GLUTEN FREE VANILLA BEAN CAKE WITH BLUEBERRY CREAM FROSTING || BY NICOLE LEE


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The First time I made a cake it was a disaster. Barely working ovens, lead to a burnt cake, that somehow resulted into a frosting with a side of CAKE.  Instead of CAKE with some frosting. At the time, I didn’t have a domestic bone in my body, so of course I used a pre-made Boxed mix and pre-made frosting because why not? After the cake didn’t come out as expected,  I even avoided making all birthday cakes for a LONG time because I was so embarrassed from my first offensive. I was certain I couldn’t bake. Fast forward 10 years later, and my kids are finally begging for cakes on their birthdays, so I accepted their challenge, faced my fear of cake baking and got to it!

It was Asher’s 8th birthday, he requested a vanilla cake, with blue frosting, and berries on top! So we made cake, with blue frosting and berries on top. And it was heavenly.

Happy Cooking Friends,

x Nicole


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Gluten free Vanilla bean Cake, with Blueberry Cream frosting

Ingredients:

2 ½ cup bob’s red mill gf flour (1 to 1 blue bag mix)
¾ cups organic sugar
1 cup vegan organic earth balance butter blend
½ cup organic coconut milk
4 large organic eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
2 organic vanilla beans
2 ½ tsp aluminum free baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt

Directions:

Note: You’ll want all your ingredients room temp.

  1. Measure out all the ingredients and set them in front of you. You’ll need 1 medium to large bowl for the dry ingredients, and your mixing bowl that attaches to your free standing mixer. Sift all the dry ingredients into the medium bowl, set aside.

  2. Cream your vegan butter and sugar on low speed in your freestanding mixer for about 1-4 min, or until it resembles a slight mayo texture. While that is going, crack your eggs into a small bowl. Then stop your mix press down all the sides of your cream and the bottom of the bowl ensuring everything is mixed well. Start the mixer on low and while it's going add in one egg, at a time. Stop mixer, and scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

  3. Slice your vanilla bean pods lengthwise,and scrape out the beans with your knife add them to the mixer. Then start the mix again, add in vanilla, coconut milk. Keep the speed low to ensure you don’t over mix.

  4. While the mixture is going, add your dry ingredients in 3 sections. If need be, stop in between and scrape down the sides again. This just gets everything mixed together without the dough lumping.

  5. Once batter is made, divide it into your prepared cake pans. TIP: spray with nonstick spray, and cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake for 25-35 min until a few moist crumbs cling to a skewer.
  7. To cool, place on a cooling rack until completely cooled.
  8. Ice and decorate your cake.

Blueberry Icing:

Ingredients:

8 oz Vegan Almond Cream Cheese (kite hill is the brand I used)
4 oz organic Coconut milk (cream only, you’ll need to refrigerate for 12 hours beforehand)
1 cup confectioners sugar (sifted)
1-2 tablespoons organic blue food coloring
1 tsp organic vanilla extract

Directions: NOTE: All ingredients must be cold before starting. You will need free standing mixer with whisk attachment. Also, you can freeze your metal bowl beforehand, this really helps the process.

To make, pop all your wet ingredients(except food dye) in your free standing mixer with whisk attachment, on medium speed whisk until light and fluffy about 1 min. Add in your sifted sugar and 1tbsp of food coloring,(if want darker add 1 more tbsp). Whisk again until smooth and creamy. If its not coming together, add more sifted sugar one tbsp at a time, with an addition of 1 tbsp coconut milk.

Frost the cooled cake and enjoy!


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DIY GHEE RECIPE || BY NICOLE LEE



So what is GHEE you ask? Essentially, Ghee is clarified butter. During the cooking process the milk proteins separate from the butter leaving you with ghee. This stuff is liquid gold, it’s used for cooking veggies, baking, and of course adding to your bulletproof coffee. Packed with Vitamins, Ghee is really a superfood! It’s also the simplest thing to make at home.


