In Transition: A Baby and a Business


It’s been quiet here, in this little web-based lens on the world that I’ve built, because real life has been anything but.  Most of the food I’ve eaten lately has been, oh-so-thankfully, not prepared by me, but by my family and friends who have brought casseroles and soups to stock up our freezer and keep our bellies full as we focus on the needs of our recently expanded family.  

After a challenging year of ups and downs, including but not limited to my hubby’s six month deployment, the Terrible Two’s (please, pulling a reframe and calling them the Terrific Two’s just doesn’t cut it…), and a career shift, we welcomed into our family the little man that made the whole experience just a little more interesting.

Maxwell Brooks Harrold was born after a wild and powerful labour, at 8 lbs 8 oz, in the water, at home, surrounded by love and wisdom and support.  He is already proving to be the kind of stalwart, solid individual who appreciates a good feed and a satisfying nap:  he fits into our family just fine.

Ada and Max

Those who know me best know that I can’t leave well enough alone, that birthing a baby and nursing him around the clock, though exquisitely satisfying, isn’t the only endeavour I’m launching into this year.  

And so it is, my dear readers, that you become some of the first to find out the other reason Purple House Cafe has been dormant of late:  I am slowly and quietly unveiling a business, which has been in development for the better part of the last year, but which has lived in my dreams, in one way or another, for much longer.

Nalumana Women’s Wellness is an online and location-independent women’s wellness centre, a place where I will be offering doula, lactation educator, and life coaching services, as well as partnering with other local wellness practitioners to offer birth, life design and adventure-based retreats, workshops and community events.  

Nalumana is also an online venue through which I will continue blogging with an expanded repertoire including not just food and recipe posts, but wellness, birth, mothering, adventure and travel writing as well.  

At the centre of my purpose with Nalumana Women’s Wellness is to create a space that invites women to tend to their own wellness, to tap into their own courage and empowerment, and to create a community of likeminded ladies who can support each other to live  healthy, vibrant and wildly adventurous lives.

So, you might wonder, where does this leave us, internet foodies who’ve come to gather here for the last two and a half years (!), look at pretty pictures, patiently read my stories, and make great food?  

It leaves me grateful, first of all, for the gigantic learning curve of Purple House Cafe:  I hope that the lessons I’ve learned become evident the minute you bounce on over to the Nalumana website.  It leaves you reading recipes cross-posted a few times a month from Nalumana back here, at least for now, until I decide what lies in store for this space.  And, I hope, most of all, that it leaves you with a new favourite website for your bookmark list, which just might nourish you in all the same ways, and more, that I hope Purple House Cafe has over the years.

Before I let you hop on over there to learn more about what Nalumana is, how I came up with the name, and hopefully to subscribe to the Nalumana Wellness blog (and subsequently receive a free (awesome) workbook entitled “7 Steps to a Bigger, Bolder Life”), I want to give you a little sneak preview of what’s to come this month on Nalumana…

There’s this little kale salad with honey pepper bacon, pistachios and parmesan – simple but incredibly satisfying:

Kale Salad |

And then there’s this (and note, you’re getting a sneak preview that no one else has seen yet, here!) – my first true foray into the world of video, in a deeply personal and meaningful way…something I’ve been harbouring close for a few months now (as evidenced by the snow in the background) that I’m ready to share.  I hope you enjoy it.

Video music courtesy of Nina Lee, Sacred Pregnancy.

…on being a doula…and a recipe for Groaning Cake

…on being a doula…and a recipe for Groaning Cake

Over a year ago now, myself and my hubby were at the neighbour’s for Christmas dinner.  I was thirty-seven weeks pregnant and had been feeling like my baby was going to kick her way out through my ribs and onto my plate of turkey.  Turns out, that was exactly what she had planned:  I stood up and felt the tell-tale trickle.  My water had broken.

Sometimes women’s water breaks spontaneously before labour, sometimes not.  It’s often followed by the onset of contractions.  For me, this was not the case.

My frantic, trembling rush (three weeks early!  no!  I had to finish up at work!  the Christmas tree was still up!  the baby blanket wasn’t finished!  the brand new iPad I had gotten for Christmas was still in the box!) to the hospital to confirm that my water had broken was greeted with…nothing.

Over the next few days I drew on every remedy in the book to bring on contractions.  Our house smelled of funky herbs and I’d been poked by acupuncture needles and prodded by my massage therapist.  The bottle of castor oil was sitting on the kitchen table and I had walked and rocked and swayed myself into exhaustion.  Still nothing.  It became obvious that the natural birth that I had dreamed of wasn’t going to happen:  I was going to need to call on the medical world to help me with this process.

The decision to venture into the world of birth intervention didn’t come easy, especially given my experience and, let’s admit, the ideals I had, coming into this as a doula.  I needed to prepare myself for the journey ahead.  I sat down and finished the baby blanket in a frenzy of knitting needles and brightly coloured wool that somehow calmed me as I visualized what it would take for me to bring my baby into the world.  And then, I baked a groaning cake.

Groaning Cake/muffins

The ancient tradition of baking of a groaning cake during labour, as the old wives tales say, is thought to perhaps reduce a birthing mother’s pain, or make her labour shorter.  I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, but what it can do is distract a woman from early labour pains and ensure that she’s got some delicious, quick-to-eat food at home for when she returns, her babe in arms and her life transformed.  I had always pictured myself baking a groaning cake, leaning against the counter while I contracted, cracking eggs and stirring flour and somehow readying myself through the creation of food.

Groaning Cake/muffins

I was in a place where I needed to grasp tightly to the things I could control, to own my birth and hold the power in my process in every way that I could even if I knew that not only was this experience out of my control, but that my birth was going to go differently than I had planned.  Planned.  Good one.

So I baked.  When in doubt, right?  And when that groaning cake came out of the oven, I let it cool, cut off a few slabs, wrapped them in tin foil, and, slinging my hospital bag over my shoulder and wiping away tears of fear, of relief and of a little bit of defeat, drove to the hospital for my induction.

Groaning Cake/muffins

I’ve now returned to my doula work after taking some time off to focus on my other 24-7 job:  the mom-ing.  I’ve taken some time to really wrap my head around this work again.  It’s different to me now – now that I’ve gone through the experience myself.  I carry my own birth with me now.  I carry an experience that I can share with other women, but also an experience that is completely my own, and in that respect, does not have a place in my role as a supporter of other women’s births.  I decided now would be a good time to make another groaning cake.  It was time to immerse myself in my client’s intentions, her fears and desires, and to think about how I was going to show up to her experience as  her doula.  What better way to do that than to crack eggs and stir flour, pour out molasses and measure orange juice?

Groaning Cake/muffins

While walking to the dentist earlier this week, I got a breathy, rushing call from a client to whom I’m providing doula services:  “My water broke about half an hour ago, and my contractions are about 3-4 minutes apart.”

Knowing that I would need to stop everything I was doing and head to the hospital soon, I reached into my backpack and pulled out the piece of groaning cake (in muffin form) I’d brought with me that day.  It was good fuel for the road ahead, in so many ways.

Here’s what you need:

2 1/2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1 1/3 cups sugar

3 eggs

½ cup oil

½ cup orange juice

¼ cup molasses

1 ½ cups apple (grated, no skin)

1 tsp. almond extract

Here’s what you do:

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Whisk together the dry ingredients, and then add in the wet ingredients.  Stir until combined.

Pour out the batter into a greased loaf pan or into a muffin tin lined with paper liners.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin/the loaf comes out clean (muffins probably won’t take the full baking time).

Groaning Cake/muffins


Recipe courtesy of Ami McKay, author of The Birth House