Friday, December 31, 2010

Adventures in Mommyhood: 2010 Year in Review

So, I really didn't want to leave off 2010 with a post about how I'm hating life right now and don't feel like posting. I do have a positive outlook. There are so many things that are going well and so many things I really am thankful for. I am looking forward to 2011, a year that I hope will be all that I thought 2010 would be. And hopefully more!

Here's a little recap of some of my favorite posts from 2010:

January: Carpooling? -- I've got quite a few new readers out there and I'd love to hear your take on this!

February: Up a Notch on the Crunchy Meter -- Read about how we finally trusted our instincts and transferred to midwife care at 34weeks pregnant.

March: Bubby's birth story -- Self-explanatory.

April: Reflections -- Reflecting on how switching to midwife care probably saved my birth experience.

May: It's a fine line -- Walking the line between being a passionate parenting advocate and giving unwanted advice.

June: Just what I didn't want to see -- What made us go on the elimination diet, eliminating all top eight allergens from my diet.

July: My evolution -- How I evolved from a mama worried about doing things "right" to a mama who trusted my instincts

August: Breastfeeding Bubby -- Breastfeeding the second time around was a whole new game.

September: Absence makes the heart grow fonder -- Just taking a breather.

October: A proud babywearer -- How babywearing saved my sanity with a colicky baby.

November: Today I made the call -- Finally reached out for help with my PPD/PPA

December: Time for myself -- On the road to feeling better.

Happy New Years! Stay safe. Me? I'll be hoping the kiddos fall asleep easily and Glenn & I can watch the new year ring in on the east coast. Midnight? Hmmm...maybe I'll be dream-feeding Bubby.

Sayonara 2010.

Me at the beginning of 2010
Apologies for my lack of posting lately. We've been busy and I've had a lot on my mind, things that I doubt anyone is really interested in reading. The holidays were busy, the kids were sick, Glenn's cornea got scratched (bad!) by Bubby, I've been feeling very down and anxious about things, etc etc. I want blogging to continue to be a creative outlet for me, not something I feel like I have to do. So, if I feel like I want to read, or watch TV, play Fruit Ninja, or just do whatever after the kids go to bed I am. Glenn's work schedule has been different and we've been able to hang out after the kids go to bed. He's been able to help Beanie lay down while I nurse Bubby to sleep. It makes things so much easier.

2010 has been an interesting year for us. Not bad, but definitely not what I expected. I started out with lofty goals. I was going to get my life together. Then we had our second child, our first son. We survived colic. And an elimination diet. Food sensitivities. And thrush (times four!). And finally succumbed to the realization that I needed some help, that how I was feeling wasn't normal, that I had PPD/PPA. We got involved with an amazing mom's group and I am so thankful for that. Beanie has blossomed into an amazing three-and-a-half year old. We're having some difficulties right now, but we're working through them. I'm excited to dedicate some more one-on-one time with her in the coming year. Glenn has proven over and over (and over) again that he is the most amazing husband, father and partner. I don't tell him enough, but I should shout it from the rooftops.

Towards the end of 2010.
I'm looking forward to the proverbial clean slate that comes with the new year. I'm still considering all I'd like to accomplish. For now, I'm keeping it simple:

Add myself to the list of people I take care of.

I want to be in good physical, mental & emotional health. The rest can, and will, come later.

I'd like to explore some new avenues with my blog, but, like I said, I don't want to get sucked in to worrying about page views, followers and statistics. I want to write, to share, and to enjoy it. Hopefully the rest will come along with it.

Do you set New Year's Resolutions? Care to share?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oat Bars
These are an adaptation from the blueberry oat bars I made earlier. I've been wanting to try them with the pumpkin and finally got around to it. I think I could've eaten the whole pan in one sitting! They were delicious.

I use regular oats since I am eating gluten-free for Bubby, who is intolerant to wheat, but if you are gluten intolerant or have Celiac's you may want to seek out gluten-free oats (and baking soda, vanilla, etc etc) for yourself. Please double check that any ingredients are suitable for your diet.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

4 1/2c rolled oats
1 cup GF flour (I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free baking flour)
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 c DF "butter," softened (I used Earth Balance dairy-free soy-free buttery spread)
1/3 c honey
1/3 c packed brown sugar
1c pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
dash of cloves
1c chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life chocolate chips)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Press into a greased (I used Spectrum palm shortening) 9x13 pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 18-22 min. Let cool. Cut into squares & wrap individually in wax paper. Refrigerate.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 12/27

Well, we're past the holiday madness. I realized that the holidays have been extra difficult for me this year. The PPD is getting better, but obviously, there's a long way to go with that. Our holidays are very food centric, and while I was able to feel adventurous about Thanksgiving, Christmas sort of seemed blah without all the usual suspects. Everyone else ate lasagna on Christmas Eve and I had an overcooked chicken breast and salad. My gluten-free monkey bread looked delicious, but just didn't taste the same. We couldn't go out for Chinese food Christmas night (although Glenn, great hubby that he is cooked a delicious dinner of sweet and sour prawns). It just wasn't the same. For the most part, I don't miss anything I used to eat. I feel better without the dairy and I know my restricted diet has made all the difference in the world for Bubby. That said, the holidays this year were hard; I'm sure the food stuff just compounded that.

Onward and upward though; here's our menu plan for next week. As always, we plan from Saturday to Friday -- that's how we roll. All meals are gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free, or easily adapted to be.

Saturday: Sweet and Sour prawns with green peppers and pineapple. Served over white rice.
Sunday: Pulled pork, homemade french fries and green salad (I use Kinnikinnick hamburger buns)
Monday: Tacos (we use ground turkey) on corn tortillas
Tuesday: Chili with cornbread and green salad
Wednesday: Leftover Buffet
Thursday: Chicken Enchiladas
Friday: Our New Year's Eve tradition -- Spaghetti (mine with brown rice pasta)

We may try reintroducing wheat into my diet pretty soon here, maybe even the end of this week. We're playing it by ear. Bubby is working on getting four teeth (two are just about to cut through) and he's just getting over a cold. We want to make sure he's feeling well before adding anything else into the mix. I'm excited. And nervous. Probably more nervous than excited; wheat has been the easiest thing to go without or to substitute for me. I'm sure it's different for other people, but there are so many products and places that cater to gluten-free individuals now that it isn't so bad.

I'm linked up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie so click on over for more menu planning ideas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


As I commented over at The Irreverent Mama, I realized that I never "came out" from my anonymity on this blog. For whatever reason (and there are a few that I'll go into in another post), I decided to take ownership and use my name here. So, if you see "Kristen @ Adventures in Mommyhood," that's me! The blogger formerly known as Semi-Crunchy Mama.

