Tuesday, March 24, 2015

ivf update: egg retrieval complete!


Update time! But first, thank you all so much for your supportive and loving comments, texts, emails and messages. You are the BEST people. I mean it, you guys kick ass! I was overwhelmed with gratitude by your response to my last post, whether from strangers wishing us well to people I had known for years confiding about their own struggles with infertility. While reading your comments here, as well as on Instagram and Facebook, I broke down and cried for the first time since beginning this process. Up until that point, I had tried to remain stoic. Your kindness and compassion opened up an entire floodgate of emotions. A friend joked it was the hormones and they may have been a contributing factor, but I also think it was because my silence over our hidden struggle was finally broken. There's so much silence with infertility; talking about it openly and freely has been liberating and therapeutic. No one should suffer in silence. No matter what the issue.

So let's talk...

Since my last post, I completed the remainder of the hormone injections (23 in total!) and last Thursday we had the egg retrieval. I was excited, nervous & anxious as all heck the morning of the procedure. Let me preface this by saying IVF is not for the faint hearted and your ladybits are not your own after a while. See evidence here. Thankfully, Scott was there to allay my fears and make me laugh. Seeing him in scrubs made my day especially! 

After changing into my peek-a-bum gown, Heather, one of the fantastic nurses at the clinic, gave me an Ativan to calm my nerves, hooked me to an IV with antibiotics and then led us into the procedure room. I felt a bit of pain during the procedure so they gave me additional pain meds and then, poof! everything was awesome. The retrieval took about 30 minutes because I had 27 follicles. Even when it comes to IVF, I'm an overachiever (; 

Once it was over, I went into the recovery area for about 90 minutes where I ate snacks and chatted with Scotty and Heather. At least that's what Scott tells me, I don't have any recollection of that conversation which is probably for the best. On our way home, I started to feel a bit woozy and ended up throwing up on our lawn and then three more times inside (this time I made it to the bathroom). I was also very sore, like I had done hundreds and hundreds of crunches. In reality, I have no clue what that actually feels like, har har. After taking an extra strength Tylenol, I crawled into bed and remained there in a coma-like state until later that night when I woke up craving bbq t-bone steak with blue cheese crumbles. In total, it took me four days to recover from the egg retrieval and its accompanying cramps, soreness and bloating. It pains me to say this, but sweatpants were my best pal during those days, along with my bubu bag


Egg retrieval was an interesting procedure to say the least. Interesting as in your girl was a drugged up loopy mess (see exhibit A. above). Oh, the things I said! Scott remembered them ALL. Here are a few for your reading pleasure:
  • I sang/rapped 2Pac's Baby Don't Cry, specifically this line: "Even when the road is hard, never give up. Baby don't cry." 
  • I named two particularly painful eggs after politicians I'm not particularly fond of: Harper and Prentice.
  • I told the entire medical team, nurses Carrie and Megan, embryologist Ryan and Dr. Motan, that I loved them. Because that's how we do.
  • When Dr. Motan left the room at the end of the procedure, I hollered, "Peace out, Motan!"

In the end, Dr. Motan was able to retrieve 21 eggs! Not bad for a geriatric patient. From those 21 eggs, 18 were mature and 16 fertilized. Yesterday we received the most wonderful news from Ryan: all 16 of our embryos made it to the blastocyst stage! We're so happy and relieved. Now, we'll wait for my body to return to a balanced state and a few cycles from now I'll start prepping for a frozen egg transfer. Our journey is only just beginning. {Backstory: because I was showing symptoms of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) and had extremely high levels of estrogen, Dr. Motan decided it was best to do a freeze all, which means they freeze all retrieved eggs and do a transfer at a later date. When the nurse first told me, I burst into tears. Rationally, I knew it was the right thing to do, but my heart just wasn't quite there yet. After leaving the clinic, I talked it out with Scott and a few girlfriends, went to HomeSense in search of a rug, ate a DQ cookie dough blizzard and had a good night's sleep. By the next morning, I had made peace with it.}
You will get there when you are meant to get there and not one moment sooner. So relax, breathe and be patient. -- Mandy Hale
I'm going to take the next little while to take care of myself and prepare for the transfer -- exercise, acupuncture, volunteering, cooking, spending time with friends and family and continuing to blog about and Instagram the things that make me happy: fashion, style, interior design and decor, and food, of course, lots and lots of food. My life isn't just about trying to have a baby. And thankfully it never has been. There's so much I want to do, see & make. Plus, I have a 40th birthday to celebrate this Saturday! And that means cake. 