DIY GHEE RECIPE

DIY GHEE RECIPE

NOTE: It’s really important to use high quality grass fed butter, this is key to getting the recipe just right. Also, if you are allergic to dairy stay away from GHEE. There are trace amounts of milk solids in it and may cause a reaction. If you are reintroducing dairy into your diet, this is a great food to start with. My only advice would be to go slow and small tiny amounts, over weeks or even months. But we can get into that another time!

Ingredients:

1 pound grass-fed butter (at room temp)

Tools:

Wide mouthed sauce pot
Metal strainer
Cheese Cloth
Metal spoon
Wooden Spoon
Jars with lids for storing

Directions:

Heat your pot on low heat. Add the butter. Let the milk solids bubble to the surface. Skim the bubbles until there is just a layer of protein at the bottom of the pot. It will brown slightly, watch it carefully so you do not burn it. When the solids are fully separated turn off the heat. Put the cheesecloth over the metal strainer, then strain your melted butter through the strainer into your jars. If it looks cloudy strain again. Then put the lid on and store in the fridge. It will become solid and creamy. If you don’t wish to have it creamy keep it on the counter and in about 24 hours it should turn from oil into a thicker consistency.

Happy Cooking friends x Nicole


DIY GHEE RECIPE

This recipe was adapted from the BULLETPROOF DIET COOKBOOK


FEAR, IT'S A FUNNY THING || PERSONAL GROWTH STORIES || FACING ANXIETY|| PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE

“As you come to recognize the power of consciousness, that what is behind your eyes, so to speak, holds more power than what appears in front of them, your inner and outer perceptions change.” – Gary Zukav

This past year has had its fair share of ups and downs and in between, my health took to an all time low, and for some reason I decided to start caring what other people thought. I became frozen. Frozen in what to say, how to be myself, what to articulate, and WHAT am I bringing to my business? You get the idea. Obsessing about where the line is on sharing was the main focus. To share or not sharing on social media? Sharing too much of your personal life, may leave you feeling vulnerable and exposed. Or not sharing enough may lead to feeling like a phony only sharing the “highlight reel”. I found myself looking at what all these “influencers” were/ are doing and thinking well f*** I am never going to “catch up”. Do I even have anything to offer? Am I good enough? Do people care anyway?

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Not great self talk eh? I had it all wrong.

When I came to the realization that I cared WAY too much and put so much energy into caring what other people thought, I felt mentally exhausted and anxious. I turned to my therapist for help, I told her what was going on, expressing I felt I may have some unresolved social anxiety that I need to face. It comes up at social events, and if I’m really being honest, I feel that way most times before posting on social media channels.

Her response “ she once felt the same way (minus the social media part) and someone informed her that getting caught up in what others think is self absorbed. “SHUT UP!” I thought. The last thing I want is to feed narcissism and be self-absorbed! I gave myself a good hard look into the mirror and said can we move on? Is putting energy into what other people think really worth your time? Is it honestly helping you move forward in life? HELL NO.

Moving forward was simple to do. Truth, it's going to come up again, when it does we have a choice. Fear goes away when you go look at it. The fear gets bigger when you push it aside. It was facing the fear that got me to the other side.

Looking back I can laugh at myself. I wasted so much time on things that only held me back from my own truth. Lesson learned. In fact most people may not have this as an issue. Maybe their fears lie somewhere else, starting that project, launching that business, getting out of the chair to have a good time, trying something new outside of your comfort zone. Whatever it is for you, once you become aware, awake, conscious you have a choice. Using the new tool to look at your fears, face them, figure out what’s up, or run and hide from them, push them down, or drop out. The only one in the way of you is yourself. So the choice is yours.

Cheers, X Nicole


HELPFUL LINKS + TIPS :

JUDGMENT DETOX

 SUPER SOUL SUNDAY, OPRAH

You cannot become compassionate with yourself without becoming compassionate with others, or with others, your world becomes compassionate. You draw to yourself other souls of like frequency, and with them you create, through your intentions and your actions and your interactions, a compassionate world.  –Gary Zukav


CAROL+NEIL || INTIMATE SEDONA ELOPEMENT || PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE ||



Hello Friends,

Sometimes we tend to get lost in all the details of wedding planning, in the pressures to please everyone else. Wedding planning, whether you elope or go the traditional route is stressful. I remember planning my own wedding way back when (10 years ago to be exact), and having everyone around us having opinions about EVERYTHING. People seem to chime in whether you ask them to or not.  The thing is with Carol + Neil, they were smart enough to take note and say, lets tell our story, the way we want for US. And that’s exactly what they did. Best part, the elopement was a big secret, and they were going to send out an announcement after their honeymoon to let everyone know “we’ve eloped”. GENIUS. I admire them. They have gumption!