That's all. Happy Festivus. Merry Christmas Eve Eve.

Beginning Baby Led Weaning

Beanie circa 2008. Excited about cheese.
Bubby had his nine month well check last week. He weighed in at 20lb 1oz. He's almost tripled his body weight since birth, almost entirely on breastmilk. He's had negligible amounts of solid food, but, really, he's not interested. At least not in purees. I made homemade baby food, but he shuns it as he eyes the food on our plates. Beanie has been eating most of the purees; they seem to be a treat to her. I'm not worried at all about his lack of solid food intake right now. The pediatrician noted that he has fallen a bit on the growth curve (to be expected as he's more mobile, can't sustain a growth of 4lbs a month forever, etc). She did encourage us to try new textures with him.

Glenn and I talked and I went back and forth. We had mostly given up on trying to get him interested in purees. It just wasn't worth it. I'd rather just nurse since I know Bubby doesn't really need solids during his first year. At first, I wanted to offer purees with more regularity, but now I think we've decided to go with a baby led weaning approach. If you don't know about baby led weaning, it really has nothing to do with weaning from the breast; it's about letting your child be in control of the food they eat. Kelly at KellyNaturally just wrote a great overview of baby led weaning and I encourage you to check it out if you're looking for more information.

He still doesn't eat much, but I'm not worried at all. He is much more interested in real food than the purees. He explores it and, lo and behold, some of it makes its way to his mouth. When I think back now, Beanie was much the same way. We made homemade babyfood, but she wasn't much interested in food at all until she was about a year old. We never pushed babyfood, but it is nice to see Bubby having fun with food now. We'll just keep taking it slow and enjoy our new adventure.

Anyone else practicing baby led weaning? What foods are you giving your little one?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On motherhood, self image, and raising our children

Image credit: thompsonwood on Flickr
When I look in the mirror, I don't see what I should. I don't see someone who's lost all their pregnancy weight and then ten-or-so pounds. I don't see someone who had to rummage through the garage and find the bin of jeans I swore I wouldn't go through until next summer.

That's what I should see, though, and I'm trying really hard.

I'm trying to be happy in my own skin. To accept myself and just roll with it. To realize that I look pretty damn good and to love myself no matter what.

Beanie will get more than enough societal influence on how she should look. I need her to know, from me, that however we look is just fine. More than just fine -- beautiful, perfect, wonderful. The best way for her to know that? To feel that way about myself. What message am I sending if I tell her she's perfect exactly the way she is, but don't feel that way about myself?

I've been thinking about this a lot as my mom is coming in to town for the holidays this week, my mom who is seemingly obsessed with her weight, what she eats, if she exercises, and on and on. I don't remember her being like that as I was growing up. Maybe because most of her life my mom hovered right around 100 pounds. I worry about the words she will use in front of Beanie, about the way she characterizes how she looks and how & what she (and those close to her) should eat. Beanie may only be three-and-a-half, but words, especially words from those closest to her, have great power and I want those words (and underlying attitudes) to be supportive of good health -- physical, mental and emotional health.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Time for myself

Last week the counselor told me she thought I should take an hour each day to myself, leave the kiddos with Hubby and just have some me time.

An hour???

Every day???

Apparently I looked pretty shocked. The idea was almost unimaginable to me. I mean, how would I fit that time in? What about Hubby? When would he get any me time? What about Bubby? Would he scream the whole time? Would be be hungry, tired, or snuggly and want to nurse? What about Beanie? My counselor even commented on how foreign the concept seemed to me. Yes, foreign, that's probably an accurate description.

I've said it before; I'm horrible at taking time for myself. Glenn isn't worried about his "me time." He assures me that everyone will be doing better once I'm doing better, and that if this is what the doctor orders then we should give it a go. And we have. It hasn't been every day, but we have been making an effort, even if it's just Glenn taking the kids to the store so I can be home alone for a bit.

It's quiet when I'm home alone. I'm getting used to it, but I sort of think I like it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

(Sort of) Wordless Wednesday

2010 Christmas tree
Setting up the Christmas tree is always an adventure. Glenn and I make a good team because I hate doing the lights and he hates doing the ornaments. Actually, for Glenn, it comes down to the fact that I love putting up all the ornaments from my childhood, no matter how silly they are. Glenn prefers a "pretty" tree, a la color coordinated.

What "kind" of tree do you have? Do you break out all the ornaments you've gathered over the years, or is your tree themed?

I'm linked up over at Hobo Mama and Natural Parents Network so click on over to check out more Wordless Wednesday posts.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holidays, food and family

Image credit: simplegreenorganichappy on Flickr
Welcome to the December Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let's Talk Traditions
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama.

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

When I think back to the holidays of my childhood, my memories are of food, large family gatherings and decorations. I remember going to my grandmother's house and sitting around the huge dining room table with all of my aunts and uncles and lots of food. I remember sitting in our dark living room with only the lights of the Christmas tree illuminating the room, just sitting and staring, taking in the lights of the season. I remember my dad standing out in the cold, hanging the Christmas lights on the house and wrapping the large white pillars with red tape so they looked like giant candy canes.

We have similar traditions in our family now. We aren't religious, we don't "do Santa," so the holidays are largely about food and family. When I think of the traditions we have as a family, I think of food. Egg stuffing on Thanksgiving. Making cookies with Beanie. Lasagna on Christmas Eve and monkey bread Christmas morning. Spaghetti on New Year's Eve.

As Beanie gets older, we start new traditions -- driving around to look at Christmas lights, checking out local events and light displays, reading books about varying religious and cultural traditions, and making compassion kits to help the needy. We each pick out a new ornament for the tree each year; when the kids are older they can take these with them.

The holidays are an exciting time of year for our family and we love starting new traditions.

What traditions do you have for the holidays?

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon December 14 with all the carnival links.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 12/13

I almost missed Menu Plan Monday! I can't believe Christmas is less than two weeks away; things have been so busy.

As always, we plan Saturday - Friday because that's how we roll. All menus are gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free or easily adapted.

Saturday: Chicken and dumplings (pushed back from last week's plan as Glenn wanted pizza for his birthday -- I had mine cheese-less on a Kinnikinnick crust)
Sunday: Chicken soft tacos on corn tortillas
Monday: Holiday dinner with my dad. Everyone else had lasagna. I had a baked chicken breast.
Tuesday: Sloppy Joes
Wednesday: Meatloaf muffins
Thursday: Leftover buffet
Friday: Teriyaki chicken and rice for Glenn & Beanie; Seasoned and baked chicken for me.