To anyone else going through this process, I wish you mountains of luck and a happy ending. Hang in there! And remember, you are stronger than you think. If you need someone to talk to, email me: dajanaf@yahoo.com. I'm here for you! xoxo

P.S. There are two Facebook support groups I highly recommend: IVF Support Canada and IVF Support, the international version consisting of women from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia, where British ladies sometimes pepper their sentences with words like fortnight and stone, to describe their weight. Cool ass language aside, both forums have been a godsend to me these past few weeks. I'm with my people (which is the way I felt when I went to my first NDP meeting, haha) and the women participating in both groups are strong, open, lovely and brilliant. If forums are more your thing, this one's helpful. Familiarize yourself with this handy abbreviation guide first. Best of luck! I'm rooting for you.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

staying hopeful through infertility

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This may well be the most challenging blog post I've ever written. No, scratch that. It was fairly easy to write, but it took some time to gain the courage to hit the publish button. Thankfully, I'm braver today than I was a few years ago when infertility entered our lives like an unwanted house guest. It's important for me to share my story and help others learn that they aren't alone. By speaking out, I'm also hoping to lessen the stigma and shame associated with infertility.

The picture above is of me being my usual goofy self holding a model of a uterus with my feet up in stirrups in a waiting room at the Regional Fertility and Women's Endocrinology Clinic this past weekend. Scott and I were there to find out if, after trying for three years on our own, we were getting the green light to begin in vitro fertilization (IVF).  To pass the time, because there is a lot of waiting with infertility appointments, we took silly pictures. This is the only one you're allowed to see, haha. I mean it (;

We did end up getting the go ahead from our doctor (excited!) and I'm now the proud owner of more than a dozen needle marks on my stomach. That's the first part of the process: self administering hormones to stimulate the ovaries. I'm deathly afraid of needles so Scott, who I'm calling my hunky Florence Nightingale these days, has the job of jabbing me. I joke with him that his EMR training is finally paying off.  Secretly, my heart gushes with love for this man who supports and loves me and is so careful not to hurt me.

I'm not going to get into the entire process of IVF here, just know it's involved, invasive and expensive. It was a decision we took a lot of time to make and I'm glad we did. I don't feel like we're in limbo any more. When you're struggling with unexplained infertility, every month is an emotional roller coaster of hope and anticipation, followed by heartbreaking disappointment and frustration. With IVF, I'm trusting in my doctor and my body and letting the rest go. I haven't always been so zen about it but I've come to a place in my life where I've chosen to move forward with hope and positivity. I'm also using this breathing method to help me through my anxiousness during ultrasounds (which I now call dildo cam time, haha!).

Now more than ever, I'm grateful for the good people in my life. It means so much to get a phone call or text from a friend or family member simply asking, "How are you doing today D?" It makes me and Scott feel supported, loved and not so alone in all of this.

If you have a friend who is going through infertility issues, acknowledge how much it sucks and then hug, love and support them. They need you more than you know.

As for me, I have five more days of injections left until the egg retrieval process. Please send your positive thoughts and prayers. It's the one time in my life I'm asking for support. Not pity or sympathy, just love <3

Friday, February 20, 2015

the best cinnamon-sugar donut muffins you'll ever eat






Do you remember eating cinnamon toast as a kid? I loved it. This recipe is an ode to those nostalgic days (makes me feel like I'm 7 again!) and is also the perfect comfort food. You'll end up feeling warm and cozy, no matter what the weather.

I made these sweet cinnamon coated cakey donuts yesterday and posted the recipe today. This lack of procrastination is testament to how bonkers delicious they are and how badly I wanted to share them with you. Plus the recipe comes together easily and will fill your house with the most heavenly scent.

The hardest part is waiting for them to cool so you can dunk them in the melted butter and cinnamon sugar and eat 'em. Consider yourself warned: your patience will be tested but it's well worth the wait.

Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnut Muffins
Makes 12 muffins or 24 mini donuts
Adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

Here's what you need to make them:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or ground nutmeg)
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons buttermilk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs

For the doughnut coating:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

To make the muffins: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly spray 12 large muffin cups with vegetable oil spray OR if making mini donuts, lightly spray two mini donut pans.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cardamom. In a medium bowl, combine the milk and buttermilk.

In a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer on medium speed, cream the butter for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the speed to low and gradually add the sugar. Continue to mix until the mixture lightens in color. Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until combined. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the milk mixture, mixing just until smooth; do not overmix or they will become dense.

With a large ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them approximately two-thirds full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are firm to the touch and lightly golden. Please note: I used a teaspoon to fill the mini donuts pans and the mini donuts were done after about 17 minutes.

While the muffins bake, set up two bowls to dunk them in. In one bowl you will have the melted butter, and in the other bowl you will have the cinnamon sugar.

Let the donuts cool completely on a wire rack (waiting is the hard part!). Dunk them in the melted butter, then coat them with the cinnamon sugar. The muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Enjoy!

Notes:
  • Please don't omit the cardamom. Although it's only a teensy amount, it makes such a difference in flavour and aroma.  Trust me, it's worth seeking out. 
  • With the batter, I made a combo of 12 (very large) mini donuts and 5 muffins. 
  • The Back in the Day Bakery is my new favourite cookbook. I bought if for myself a few weeks ago but hadn't made anything yet until last weekend when one of my friends made the Buttermilk Biscones (a cross between scones & biscuits). They were amazing! Tasting those tasty biscones inspired to try something from the book too. Highly recommend! 
  • The winner of the Duchess Cookbook giveaway is revealed here. Congratulations to the lucky lady! And thanks to everyone who entered.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

valentine's day as a single lady

Fourteen years ago today, I was feeling hopelessly single and wondering if I'd ever meet my soulmate. Didn't seem likely. I had gone on a bunch of unsuccessful blind dates (online dating hadn't quite yet taken off at that time) and one day I found myself discussing the topic with a close friend. Her mom, who was listening in on our conversation, quickly piped up and told me the reason why I was single is because I talked too much. "Men don't like that," she added.

"Ha," I thought indignantly to myself,  "I'm not changing who I am so I can meet a man."

And I didn't. Because I'm stubborn like that and even back then, I knew my worth. Not too long after, I met Scott. That first night we talked for hours (take that friend's mom!). Goes to show that you just never know what's right around the corner. And that, as corny as it sounds, you should never change who you are. 

Hope you have a wonderful day with the people you love. Scott and I are having an at-home date night and we'll be chowing down on these (can't wait!).  xoxo

P.S. Six ways to keep the sparks flying in your relationship.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

6 ways we keep the sparks flying



Scott and I have been together for 13 years, 8 months and 16 days. After spending that much time as a couple, we've reached a level of intimacy I never knew existed. While there is something to be said about being completely comfortable and intimate with each other, it's also important to be reminded of the butterflies we had when we first started dating. The bonus is that butterflies usually lead to flirtation and sexy-time. And who doesn't want sexy-time?!


Here are a few things we do to keep the sparks flying in our relationship:

  • Meet separately at the restaurant. I always get excited when I meet up with Scott at a restaurant or bar. I love that moment of anticipation as I scan the room to find him! There's nothing quite like seeing a handsome man and then realizing it's your handsome man to stir up the butterflies. That is such a lovely feeling and it makes me feel fun and flirty. Meeting separately also gives me the chance to see him not just as the person I share my home life with, but as the person he exists beyond that. 
  • Keep phones off the table during meals. I've been known to take photos of our food, but I've started to do less of that (you might've noticed this if you follow me on Instagram). The time I spend with the people I love has become much more valuable. 
  • Hold hands at the table (but really, hold hands every chance you get). Scott and I do this all the time, whether we're on a fancier dinner date or just having some pho at our fave Vietnamese place. So simple but it sets a special mood.
  • 5 minute make-out sessions. One of us just asks "Wanna make out for 5 minutes?" and it's nearly impossible to turn down or be turned down. Everyone has five minutes for a little old school making out, right? Sneaking in a kiss each day that lasts longer than 5 seconds takes me back to the early dating days. Sometimes while we're watching tv, I'll plank on Scott. Sounds bizarro, I know but it's our special thing. And no, it's not sexual, dirty birds. I'm always fully clothed while planking (;
  • Ask each other out on dates, don't just plan dates. I'll text or call Scott and ask if he'll go on a date with me and then plan accordingly and vice versa. Again, it adds just enough of those same butterflies.
  • Scott purchased this book for us recently. Whoa, spicy. I'm thinking an entirely separate blog post might be in order here (;
These are all little things, but sometimes life is about the little things, right? What funny little things (or big things!) do you do to keep the sparks flying in your relationships? I'd love to hear...

