a good handle on those.  I love Madison Reed hair color, but I haven’t ordered it.  Want to know why?  They want permission to bill me monthly and send me more on a regular basis.  As a financial advisor, I hate these auto-billings and reoccurring orders, unless it’s truly something I use every day and run out of on a regular basis if more doesn’t arrive at my doorstep.  Take back control.Cancel these auto-payments and take some time to understand what you really need, when, and order it yourself.  You’ll save yourself some money right there.

3. Start Small

Make some MINOR adjustments to start.  If you usually spend $500 per month on eating out at restaurants, cut it back to $450, then back to $400, and until you get to a point where you feel like you are still able to socialize and have a good time, but can still save money.  Do not say, “No, I can’t hang out.  I’m trying to spend less money.”  That’s a Debbie-Downer attitude that will spell out short-term budget success but long-term burn-out.  (And probably like zero friends.)

Don’t do it!

Have fun.  Go out.  Just be more budget-conscious when you do.  Maybe don’t order the surf and turf at dinner (every time) unless someone new you met on Bumble is treating you. 😉

4. Stop Boredom Shopping

No judgment, of course, but I see you – Yes YOU, the one reading this.  At the top of your web browser, there is that tab open to Amazon.  I challenge you to stay away from shopping online when you should be doing other things, like working, sleeping, or hey, catching up with your spouse about his or her day over a glass of wine (a budget-conscious varietal of course).

woman holding card while operating silver laptop
Stahhhhhp it!

It used to be that when exhausted, burned-out parents zoned out at the end of a long day, they’d just watch TV.  (I’m not saying that I personally did, of course, I’ve just heard from certain trustworthy parents that they binge-watched a few shows after the kids went to bed…) Ok, ok, Netflix is still in the rotation. But now, with the enormous growth in online shops, we also have retail therapy constantly at our fingertips, and with our “virtual wallet” we can easily order just about anything (did you know you can buy a hot tub on Amazon?!?!) at anytime without even looking at our debit card, let alone our account balances.  That can be a very dangerous habit.  Make a commitment to yourself that you won’t shop when you are bored or sleepless.

5. Understand Needs vs. Wants

Before making any purchase ask yourself:  “Is this a NEED to have, WANT to have or NICE to have item?”  If it’s a NEED to have, like new tires to safely drive your family vehicle, then by all means, go ahead and make that purchase. (These are almost always the least fun to spend our money on, FYI.  Chock it up to #adulting. Womp, womp.)

silhouette of man and child near white hyundai tucson suv during golden hour

If it’s a WANT to have, don’t deprive yourself, but don’t go crazy.  An example of this is a fancy latte.  You may arguably need a cup o’caffeine to perform your best at work after your kids wake you up at 3am, but you don’t need a Starbucks “double-shot, extra whip, no-fat, extra whatever” you could make a pot of coffee at home.  However, sometimes it just feels good enough to be a little #extra that you can justify spending a few more bucks. Make a commitment to treat yourself to these WANT-to-have items a few times a week, but not every day.  Finally, if it’s a NICE to have (like a boat, a motorcycle, or a Prada purse), don’t purchase it until you have no credit card debt and at least three months of expenses in a savings account. Sorry to break it to you, sailor. 

When in doubt, skip the boat. (Keep the flippy-floppies.)

6. Treat yo’self.

Did you just save $100/month for three months because you were doing these things?  If so, go get a $100 massage.  Yes, I realize that means you’re saving $100 less for the year, but this is about long-term success.  Did you save more than that this year?  $5k?  Go on a trip to Italy with a friend for $3k.

man riding on the motorcycle beside woman standing on the road

Treating yourself because you are making more sound financial decisions will reinforce this behavior and ensure it sticks.  And the longer you do this, the higher the chance is you will see REAL results.  Yes… just like a regular diet.  The rules are the same. Cheating never works and it takes longer than you’ll want. But it feels damn good when you succeed.

HAPPY NEW YEAR and sending my best for your Financial Reawakening!!!!

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Margo Cook is a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two on Maryland’s eastern shore.

Holiday Baking Hacks

“Twas the night before the holiday party and all through the fridge, not a stick of butter could be found, not even a smidge…with the children in bed and the dog in her crate, I’m wondering if Amazon delivers this late… “

 

man in santa claus costume
“No butter?!?!” It would be nice if the big man delivered late night baking essentials too…

The week of last-minute-everything

It’s the last week before Christmas, y’all. The final countdown. The week that in our home is unofficially known as “the week of last-minute-everything.” Between the perpetually forgotten stocking stuffers, out-of-stock toys, procrastinated holiday cards, cookie exchanges, white elephants, and school holiday performances; the office, classroom, and social holiday parties that often tend to occur during this same chaotic week have a tendency to sneak right up on me. Which is bad enough when you can’t find your ugly sweater, but even worse when you realize you’re on the hook to bring holiday treats for two dozen preschoolers and are plum out of a key ingredient.