Here is Carol + Neil’s Sedona Elopement Story.  

Cheers,

-Nicole


CAROL + NEIL|| ELOPEMENT || SEDONA, MAY 25 2017.



LETTING GO || PART 2 || FACING YOUR FEARS|| PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE



“Letting go”, it sounds easy right? I cling tightly to shields, put on armor; masks even, to protect myself, fearful to let too many people get close. Why would I do that? Well, it’s too scary to let people in.

For some odd 25 years I’ve been doing this, granted I’m only 29. I’ve lived a lot of lives, and seen a lot of things. This past weekend I had a session with my therapists and they said this, you have the survival gene, most people wouldn’t have survived what you went through as a child and young adult. The tools you used, the methods you fought with, worked and got you here. But now its time to choose to put the armor down, and stop taking everyone one out. The battle is over. Take a step back and look around where you are, you aren’t there anymore in the chaos, you are here present day in 2017. So I let that sink right in. Deep. That’s it? That’s how you let go? I think it is.                                                                                                                                                      

Over the past few weeks I’d been asking myself, how do I let go? I want to so desperately to really do it. Let go, be my best self, always. I mean that is what I am striving for. I was having a hard time connecting my brain to the actions. I was doing the actions, but my brain couldn’t make sense of it all. See, I want to have the weight lifted off my shoulders, and breathe easy. I want to stop waiting for the floor to sink out from under me. Hearing my therapist say what they did in the session, I had a light bulb moment. It’s this time where I aloud myself permission to finally surrender the flag, and start living life. In that moment, right there.

Now what? Is it as easy as saying yes I get it and erasing everything that happened in the 25 years of my life? Maybe…. See, once you know the core of your crap, where it came from, what it is, what tools you use (good or bad). You can finally start saying (to yourself) stop it. I don’t need to use that tool, it isn’t necessary, and I’m safe. What I’m talking about is, those moments where you find yourself in an anxiety-ridden tizzy, instead of running in circles around it, you face it, check it out, and you explore it. When you face it, you will know what to do with it. Sounds “kooky”, but it works.

The way I look at it is this, I have two choices, I can use the armor to fend off the Calvary, take the sward and finish them all off. – Or I can retrain myself, learn new tools, stop, and be the person who I already know how to be, kind, loving, caring. Option one works, but will be the harder road. With option two, although it seems scary as hell to put down the armor, it feels freeing to let the walls down and walk a new unknown path.

Thanks for listening friends, below are some IPHONE Self Portraits I took, and editing on my phone using the vscocam app. 

Cheers,  - Nicole 




LEARNING TO LET GO || PERSONAL | ANXIETY | FACING FEARS, PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE




Hello Friends, 

Its been awhile. 

Over the past few months I hit a low. My Anxiety hit an all time high. I justified my anxiety because of the unpredictable events, house having mold, (or falling apart as Ryan would say) having to be flexible about the whole thing, being defeated by my children’s school, and the social behaviors they were dealing with, (Actually, still are dealing with) and then Work…

How did I juggle it? I dropped all the balls. There was no certainty in my little world, everything was swirling around me and I stood and watched while all the clouds came rolling in. I didn’t know which way was out, which way let the floods came in, or even how to be safe. Or keep everyone else safe.


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So I froze. And then froze some more. Instead of coming up with sensible solutions, I internalized everything, and outwardly put on a persona that was FINE by society standards. My goal was just to get through the day to day. To practice being easy going about the whole thing until I really believed it. But there were a few times I was like, when is the next crap thing going to happen? 

