All That’s Happened and the Healing Wonders of Sarah Addison Allen!

Sarah Addison Allen has done it again! I just finished reading her second most recent novel, “Lost Lake”. Most of you should know that my favorite author is Sarah Addison Allen, (i.e.: 50 facts about me post). But, I don’t believe you know just how much she’s meant to me and my journey through my recent years of life. I first discovered Sarah Addison Allen’s literary work in the summer of 2009. That was the summer I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, my official diagnosis was papillary carcinoma with follicular variant. That was one of the longest years of my life. From the FNA (that said I didn’t have cancer. What they didn’t know was they got a sample of a cystic nodule, that sat atop the cancer), the initial surgery, to the follow-up surgery (as they found out after the first surgery that I did in fact have cancer), radiation, a blood infection (due to a weakened immune system), going into a hypocalcemic episode and then justing to thyroid hormone replace therapy. It was a lot for me and my family to endure given my already complicated medical history. But honest to God, I can say one of the things that tied me back to myself was the wonderful stories told by Sarah Addison Allen. She gave me a unwavering sense of hope, faith in the extraordinarily ordinary everyday and reaffirmed my belief in the power of a great story!

I’ve read everything from “Garden Spells”, “Girl Who Chased the Moon”, “The Sugar Queen”, and “The Peach Keeper”. Each and every book unlocked a piece of myself I never knew I had or had neglected or had forgotten about. Ms. Allen has woven tale after tale of strong female characters, good and honorable men, the importance of friendship, a since of faith, community and beauty and magic that arises not only in nature but in the people that we encounter in life; who help us become who we are. I couldn’t be more grateful for Sarah Addison Allen or her talents as a storyteller. I honestly believe that she is a gift that I was given. And I know that many of her other fans will feel the same exact way!
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“Lost Lake”, was exactly what I needed, and I didn’t even know it. At the end of each of Sarah Addison Allen’s books I part with such bittersweet sorrow. The feeling of saying goodbye to those characters after she make you fall in love with them is like no other feeling. I’ve never been in love and so the characters that resonated with me the most were, Devin and Lisette. Devin reminded me so much of myself as a child. She was mature and intuitive enough to know what was going on in the worlds of the adults around her. But, still very much a unique, free spirited and silly little girl. As for Lisette, I found small instances when I realized that was something I had either done or would have responded quite simularly. She was stubborn, was a skilled chef and baker and she was guarded and reluctant to love. There was such peace as I turned to the next page and the page after that, until it was finshed.
I very vaguely mentioned to you all a couple months ago the new medical issues I was dealing with. But, I was reluctant to give full details. I am so grateful for this blog. A part of me is so willing to open up different facets of myself and share them with you all, knowing that you’ll appreciate or understand those things about me. But, I’ve had a very different upbringing than most with my extensive medical issues. It’s made me guarded, I didn’t know how to share with you all everything that I’ve been going through. So here it is, I have something called a thymoma. A thymoma is a mass that grows within  or surrounding your thymus gland. It was discovered back in August, after returning from a trip to California. And since I’m being more open I might as well tell you that was the worst trip of my life. During that trip to California, the day after arriving I was notified that one of my dearest friends had been murdered. It was during a string of shootings in Baltimore, involving innocent bystanders. His name was Devin Cook.
