Knickerbocker Gin Fizz with Kumquats, Fir Syrup and Hop Soda

For your New Years enjoyment, I came up with this unique and delicious cocktail sure to impress any foodie you may be entertaining the next couple days.  I had coffee with a good friend the other day who introduced me to “Hop Soda“.  This locally made, bubbly beverage is made with real hops and cane sugar and is surprisingly delicious.  My friend recommended mixing it with a little gin for an enjoyable cocktail.  So what did I find underneath the Christmas tree from my enlightened husband? A bottle of my favorite gin, Knickerbocker, –also made locally by New Holland Distillery— and two cans of Hop Soda.  In thinking of a cocktail to feature on this blog I decided to take my friends recommendation and run with it.
So I walked into the backyard at 11 pm –it was 10 degrees by the way–, cut down some stems from a Douglas Fir tree in the corner of our lot, and boiled a Fir Simple syrup.  I was inspired.



This is what I came up with.  Piney, citrusy gin with a dash of fir syrup, fresh squeezed, tart kumquats and my new friend, Hop Soda.  Let me tell you, it is a win.  The fir syrup has a beautiful citrus flavor to it –in case you’re wondering, Fir (or Spruce) syrup is a thing, I didn’t just make it up– that you could use in a variety of culinary adventures.


So if you’re adventurous like me, and want something really special to bring in the New Year, give this a try.  It’s sure to please.


Fir Gin Fizz with Kumquats and Hop Soda
4 to 5 ice cubes
1 Tablespoon fir simple syrup (recipe below)
2 t fresh squeezed kumquats
3 oz gin (recommended Knickerbocker Gin by New Holland Distillery)
4 oz Hop Soda

Combine. Stir. Sip.

Fir Simple Syrup
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 cups fresh cut spruce or fir (the evergreens that have stems like Christmas trees –but don’t use your Christmas tree because they are usually covered in pesticides and chemicals)

Bring water and sugar to a boil.  Turn off heat.  Add fir stems and allow to cool.  Strain off stems.  Store in mason jar in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

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Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Body Image

Baby Steps

It’s that time of year again.  The time when you bury yourself in guilt and grief for all the bad habits you promised to displace from the year before, but somehow still cling to like a barnacle to a sunken ship.  Rather than revel in your accomplishments you tend to steep in resentment and grief because you are not the person you wish you were.  But a new year is coming, and there is hope that you can change for the better.  And if health is one of your goals –and for most of us it is– you may have already used your Christmas money to buy new running shoes and a discounted gym membership, because this year, you are going to get in shape, make time for yourself, eat healthy…et al.  You may have made this resolution before, many times even.  High on your zeal of the opportunity of a “new you”, you start running 4 miles every other day or visit the gym 3 times a week.  All of a sudden carbs are evil and you swear to your friends and family that it’s not a diet, it’s a “lifestyle change”.  But somehow, your zeal doesn’t hold up and you won’t make it until 2015.  Somewhere along the way you will fall flat on your face.

Willow is just learning to walk.  When she first started, she would almost try to sprint into my arms and I would have to dive to keep her from all out face planting.  But over time she has learned to slow down.  It started with just one or two steps at a time.  Then a few days later she could take three or four steps.  Now she is walking halfway across the room without anyone there to cheer her on.  And making drastic changes in your life, is a lot like that. It’s like learning to walk all over again.  And, like learning to walk, making changes permanent is most successful with baby steps.


Now at this point you are rolling your eyes at the screen and smirking a little because all you can think about is Dr. Leo Marvin introducing the idea of “baby steps” to his obsessive compulsive and manipulative patient “Bobby” in the classic 90’s cult classic, “What About Bob?”. Imagining yourself walk around saying “baby steps onto the scale” is enough to make you want to throw the “baby steps” out with the bath water. Here, let me refresh you.

Every so often we discover this motivation from some dark, secret place in the universe and it propels us to change our lives in drastic ways –usually for the better– and then we go buck wild, much like my daughter Willow, flailing as fast as we can toward whichever goal we aspire.  And maybe it works for a little while, but most of the time, something comes our way and throws us off course or we get burnt out or injured or just plain hungry.  And this is my story, many times over.


But recently, I have taken a different approach to health. The practice of spiritual disciplines can be slow and mundane, seeing little to no results in the present, but one year later you look back and you realize that the act of small, simple rituals has made you a completely different person.  This is how I view movement towards any kind of lifestyle change. I believe the small choices I make in the present will add up over time.  I have taken it slow and have introduced healthy routines gradually.

Currently, I run 3 miles twice a week and workout with Nike Training Club twice a week, recently upping the intensity. But I didn’t start this way.  I started with one walk, twice a week.  Then I started doing Nike Training Club once a week for 6 weeks.  When I could accomplish that without feeling like I was going to completely die, I added jogging every Saturday morning.  And so on.  Rather than making an abrupt diet change, I just started recording what I ate for every meal, everyday using MyFitnessPal.  If I went over in calories, that was fine.  What was important was the ritual of recording it daily.  But that ritual made me aware of what I was putting in my body.  Then slowly I made small changes in my diet in order to stay under my daily calorie allowance.  Once I had been successful with that I started looking at the nutritional breakdown of what I was eating.  I realized I was eating twice as much sugar as recommended and not nearly enough iron and potassium. But rather than doing this in a week, I spent several months tweaking my habits and choices.