The ingredient of the week for the Gluten Free Menu Plan Monday is onions. Honestly, I'm not an onion fan. I usually cut the amount called for in any given recipe in half. I've started adding a bit more in certain recipes, but I still don't love them. If you are an onion lover, some of the other menu planners have some great ideas. 

I'm linked up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie and Celiac Family so click on over for more menu ideas.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why we decided not to "do Santa"

Image credit: LadyDragonflyCC on Flickr
Glenn and I have made the decision not to "do Santa" with the kids. When I told my mom her response was, "Why do some parents do that?!??!" as if it was the most horrible and awful thing you could do to a child. We actually have many reasons, which include:

We strive to raise our children in an environment where they learn to think critically, trust their parents, and be honest. Telling a story about a imaginary man who flies all the way around the world on his sleigh (with flying reindeer nonetheless), scoots his way down chimneys and rewards children who have been good (more on that in a minute) does not bode itself to critical thinking. The other day we were driving home from visiting our friend's new baby; Beanie was excited to see the sun, saying hello to it and waving. She commented that the sun wasn't waving back, to which I asked her if the sun had arms. "No!" she replied, laughing at my silliness. I then asked how the sun would wave if it didn't have arms and she replied, "Well, it doesn't!" It's with that same questioning spirit that we will approach the story of Santa.

Santa forces the good-bad dichotomy, of which I am not a fan. Much as I don't wish Beanie to be "good" at the grocery store to get a cookie when we're done, I don't want her to be "good" to get presents from Santa. I've never actually heard of a child getting coal from Santa, but we want to instill in Beanie the idea that we are "good" (I use that term begrudgingly) because those are the morals, values and standards we live by.

For us, Santa is just another story to tell in December. We aren't religious, so there are many holiday stories for us to tell. As I stated in an earlier post, we plan to teach the kids about multiple cultural and religious celebrations during the Winter. The history of Saint Nicholas is one we will be teaching and, from that, we can tell her how the story of Santa Claus came about. Santa is a character, much the same as Curious George, Clifford the Big Red Dog, or Frog and Toad.

To us, the idea of Santa puts more emphasis on getting than giving. For our family, the holidays are about being with family, enjoying good food, and giving gifts. Sure, Santa is big on giving but, for children, the big takeaway from the story is all about receiving. We really want to focus on the giving aspect of the holidays and feel that there are other ways, such as the compassion kit playdate we just attended, that more accurately describe the spirit of the holidays for us.

We plan to keep everything age appropriate. This year we are reading stories about Hanukkah, the Solstice, St. Nicholas and Christmas. She's three-and-a-half so we are following her lead and answering questions. We've told the grandparents that we aren't doing Santa; I'm not sure they understand, but maybe this post will help.

Glenn and I were both raised in families that "did Santa." Our traditions were quite different. In my family, Santa brought just a few small things for our stocking. The rest of the presents were from my parents and extended family. We did do the whole oh-look-at-that-light-it's-Santa-and-his-reindeer, the half-eaten cookies and on and on. I believed until I was nine when my mom mistook my smug grin and comment about the tooth fairy to mean that I knew she wasn't real. That wasn't the case and I was crushed when my mom said, "I guess you know we're the tooth fairy." Then it dawned on me that the Easter Bunny was also fake. And (oh my god!) Santa, too. I don't remember any of this really; my faulty memory instead had me thinking I believed until my sister's third grade teacher announced to the class that Santa was a fraud. Apparently, my sister finding out was more of a traumatic experience, even for me. In Glenn's family, Santa was a bigger deal; he brought the bulk of the presents to place under the tree. He found out when his parents asked him to take out the trash after Easter brunch and he found the milk jug bunny he had made. The realization quickly hit that Santa was fake, too.

I tell you all this because one reason that doesn't factor at all into our decision is the idea that our kids would be traumatized or distraught at the impending realization that Santa was a big charade. I'm sure that some children are traumatized at the realization that Santa was for not; apparently my sister, myself and Glenn all were, but none of us carry that trauma into adulthood. It's more so a decision based on the values and morals we want to teach our children and how we choose to parent.

I've read a few other great posts on Santa, so read up if you wish:

Anyone else not "do Santa?" I know a few friends that don't, but I'm sure we're in the minority. I'd love to hear others' thoughts on the topic.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 12/06

We had a really busy weekend, so we didn't get around to grocery shopping Saturday morning like we usually do. But, now we are armed with our weekly menu plan & list and ready to shop. I am really happy with how well we stuck to the plan last week. We did change it up one day and had breakfast for dinner (one of my favorites!), but we had everything we needed at home so I count it as a success.

We've been having a lot of difficulty with Beanie wanting to eat dinner, so we had her put a little more input into the menu planning. She chose our Sunday night dinner of chicken tender salads (I ate my salad with baked chicken breast to stick to my diet). Lo and behold, she ate almost all her dinner!

As always, we plan Saturday - Friday because that's how we roll. All meals are gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free, or easily adapted to be.

Saturday: Chicken fajitas (on corn tortillas)
Sunday: Big green salads with chicken, avocado, and tomato (and cheese for the dairy-eaters in the house)
Monday: Chicken enchiladas
Tuesday: Chicken and dumplings in the slow cooker (I make the "cream of- soup" with gluten-free flour, rice milk and Earth Balance soy-free buttery spread, and make the dumplings with Bob's Red Mill biscuit and baking mix)
Wednesday: Pasta with homemade sauce, probably spaghetti for Glenn & Beanie and Trader Joe's brown rice penne pasta for me
Thursday: Sausage and Bean Soup
Friday: Leftover buffet

Image credit: swanksalot on Flickr
The ingredient of the week for the Gluten-free Menu Plan Monday is mushrooms. We don't make a lot of meals that really highlight mushrooms, but we do use them in a lot of recipes. In fact, two of our meals from this week include crimini mushrooms - our homemade spaghetti sauce and the chicken and dumplings. Glenn says the mushrooms are the secret ingredient to our sauce (eh, not so secret anymore, honey. Sorry!). We slice the mushrooms and then pan fry them in olive oil before putting them in the sauce (olive oil and all). Delicious!

I'm linked up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie and Celiacs in the House so click on over for more menu-planning ideas.