This is Devin (last year at the lacrosse “Final Four”)
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Devin was a wonderful, lively and passionate soul I met at school. He was only 20 years old. I only knew him a year and a half, but that was long enough to know 4 things for certain. 1. I loved him very much as a dear friend, 2. I will be forever grateful I ever had the chance to know him and call him my dear friend, 3. A part of me will miss him for the rest of my life and 4. His favorite song was “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. I decided to return home from California a week early, and I hadn’t been feeling well. I chalked it up to being depressed given what I just found out. But, upon my return I was experiencing sharp pains in my back that wouldn’t let up. My mom being the intuitive person and persistent nurse that she is decided I need to go to the hospital. They told me I had a kidney infection and that I needed to receive IV antibiotics. To diagnose the kidney infection they needed a CT scan and that’s how they discovered I had the mass in my chest. So, as heartbroken as I still am that I lost my dear friend Devin, every fiber of my being believes that it is because of him that I found out about my diagnosis. He saved me. These past months of receiving IVIG treatment to treat an associated illness called Mysthenia Gravis, that is commonly linked with thymoma have been tough and intense. At times I have felt lost and less than myself. But, I took time to rediscover everything that I had learned in the books of Sarah Addison Allen. I reread each that I own, so although I never lost faith, I found hope. I carried the books to doctors appointments, treatment sessions and fell asleep with them by my pillow. The meaning that I have gained from reading the books of Sarah Addison Allen stand at the apex of some of the greatest treasures of my life. I anxiously await the paperback release of her newest literary work, “First Frost”!! As I normally destroy a hardcover book…lol! I haven’t reached the end of the road on my newest journey, but I see it in sight! And I am going to reach it with grace, faith, hope and love from the support of family, friends and knowing I have the works of the Sarah Addison Allen to light my way!
Do yourself a favor and go purchase all of her literary works ASAP! Your heart, mind and soul will not only thank you for it but reward you in turn!
You can find info about the author herself and where you can find and purchase her books at: www.sarahaddisonallen.com
Here’s some quick high points to update you on:
1. My brother and his love of 10 years, Heidi and the mother of my nieces Mia and Emi, are getting married!!!
2. I am doing the wedding cake…eek! And I am a bridesmaid…one life goal down, check!
3. I will be having the surgery to remove my thymoma the first week of June at University of Maryland Medical Center.
4. I turn 25 on April 20th. I am officially a quarter of a century old, oh how exciting…no REALLY!!!
5. I couldn’t be happier for the beginning of spring and the summer to come! So, look forward to lots of blogging!
6. I too am writing a full length novel. And although I expect nothing to come from it, it’s been one of the most therapeutic and glorious endeavors I’ve ever pursued.
7. I have now added to my “Happen List” to meet Sarah Addison Allen!!
8. Here some pics of me in treatment from the past months…
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Be well loves!
P E A C E + L O V E + B A K I N G !

