Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pumpkins are a Mean Vegtable

A while back my blog friend Heather mentioned that her family grows a couple of pumpkins every year so they don't have to buy them for Halloween. I thought this was a most excellent idea so I stole it.

When we carved our pumpkin last year we saved out about 8 seeds. I dried them on the windowsill a while and then put them away until spring.

When I planted our garden this spring I dropped in a few of the seeds. I think I planted six in total and to my amazement, four actually grew! For the next week or so I had the cutest little pumpkin plants. Then I had some bigger pumpkin plants. By the time we came back from vacation the pumpkins had run amuck. They completely grew over the marigolds totally hiding them from sight, started to choke out the squash and were running vines out into the yard.

Then God intervened.

It's been in the high 90's all week and not a rain drop in sight. When I went out to pull some weeds tonight it was obvious that one of the pumpkin vines had perished from heat exhaustion and lack of water.


So I pulled it out.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation I highly recommend that you wear gloves. Did you know that pumpkins have thorns? And prickers? And they are not widely spaced apart like rose. Oh no, they are packed in tight. And since I was not wearing gloves I felt the fury of the pumpkins wrath.

Thirsty pumpkins are mean pumpkins. After all, this is the pumpkin that the seeds came from.

And just so you know that I am not a total pumpkin hater I am adding on a picture of a very cute and sweet pumpkin. This one has no thorns and is very cute indeed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Update on Doodlebug and Financial Challenge

Last week we went to visit the neurologist again. She no longer thinks that Doodlebug is a late bloomer. He's just too far behind and not catching up like he should be. He's 17 months old and still not able to feed himself. He does not call me "Mama" or his daddy "Dada" yet. He still is barely able to chew food. He is walking, but hasn't gotten really good at it yet. These are milestones he should have passed long ago. It breaks my heart to see him falling behind.

Anyway, since he's not catching up like we had hoped the neuro wants to start doing more testing to see if we can find a cause for his delays. Previously she ordered some bloodwork to test for metabolic and genetic disorders. We chose not to have them done at this time. We are still holding onto him being a late bloomer, and if there is a diagnosis it won't change what we are doing to get him therapy and try to catch up. He doesn't have unusual health problems that would lead us to think there is more going on and we just don't see the point of spending thousands of dollars to rule out disorders no one really thinks he has.

So now we are setting up and MRI. We go to get some basic bloodwork done tomorrow and hopefully the MRI will be done in the next month. I really don't want to have this done either. He will have to be put under and I hate for him to go through all of this. And anything the MRI could tell us is stuff I don't want to know. She is looking for brain damage, brain malformation and evidence of a stroke, just to name a few horrifying scenarios. And if all is well there, we are going to be sent off to the geneticist. Who knows what all that will entail.

This is taking it's toll on the potential adoption as well. The neuro wants us to find out what is going on with Doodlebug before proceeding with the adoption. What exactly is she expecting to diagnose him with? And really, what does it matter? We want to have another child. That won't change even if Doodlebug has lasting issues.

I am sure the MRI will cost a significant amount, even with insurance. Insurance only covers a portion and when Doodlebug had ear tubes put in and his endoscopy done we paid quite a bit of money out of pocket. That money will end up coming out of the adoption fund. And if the MRI is normal I'm sure we will have to pursue the bloodwork for the genetic and metabolic disorders. I know the tests are very expensive and we will again have to pay a portion.

Please don't misunderstand. I am grateful that we have the funds to pay for this. I am grateful we have insurance. I do not begrudge my son this money if he needs it to have medical tests done. It's just frustrating to know how far away we are from our goal of raising money for the adoption and realizing that this will only push us further away from that goal. It seems so unattainable right now.

So far in June I have raised a whopping $35. We have a looooonnnng way to go to reach our goal, and it will be even further if we need to dip into the funds we do have to pay medical bills.