 When the clouds finally subsided, I thought I got this. I have been dealing with anxiety since age 6 and honestly I’ve been through much harder crap. Certainty is what I really longed for. In an uncertain situation I made matters worse, then I remembered my therapists saying, you will never have certainty. The world can’t give you that. REALLY?? At first I thought NO. HELL NO. My heart said, there has to be another way. The only way to get certainty is to make your own. Why not channel my inner survival mode instincts? Use them for good, not to fuel my anxiety. Maybe this is the best idea I’ve had in a long time…. Its time to get back on the horse stop looking left or right and plow straight ahead. 

Letting go “game plan”. The plan includes the things I am in control of; ME+ MY actions…

1.  Let go. - Life is unpredictable. Letting go isn’t easy, but when you do it feels so freeing.

2.  Truly be easy going. (No matter what) - As “cheesy” as it sounds, it’s an opportunity to learn when unexpected life events happen. Showing your kids you can stay calm when shit hits the fan is a true gift. Best part, they become easy going people too.                                                        

3.  Health (mental and physical) - Talking to therapist is always a good idea.  Exercising has done wonders for my mental health, subsides anxiety, and makes you feel SEXY!                                

4. Parenting - Committing to teaching my children to socially interact, defeat bullies, to make the world a better place, and WIN AT LIFE.                                                                                          

5. Home- Being Patient. Doing what we can in our time with our house AND BEING OKAY WITH THAT.                                                                                                                                          

6. Anxiety - FACE IT. DON’T RUN FROM IT. GET BACK ON THE HORSE. AND STAY ON, EVEN WHEN YOU HIT THE BUMPS.  ( AND, Damn those hurt!)

Thanks for listening folks; I’m excited to be back in the swing of things. And for this new uncertain chapter called LIFE. Leave a comment below, would love to hear from you!! 

Cheers,

Nicole



 

 

 

MOLD YOU WILL NOT BE THE DEATH OF ME || ARIZONA LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE || PERSONAL POST



Dear Friends, 

My apologies for my slight disappearance these last few months friends. I have found myself (and family) knee deep in black mold. First we found it in our bedroom bathroom, behind the toilet and inside the wall. So Ryan then removed it. Then we suspected it in the kitchen, so he demoed that too. Which he found more mold in the walls of the cabinets and sink. The island and storage next to the fridge is what is currently intact.

While this was being taken care of my very kind Aunt and Uncle let us stay with them. Since I am highly allergic, it’s not smart for me to be in the environment when removal is happening. In fact we ended up finding it because I had become a cesspool of sickness for months, and even though hidden behind walls I was still reacting from it. Finally once the mold was removed and air was clean again (about a week) we went back home.

A few days after returning home, we had some heavy rains here. I was doing some work on my computer and heard some noises. I investigated finding a leak in the dinning room ceiling. I noticed a water bubble in the wall and I just started nervously laughing, someone is “punking me”. Where is ASHTON? I know he will pop up here soon….

So we called the insurance again, it took about a week for them to come out. The adjuster came and inspected the leak. He Chatted with Ryan about how there is nothing he or the insurance could do; unfortunately this was just normal home wear and tear. But he suggested, because of the leak you should pull out the drywall and make sure there is no mold growth under there. That evening, I took the kids to dinner and Ryan ripped out the wall.

Guess what? We found the source… a large I mean, large amount of black mold right there in the ceiling. That night we stayed in a hotel. Now we needed to sort out how to make sure it was gone for good! This owning a home is serious business folks.




Plan of action (to defeat MOLD!):  

-Make sure we get the mold out, Clean (spray down with mold control, the area, and check the rest of the house for hidden spots)

-Get it dry, Tarp it off, put dehumidifier in the space, Keep the air cool

-Figure out how to function in house without kitchen

-Sort out health, do more research, breathe, breathe again

-Make sure to listen to my therapist; she said looks like another opportunity to practice being “easy going” listen to this advice

-Stay Calm

-Call contractors

-Call roofing companies

-Call tree removal services

- Breathe again

-Plan a home remodel

-Be excited about new kitchen, bedroom bathroom, dinning room, painting the house, (cutting down a tree that is causing your house to fall apart)

-Don’t feel guilty about cutting down a tree that is making your house fall apart

-Embrace Change

- Act like you are camping

- Cook outside, Cook food on induction burners, use crockpot, and get creative

- Wash dishes in the bathroom (no judgments please!)