Slactivisim in action

I'm sure you've noticed the trend on Facebook over the last few days. It goes something like this:

Change your FB profile pic to a cartoon from your childhood. The goal? To not see a real human face on FB till Monday December 6th. Join the fight against child abuse. Copy and paste to your status & invite your friends to do the same.

What, you ask, does posting a cartoon picture have to do with the fight against child abuse? The answer is simple. Absolutely nothing.

We've seen it before. Post the color of your bra to raise breast cancer awareness. Post the location of your purse and join the fight against domestic violence.

The result? First, the clueless are left wondering why there are cartoon pictures everywhere. Then, a whole lot of people feeling like they've done something when, in actuality, they've done nothing. Slactivism at it's best. I'm not faulting anyone with a childhood cartoon as their profile picture; I'm sure their intentions are good. Who doesn't want to join the fight against child abuse? However, someone very close to me who suffered from childhood abuse actually used the term "offensive" to describe the Facebook campaign.

If you want to join the fight against childhood abuse, here are a few ideas:

  • Call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) to get help or report abuse.
  • CASA for Children - From their site, "CASA volunteers are everyday citizens judges appoint to advocate for safety and well-being of children who are victims of parental abuse and neglect."
  • Childhelp 
Thanks to my friends who suggested these ways to help.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Small Victories

Most of my current anxiety relates to safety issues. That's always been the case, but it's more prevalent right now with the PPD. One of the worst things right now is driving, especially in traffic or when the weather is bad. We've mostly been staying close to home and avoiding the freeway at all costs. As soon as we're in the car, I think we're going to get in an accident, the kids will get hurt, etc etc. Glenn does most all of the driving. I am anxious even as a passenger. I thin it drives him nuts, but I can't help it. I try.

But, this week I made two trips farther from home than usual and they went well. I didn't panic. I'm always a little anxious in traffic, but I think there's a level of normal I-hate-traffic anxiety and then there's the level I've been at, even in normal driving conditions.

It's the small victories lately that really make me feel like we are having a good week.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Compassion Kits: Teaching Your Children Generosity

Our compassion kits

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
--Dalai Lama

Today we went to a meetup with our local AP mom's group (I have to say that I love that group and I really feel like we've found a group that feels like "home" for us). Today's event was the 2nd Annual Compassion Kit Playdate.  Each family brought 20-30 of an item (or two) for everyone to put in their bags. We contributed bar soap and Q-tips. Then, everything is lined up assembly line style and each family makes three bags. We actually had enough to stretch it out into five gallon size Ziploc bags. We are going to keep the bags in our car and when we see someone in need we can give them the bag.

Each bag is comprised of some (or all) of the following:
  • Scarves
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Socks
  • Bar Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Dental Floss
  • Crackers
  • Single serve fruit
  • Hand warmers
  • Deoderant
  • Safety pins
  • Chapstick
  • Q-tips
  • Kleenex
I'm sure there's more I'm not thinking of. We also had some Hershey's chocolate bars at home so we popped those in the bags, too.

I'm so thankful that we had the opportunity to do this. It opened up a dialogue with Beanie about those who are less fortunate and how we can be compassionate & help. We talked about how some people don't have a home to live in or food to eat. It's been quite cool and rainy here the last couple days and Beanie said she wanted to give people her blanket and pillow. Isn't that awesome? I was so proud of her for coming up with that on her own. It confirms to me that we discussed the topic in an age-appropriate fashion and that she "gets it." Or at least "gets it" as much as a three-and-a-half year old can.

Things have been tight here financially lately. I had committed to doing this awhile back and really didn't want to back out. The truth is, for about eight bucks we got a pack of bar soap at Costco and we had the Q-tips at home already. It was so awesome making the bags after everyone pooled their donations together. We may be tackling our own financial issues, but we do have a roof over our heads, food to eat and the ability to pay our bills. We have so much to be thankful for. Our difficulties seem small when looking at the bigger picture. It's good to keep that in perspective.

I'm excited to put our kits in to action. While we've been talking about it the last two days I am quite interested to see Beanie's reaction (and the subsequent dialogue) when we do get to pass them out.

***I cannot take credit for this idea at all as it was the brain child of another mom in our mom's group, but I am so glad we were able to participate this year.***

Click here to read an update about how Beanie reacted to giving out the compassion kits.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 11/29

One of the things we have really started to take a good look at is menu planning. We go through spurts where we do really great & then there's the not-so-great spurts, the times where we just feel like something else or feel like we deserve to go out to eat. Both Glenn and I are making a renewed effort to menu plan and stick to our plan. I'm really excited about this because Glenn is even helping come up with the dinner ideas!

As always, we sit down and plan Saturday - Friday. That's just how we roll.

***All recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free or easily adapted to be.***

Saturday: Turkey Tostadas (our Thanksgiving leftover favorite)
Sunday: La Bamba Casserole with blue corn chips (sans cheese for dairy free)
Monday: Stuffed Peppers with green salad (I will post this recipe -- and link -- when I make it. We adapted a family recipe and these are so yummy!)
Tuesday: Meatloaf Muffins with mashed potatoes and green salad (I'm really excited to try this recipe from Cook it Allergy Free for the first time this week.)
Wednesday: Sweet 'n Sour Chicken with rice
Thursday: Arroz con Pollo
Friday: Italian Sausage Soup

For the gluten-free Menu Plan Monday hosted by Gluten-free Goodness, the ingredient of the week is sweet potatoes. I LOVE mashed sweet potatoes and, I dare say, our dairy-free version this year was better than some "regular" sweet potato casseroles I've had. Everyone thought they were quite delicious.

I don't remember where I got the original recipe, but this is a dish we've made for Thanksgivings in the past and I'm glad my dairy-free soy-free version turned out well.

Marshmallow Mashed Sweet Potatoes


2 1/4c sweet potatoes
2c rice milk
3 Tbsp Earth Balance soy free buttery spread
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
dash pepper
dash cinnamon


  1. Steam potatoes (peeled and cut) until tender.
  2. Mash potatoes with mixer.
  3. Add rice milk gradually.
  4. Mix in remaining ingredients.
  5. Put in casserole dish.
  6. Heat at 250 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
  7. Cover top with marshmallows.
  8. Cook until marshmallows soften or are lightly browned.
I'm linked up over at I'm an Organizing Junkie and Gluten-free Goodness so click on over for more menu ideas.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I am hopeful that this is going to be a good week.

Last week was rough and that would be putting it lightly. I was in a very poor mood and Thanksgiving sort of crept up and made it even more of an anxious week. Add on a few other personal things and wa-la! it was a recipe for disaster.

