Back to School Essentials

As I’ve mentioned before, we live behind a school, and so although Lulu is far too young for elementary, we can’t help but feel the excitement of a fresh start. And then, of course, I have my own classes that I teach on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Classes of eager college freshmen, excited to begin their studies. There’s nothing quite as appealing as a fresh start.

The sweet folks at the Motherhood and Healthy Essentials asked me to share some of the ways I’m refreshing and re-energizing my routine this fall. I was happy to do so because it made me stop and think: what can I do to bring more peace and fulfillment into my days? It’s an important question to ask…especially when you feel too busy or overwhelmed to set aside for yourself. In fact, that’s a sign you need to answer that question even more. So here’s my list. I hope it brings you a measure of inspiration!

Outdoor time

Photo: Up in the Sycamore Photography

1. Spending time outside

The days are getting shorter but my need for sunshine isn’t diminishing. Lulu and I spend at least an hour outside each day…sometimes more. Yes, it means that we may end up with a few more scrapes or bruises, but never anything that a bandaid or a kiss from mom can’t fix. I feel like my soul breathes so much freer the rest of the day if I begin it with time outdoors.

2. Reading

As a new mom, sitting down to a book has become near impossible. It breaks my MFA heart to admit it…but I haven’t finished a novel this entire year. And so one of the ways I’m changing my routine this fall is to set aside time to read…even if only for 10 or 15 minutes. It does my soul good, and it allows Lulu time to interact with some of the books that she enjoys.


3. Baking something new

No surprise, I bake a lot. But I often end up baking recipes that I know like the back of my hand. Recipes that don’t require me to think…but simply to do. And while those recipes result in a meditative state of mind, I sometimes miss the challenge and excitement of trying something new. I rarely turn to shortbread when I get the itch to bake cookies. But I think about them often, especially when I’m craving something subtly sweet and buttery. I had so much fun mixing, cutting, and baking these cookies on Sunday afternoon. It changed up my routine…which did my body and my soul good!


4. Take time for me.

I’ll be honest, it’s really hard to pamper yourself when you have a toddler running around. Gone are the days of manicures and pedicures…gone are the days of long leisurely baths. Instead, I spoil myself in simple, easy ways. I buy a new face wash or a new shampoo. I wear lipstick just because I feel like it (and not because I have somewhere special to go.)

5. Cut back.

I’m learning to say no. I’m learning that it’s okay if I don’t blog three or four times a week. It’s okay if I don’t say yes to every social invite I receive. Balance as a new mom is hard…and I know I have a long way to go…but I think I’m getting closer. Day by day. Hour by hour.

Some of the great products I’m using can be found here...and there are over $40 worth of coupons to make that pampering or exploring a little more affordable! Go explore some of these Healthy Essentials when you have the chance!

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

September is here. I’m back at Pikes Peak Community College, teaching three English Composition courses. I’m also on call for five births (yes, I’m doing birth photography!). Needless to say, life is busy. Add in a bubbling, vivacious toddler and my days have been filling up at an ever-quickening rate. So for the time being, I’ll just be posting twice each week. If you absolutely need to see more baked goods and whole foods, you can always find me on instragram (@cakestand).

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Last week, after a beautiful day photographing three women for the Breastfeeding Project, I drove home from Denver with one goal in my mind: to make my 10-year-old nephew a birthday cake. With only a couple of hours before we were set to meet for dinner, I knew I’d have to execute a stellar baking and decorating performance if Ben’s birthday cake was going to be a reality. I needed simplicity. I needed ease. I needed delicious. And so I fell back on a classic vanilla cake with a delicious chocolate buttercream frosting. When I have ample time, I love to make a traditional french buttercream…with egg yolks and corn syrup and granulated sugar. But when I need something sweet and simple that will decorate beautifully, I turn to this recipe: an easy buttercream made with only a few ingredients: cocoa, powdered sugar, butter, and a dash of milk. In under two hours (from start to finish!) we had this cake ready for Ben’s birthday celebration. It was enjoyed by all.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

3 sticks butter, softened to almost room temperature

1 cup cocoa powder

5 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup whole milk (for an even richer frosting, use cream)

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine butter and cocoa. Using the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add in powdered sugar and milk (1 cup of powdered sugar, followed by 1-2 tablespoons milk). Run the mixer on low as you combine. After all milk and powdered sugar are added, stir in vanilla. Beat mixture on medium-high until light and fluffy (add more powdered sugar or more milk if needed). Frost on a completely cooled cake.

