A busy Kiwi mum baking simple, tasty recipes
Hi, I’m Rachel! I live in Auckland with my husband, two kids and three rescue animals. After 20+ years in the media (as a TV producer, journalist and news reporter) I started my One Handed Baker blog in 2017 to share my love of baking. I never once imagined the name ‘One Handed’ would become so true to life… In 2020 I woke up from a shoulder operation to find my immune system had had a freak reaction and shut down the signals from the top of my spinal cord-brain-right hand. A rare occurrence and not something my doctors nor I ever expected. To say life has turned upside down since is a HUGE understatement. I’ve lost the use of my dominant right hand, have had to learn how to live with a disability, and endure continuous pain & spasms.
So yes, I really am now the One Handed Baker.
Back at the beginning:
The One Handed Baker story began back in 2017. I’ve always loved creating new recipes and playing with old favourites, and began filming them on my iPhone. At that time I wasn’t able to walk well (I used a walking stick and was no stranger to wheelchairs). I couldn’t do my normal day job in TV, and was about to have major spine surgery. I filmed a few recipes thinking that editing them would give me something to do while recovering afterwards! (Perhaps unsurprisingly that surgery didn’t go to plan and I spent a month seriously ill in hospital post-surgery). Eventually though I did edit the videos, and was delighted when people started liking them and following my page!
Back then, I came up with the ‘One Handed’ name for two reasons: 1) I used to bake all my recipes with one hand while filming the little videos on my phone with the other, and 2) it referred to how we all multi-task in life. The recipes are so simple you can almost make them one-handed while doing something else. In fact, that’s kind of what happened to me in the first place… I pretty much baked a cake with one hand, while helping my daughter with homework with the other!
Baking doesn’t need to be complicated, often simple recipes are the tastiest.
In April 2020 I joined Three’s daily morning show The Café at the start of NZ’s first lockdown, baking recipes from my home kitchen. It was all a complete whirlwind as my husband was Exec Producer on the show and thanks to Covid the show suddenly couldn’t film with its usual studio presenters or guests. I was able to film safely within my home bubble, thanks to husband Alex working as my cameraman, and our kids helping out too. You can find all the recipes I made on TV here.
These recipes proved popular and I was blown away by the messages and emails I received from viewers. Problems with my right shoulder meant I had to wear a sling for many of the episodes – so laughingly, the ‘one handed baker’ name seemed very appropriate. I didn’t realised it would get MORE so! In all, I filmed 100 episodes of The Cafe – 50 of those while wearing a sling. I did get the odd hateful comment (saying I was “offensive to look at”), but I tried to brush them off.
(Away from cooking I’ve had a lot of health issues. Like a LOT. I’ve had several major surgeries, broken countless bones, have a metal cage and screws in my spine, live with a serious bowel condition, and have a one-in-a-million rare incurable bone disease. Plus rare immune system reaction/brachial neuritis/chronic pain/central nervous system disorder. And that’s just off the top of my head! Baking has helped me through some dark times, keeps me calm and makes me happy.
I woke up from shoulder surgery in November 2020 without being able to feel or move my right hand, and it’s had very little improvement since. And yes I was right-handed! I have to wear a splint on my hand 24/7 otherwise my fingers curl into a claw (which is very painful to force straight) and to hold up my wrist. In short, my autoimmune system was triggered during the surgery and shut down the nerve signals from the top of my spinal cord – to my brain – and right hand/arm. At the beginning my specialists hoped I would ‘come right’ in a few days, weeks, months… but over two years has now passed and I’m classed as disabled.
While always grateful that my situation isn’t worse, the levels of pain have been (and still are) horrific. In the first four weeks post-surgery I told my husband I wanted to amputate my hand rather than continue like this. Many months later (multiple specialists/MRIs/nerve conduction tests/neurologists etc*) and my journey is ongoing. I’m learning to live without the use of my dominant right hand, and have constant pain spasms and tremors. My speech is affected and I randomly shout out swear words when pain suddenly hits. I can no longer tie shoe-laces, hold a pen, zest a lemon, drive or work…
One thing that hasn’t changed though is my love for baking! I always try to keep a positive outlook (although not always easy!) – and this is REALLY helped by the amazing support I get on my Facebook page and Instagram. Honestly it’s INCREDIBLE! I’m blown away by messages from other people with varying degrees of ability who say I’ve encouraged them to get back in the kitchen. Extremely humbling. Thank you!
When I’m not baking I love to read, and am a huge movie lover. (In a previous life I was an entertainment reporter and newsreader on the radio in London (with an audience of two million!) and did lots of cool stuff like interviewing Pierce Brosnan on the set of James Bond, and going to Britney Spears’ European tour wrap party).
Thanks so much for stopping by… feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Facebook or Instagram. (I’m thrilled to have 28,000+ followers on social media – thank you!)
- Brachial Neuritis, brachial plexus injury, Parsonage-Turner Syndrome, Peripheral Neuropathy, Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), winged scapula, mirror box therapy – all terms I’d NEVER heard before November 2020!