I have my first appointment with the counselor on Wednesday. I'm glad. And nervous. I hope I like her. I hope I feel at ease enough to talk through everything. I've had a lot on my mind lately and the PPD just seems to be compounding things.

Glenn sat down and balanced the pile of receipts we had for the checkbook today. I usually handle all the financial issues -- the checkbook, paying the bills, etc. He brings home the bacon and I distribute it. I think having him write everything down really gave him a better perspective on things. We have been talking a lot about financial stuff lately -- changing our expenditures, our mindset and so on -- and I really feel like we're on the same page. We have a plan for the future. Now just to implement it.

I also feel better about getting a plan into place for keeping up with chores around the house. I don't want it to be immaculate all the time, but I'd like some semblance of order. And, now that Bubby seems very ready to crawl I really want to make sure things are more tidy, kept out of his reach, etc. I have this master plan where I could clean one room a day and do one (or two) loads of laundry a day and then each week things would be taken care of. I seem to get into an all-or-nothing mindset and I don't think that's helpful at all. Little by little is how it's going to have to be.

I also think we're going to start doing some holiday things this week. I'm hoping to get out to one of the local evening events if the weather is nice. We'll have to go on Glenn's night off because my anxiety and crowds don't really mix right now (or ever). We'll probably put the tree up on Wednesday. I'm really excited about that, but, at the same time, it'll probably be an adventure with a eight-and-a-half month old who's learning to crawl.

So, we'll see how the week goes. For now, I'm hopeful that it will be a good one.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving was an adventure in baking for sure! I was scared excited to see how everything turned out. I was very pleased with the pumpkin pie. I adapted this recipe. For the crust I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Biscuit and Baking Mix (the recipe for the crust is on the back of the bag). I used Earth Balance dairy-free soy-free butter when preparing the crust.

Pumpkin Pie

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1-15oz can pumpkin
  • 1- 14oz can light coconut milk

  1. Prepare crust according to directions.
  2. Place 2 eggs in medium-sized bowl; beat lightly.
  3. Beat in remaining ingredients.
  4. Pour into shell and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for about an hour longer, or until knife comes out clean when inserted into pie.
  6. Cool completely.


Friday, November 26, 2010

'Tis the Season

photo credit: James Jordan Photography/ Flickr
For Hanukkah?


The Solstice?

I'm pretty excited because this morning Glenn and I placed holds on a bunch of books at the library. We want to expose Beanie (and Bubby, of course, when he's old enough) to stories and information about all the Winter festivities. We got two books on St. Nicholas, two on Christmas, two on Hanukkah, one on Kwanzaa and one on the Winter solstice. I think it will be interesting for all of us to learn more about traditions and holidays that we aren't accustomed to.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the United States. We had a great, albeit busy, day here.

Today I am thankful for the support of my friends and family. I'm thankful that we have a roof over our heads and food (delicious food!) to eat. I'm thankful that we are happy, healthy and loved.

I'm also thankful that my gluten-, dairy- and soy-free stuffing and pumpkin pie both turned out wonderfully.

I'll post up the recipes tomorrow, even if it is a tad too late for Thanksgiving. Maybe Christmas? I didn't want to post the recipes until I was sure they turned out.

There's so much to be thankful for. What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Winter coats not safe in car seats.

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research study seven out of ten children are improperly restrained in their child safety seats. Proper installation is of the utmost importance as child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers according to the NHTSA. Have your car seat inspected to make sure it is properly installed.

In the cold Winter months, there is another risk to children in car seats that many parents are not aware of. It is not safe for your child to wear their winter coat in the car seat. When you think about your toddler waddling around in their puffy snow clothes you can easily see why. The coat adds a lot of bulk and, if worn in the car seat, your child cannot be properly & safely restrained.

I shared the following link on Facebook a while back and a mom posted it on my mom's group discussion board last week. Please check it out.

How to safely wear a Winter coat in a car seat

Wordless Wednesday: First Snow

Earlier this week we got our first snow of 2010 and Bubby's first snow ever.

I'm linked up over at Hobo Mama and Dagmar's Momsense so click on over for more Wordless Wednesday posts.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Struggling to Be a Gentle Parent

It's been a rough day today with Beanie. I feel like there was a lot of yelling (mostly on her part although some on mine too). I just feel like whatever we are doing discipline-wise with her is not working for her or, really, for any of us.

Beanie has done amazingly well transitioning into her role as big sister. There have been struggles, but, for the most part, I was pretty excited with how well she took on her new role. Within the last month or so things have become more difficult.

I know a lot of her problems right now come from wanting attention. Glenn and I try to make sure that we each have one-on-one time with her. Lately it's been harder for me because Bubby is in that stage where mommy can not be out of sight. We try to make the most of mother-daughter time during Bubby's naps. The change in our relationship has been hard on me and, obviously, on her as well.

She is also learning how to interact appropriately with her brother now that he is becoming more talkative and mobile (he's an expert army crawler). I know she is wanting to show love to her brother, but her attempts are often too rough and I feel like we're always saying, "don't grab your brother's hands so hard," "don't grab his neck," "be gentle," and so on and so forth. We need to help her and give her the opportunity to show that love (appropriately) more often.

Our bedtime routine tonight was especially rough. Things just aren't working. I find myself not being the parent I want to be. It's hard because my own PPD and anxiety cause me to be a little on edge even before the normal three-and-a-half year old stuff hits.

I've had some books that I've wanted to read for some time now. I know my mom bought me Playful Parenting for Christmas and I've been wanting to get Unconditional Parenting for quite some time.

Any other books you'd recommend?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Snow Day.

I'm pretty sure that when you're three-and-a-half there isn't anything more fun that watching it snow ALL.DAY.LONG.

I'm also pretty sure the same holds true when you're 31.

Sunday, November 21, 2010






The last few days have been hard. I feel like there is a giant dark cloud hanging over me. Even when the day starts out fairly well the cloud comes and permeates everything. It seems to come with no warning and for no reason. It's just there. I want it gone.

I am lucky to have such a supportive husband. He is my rock. I feel bad for leaning on him so heavily right now, but he is my constant source of support and comfort.

My first counseling appointment is next week. It seems so far away. Dang holiday getting in the way.

It seems there is little that makes me stay happy for long. Before the cloud comes back. But today, it snowed. Just a little, like so little you had to squint to see it most of the time. Beanie was so excited. She was going on and on (and on and on) about the snow. She wanted to put on her snow boots and snow clothes. She was ready to go out and play, to build a snowman. She was singing songs about the snow, the squirrels and birds playing in it, and how happy she was.