Wednesday’s with WinniE’s! (June 4th)

Hey guys, happy Wednesday! Yes, I know…it’s Thursday, Thursday evening at that.

Sorry to get this post up so late, things are really happening at WinniE’s Bakery. It’s “wedding season” and graduation time, so that means lots of orders=lots of work…yay! I love being busy, I thrive on the balancing act that is work and life. I am learning and enjoying the journey! Anyway, I wanted to show you guys a special order I did for one of my favorite customers. It was an out of season order, but for her, I will always make this exception. Her favorite item on the WinniE’s menu is my “Winter Special” ‘Peppermint Mocha’ cupcake. I was more than happy to accommodate, she had loved the cupcakes so much she wanted have them as apart of her sister’s birthday celebration.

Here’s what’s been happening in WinniE’s Bakery…

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Just a sprinkle…

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Now to box!

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I hope you guys like this weeks post. I know that this weeks post was short, but hopefully sweet! Until next week!

 

P E A C E  + L O V E + B A K I N G !

E

Wednesday’s with WinniE’s! (May 28th)

Hey guys, happy WEDNESDAY!

So sorry I missed last weeks post, I had fallen ill. But, I am all better now (not really) but my spirits are high and some of my energy has returned…yay! Exciting things have been happening at WinniE’s Bakery. It’s graduation, barbeque/cookout and wedding season!!! And, everybody knows WinniE’s Bakery is “where you can always find your piece of sweet!” Each season I host a “Bite & Buy” party, to debut new and seasonal treats I have created. The party aims to premote our new additions to the menu, enocurage old customers to reorder and cultivate new clientelle. So far, over the spring I’ve created the “Jordy’s Triple B” cupcake, “David’s Strawberry Delight” cupcake, “Banana ‘Nana’ Infused” cupcake w/ Nutella buttercream and lastly, our “Lemon Coconut Creme” cupcake. I have been so fortunate that I’ve been and continue to be inspired by the undeniable multitude of things that life has to offer. I am currently developing new recipes for the bakery and they will be feautred on the menu and I couldn’t be more excited! Of course you guys will be the first to know, seeing as I share my ‘TEST’ baking sessions with you all each Wednesday…you guys are that special to me! Anyway, I wanted to share with you a glimps into my most recent “Bite & Buy” party.

Here is a look into what was the outcome…

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After the festivities were finished, we sent “to-go” boxes home with our guest!

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How cute!

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See you guys again next Wednesday, for “Wednesday’s with WinniE’s”. I hope you guys enjoyed this post!

P E A C E + L O V E + B A K I N G

E

A Night To Remember: The Sweet Serenades of Ms. Kina Grannis & Imaginary Future

Hey guys, happy Thursday!

I am incredibly excited to share this post with you all (although I have been nervous out of my mind to write it!) I had the unrivaled honor of attending the Kina Grannis concert, at “The Birchmere” in Alexandria, Va. The concert was last Monday and I remember being so excited, anxious and blissfully unaware of the stupid grin I had worn all day leading up to the concert! Through the entirty of the performance, until I went to sleep…quite honestly. I am a “new” fan of Ms. Grannis, I discovered her via Google+, while I was in the hospital. I could not be more grateful now looking back, that I clicked on that ‘recommended’ button! She is a natural, raw and powerful talent…a true artist! She’s a singer, songwriter, producer, performer, artist, songstress, a tiny songbird with a big voice! Her songs evoke such emotion, it’s all most as if it is palpable with each verse, each bridge, each chorus, she utters into the universe, dancing along on the meledies she strums with her guitar (PLUS: she and her band have great synchonicity!) Anyway, I don’t want to spend my entire post trying to describe what it is, means or feels like to be in the presences that is “Ms. Kina Grannis”, so I will just have to show you a little bit of my experience.

Here is a look…

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On the way!

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“The Birchmere”

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Ms. Colbie Caillat + Mr. B.B. King!

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Kina’s opening act was a talent by the name of Jesse Epstein aka: Imaginary Future (I LOVE that stage name). Imaginary Future is a strong lyrical, deeply moving, capitvating and stoic musician…which is probably why is music is so rich with the realities and the moments in life the heart endures. He was an absolute pleasure to watch and experience, as he serenaded the entire audience with his acoustic set, into dumb-founded ahhh! P.S.: He was also smart enough to “put a ring on it” and he is the other 1/2 to the lovely Ms. Kina! Next up, Ms. KINA GRANNIS!

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I had video snipits of both her and Imaginary Future’s performance, but for whatever reason I am unable to import them into this post. Anyway, she was gracious enough to indulge the audience and she played 3 or 4 encore songs, I do believe.

Here are some cheeky quotes she shared with us during her performance:

“I always struggled with the idea of impermanance.” ~ Kina Grannis (song: “Forever Blue”, inspired by her grandfather’s passing)

“There are your faces, nice to meet them.” ~ Kina Grannis (referring to having more lighting, abling her to see her audience)

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The line and well worth the wait!Image

Imaginary Future and I. He was so kind and very approachable. Is it weird, that I think I fell “in love” with both him and his wife, that night?! That was probably an overshare, but who cares…THIS IS MY BLOG! P.S.: Sorry the quality of these photos aren’t the best.

