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Saturday, December 26, 2009

After the Festivities are Over - a Year in Review

So here we sit and its the 26th of December, 2009. Wow what a Christmas we have had and what a year it has been.
Looking back on the year 2009 all I can say is "Holy Cow!" It started off with a bang as my hubby and I jetted off to the Dominican Republic for a well deserved break. Just the 2 of us - no kids! (Thank you grammas and auntie!!) We spent a wonderful week at a gorgeous resort and it has left me wishing we could do it again in January 2010 only with the kids this time. But alas that is not in the cards. That's ok though.

Now here's a bit of history... Brian and I didn't love where we were living at the beginning of 2009. Not that our house wasn't a home or anything like that but we had some neighbours that we weren't too fond of and it made living and playing at our home uncomfortable with our children. We had been looking on and off for houses that could be our new home for about 5 years. While away we decided to wait until March to start looking again and just enjoy the next few months after our trip with a post vacation glow and rose coloured glasses left from the holiday.

Now here's a bit of reality. We got home from our fantastic trip and about 2 weeks later I started looking at MLS and other listings for houses. I should NOT have done that but boy am I glad I did. I found a house that I really wanted to look at immediately. It was out of our price range by $10K but I thought we could always low ball an offer and see what happens. So I sent Brian the listing and he hummed and ha'd about it but after looking at the pictures said ok we should go take a look at the house. Well by February 11th we were taking our second look through the house and putting in an offer! By the end of day on the 12th the house was essentially ours!! With the low ball offer and all!!

So on our daughters 4th birthday (Feb 14) we listed our house. The MLS listing went up on the Internet on the 16th and by the 18th our house was sold! Obviously the new house was meant to be ours or things would not have worked out the way they did. It was a crazy time but we packed and moved by the end of March, beginning of April (we had a 1 month overlap so I could paint and clean a bit). We finally had our true "HOME". The picture here is of our eldest running around in the empty house that was soon to be ours. Both kids loved the space.

We've spent the time since moving in renovation the basement and then putting new floors in the living room and dinning room. We've worked hard but this house is really OURS now and boy do I love it! I think I must tell Brian about once a week that "I love our home." I appreciate all of the hard work he has put into to improving the house and making it ours. I appreciate the fact that he appreciates the work I have done too. Our children seem so happy here too. I know the move was hard for them both but now my 4 year old says that she doesn't really remember the old house. But she does remember Christmas at the old house... but she likes this house better for Christmas. Kids say the darnedest things.

I May we celebrated Miranda's second birthday in our new home... we had 18 people sitting, comfortably, in our new kitchen for a meal. WOW! I love my house! And my baby turned 2! Yikes! She's a little peanut but man she's feisty! She's going to give me a run for my money when she gets older. Not that she isn't already.

During the summer we went to the park across the road a few times... yes the park is ACROSS the STREET from us! WOW! I love my life. We didn't have any problems like we had with the old neighbours. No calls to the police reporting violence or other nonsense like in summers past. How fantastic could that be? We actually enjoyed our yard at our home instead of having to stay inside or go to the park if we didn't want.

September came and Talia started school, Junior Kindergarten!! AH! How did my first born get to be so old?? She loves her school and her teacher and is doing very well. Oh ya did I mention that the school is right ACROSS the road... and down a bit but still!!

After finishing the renovations in the basement we decided to go ahead and do the upstairs before Christmas. So speedily we painted and floored the dining and living rooms. Making this house even more ours! Then I started decorating for the holidays! I didn't care that it was not even mid November. I wanted to decorate my new home. So I got started with the small things like finding my holiday table clothes and towels and things like that. Nothing major - yet. But we did have the trees - yes trees - up about a week earlier than my historical norm.

Now with the turkey cooked, cookies baked and gifts exchanged I am certainly ready to face 2010 with my family at my side. We have a wonderful family and a wonderful home and we all are loved by so many. We are very lucky people and we need to be sure to remember that every day. Everyone should be as lucky as I am and have all of the joy and happiness that I feel when I look around at my life.