I was happy too, really truly happy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


It looks like we're quickly heading from this:

to this:

It is cold here. I really do hope we get a bit of snow this weekend or early next week. Beanie will be so excited.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"My mommy taught me..."

" be nice and respect everyone, even if they're different."

I would be so proud of my Beanie if (when??) she said those words.

I'm not entirely sure how this conversation came about between Glenn and I. It was a few weeks ago after I read this blog post about bullying and homosexuality. Somehow our conversation turned to religion and we discussed how Beanie would be different because her parents don't believe in god (or to be more specific, her mom doesn't and her dad is agnostic). Please note I said "her parents don't" and nothing about what she does (or doesn't) believe. She's three. She can make that decision when she's older, can think critically and is cognitively capable of making such a decision.

Glenn mentioned something along the lines of a classmate or friend telling Beanie that she would go to hell. I replied, "My mommy taught me to be nice and respect everyone, even if they're different." I'm sure it will happen, someday. We live in a predominantly religious society. I'm not trying to knock religion; I'm more of a live and let live person. If religion provides you comfort, support, whatever then so be it. Please respect that I get that comfort, support, strength, whatever elsewhere. And not everyone would tell their child that a friend was going to hell, but it happens. Glenn's mom told him that about some of his friends when he was little. My own mom has told me I am going to hell. A scary thought for her, I guess.

I digress.

Respect for others no matter what. No matter what god they believe in or if they don't believe in one at all. No matter if they're gay or straight, black or white, rich or poor. You treat everyone with respect. No matter what. That is what I will teach my children every day. Mutual respect can go a long way.

I don't talk much about religion (or lack thereof) on this blog. It is a big issue in our lives as we decide how best to raise our children in an overwhelmingly religious world. It's been on my mind a lot lately with the approaching holidays and my ever curious (almost) three-and-a-half year old. Maybe I'll start to write about it more as we navigate through this journey.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Quantity vs. Quality.

I've learned something over the first 18 days of NaBloPoMo.

I much prefer quality over quantity when it comes to blogging.

Over the last few days I've felt like I have to post even though I may not really have something to say. I've become a blogger who wants to have something to say, not just to type and hit publish. I'm struggling with a lot of things right now; blogging every day this month has probably saved my sanity, but I also struggle with living up to my own expectations.

Is it time to throw in the towel on NaBloPoMo? Or really dig deep and finish up those drafts in Blogger?

Anything you, my loyal readers, would really like me to write about? Anything you are dying to know about me?

The Cursed Day.

When I was younger November the 18th had a nickname.

The cursed day.

When I was in ninth grade, my (supposed) best girl friend started going out with the boy I was so in love with. He was my real best friend. We talked on the phone for hours every day. I was sure that I was going to marry this guy, that we were meant to be together forever, and on & on. It was devastating to the fourteen year-old me.

In tenth grade, I was dating a guy my stepdad nicknamed "The Italian Stallion." All the girls thought he was the best. My crush for him grew exponentially as I sat in the athletic trainer's office icing my knee and waiting for him to come in and get taped up for football practice. My best friend and I went trick or treating at the ripe age of fifteen just so we could go to his house. I was speechless when he answered the door with his shirt off. After that we went out a few times and, on November 18, I found out he was also dating a gal from the other high school in town.

In eleventh grade, my boyfriend broke up with me on, you guessed it, November 18. We had been dating for almost a year and he had turned my whole world upside down, probably not for the best in the short-term, but definitely for my betterment in the long-term.

As I type all these out now, they seem silly. To a teenager they were monumental. I dreaded November 18th every year. Every single year. I don't recall any other specific things happening on November 18, but I was convinced the day was unlucky for me. I'm sure that, over the years, I noticed little things occurring that I would've have paid much attention to on any other day of the year.

In 2006, the curse was finally broken. I found out I was pregnant with Beanie. I thought I was sick or had food poisoning, but, no, it was morning sickness.

I've never looked back.

Have you ever had a day you consider particularly unlucky?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Frugal Holidays.

Or, a more appropriate term may be, the frugal life.

It sort of snuck up on us, the realization that, once again, we really don't have a lot to spend for the holidays. I know that it isn't about giving and receiving gifts. For us, it's about spending time with family and enjoying their company. But, since we celebrate "commercial Christmas" as we like to call it, the whole gift part is pretty fun. The last two years have been tight on money. In 2008, Glenn was on the chopping block and we weren't sure he'd have a job after Christmas. In 2009, he finally got a permanent position (after getting laid off in early 2009 and, luckily, getting the last temporary position they had for laid off reps), but his income had dramatically decreased and we were trying to make it work. This year I was really looking forward to celebrating! So was Glenn.

But, right now, I'm stuck trying to figure out how we're going to stretch our dollars and have enough money for Thanksgiving dinner next week. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I will figure out a way to make it work.

What I do know is we really need to figure out a new way to live financially. If you've read this blog for any amount of time, then you know we've struggled with this before. We've been talking about it a lot lately and decided a shift in thinking is required. And quickly. There's also the change in thinking of how we can make things happen that we do want (from little things like a nice dinner out to big things like remodeling the house to building our savings).

So, our current Save Money Now plan is:
  • Plan meals weekly and shop once.
  • No going out for dinners when we're lazy, tired, don't "feel like" what we have at home.
  • Pack Glenn's lunch every day.
  • Start selling things that we just have sitting around on Craigslist.
  • Change how we think about income and expenditures.
The shift in thinking is the big one! The others are easy once we get in a groove. But the shift in thinking must occur for all the other stuff to stick.

I'm looking at making things for the grandparents for the holidays. Does anyone have an idea of something they're going to make as holiday gifts? Glenn doesn't like any of the ones I've had so far.

And, I'd love to hear your ideas on saving money.

How do you live frugally, both during the holidays and all year long?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Date Night!

It's Tuesday night so that means it's date night. We haven't had a real date in about 8 1/2months, but we do try to take advantage of the time we have together on Glenn's nights off.

Tonight? Well, he's playing Fable and I'm blogging.

At least for the time being. We are both quite tired. I haven't gotten a chance to sit down at the computer at all today. He hasn't gotten to play his new game since he got his XBox fixed. So, we each needed a bit of time to unwind.

But, date night...yes.

We haven't been out on a date since before Bubby was born. It's hard with little family living close by (and the ones who are close by are busy as all get out themselves). Between that and just the difficulties of the last eight months it hasn't happened. So, we try to take advantage of the little things and the two nights a week Glenn stays up later than the kiddos.