I really don't want to leave this post on such a low note, so let me tell you a little bit more about my wonderful boy. He is my favorite baby in the whole world. If I could clone him I would do it in a New York minute.

He is so laid back and good natured it is unbelievable. When we were in Downtown Disney we decided to go into some of the gift shops. I could hand him a toy to look at and play with for a minute and then take it back from him and he never made a fuss. Not once. What kid does that?

He's started giving kissed on request. Of course I request them at least twenty time a day. He's almost always happy to oblige.

He has the best laugh. And he uses it often.

When we pick him up in the nursery at church and all the other kids are screaming he is the only one with a smile on his face. And his smile gets even bigger when he sees us.

He makes really funny faces.

He loves to read books. Dr. Suess and Sandra Boynton are his favorites. He will sit and look at books for almost an hour by himself.

And last, but not least, he is the personification of cuteness.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Gluten-Free Oreo Recipe

There are few foods that I truely miss after going gluten-free. Oreos is on the list though.

Come on, it's a classic. That chocolatey wafter with the yummy cream filling. Who doesn't love oreos?

So I was really excited when I found a recipe for homemade Oreo cookies one day on Smitten Kitchen's blog. Even though it wasn't gluten-free I copied it down thinking I could maybe alter it.

Yesterday I sat down at the computer and did a search for "gluten-free Oreo recipe". Zilch. Zip. Nada.

So I pulled the one on my computer and studied it a minute. The gluten free flour mix I use says that it can be substituted cup for cup for regular flour. What have I got to lose? I really want some Oreos and it's not like I can just waltz down to the store and get some.

So I started baking. This is what I ended up with.

Yep, that is a plate of homemade, gluten free, Oreo cookies. Yum!

They were easy and oh so yummy!

I will give you the recipe, but there are a couple of things I'd do differently next time so I'm going to make some notes on it too. Now don't freak out on me when you read the recipe. They really are not hard at all to make. And the only kind of cooking I like is easy and good. Okay, ready? Here it is!

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (if you are making this gluten free, I used this flour mix)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

As always, if you are baking these gluten-free please verify each of your ingredients is gluten-free before starting.

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. In a medium sized bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar, then beat in the butter, and the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together in a mass. This is where I made my first mistake. Maybe you all know this, but if you put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and then add the butter and egg when you start to beat it the cookie mix will explode out of the bowl and all over the counters. Very messy. (Don't ask me how I know this, I just know.) Next time I will cream the butter and egg and then slowly add the dry ingredients.

3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set on a rack to cool. If you read my other recipes you know I don't follow directions very well. So I had to experiment. For about 2/3 of my cookies I rolled out the dough and used a round cookie cutter. I put the dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper and rolled it out thick 1/4-1/2 inch). The cutter is about the size of a regular Oreo. If you do this, be aware that your cookies will still spread and leave room on the pan for this. Otherwise you will end up with one giant cookie. These took about 7 minutes to cook. The rest of the cookies I used a cookie scoop and then flattened them slightly.

4. To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy. I used butter flavored Crisco as my shortening and it turned my cream yellow although it came out white in the pictures. Just a note in case that kind of thing would bother you.

5. To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Remember when I said not to freak out? Okay good, keep reading. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. I don't have a pastry bag and I don't know how to pipe. That would be in direct opposition of my love for easy cooking. I tried just spooning the icing on the cookies, but it was kind of messy and didn't work well. So I loaded the icing in a ziplock bag and smooshed out all the air I could. Then I sealed the bag and cut off one of the lower corners. I squeezed the icing out of the hole into blobs on top of half of the wafters. Much easier than the spooning method. I got all the icing on in less time than it took me to load up the baggie.

The Verdict

Oh-my-goodness-these-cookies-are-awesome! Someone pass the milk.

I love them. The ones that I made with the cookie cutters were much thinner and more Oreo-like. The ones that I scooped and flattened ended up about an inch thick in the end (with filling and all). Now initially that sounds like a good thing, but ends up being a little much. If I try that method again I will have to flatten them out more. And maybe try a smaller scoop.