(Photo by Harry Benson)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

duchess cookbook & treats giveaway!

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Duchess Bake Shop has had my heart since it opened its doors in the fall of 2009. It's one of my favourite spots in Edmonton to grab a delicious French pastry and then sit, eat & chat with friends for hours. If you follow me on Instagram you'll know that last statement couldn't be more true.

When I found out Giselle Courteau, the shop's co-owner, was writing a cookbook I was elated. Its release date, November 12, was a happy day for me and I wasn't disappointed in the least bit. The book is a true keepsake with stunning photographs and invaluable accompanying step-by-step instructions. This is the first time I've owned a cookbook in which I've sampled most of the recipes (which makes owning it that much more special).

You can probably tell from the picture above that I've already tried many of the recipes (& also have a hard time keeping cookbooks clean, mine are almost always covered in batter & flour), including our family faves: double ginger cookies and raspberry white chocolate scones.

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I'm happy to report that Giselle has generously provided a signed copy of Duchess' cookbook as a giveaway for one lucky reader. Also included in the giveaway: a package containing the shop's beloved salted caramel sauce (which I used to make these), hot chocolate, raspberry rose jam and a Theo gingerbread milk chocolate bar.

For a chance to win, please visit Duchess' website and then leave a comment below with the name of the baked good you'd like to try making at home. For additional entries, follow all kinds of lovely on Instagram and Facebook and comment on the giveaway post/picture. 

Entries must be posted by Friday, February 13 at 9am MST*, and one winner will be chosen at random.

Best of luck!

You can also purchase the cookbook in Edmonton at Provisions or online. Highly recommend!

Contest is now closed. Congratulations to Brie of A Slice of Brie! Thank you to everyone who entered.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

style: chic earrings

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  il_fullxfull.301791481 By Boe Gold

Gorgeous earrings can change your whole look in a instant. I know my winter wardrobe could use a perk up right about now (anyone else over winter?). These four pairs are at the top of my wish list.

Clockwise from top left:

  • Edgy & wear-with-everything studs from my favourite Canadian shop, So Pretty Jewelry.  
  • This exotic pair from Club Monaco has been on my mind for a while now. Beautiful, right?
  • Feminine & sweet reminder bows handmade by New York based By Boe
  • Etsy shop Dinosaur Toes makes these simple modern hammered hoops. Such a great price, too. 

Wouldn't they all be beautiful to wear to date night? Or anytime really. (: Which pair is your fave?

I just purchased these art deco chandeliers which can be worn three (!!) ways. Love. They were a "I survived the January blahs" present to myself. The So Pretty studs are next on my list.

Hope your week is off to a good start! Be sure to check back here on Thursday. I have a delicious giveaway I'm excited to share with you featuring a beloved bakery of mine.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

how to relax & fall asleep quickly


Getting my brain to turn off at bedtime can be difficult. Especially when I have a gazillion things on my mind. During the day, I feel pretty happy-go-lucky, but as I lie down at night, my mind starts spinning. Lately the tossing and turning topics include trying to have a baby (we have a BIG doctor's appointment coming up on Monday) and the logistics of a full kitchen renovation. Exciting and good things yes, but also anxiety inducing, as is my wont.

So when I recently came across this breathing technique I immediately decided to give it a try.

Here's how it works:

Step 1: Breath in silently through your nose for a count of 4.
Step 2: Hold your breath to the count of 7.
Step 3: Exhale through your mouth while making a whooshing sound to the count of 8.
Step 4: Now inhale again and repeat the cycle another three times or until you fall asleep.

I've been doing it for the past week and it honestly works! Admittedly, I felt like I was going to die the first few times I held my breath, but I got the hang of it quickly. And it's gotten easier with each passing night. Now I'm usually asleep after three rounds of 4-7-8.  Blessedly sweet sleep. It's become my go-to method to "close some tabs" when my thoughts get a little all over the place.