It hasn't been quite as much fun since we canceled our cable. We no longer have On Demand. We used to try and watch movies or catch up on our favorite shows (like The Daily Show or The Colbert Report). Now there isn't much on TV. But, it's nice to just have time to ourselves to reconnect. To talk. To eat a treat. To do what we want and remember we are husband and wife as well as mom and dad.

Speaking of. Gotta go!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Halfway There.

Whew, where has the time gone? NaBloPoMo is already halfway over! I'm liking it so far; it's definitely "forced" me to carve a little time out for myself. Instead of dorking around on Facebook and Twitter all night long I try to take some time to sit and write. I have a few posts set up in draft that I'm working on. I'm feeling good about things in the blog-o-sphere.

Oh, you thought I'd have something important to say for the halfway mark? Sorry. No bones.

Actually, I was hoping to have a "better" post to write today, but it's been a rough day. Beanie had a rough go at bedtime last night. I let myself get uber frustrated and subsequently beat myself up about it. Bubby is cutting his other front tooth and nursed nearly every hour last night. Then, both the kids were up at 4:30 this morning. Eek! All three of us were back asleep by 6:30 and slept for a bit longer. We missed a playdate at a friend's house I've really been wanting to see. Bubby is very cranky -- poor guy with his tooth and with some tummy issues. There's a few other things that are going on -- finances, family stuff, etc -- that are adding stress to life.

Beanie and I took some time to drink cocoa and have pumpkin muffins together. Well, she had hot cocoa and I had coffee. It was fun. I've been wanting to take her out for a latte (steamed milk for her), but the finances just don't allow it this week. I braided her hair and she really liked it. Right now I am home alone while Glenn and the kids are at the store shopping for dinner. We're making spaghetti and hoping it'll last for at least two dinner this week.

So, that's it. All I got for today. And I'm not going to beat myself up for writing a semi-lame (or maybe really lame???) post just to keep up with NaBloPoMo. Hopefully back to more meaningful blogging tomorrow....

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cranberry Orange Bread

Cranberry Orange Bread

As Autumn arrived and Thanksgiving was on my mind I vowed to start trying to adapt recipes early. We love Thanksgiving in this house! The baking, the family, the leftovers. The thought of our very first (and hopefully only) gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free Thanksgiving was a little overwhelming. Overwhelming with the possibility of being a really cool and exciting adventure I guess.

I haven't done as much adapting as I would like, but today Beanie and I made Cranberry Orange Bread. The original recipe is my mother-in-law's and it's one of our fall favorites. I am very pleased with how our gluten-free version came out.

Cranberry Orange Bread


2c gluten-free flour (I used Bob's Red Mill gluten free all purpose flour)
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1c sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh grated orange peel
1/4c Spectrum palm shortening
3/4c orange juice
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2c fresh cranberries


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift flour and other dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Put the palm shortening in the middle & cut it into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. Blend orange juice and egg; add in to mixture.
  5. Fold in cranberries.
  6. Turn into greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50min or until golden brown and a toothpick is dry when inserted into loaf. Cool on it's side on a rack.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Miss Kung Fu.

***We take a break in our regularly scheduled mommy blogging for a post I've been promising for at least two years.

Bri, are you out there???

Because this post is just for you.***

I miss kung fu. I miss it a lot. I miss the hard exercise. I miss the stress relief and mood elevation. I miss the people (well, some of them).

It frustrates me that I can't get past a certain point in Kempo 2 anymore. That I've forgotten some (if not most) of my forms. I'm sure if I got back into working out and training that they would come back to me. Still. They used to be ingrained in my mind and muscle memory. I could do them in my sleep. I did.

There was a time that I thought someday we would go back to training. Now I am sure that is not going to happen. Not unless we train together by ourselves. Not that that would be a bad thing. Glenn is an amazing martial artist. Watching him do his forms is breathtaking. I've always thought so. He's powerful in his movements, but has a fluidity and grace that I envy.

In the spring of 2002, I started training with Glenn at kung fu. He had started training in 1997 or 1998, before I knew him. He had wanted me to start training with him for quite a while, but I wasn't really sure I wanted to until then. It wasn't the best timing; I was in my last quarter of college, we were planning a wedding, etc etc. I started out slowly, but really enjoyed it from the start.

I was asked to join more advanced classes and began to enjoy it even more. Kung fu, especially the style we trained, is beautiful. Beautiful in a kind of I could break your arm kind of way. I remember the first time I saw the dragon form; it took my breath away. I have to say, far and above, learning and executing forms was my favorite part of kung fu. Sparring? Didn't really care for it; definitely didn't give myself credit for any skill I had at it. I could practice forms for hours on end. I wasn't the most confident martial artist. Training with someone who seemingly mastered their forms beautifully (although I'm sure Glenn might disagree) always gave me something more to strive for. I always felt (probably incorrectly) that I was sort of grandfathered in because my husband was an awesome martial artist. I didn't give myself enough credit even though Glenn (and my instructors) gave me positive feedback.

In 2006, we started working with the owner/master. We put out lead boxes and were planning on partnering with him to open our own studio. We lived and breathed kung fu. We trained for at least three hours a day, five times a week.We looked for places to rent. Glenn started teaching. We were both preparing for our black belt tests (Again, I felt grandfathered in. The reality was that many things in our studio were changing, including the way the black belt tests were conducted. Still, I never felt quite good enough).

As Glenn worked more with the owner and learned more about the business, he learned some things that didn't bode well for us partnering and starting our own studio. (I should add that during this same time there were a lot of issues going on between the grand master and the local studios; things were, in essence, falling apart. The local owner/master was "kicked out" of the franchise. Another master split from our studio, etc etc.)

In August 2006, Glenn quit kung fu.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. He told me (over and over again) that I didn't have to quit just because he did. I contemplated continuing to train, but it just didn't seem right. Kung fu was something we did together. And, knowing what I then knew, did I really want to train anyway?

Glenn flew to Georgia for two weeks. Our entire life & plan for the future had been thrown into upheaval. We didn't have a business to start. Glenn didn't even have a job. My heart ached for him because I knew what a disappointment this was. I don't think I really let myself process what a change it was for myself.

Glenn came home from Georgia and said he wanted to start our family. Shortly thereafter we were pregnant with Beanie and, even though I missed kung fu, the fact was there wasn't really time to train. At least not the way we were accustomed to.

Over the years we've thought about training again. About training with the other master. About trying to go back to our old studio. The timing, or financial situation, or whatever was never right.