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That ENTIRE night, will FOREVER be burned into my brain as one of the loveliest experiences I have ever had!!! Kina was warm and incredibly easy to talk to! I told her about how I had wanted to bake her something, but ran out of time. So, I asked her about what kind of baked goods she enjoys and she told me, then I promised to bring her something original. I will create some kind of confection called the “Kina” and bring it to her, at her next show in the “dmv” area, in the fall. I look forward to that moment!!! She was so generous with herself and time for each and every fan who waited to see/meet her! I would like to say, “Thank you!”, to Kina Grannis, Imaginary Future and her band for an amazing, one-of-a-kind experience, that I will carry with me and cherish for the rest of my life! Gosh I am sappy!

Both Kina’s and Imaginary Future’s weblinks:

http://kinagrannis.com/

http://www.imaginaryfuture.com/

You can purchase both of their new albums on iTunes and you can follow + like their respective social media. Everythink from YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I have!

Until next time you guys!

P E A C E + L O V E + B A K I N G

E

 

Wednesday’s with WinniE’s! (May 14th)

Hello everybody, happy Wednesday!!

How is eveyone doing?! I am well and feeling inspired. As you all you, I am incredibly close to my family (not just my immediate). My dad is 1 of 7 children and my mom 1 of 3. So, I can honestly say, my family doesn’t know what a “small get together is like”. I was fortunate enough to grow-up with my cousins. We were always at each others houses, playing “Power Rangers”, while climbing trees or reenacting our FAVORITE music video…The Notorious B.I.G.: Mo Money Mo Problems…ahhh good times! Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, my cousin Jordan (aka Jordy) was visiting and we started talking about the new recipes I have been developing for Spring. I told him about how I plan to create a new recipe for each family member. Of course, he was ready to tell me about what flavor elements he would want incorporated into his cupcake. Jordy said he wanted buttermilk, bacon, cinnamon and sugar. After, some thought I knew that this would be a phenomenal recipe, you see I come from a family of foodies + cooks. Plus, Jordy has plans of attending culinary arts school…so proud! I was so inspired to create this recipe, I wrote it in 5mins, but I have been so busy lately that it has taken me 2 weeks to tryout the recipe in the ‘TEST’ kitchen. But, today was the day…I baked what I tentatively call “Jordan’s BBB + Cinnamon cupcake”, it’s a buttermilk + bacon cupcake with a creme brulee top, and a cinnamon + Bourbon infused buttercream!

Here’s a look at what happened in the bakery today…

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And now a little music…I even have a playlist, just for cooking and baking!

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All set-up and ready…

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Fresh out of the oven!

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Stationed…now let’s do this!

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A little something sweet!

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All done!!! 

I am incredibly pleased with how this recipe turned out! I look forward to debuting it, this weekend at my “Bite + Buy” party! Have a spectacular rest of your week, until next time. See you next Wednesday, for “Wednesday’s with WinniE’s”!

P E A C E + L O V E + B A K I N G

E

 

Mother’s Day: A Dinner, Some Cake & Other Lovely Happenings!

Hey guys, happy Monday!

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend, I know I did! I feel unfathomably and unimaginably grateful for the blessing that is my MOMMY!! She is my bestfriend and she never ceases to amaze me. She is undoubtably the strongest woman I know. My mom is loving, a fighter, a smart-ass, a medical encyclopedia and the best go-getter around. Now look, I adore Oprah as much as the next (let’s be honest…probably more than most), but my mom rivals her on a daily basis (and my mom doesn’t have multiple teams of people to help, assist or orchestrate her life and career!) She envisions, plans, works her ASS OFF, then makes her own damn dreams come true! I CAN’T hold back my tears as I write this post. She was nearly taken from my family and I, just 6 days before my 21st birthday. She had sustained fatal medical trauma, but by the grace of God, she is still here with us, being a blessing in our lives, day-in and day-out! Just months after leaving the hospital she completed her PhD and is now 1 semester away from finishing her 2nd. Master’s degree. She is a phenomenal WOMAN, mother, wife, daughter, friend, human and all the rest of the minutely significant attributes that amalgamate the person that I call Mommy! HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!! 
Here is a look at the day…
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My SPECIAL little helper!
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 This is one of the lovely Gluten-free flours WinniE’s Bakery uses!