Are you a good sleeper? Any tips? Or are you a worrier, too? When it comes to worrying, we can really nail it sometimes (:

P.S. This brilliant website puts a single day of your life in perspective.

Print via. It's funny 'cause it's true.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

bye bye 2014. hello 2015!


Happy New Year friends! I hope you had a great holiday and celebrated the end of 2014 in a way that made you feel ready to embrace the new year ahead. I had a few too many blood orange-rosemary fizz cocktails last night. Will definitely be sharing that recipe with you! 

When it comes to 2014, I don't really know where to start. It was a challenging year with some rough spots and changes, yet it had many beautiful moments too. Highlights included this magical experience in the mountainsour 11th wedding anniversarytrip to Bosnia/Croatia, the wedding of one of my nearest & dearest, my first blogging conference in Toronto and of course, any time spent with these two. I also ate, cooked and baked a ton of delicious things.  

Over the past twelve months, I've also grown considerably. I've learned the breadth of my resilience, figured out how best to deal with my anxiety, regained my professional confidence and discovered who I can count on during tough times. I'm beyond grateful to have a wonderful husband, family and a great group of friends surrounding me with love, laughter, encouragement and support. I needed them this year especially.

And I'm grateful for you too! Thank you for sticking with me and my spotty posting. I'm flattered to have you along for the journey and am appreciative of every comment, tweet, email or share. It means a lot to me that you find your way here, especially with all the awesomeness available on the internet these days. 

Things to look forward to in 2015: turning 40 in March (holy shit!), trying to start a family (holy shit x a million! Can you tell I'm scared? But so excited if it does happen!), a kitchen/bathroom renovation, and travelling more. And just generally investing more time and energy in the people that matter and more money in experiences rather than things. That all sounds doable, right?

Cheers to a wonderful year in store, full of unexpected surprises and delights! And thanks again for reading the blog. If I could hug you through the internet, I would. xoxo

P.S. Come back soon, will ya. I'm hosting my first giveaway of twenty fifteen soon (: 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

eat: maple rosemary spiced pretzel & nut mix


This sweet and spicy mix is ridiculously easy to make, extremely addictive and suitable for special occasion and raucous get-togethers. Cards Against Humanity, anyone?

Adding maple syrup and fresh rosemary elevates humble nuts and pretzels into something extra special and delicious. It's munchery at its best and a great hostess gift to bring to holiday parties. My friends, family and neighbours are all getting a bag of this good stuff because who doesn't love an edible gift?

Maple Rosemary Spiced Pretzel and Nut Mix
Makes about 4 cups (300 gr)
Adapted from David Lebovitz' The Sweet Life in Paris

Here's what you need to make them:
2 cups (200 gr) mixed raw nuts; any combo of cashews, whole almonds, peanuts, pecan halves, pistachios and hazelnuts.
1 tablespoon (15 gr) unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons (45 gr) dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons (45 gr) roughly chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to your spice level)
3/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt
2 cups (100 gr) small pretzel twists

Line a large cookie sheet with foil or parchment. Spread the nuts in an even layer and roast in a 350F (180C) oven for 10 minutes, stirring once for even toasting.

In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and maple syrup.

Add the warm nuts, stirring until coated. Then mix in the salt (if using, please see note below), pretzels and rosemary, and stir until the nuts and pretzels are completely coated.

Spread the mixture back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 12-18 minutes, stirring twice during cooking. Your house is going to smell amazing. Watch them carefully to make sure they don't burn. Remove from oven and cool completely, separating the nuts and pretzels as they cool.

Once cool, this mixture can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

Happy munching!

  • Notes:
  • I used Kirkland mixed nuts from Costco. They are already toasted, so I just warmed them up in the oven for about 5 minutes at 350F and kept a close eye on them. 
  • I melted the butter in a large bowl, so I could do all the mixing in that bowl, making one less thing for me to wash as well. 
  • I omitted the salt because the pretzels were salted. If you decide to add salt, make sure to add it in after the nuts are stirred, so it doesn’t dissolve. And be sure to use coarse salt, which has an appealing, crunchy texture and more delicate flavor than ordinary table salt.
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