All the best for 2010! May it bring fewer major life changes but just as many wonderful feelings and as much love.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gingerbread Cookies (Gluten free)

Making cookies for distraction and gift giving.

So with the holidays nearly here and me baking up a storm I haven't actually had time to write in my blogs about what I'm making since my first 2 recipes. I've been running around getting things done and looking after the girls and spending evenings thinking about what else to bake/make for the holidays. A few nights this week I had every intention of finishing up my baking but the darn couch figured out how to comfortably attach itself to my padded behind. But I am FINALLY finished baking these silly cookies. I could have said that a few days ago but my dear sweet hubby decided to eat some of the cookies that were meant for gifts so I had to make more. Then I had to keep the kids busy yesterday so we made even more cookies (the sugar cookies from an earlier blog).

I have always LOVED gingerbread cookies and was seriously afraid of not having any this year - being my first year as an official Celiac lifer - I searched for weeks to find a recipe. I found recipes for gingerbread cakes, muffins and bread but no cookies! How is that possible?!?! The I found a recipe to try. The cookie was good but seriously lacking in the gingery gingerbread gusto that I so love. SO I did what any baker worth their weight in rice flour would do... I faked it. I spiced it up a couple of notches and made them just right for me.

I must admit that it took a few attempts to get it "perfect" and this could be too strongly flavoured for some of you but if you like things spicy then follow the recipe as I have it below. (My hubby and I had to taste test several dozen cookies before getting it right - no way we're losing weight this holiday season - oh well). I love the gingery, spicy flavour so I had to add more spice to the recipe I found... Seems like I'm always adding more spice to recipes though. Being a newly diagnosed Celiac I am still trying to find the best replacement flours but I think I found on mixture that works really well for these cookies and other recipes.

A very simple gluten free, flour/starch combination only...
4.5c white rice flour
2c potato starch -NOT flour
1.5c brown rice flour
1c tapioca flour/starch
Sift it together a couple of times to mix it well.
It makes.... add it up people.... 9 cups of flour.

Store it in a tightly closed container. Put it in the fridge or freezer if you won't use it up within 1-2 weeks.

The recipe for the gingerbread cookies has been published on Recipezaar but for those who'd rather not have to navigate away from my blog here it is.

Dry ingredients
2c gluten free flour (mixture as above or any one you have but make sure it it is flours and starches only no baking powder or soda etc)
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp baking soda
1 1/2 - 2tsp cinnamon
2tsp ground ginger
1/2 - 1tsp ground cloves
1/2-1tsp ground nutmeg
1tsp xanthan gum
pinch of salt

Wet ingredients
1/2c butter
1/3c fancy (unsulfered) molasses
1/2c (dark) brown sugar
1 egg


Bring all ingredients to room temperature before using.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Then add the rest of the WET ingredients. Mix together until completely combined.
In a separate bowl mix together all of the DRY ingredients and sift well a couple of times.
Add the DRY ingredients to the WET a little at a time until completely combined. Make into a ball.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Remove from the fridge and knead on a floured surface.
Roll out to 1/4 inch (5mm) thick and cut using your favourite cookie cutters. Yield depends on the size of your cookie cutters.
Bake at 350F (pre-heated) for 15-17 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let sit on cookie sheet for 5 minutes then remove to cooling rack. They may be quite fragile if they were rolled too thin and therefore over cooked a bit... but they'll still taste yummy.

Let them cool completely before icing with your favourite hard setting frosting. I use royal icing made with meringue powder.