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Round one done! Now on to round 2!

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So this is the unfinished result. I made my mother a Gluten-free “‘David’s’ Strawberry Delight cake w/ Lemon Cream Cheese Buttercream”. I had planned on decorating it with floral accents and lettering saying, “You’re the best, Happy Mother’s Day”, but she couldn’t wait. So, unfortunately we ate the cake in it’s more rustic form…lol!

Dinner:

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Tonight’s players: a little garlic, thyme, wild spring mushroom, organic locally grown asparagus, locally sorced leeks and arborio rice. I decided to make Wild Spring Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto topped w/ Pan Seared Shrimp. Growing up my dad always cooked, especially for holiday’s, but as life got busier and I got older I started following in his footsteps. So now, I often cook the meals for special occasions or my dad and myself tag team the effort!

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Almost done.

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Dad working his culinary magic! He is making his famous “Bruschetta Tomatoes”, a lovely accompaniment to the risotto.

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Unfortunately, my brothers couldn’t make dinner because they have families of their own now, but that’s ok…since I am the ‘baby’ every now and again I like having my parents all to myself!

After dinner we went to visit my dad’s mom. Visiting her is always a blessing and a riot, being she is 90 years old and a firecracker, to boot! 

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My mom’s mother passed when I was 14. Even though it is rounding 10 years since her passing, times like this are really hard for my mom. She was as close to my Nana, as I am to her. I named my bakery after her. WinniE’s Bakery is done with love and completely in honor of her spirit and the passions she pursued during her time here on earth.

We ended the night with PRESENTS! We got her these new mosaic/art deco plates from Williams-Sonoma. And I think it’s safe to say she LOVED them. She was surprised too…which is amazing becuase she is really hard to buy for, which is why I tend to make things for her.

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Lol…I made her close her eyes!

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Make sure you guys celebrate the deserving mother’s, women or parents in your life! I hope you guys liked it, see you tomorrow for “Wednesday’s with WinniE’s”!

P E A C E + L O V E + B A K I N G

 

E

Wednesday’s with WinniE’s! (May 7th)

Hey everybody, happy Wednesday…NOT!

Yes, I do realize it’s Friday. I have unfortunately, for one reason or another, been unable to get a WinniE’s post up on time for the past few weeks. Which, really, really eerks me! I love my blog, I love the support of you all and I try really hard to share interesting, personal, authentic, positive, genunie, deliciously different and utterly delectable post. Anyway, things have been CRAZY at WinniE’s Bakery, for those of you who don’t already know, this week is “National Nurse’s Week”. This is a very special week for me because, not only is my mother a nurse, and my sister-in-law soon to attend nursing school (her mother is nurse as well), but I spent a great deal of my life growing up in the hospital. I suffer from a couple significant medical conditions, but that has never stop me! You want to know why, (aside from the love and support of my family and friends) I have a secret weapon…my MOM!!! In my eyes, I believe there is no great advocate, voice of reason and beacon of insight than to have a nurse on your side…but I am so obviously bias. So, this week WinniE’s Bakery was comissioned for an order for some of the nurses at Children’s National Medical Center, in Washington DC. 

I fought through tehnical difficulty, after technical difficulty, after another, to share this post with you guys. Here is a small glimps into what went on in the bakery…

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My lovely Aunt Nette bought this delicate and stunning tea cup/coffee mug, as my birthday present! It’s so pretty it took me about 2 weeks to decide if I wanted to drink from it or just keep it as a novelty piece.

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A good place to start.

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The start of a little caramel…just bubbling away!

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The order consisted of the flavors, “Lemon Coconut Creme”, “Red Velvet w/ Vanilla Cream Cheese Buttercream” and “Triple Chocolate w/ Salted Caramel Buttercream”

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All packaged up and ready for delivery!

I hope you all liked this Wednesday’s with WinniE’s post! Until next time…