When Bubby was just a few days old we decided to go in and see if we'd be welcome to train there again. We wanted to sign Beanie up. We wanted just to be able to go and train and stay out of the politics (if that was even possible).

We soon found out that our "past" was in question, that it was assumed we had left to train with the other master (I guess guilty until proven innocent?) and that we wouldn't even be offered the common courtesy of being spoken to about rejoining until some calls were made. I was really disappointed. So was Glenn. I'm not entirely surprised at how it played out. We did try to "explain ourselves" through an email, but we didn't want to play the games. Glenn told them that and we never heard back.

Their loss. Although, really, it's ours too.

I know I've left some details out & left some things intentionally vague. I guess to protect the "innocent."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Elimination Diet: My Favorite Foods & Products

When I first went on the elimination diet & eliminated all eight top allergens from my diet (dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish) I had a hard time adjusting. There were are lot of things I couldn't have. I tried to focus on the things I could have, but in the beginning that list seemed short -- meats, fruit, vegetables and rice. I quickly learned to make the best of our new-found diet situation; it was all about exploring new foods, preparing my own food and eating whole, unprocessed foods.

The following is a list of the foods and products that made me feel like I wasn't missing out on anything at all. In fact, I got to add a bunch of news foods to my repertoire.

1. So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer: I really like a cup of coffee in the morning. I like it with creamer. A lot of creamer. When I first went on the elimination diet, a friend suggested almond milk for my coffee. Too thin. I tried vanilla syrup. Better taste, but still not my thing. I ended up forgoing my morning cup of joe because I just couldn't find anything I liked to put in it. When I found out about So Delicious coconut milk coffee creamer I was ecstatic. I think I ran to the store that same day to buy some. It tasted just like the creamer I was used to, if not better. The consistency was just what I was looking for; it's creamy and flavorful. I never run out of my vanilla coconut milk coffee creamer now; the fridge is always well stocked.

2. Zing bars: We were wandering around the market one day when I noticed a sample table. I usually avoid them, but this one caught my eye. I was so excited to find Zing bars. They are locally made. When I was first starting the big elimination I was at a loss for what to eat for protein. Before, I stuck with nuts, eggs, and dairy for most of my protein, meat to a lesser extent. On the elimination diet, I was starting to feel like I was always hungry. I was starving in the evenings between nursing all the time and the diet. The Zing bars were perfect when I needed a snack to get me through. I started out with the Chocolate Coconut Zing bar (contains almonds & coconut) and, later when I could have peanuts, I tried out the Chocolate Peanut Butter one. There is also a Cranberry Orange flavor that is dairy free too, but contains cashews. I am positive I will never look at a protein/energy bar the same way. You'll be hard up to find one that comes close to Zing bars in taste.

3. Quinoa: I had never had quinoa before going on the big elimination. Glenn had picked some up at Trader Joes a long while back and it was sitting in our cupboard. One night we were getting dinner prepared and I realized that I couldn't have the side dish Glenn had picked out (I can't remember what it was or why now). I started looking through the cupboards trying to find something I could eat as a side. I found the quinoa. I'm so glad I did. Quinoa is one of our favorite grains now. We use quinoa pasta in our favorite soup. We have two delicious side salads that we make: Greek Quinoa and Red Quinoa with Papaya & Mango Salsa and Arugala. We have quinoa for breakfast. Beanie loves it too.

4. Trader Joes Brown Rice Penne Pasta: I was sure I'd have to miss out on pasta being gluten-free. Not the case! We definitely don't have it as often as we used to, but the TJ's brown rice penne pasta is delicious. We've tried a few brands of brown rice pasta, but the TJ's one is, by far, the best. For a full review, click here.

5. Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour: I'm not a fancy baker or cook. I do like baking with Beanie and, having the dietary restrictions we do, it's often easier to make something yummy at home. Often times recipes call for a mixture of flours, but I found the easy way out -- Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all purpose baking flour. We had started using rice flour initially, but switched to the Bob's Red Mill one, which is a mix of gluten-free flours and potato starch, and are happier with the taste and texture of our baked goods. Also, must mention the xantham gum too -- really helped with the baked goods! Basically, we've liked every single Bob's Red Mill gluten-free product we've tried and there have been quite a few: vanilla cake, cornbread, brownies, and pancake mix to name a few.

6. Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss ice-cream: Okay, okay ice-cream is definitely not an essential food item. Or maybe it is? What I do know is that Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss ice-cream was my treat when I felt like I couldn't eat anything. In the beginning of the big elimination, I felt like every time I ate it was a constant reminder of the diet. Going to the freezer and pulling out some ice-cream was something I looked forward to each evening. My two favorite flavors are the Mint Galactica (the best mint chocolate chip ice cream Glenn says he's had and he's something of a mint chocolate chip ice-cream connoisseur) and the Chocolate Peanut Butter. The Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge was the first one I had and it is so rich and tasty that just a small bit will satisfy you. Even if there's no reason for you not to have dairy ice-cream I implore you to try Coconut Bliss.

7. Rudi's gluten-free bread: Sometimes you just really want a sandwich. Or a slice of toast. Glenn found Rudi's gluten-free cinnamon raisin bread for me and I was hooked. Their multigrain bread is my favorite for sandwiches. I don't do sandwiches a lot, but when I do I definitely prefer their bread. (contains eggs -- I didn't try this until later on)

8. Earth Balance soy-free buttery spread: Earth Balance dairy-free soy-free spread is so good! It's great for baking, putting on toast, or (Beanie would tell you) just eating out of a spoon. I'm not kidding, just today we were making biscuits and she was so excited to put the measuring cups in the sink so she could, and I quote, "lick them all clean." She now asks for "mommy's butter" on her food too.

9. Rice Dream Rice MilkRice Dream rice milk became my go to drink. I don't really drink it by itself, but I always have it on hand for baking, granola, and lattes. I was so excited to get a case of it at Costco; I only have two cartons left so I hope I can find it there again soon.

There were obviously foods that, although not "required" by any stretch of the imagination, made the elimination a lot more fun. So, honorable mentions go to:

Enjoy Life chocolate chips -- Enjoy Life Foods are gluten-free and made without any of the top eight allergens
Kinnikinnick cinnamon donuts -- These are delicious with coffee.
Kinnikinnick frozen waffles -- Some mornings I don't feel like oatmeal. Or eggs. Or making pancakes. These waffles are easy to pop in the toaster and really tasty.
Udi's gluten-free double chocolate muffins -- My post Best Treat Ever pretty much sums it up.