Roasted Fig Cake

Roasted Fig Cake

Fresh figs. I had my first three years ago on a hot summer day. Like many of us, my earliest memories of figs came in the form of those ubiquitous cookies. Imagine my wonder when I sliced my first fresh fig in half (they truly are one of the sexiest fruits I’ve seen) and imagine my delight when I took my first bite–subtle and sweet with that almost nutty texture.

Roasted Fig Cake

Fast forward and now we buy figs at the end of each summer. They’re one of the best ways to transition into fall. Baking with figs intensifies both their flavor and their sweetness. They roast beautifully and they were the perfect topping to my favorite French Yogurt Cake.

When I needed a last minute dessert on Sunday afternoon, this roasted fig cake came together effortlessly. We served it along with a scoop of ice-cream and Ryan’s pour-over coffee. And we vowed we’d make it again next summer, just as the days were rolling towards Autumn.

Roasted Fig Cake

Roasted Fig Cake

French Yogurt Cake

12 figs, stems removed and sliced into quarters

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons honey

Sprinkle of flaky sea salt

Prepare cake and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Grease lightly. Combine sliced figs, melted butter, and honey in a bowl. Sprinkle with sea salt and stir gently. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until figs are soft and syrup begins to bubble. Spoon roasted figs on top of cake and serve.

Inspired – Phoebe Wahl


“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” -Maya Angelou 

As many of you know, I am a mother. And motherhood has changed me in ways that I still can’t fully articulate. The process of becoming a mother has tangled up both my body and my soul. I feel far more broken but also far more whole. If it sounds confusing, it is. The love I have for my daughter is strong and dangerous; it has made me feel more alive, but it’s made me feel more frightened in this world. On some days, I want nothing more than to tuck her back inside of me, nestled up warm beneath the steady beat of my heart. And yet, I know that motherhood or parenthood requires you to do just the opposite: to slowly and gradually let your precious one unfold and grow. It is a messy, beautiful thing, I’ve embarked on. 

And being a mother has let me love my body in ways that I never thought I could. Being a mother has taught me to reclaim my body for what it is: warmth, strength, sustenance, comfort….the list goes on.

And so, today, instead of a recipe, I’m sharing with you an artist who has captured motherhood in a way that deeply resonates with my own experience. When Ryan and I went to Portland, Phoebe Wahl was kind enough to let us into her beautiful home. There, I photographed her studio and a few of her pieces. You can find more of her work here. Phoebe is a beautiful soul, an old soul, and I have no doubt that her work will take her to places wide and far. I’ll be sharing more of her work and space on cord tomorrow.



Sweet Wholesome Cornbread

Sweet and Wholesome Cornbread

No, I’m not pregnant, but my cravings for cornbread are at an all-time high. I fell in love with cornbread when we lived in Austin. Our local co-op made these huge hunks that I’d buy on a bi-weekly basis. Two dollars for a slice of heaven. I’d take a knife and carefully divide the cornbread into two equal pieces. At the end of the day, I’d take one, along with a thinly sliced apple, and work on my thesis. Those slices of cornbread kept me going when I so often wanted to give up. To this day, if you hand me a plate of brownies and a plate of cornbread, and I’ll take the cornbread every single time.

Sweet and Wholesome Cornbread

Unfortunately, I haven’t found a baker in Colorado who comes close to attaining the cornbread goodness I first fell for…so I’ve spent a lot of time trying to replicate the cornbread at home. After months, no years, of trying, I’ve finally found the recipe I’ll be making from here on out. A few keys to success: creamed corn, corn flour (not corn meal), and a lot of eggs. And I like my cornbread sweet, but just slightly, so I use coconut sugar for an extra layer of flavor and sweetness. I’ve made two batches in the last two weeks (which means I’ve been eating A LOT of cornbread). In fact, I’m just about to sit down to another slice.

Sweet and Wholesome Cornbread

Sweet Wholesome Cornbread

1 cup corn flour (this is a very finely ground cornmeal)

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup coconut sugar

8 tablespoons melted butter, cooled

4 eggs

1 can creamed corn

2 cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Grease lightly with butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and coconut sugar. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk together melted butter, eggs, and creamed corn. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in wet ingredients and whole milk. Using a spatula, fold ingredients until combined.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.