Bobby is right, “baby steps” do work.  But you don’t need a new year to take a small step towards a life full of health, you just need one ordinary day.  Maybe now you can use your New Year’s resolution to love yourself better or get rid of all of the junk in your house or spend more time with your family or donate time or money to a fitting cause.  And next year you will look back and wonder how you have become a changed person.


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Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Culture, Parenthood

My Response to Miley Cyrus and “Free the Nipple”


Recently, pop icon Miley Cyrus posted a picture of herself on twitter, lifting her top and exposing her breasts.  Hiding her nipples were two hearts reading “Merry Christmas” and the tweet read, “THANK YOU NY for being one of the few states to @freethenipple.” Later, she added, “It’s not about getting your [breasts] out. It’s about equality.”

And the nation was in uproar.

I live in the GREAT state of Michigan, namely southwestern Michigan.  If you are unaware, the people of west Michigan aren’t particularly known for being raging liberals.  In fact, in some circles, calling someone a liberal is a downright insult.  I was raised in a conservative Christian home, like the majority of my local peers, and still cling to the Christian faith. And yet, I did not feel so offended by the news of Cyrus’s tweet.

“Free the Nipple” is a film directed by Lina Esco, an LA based actress and activist, that tells a story of a woman facing several arrests for public nudity and a journalist’s investigation on the issue. According to Robin Abcarian of the LA Times in her article, “The Real Story Behind Miley Cyrus’s ‘free the nipple’ Tweet“, “The movie was partly inspired by Esco’s freespirited best friend, Sarabeth Stroller, whose mother was kicked out of church for breastfeeding when Sarabeth was 5 months old.”  As a breastfeeding mom, this caught my attention.

I have chosen (and have been fortunate enough to be able) to breastfeed my daughter for the past year.  In fact, I hope I can breastfeed her until she’s 2.  But, it didn’t come easy.  The first month of her life, every 2-3 hours, I had to hold back tears every time she latched on because my nipples were so sore.  It was something I had to work hard for.  I fought with the everything I had to give that gift of nourishment and health to my daughter.  So when I –finally– left the house and needed to feed my daughter in public, I was overwhelmed with the feelings of fear and shame for revealing my breasts in public and I wanted to cover up.  When, at times, I chose not to cover up, I received countless looks, snickers and embarrassed aversions of the eyes.  And the question kept pummeling through my mind, like a runaway train, “Why are breasts deemed so wrong?”  The answer to this question brings great irony to Cyrus’ tweet, for as she so desires freedom for women she is at the same time hindering it.

Being nude is not wrong.  The female body is not dirty. But why is a naked women inappropriate? Why is it said that men are, apparently, “incapable of controlling themselves”, and women; therefore, need to cover up to protect themselves?  Because our society is drowned in the idea that the female body is an object to be possessed and is meant for sexual pleasure (it is also through the history of our patriarchal society but I am not going to go there right now). It is through the objectification and over sexualization of women in the media and the porn industry that designates shame to the act of female nudity. Is nudity wrong? No.  Objectification is, and Cyrus, like almost all female pop stars and characters in the media, willingly commit themselves to this objectification on a daily basis.  While I am not throwing all the blame onto these women, by any means, I will say that Cyrus’ tweet is a little ironic. —for an educated and thorough discussion on the objectification and over sexualization of women please read “Are Women Human?” by Catharine MacKinnon

After breastfeeding for a year now, my entire perspective on breasts has completely changed.  Breasts are not sex objects, they are tools.  Every time I see a naked breast in a film my first thought is nourishment of a child, and the eroticism becomes obtuse and laughable.  But I have also become discontent about our culture that objectifies, over sexualizes and demonizes female nudity, leaving many mothers covered or in the other room, removed from conversation.  After fighting so hard to achieve healthy breastfeeding, it just seems unfair.

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So while I am not applauding Cyrus for her “daring” attempt at feminism, I will state that things need to change.  It is my hope that someday neither culture, religious stigmas nor the media will keep a woman from breastfeeding, a girl from feeling proud of her body or a man from viewing a female as anything other than human, never something to posses.