The pictures are of the cookies after my girls decorated them. I have included both the sugar cookies (from my earlier blog) and gingerbread cookies. I was trying desperately to keep the girls entertain as I had been out late the night before and needed to keep myself moving and them distracted. Se we made more sugar cookies and then decorated all of the gingerbread and sugar cookies. It was certainly a good way to keep them and me busy for upwards of 3 hours (with clean up and baking/cooling breaks worked in). It was also a good lesson in giving up control for me as I let the girls make and cut out the sugar cookies any way they wanted to. The dough is so easy to handle and doesn't toughen up with repeated rollings so I could let them make whatever they want where ever they wanted on the dough. They had a blast and I LOVED watching them play with their food. The icing on their noses was priceless.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Gifts from the kids

So my girls and I just spent a fun filled morning making Christmas gifts for the family. Along with Christmas baking and a fab cleaning tool everyone is getting a home made gift from each of the girls.

I knew I wanted to get the girls to make something for everyone but back in November I had NO idea what on earth to do. Then I went to Michael's and found a few different solutions. Everyone knows the little foam cut outs that are everywhere for kids crafts? Well I found those that suited my purposed perfectly. They had an abundance of kits and so on that I felt I could adapt to suit my needs. I wanted to incorporate the girls picture into the craft. I found a wreath kit which suited that purpose perfectly. I also wanted to have something they could just put together on their own without too much parental influence. So I bought trees and various decorations. The beauty of each of these things is that they were stickers and NOT glue crafts. So I had to peel the stickers for the little one - no biggie when it saved a huge mess with glue. My kids LOVE glue on their crafts, fingers, clothes, table, faces and in their hair in particular. So glue is best to avoid.

They turned out really well and the girls had fun wasting an hour and a half while we let daddy sleep in.

Christmas gifts are almost done! Yeah me! Only some more baking and a few stocking stuffer type things for me to get and I'm DONE!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Kids having issues...

Ok well I have 2 little girls and they have always had digestive difficulties. We've taken the time to do diet trials and have gone to the naturopath and we have a great lot of information. The doctors say there's nothing wrong. They have no 'allergies' to speak of and we're not supposed to modify their diet unless we notice marked improvements by avoiding specific foods... well we do! Wheat and dairy seem to be the culprits. But man oh man.
My 4, almost 5 year old LOVES carbs! She loves bread and pasta and crackers and starchy snacks. We have modified her diet for the most part. She doesn't eat wheat (may be once per month we'll let her have a treat) and we avoid dairy as much as possible. We recently ran out of her spelt bread and I let her have her fathers whole wheat bread that day for breakfast AND lunch. The next day she had it again for breakfast and lunch. She loves her sandwiches and won't eat much else at lunch and since the store didn't have her bread we 'let her have' daddies bread. The third day we had her bread again and switched her back. But that afternoon I got a call from her school to come pick her up because she felt sick to her tummy... right about the time of the most recent H1N1 round. I picked her up and brought her home. No fever, no nausea, no cough, no symptoms except her tummy being upset. After more questioning it wasn't 'upset' but sore. She was in pain. I thought about it and she hadn't had a bowel movement since the day before having her dads bread (3 days ago) and she was officially constipated. We gave her some meds to help with that and once she went she was right as rain.
Her doctor swears that wheat and gluten have nothing to do with her chronic constipation. When doing elimination diets when she is gluten free she goes to the bathroom more regularly. Take out dairy and tomatoes and she is as regular as a very healthy, fit person should be. She tests negative for Celiac disease and as I mentioned she has no food allergies to speak of - so what's the problem??
I guess the reason I am posting this is I am frustrated. I think it IS gluten! But until she tests positive for Celiac can I justify taking gluten out of her diet completely? Not according to her doctor or my husband. Unless he's convinced with solid evidence - he's a scientist - he's not convinced either. People, my husband included, doesn't feel I should be depriving my children of foods without solid proof of there being a problem. Isn't the evidence with improved bowels and behaviours enough for anyone these days?? I'm tired of having to dose her with stool softeners and various meds for something that can be controlled through diet alone.
Does anyone else have similar stories with constipated kids especially?? Any ideas of how to deal with the outside world in this regard would be appreciated.
Another time I'll talk about the issues with my other wee one... similar but different story there.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Almost but not quite

OK so I continued my baking trials and have a near success. I decided to try making gluten free, casein free chocolate macaroons. Well they are both GF & CF but they are not quite your traditional macaroons.