- Get kids to pitch in

- Use survival instincts

- Push through until its finished

- Be easy going with the timeline of projects (contractors are busy)

- Remember this can be fun!

-Embrace the uncertainty

In some odd way I am glad we found it. Even though my house is currently a construction zone, and it’s not nearly “perfect”. I can actually say I’m okay with it.

 Life didn’t give me lemons, but I’d say more like some blank canvas to start creating on. This is an opportunity instead of loss. It’s just a house, its just “stuff”.

Mold will not be the death of me. Challenge accepted.  

- Cheers Friends, Nicole

P.S. As we progress with the house I will slowly add updates, thanks for listening friends!

REAL TALK // RAMBLING STORIES OF MOTHERHOOD // LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHER NICOLE LEE





Dear Friends,

How are you this fine Monday?

I have decided to share a story from my weekend. Some of you may approve, and others may roll their eyes. I am going to take a chance and share anyway.

On Friday evening my husband and I attended our children’s school fall festival. Now the idea in my head of what this fall festival was going to be was quite exciting, I thought pumpkins, and hay rides, and horses and hot apple cider, parents dressed up or kids dressed up in costumes. You know the small town festival that you grow up with? Much to my surprise when we walked in it was NOTHING like that!

Where were the pumpkins? And the hay rides? I don’t smell the hot apple cider!! Instead what we found was loud music that should be at a club, parents walking around with cups filled with alcohol, dressed like they were out on the town and children roaming freely from bounce house to bounce house. Kids pulling kids, kids being aggressive towards kids, and kids running around like out of control crazy’s! (That part didn’t bother me, the children roaming, well maybe. I think it was the adult Sippy cups that through me over the edge….)

Then I asked myself are you just being a helicopter parent? Maybe this is what we were supposed to be doing? To some this is fine. To some this is “kids just being kids” but I beg to differ. Maybe you don’t mind being half present and you need to be loaded in order to handle this whole parent thing. Not for me folks, not for me…so I stood there frozen, I felt like I had entered a high school kickback. And just as awkward as it was then, as I was then, I asked myself how did I end up here? With the “cool” kids once again? I don’t want to be with the cool kids, watching there faces, It wasn’t fun, maybe if I was drinking it would have been fun, but I don’t think so. I really don’t think so…. I wanted to scream, I wanted to shake these people. I wanted to get the hell out of there!!!! But we just paid WAY too much money and my children would be devastated if we left so we stayed. We made the most of it.

As Parents came up to Ryan and I while we stood outside of a bounce house, they started chatting, the things these people would say where mind blowing. Standing there like a deer in headlights, I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. Frozen, I stood and listened. Speechless. Parents shared stories of how great this was, hanging out while kids roam and we get to drink, or bragging about the night before they got so WASTED that an ambulance had to come and bring them to the ER. As I listened, this pain sank into my heart, which expanded into my gut.  My heart hurt. (Something about this doesn’t feel right) It hurt for the parents, for the children, for my children. I asked myself why can’t there be more, more kindness, more love, more happiness?

Maybe you may think I was judging them maybe you think, How could she say these things? But friends, I am tired of sitting on the sidelines folks, what is happening to our culture, our country, and the world around us? And I have had my own fair share of hiccups, and I am NOT claiming I am a perfect parent, or person. I also don’t think JESUS needs to save you in order to be a good parent but what happened to having some standards, or showing up? There is nothing wrong with drinking, but what are the intentions behind all the charade? Is it this the only way we can be parents, are you trying to escape, or enjoy the moments with your loved ones?

What is happening to the hope of us becoming more empathetic and loving towards each other? Towards our children, and teaching our children to do the same?

I still have that hope, do you??

Thanks for listening friends.

Leave a comment below, we'd love to hear your thoughts.