We all wish we could bake cakes out of rainbows and smiles, but in reality, we need butter. and sugar. and eggs. And sometimes… we run out. So, here are a few ways to save yourself if you come up in a bind in the kitchen.

Favorite “Baking Hack” substitutions

Here are some of my favorite ways to get the job done when a run to the store is just not going to happen.

  • Heavy cream – for every 1 cup of heavy cream, substitute 3/4 c. whole milk and 1/3 c. butter. Melt butter and mix into milk.
  • Eggs – Substitute 1 tbsp cornstarch whisked together with 3 tbsp water, whisked together, per egg.  I use this substitute all. the. time. It’s great in a pinch, but also for saving eggs for brunch, for when that one vegan relative comes over, or even for cookie dough you know the kids will be sneaking. (No raw egg to worry about here!)person peeling the egg
  • Baking powder and Baking Soda – Contrary to popular belief, you can substitute baking soda for baking powder, and vice versa. ON ONE CONDITION. The substitution is NOT ALWAYS EQUAL. Baking soda is much more powerful than baking powder and contains an acid. Read carefully!
    • Baking Powder: Substitute 1/2 tsp of baking soda and 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice for every 1 tsp baking powder needed.
    • Baking Soda: You may substitute baking powder for baking soda at a 3:1 ratio. So simply use three times the amount of baking powder as you would baking soda.
  • Sugar – Both honey and maple syrup (or a combination of both!) are good sugar substitutes in baking. Use 3/4 cup honey or syrup per every cup of sugar needed. Color will be darker if you’re subbing for white sugar here. (Note: Some recipes suggest reducing liquid and adding 1/4 extra tsp. of baking soda for each cup of sugar replaced. I haven’t done this, but you may notice less of a difference in texture with these adjustments)
  • Vanilla – Equal amounts of maple syrup, slightly less almond extract, or (something I always have in the fridge) vanilla almond or soy milk. When cooking for adults you can also spring for a boozy dessert by equally substituting any dark liquor like bourbon, rum or brandy.yellow pastry on white powder on brown wooden table
  • Butter – You have a few great options here.
    • Greek yogurt: For every 1 cup of butter required, substitute 1/2 cup of greek yogurt.
    • Coconut Oil: Substitute in equal amounts, but note that taste can be noticeable (I think this can be a bonus, but non-coconut lovers should proceed with caution). A combination of coconut oil and greek yogurt is also fantastic!
    • Applesauce: For every 1 cup of butter, substitute 1/2 cup of applesauce.
    • Avocado: Substitute equally.
  • Shortening – Coconut oil is the same texture and subs really nicely here. It will give your baked goods a coconutty flavor, as noted above, so not the choice for you if you don’t want that. You can also substitute butter (if you’re not out!) at equal parts plus two tablespoons per cup. But expect a softer dough if you’re making roll-out dough for cookie-cutting. making gingerbread cookies christmas cookie cutters

If it’s healthier holiday treats you’re after, some quick (and sneaky) ways to make seasonal sweets less sinful are to:

  1. Reduce sugar. You can do this without being skewered at the cookie exchange by adding extra vanilla and/or cinnamon if applicable. You can also cut up to 1/4 cup of sugar from most sweet bread and muffin recipes simply by sprinkling a teaspoon or two of sugar on top before baking.
  2. Choose healthy fats. Butter, coconut oil, avocado, and whole milk yogurt are all good fats that top hydrogenated shortening, vegetable or canola oils in our kitchen any day.
  3. Add fiber. You can easily add fiber to bread and muffins by reducing flour and adding flax, wheat germ, chia seeds, and/or oats in its place.  These substitutions not only add fiber but naturally cut calories and boost other nutritional benefits too.
  4. Add protein. You can squeeze protein into bread and muffins (and even cakes!) by adding a scoop or two of your favorite vanilla or unflavored protein powder. Chia seeds are a nice addition to some baked goods as well.

Turns out you can have your holiday cake (and cookies and muffins) and eat it too.  Now that’s some joy definitely worth spreading.

happiness is a piece of cake close up photography

fullsizeoutput_658Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and amateur late-night holiday baker. (Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography)

Rainbow Cake for Dummies

Disclaimer: I am not an advanced baker. There are 7000 other posts on how to do a rainbow cake or a rainbow unicorn cake or an animated dancing rainbow unicorn cake on the internet if you’re beyond this level. However, if you’re more on the cake-from-a-box-with-simple-frosting kinda gal and want to take it one little notch up, this post is for YOU! It’s fairly detailed with tips and tricks since I needed them at one point or another.

My oldest was due on December 24th and through some crazy antics I managed to get myself into labor a few days early so she wouldn’t be an actual Christmas baby. However, her birthday still falls within the time that allllll the Christmas decorations, songs and festiveness are in full effect. This makes me endeavor to have an extra-special NON-HOLIDAY related birthday celebration for her to calm my inner mom-guilt. The last couple of celebrations, I bought fancy cakes for her out of laziness but this year we’re on a more strict budget so I decided to DIY it up.