I found my recipe and replaced the milk with almond milk and the butter with margarine (cf). I didn't have quite enough GF oats so I used quinoa flakes to top it up. I warmed my sugar, cocoa, margarine and milk then removed them from the stove and added the dry ingredients of quinoa, oats and coconut. I mixed them all together and they sure smelled like regular macaroons.

Fast forward several hours... the macaroons are still soft and mushy. They taste great. A little nutty flavoured from the quinoa but good and chocolaty nonetheless. So I guess that means that we'll be eating soft mushy macaroons and I'll be going grocery shopping for the new oats and making a new batch with butter and milk for gifting. But really I don't mind so much having to eat 2 dozen yummy chocolate treats. They look great and taste great but they fall apart everywhere and stick to every finger!

So here we sit thinking about mushy macaroons and watching Home Alone 2 with the family. But if you want a GF CG chocolaty treat here's the recipe.

1/2c margarine
1/2c milk
6Tbsp cocoa
1c sugar
1/2c coconut
3 cups mixed oats (GF) and quinoa

Heat the first 4 ingredients until melted. Once melted remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients. Spoon onto parchment papered cookie sheets and cool until firm. Remember they won't get hard just firm.
I know we will.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Gluten Free Christmas Cookies

Ok so it was a grand idea and so far so good.

After being recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease and having other family members who are either also Celiac lifers or choose to be gluten free for other reasons, I decided to give us all a bit of our past for the holidays. The one thing I have heard a lot of Celiac lifers miss are traditional seasonal sweets. Especially lifers who don't bake, as a habit, for themselves. My family members are those lifers. They enjoy the treats but don't bake... or at least haven't since they became gluten free. So weeks ago I started searching out recipes. Boy was I pleasantly surprised to find so many out there. Most of them on various blogs like this one or adaptations from 'regular' cookbooks on Celiac group sites and other recipe sites. But I must say this one is FAB!

The recipe came from an un-noted blog and I have modified it slightly but kept pretty true to the original authors notes. These sugar cookies are light once baked and quite tasty but what got me was the ease of handling with the dough! As anyone who has ever worked with rice flour knows, baked goods are usually crumbly and fall apart VERY easily. This dough was handled, and handled and then handled more by myself and my girls. And another great attribute of this recipe - it doesn't require refrigeration, so we could make the dough and cut the cookies right away!! Thank you to the author for such a great Sugar cookie recipe.


1c GF, CF shortening

1c white sugar

1 egg

2tsp GF Vanilla (I used real not artificial - I think it makes a difference)

1c white rice flour

1/2c tapioca flour

1c potato starch (not flour)

2-1/2tsp xanthan gum

1tsp salt

1tsp GF baking powder

extra potato starch for dusting board and kneading


Pre-heat oven to 350F

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer cream together the shortening and sugar.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined and fluffy.

In a separate bowl combine all dry ingredients by sifting and re-sift.

Sift into the wet ingredients a little bit at a time. Mix well and add all dry ingredients. The dough will start to 'ball up' this is what you're looking for.

Coat your hands with potato starch and make the dough into a ball. Roll the dough onto a starched surface and roll with a starched rolling pin. Roll to 1/4inch thick. Cut into seasonal cookies. We did Christmas shapes.

Place on cookie sheet directly OR on parchment paper. I used both metal and stone ware and both worked quite nicely.

Decorate with sugars etc if desired or save decorating till after they're baked if you're going to ice them etc.

Bake for 12-14 minutes until very slightly browning on the edges. Cool on baking rack.

The author says they freeze well but so far I haven't had the chance to try that but I will be doing so and let you know.

Enjoy! I know we have.