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Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Banana Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting// willow’s refined sugar and grain free birthday cake

I am not a cake person.  Maybe it’s the flavorless, oil dense loaf deluged with a pasty, vegetable shorting and powder sugar concoction, sure to give even the most fit of us some form of diabetes, synonymous with grocery store “cake” that I truly despise. Or maybe it’s that a freshly baked, strawberry rhubarb pie is better than life, not to mention cake, and is my sweet of choice for any celebratory occasion, including our wedding.  So as Willow’s birthday quickly approached, I felt unsure of what to serve for that iconic 1st birthday moment.  You know, the moment we all have from our first birthday, captured in an old photo, face and hair completely submerged in frosting. So, I decided I would part ways with my pie loyalty and bake a cake. The trouble is, Willow has never had anything close to refined sugar. Nor has she consumed much more than half an English muffin’s worth of white flour in her whole life. It seemed problematic to give a nap deprived, one-year-old, surrounded by strangers, the sugar buzz of her life and expect her not have a total meltdown by the time her buzz crashed. Call me a Scrooge, but I did not want that to happen. I scoured the internet for refined sugar free cake recipes and came up empty handed.  I guess people don’t like a sugarless cake. I get it.  A cake is meant to be an indulgence, a once in a long while splurge.  Only a complete lunatic would omit sugar. As a result, I came up with this banana, carrot cake, that is not only refined sugar free but is also grain and gluten free; and really, it was pretty good.

I love throwing parties but always seem to find myself caramelizing onions or whipping egg whites until 1 am the night before.   Willow’s party was no exception, and I left her cake for the last minute (hence the horrible lighting in these photos).  You see, I had made a practice cake the day before to see if my recipe would be somewhat edible.  Originally, I had planned on making an avocado, cream cheese frosting –mainly for the gorgeous color but also as a way to sneak this healthy fruit into my daughter’s diet– but (apparently) avocados turn color after they oxidize –chef foul—.  My test cake was brown by morning.  The cake was also a little dense and dry, so I had to make some other adjustments.  Along with this task of a cake, I also made three hors d’oeuvres and a cheese plate that night.  I don’t remember being that tired since Willow was born.

The cake is made from a balance of a lot of ingredients.  The flours I used were coconut flour, almond flour and arrowroot starch.  Plantains, bananas, coconut milk, shredded apple and carrot gave the cake moisture.  In a food processor I pureed all the wet ingredients while I mixed together the dry in a large bowl.


I then mixed the wet and dry together and folded in a soft meringue to add sponginess.


I baked the cake for 50 minutes, giving the perfect consistency.  The cake seemed a little underdone at first but with carry over cooking it was just right and would have been over done if baked any longer.  Each cake easily cut in half to make four layers.

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The frosting was slightly sweet from the maple syrup, but not overpowering like a traditional frosting.  I used cream cheese because I thought it would remain a creamy frosting even without the powder sugar, unlike a buttercream.  Like any carrot cake, cream cheese frosting is always a good choice.


Overall, the party was great.  I had all these ideas in my mind of how to make the food, the ambiance, the decor, truly superb.  When those ideas didn’t get completely actualized, it was ok, because it was Willow’s day, and she had a blast.

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And the cake turned out ok.

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And we were surrounded by people we love.

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And the food was yummy.

If you are looking for a cake to bake for a special diet or don’t want your kids to go crazy from sugar on their birthday, this recipe really takes the cake.

Banana Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
(for two 8″ round cakes,serves 12)
Cake Ingredients:
1 1/2 c coconut flour
1 c almond flour
1/2 c arrowroot flour
4 t baking soda
4 t ground cinnamon
4 t maple syrup
1/2 t sea salt
1 c shredded carrots
1 apple shredded (I used gala)
2 ripe bananas
2 ripe plantain
6 eggs
3 egg white
1 c coconut milk
1 c unsweetened apple sauce
2 t vanilla
coconut oil for greasing

Frosting Ingredients:
2-8oz packages of cream cheese
1 c butter
3/4 c maple syrup
2 1/2 T sour cream
1 t vanilla
8 oz heavy whipping cream

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease two 8″ round cake pans with coconut oil. In a food processor, puree all the wet ingredients except the egg whites (I had to do 2 batches). In a large mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients including shredded apple and carrots.
2. Fold pureed wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Whip egg whites into soft peaks. Gently fold them into the rest of the cake batter.
3. Bake for 50 minutes and let cool for 5 minutes. The cake will seem a little underdone, but it will firm up as the cake cools. Take the cake out of the pan and allow to finish cooling on wire rack.
4. In a mixing bowl combine all frosting ingredients except the whipping cream. Whip with an electric mixer. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of frosting. Whip heavy whipping cream to soft peaks. Fold whipped cream into reserved 1 1/2 cups of frosting for outside of cake.

Once the cake is completely cool, cut each cake in half using a serrated knife. Stack each cake on top of each other, using a good portion of frosting in between each layer (I used all the frosting meant for the middle). Trim the outside of the cake with your serrated knife to make all of the sides even and the top flat. Frost the outside with whipped cream and frosting mixture. Decorate and serve. Keep refrigerated.


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Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Happy Birthday Willow

It’s been a crazy year.

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68667_4594676676464_31594014_n564105_905693752388_1887161106_nLife changing.

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This girl…kills me.

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baby1DSC_0776baby3There were moments Jazz and I wondered if we were going to make it.

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But it’s been a year…and we’re still here.992969_4838426529028_509321412_n

And we are all the better. We deserve a cocktail.

And she deserves some cake.


Happy Birthday girl!


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Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.