Now, I may not be a fancy baker but I am SUPER picky about how my desserts taste. I let her pick the flavor of cake and frosting. She boldly and without hesitation declared she needed chocolate cake and rainbow frosting (anyone else try to do light colored frosting on chocolate cake before and gotten that lovely cookies-and-cream crumb look? Luckily I’ve already made that mistake and knew how to problem solve but I knew it would be a tedious process to say the least). I tried to convince her that funfetti frosting is sort-of-rainbowish, but she didn’t buy it. Here’s how I pulled it off!

Step 1: Cake

I got chocolate cake mix – my homemade cakes turn out delicious but flat despite years of problem solving so I made like Elsa and Let It Go. I love the Trader Joes one. I always, always make the cakes with melted butter. They taste a million times better and vegetable oil is realllllllly bad for you. Yes worse than butter. You can also use coconut oil if you can’t do dairy. I made a double batch the day before, baked them in 3 pans instead of 4 to have tall layers and let them cool completely – this is KEY STRATEGY #1. The chocolate cake will fall apart into your frosting if it’s not alllllll the way cool and set. Also put the butter out to soften overnight for frosting.

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Step 2: Frosting

I’ve played around with lots of different frostings but in the end my all time favorite is a classic buttercream. Make more than you think you need because you do not want to have to skimp! If you forgot to soften butter, you can microwave on 10% or lowest power for 30 second intervals until soft. DO NOT get impatient with this. 10%. 30 second intervals. Trust me.

Simple Buttercream (for a double batch)

  • 1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter (go organic if you can), softened
  • tiny pinch salt
  • 4-6 C or one bag powdered sugar
  • 2-4 Tbs milk (option to use lemon juice, liquor or other flavored liquid if desired, can sub in 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract in as well)
  • Optional: food coloring

Cream butter in mixer for 1-2 minutes until lightened. Scrape down bowl. Sprinkle salt around and sift in 1 C sugar at a time. Beat slowly until incorporated then faster until homogenous. Add in 1 Tbs liquid at a time if the frosting starts to get too stiff. Alternate with sugar until sweetness and texture is as desired. Will take at least 4 Cups.

Step 3: Color

I planned out my rainbow to be pastel based on the food coloring we had. I needed a big bunch of purple for the top and purple for between the layers since that was her favorite color and then less of each other color for the sides.

  • Purple: I separated out about 2/3 of the white frosting and added the purple dye (or use pink/red + blue) a few drops at a time, scraping down and beating in frequent alternations until the right color got there. Don’t over-beat your frosting or it will separate.
  • I then divided up the remaining 2/3 white frosting into 5 roughly even portions and did the same process to make pink (or you could do red), orange, yellow, green and blue. Place each color into one corner of it’s own plastic baggie and set aside. I did this with the children. I had 0 teaspoons of patience left at the end of this process so sent them away with their dad for step 4.
  • If it’s really hot in your kitchen, your frosting might be too soft – refrigerate for 15 minute intervals until it spreads like soft butter.

Step 4: Assembly

  1. Check your alignment: Since I overfilled the cake pans (I’m gonna call it on purpose…), one of them was lop sided so I sliced it off flat.
  2. Put down a TBS of whatever frosting you have the most of in the middle of your chosen cake plate and place first layer of cake crumblier side down – for me this was the cut side. Use strips of wax paper to protect the edges of your plate. Cutting strips of wax paper can be a good task for a 4-7 year old kid.
  3. Get a tall glass or shallow wide bowl of very warm water and set aside your frosting-wiping rag
  4. Put some large dollops of frosting around the middle on top of the cake. If your frosting spreads easily, spread with short strokes from middle of cake out to edges. If it’s sticky or stiff at all, warm your metal spreader in the water, dry off and then spread. Spread right to the edge, but not over the side.
  5. Place second layer on top and repeat step 4 for the top of cake
  6. Start the sides with the bottom color. Use toothpicks to mark out where each color goes if it helps you. I just eyeballed it. Cut about 1cm off the corner of the baggie with your first frosting color. Squeeze in a line around the bottom with one hand as you spin the cake plate with the other. Don’t worry about it being perfect, just get a line on there. Repeat going up the side with the other colors. Go back at the end and fill in any larger gaps with the appropriate color.
  7. Take your frosting utensil, warm in the warm water, wipe clean and again, using one hand while the other spins the plate, run it vertically around the side of the cake to smooth and smoosh the colors together. Smooth the top into a corner. 

  8. Add sprinkles if you feel extra-fancy and VOILA!

Chill the cake until ready to serve. Let warm to room temperature about an hour before enjoying. Cut with warm knife for optimal aesthetically pleasing slices.

 

 

Dr. Annie is an experienced family doctor, pretty-ok baker and mom of 2 with 1 more coming very soon in California.