This is the first winter I didn’t dread approaching. I wasn't even salty about the last week of single digit temperatures, snow, ice and school closings. I realize I’ve only been back in a state that even has a winter for four short years, but still. One reason, I’m hot a lot. In fact, is it hot in here?. Another reason, I think, we did so much traveling through the summer and fall that I’ve just wanted to nestle in - as much as our apartment makes me tremendously claustrophobic. I’ve become, like, so high maintenance.

You see, I’ve kicked into the menopause “process.”  It’s called perimenopause. And it’s been messing with my moods and how I manage my moods like an evil little devil monster (Think Trilogy of Terror). And, no, I'm not that old - both my mom and grandmother began this stuff really early as well.

I’ve never regularly taken any medication. I don’t even take vitamins (I really should, though). But as a result of all of the above, I have recently been prescribed a low dosage of an antidepressant - to assist in smoothing out the edges, if you will. Since I’ve started taking them, I don’t really feel different. It’s not like having a headache, taking ibuprofen and feeling… better. I’ll clarify further in a bit.

Last week was a full one. I had a couple days of ad-based studio work, a couple of days of editorial location work (one of which took me to another city), another shoot day for a local business, Meals on Wheels volunteer work, and then general life and, of course, being a mother. So it was the perfect week to utilize my free(ish) day (and the day we kept Emerson home from school) to bake elaborate cakes with my friend, Kate.

I mean, that’s kind of how this whole life I live began, right? I played in the kitchen, took pictures of what I made and then wrote about just that. Now I’m squeezing it in between jobs that pay me money to play with my food. What could possibly be less than perfect about that?

Nothing. It’s great. And Kate’s great, everything is great. And everyone likes cake.

But for some reason I spent the day on the brink. For essentially no reason, I was fighting back tears, felt super tense, agitated and totally out of control. Every sound was noise. And I just couldn’t cool off no matter what.

The next day, driving to drop Emerson at school on the way to a job, I felt a little nauseous, and quite dizzy (and I knew damn well I wasn’t pregnant). It seemed to me that maybe I shouldn’t be behind the wheel. I was also fighting with Fred about everything and nothing. I called my mom to vent and my voice probably sounded like I just inhaled a helium balloon, I was so hyped up.

About an hour later Fred sent me a list of symptoms that occur when you lapse with said mild anti-depressant. The symptoms: pretty much exactly what you read in the above two paragraphs. I guess that’s what I mean when I say the medication doesn’t make me feel different or better or high or euphoric. But it sure as hell messes with me if I stop taking it. Which, admittedly, makes me a feel little uneasy, though I’m not sure why. Control issues, I imagine.

It’s weird. I’ve had this body for over forty years. I know it really well. Well, I knew it really well. That’s what’s so weird. In addition to the extremely bizarre feeling of not having a cycle, a rhythm, a period, I no longer have as much control of my emotions, reactions or temperature. So, this body of mine, this mind of mine, they don’t really feel so much like mine these days. And that’s just bonkers.

And, of course, there’s my threenager who threw a Lego at Kate’s son’s head (twice), is taking hip-hop dancing lessons, eats primarily pimento cheese sandwiches and is obsessed with some TV show called Niko and The Sword of Light. She used a ruler as her sword of light to decimate her entire crayon collection right before she took a pair of my earrings from my dresser, claimed them as her jewels, hid them from evil monsters then lost them forever. Her bedtime is also averaging about 10pm right now, so that’s pretty cool (continue to think Trilogy of Terror).

And good god, I love her so much I can’t stand it.

Sometimes it feels untenable. Usually it doesn’t. I'm definitely extremely fortunate to have felt relatively normal, mentally and physically, for as much of my life as I have. Took that for granted, I suppose. (Glass full moment there, folks.)

All of it, every bit, is getting more and more manageable each week. It’s getting easier to remind myself that everything is good, great even. I have most everything I want to have in my life, that I designed to have in my life, my mom, dad, Fred, a happy, healthy daughter, great friends, inspiration, creative outlets, steady work, love of my city, you name it. I just have to remind myself. And I have to stop clenching my jaw. Both of which are absolutely tenable.

So, though it’s no cakewalk, let us most certainly eat cake.

Apple-Spiced Honey Cake with Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting
(recipe adapted from Bon Appétit, September 2015)


Nonstick vegetable oil spray

2 cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

⅔ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup honey

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise

½ cup fresh orange juice

½ cup buttermilk

3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Pinch of kosher salt

½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk, cream separated from milk, room temperature

Apple roses (try this technique), pomegranate arils, twigs from your yard and any other bells and whistles you care to drum up

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a few 4" cake pans with nonstick spray and line bottom with a parchment paper round. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a large bowl to combine.

Combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, honey, egg, and egg yolk in another large bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; discard pod. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat mixture until pale and thickened, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and gradually pour in orange juice and buttermilk. Beat until frothy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients; beat just until smooth and homogenous (it will be thin, like pancake batter).

Pour into prepared pans and bake until cake is golden brown and center springs back when gently pressed (a cake tester will not come out clean), 35-45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in pan, 20 minutes. Run a knife around edges of cake to loosen and invert onto rack; let cool completely.

Do Ahead: Cake can be baked 3 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature. *Or freeze until you’re ready to forge ahead...

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until smooth. Add powdered sugar, lemon zest, and salt and scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; discard pod. Beat on low speed until mixture is very light and thickened, about 2 minutes; scrape down sides of bowl. With motor running, add coconut cream by the tablespoonful and beat until very soft peaks form (save coconut milk for another use). 
 *I will say that Kate and I tried the icing at least twice and it was wicked runny, no peaks. No biggie, but just be aware!

Pile frosting on top of cake and spread to edges (it’s okay if it cascades over the sides). Decorate with whatever you’d like - get crazy!


One year ago: Oyster Stew
Two year ago: Butter Balls
Four years ago: Marshmallows
Five years ago: Kathy's Deviled Ham Salad
Six years ago: Sunday Cassoulet


  1. Been through years of depression which I finally beat and weaned myself off the meds. Also been through menopause and the dreaded hot flashes. Finally a normal person (I like to think)and can tell you that this too shall pass, and I pray it goes quickly for you cause it is NO FUN!!! The cake is beautiful and is probably as good as it looks.
    Love to you all...

  2. Two comments: menopause is no joke but eventually it gets better, to a degree at least! Give yourself some grace, wherever you can. . .

    But #2: if you don't set healthy boundaries for your "threenager" now, I can tell you as both an experienced parent and teacher that you will have a true monster on your hands when she really is a teenager. Boundaries create a healthy sense of security that actually is very freeing for both parent and child. Set them positively--tell your daughter what you do want her to do (as much as it is possible.) And a huge piece--figure out a healthy daily rhythm and stick to it for long enough for it to become habit. Rhythm for bedtime especially helps. Do the same things in the same order at roughly the same time every day. It will help.

    Blessings. . .

  3. Hang in there, the symptoms are odd and uncomfortable, but for the most part, mine have passed after 3 years.

  4. Such a beautiful cake & looks yummy! Thanks for sharing this great cake recipe.

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