They do not taste like they are gluten free. I gave one to a friend who stopped by this morning (who is not gluten-free) and she declared them to be "better than Oreos!"

Oh, and because this is how my life works.... As the cookies were cooling I found a gluten-free adaptation on the web. It's very similar to the one I used and if the gluten free flour blend you are using does not already contain xantham gum, I would follow her suggestion to add 1/2 t of Xantham gum.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jules Gluten Free Flour Blend

I refer to this gluten-free flour blend a lot when I am baking. It is my go-to flour for most of my baking recipes. It's easy to make and I keep a container of it stocked in my pantry and ready to go. I make double batches because I tend to go through it pretty quickly.

Just a quick reminder to always read the labels on every ingredient you use if you are cooking gluten free. I try to point out potential hazards but manufacturers make changes quickly and often so you always need to double check.

Jules Nearly Normal Flour Mix*

• 1 cup white rice flour
• 1 cup potato starch (not potato flour)
• 1 cup cornstarch
• 1/2 cup corn flour
• 1/2 cup tapioca flour or tapioca starch
• 4 teaspoons xanthan gum

*recipe reprinted with permisssion

If you don't want to make your own flour mix it is available by mail-order. You can visit Jules' website at JulesGlutenFree.com for more information. She also has a lot of free gluten-free recipes.

Home Sweet Home

Have you ever wondered what your house would look like if you had strep twice, and then mono and then gone out of town for a week all while staying at home with your 16 month old? You haven't? Me either. But I now know. And if you keep reading, you shall too.

Can you say clutter?

On every. available. surface.

Before you feel the need to call social services to come and take my child to a less chaotic environment, be assured it does not look the same now. It took me all of Monday to clean up the kitchen, but it looks a lot better now.

Most of the time I am a reformed slob. I do actually have a routine I do every day to keep the house presentable. It's not long and complicated, just the basic stuff that needs to get done so we can keep on living here without falling all over stuff. Or sticking to the kitchen floor. Not that that's ever happened to me. Nope.

With all the sickness and then the vacation I have let things go for a little too long. There are unfinished projects in every room of our house. I don't remember the last time I dusted. There's a lot of cat hair on the stairs. It is a bit overwhelming.

But the difference now it that I know I can do it. I can dig back out. I can keep up a house while raising a small child without cleaning for hours every day. I have done it before and I will do it again.

Because I like the house cleaner. I like it when I can find what I'm looking for. I like it when the counters in the kitchen are free of clutter. I like it when the unfinished projects are projects in process and not junk left lying around the house forever. I like it when my son can crawl around on the kitchen floor and not get really dirty. It makes me happier. Calmer. I feel a bit more in control. So, I'm taking back my house. I will set my timer and work my behind off for 15 minutes at a time until I'm back on track. "The house didn't get dirty overnight, and it won't get clean overnight either." (Quote from FlyLady.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting out Cherry Stains

Usually when I wear a white shirt I eat spaghetti and get sauce all over it. This time I wore a white shirt and got cherry juice on it.

Of course we were traveling and the only clean shirts I had were buried in the trunk. And there's nothing quite like showing up at your in-laws with huge stains all over your shirt.

So I grabbed a baby wipe and cleaned it up as best I could. The stains weren't gone, but they were much lighter. When I washed the shirt I fully expected to see cherry stains on it. They had set for three days and I had no pre-treater for the laundry either.

But they were gone!

I had no idea that a baby wipe would prevent the stain from setting and it would come out in the wash. But hey, I like simple. And I really like that my shirt was not ruined.

Now where are the rest of those cherries...?

Check out other blogs linked up to Works for me Wednesdays.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vacation Pictures

This was one of the highlights of the trip. Doodlebug sat on the edge of the pool and would jabber to his cousin, Z. Then Z would get out and yell, "Hey Doodlebug, watch this!" And then he would dive in the pool. Sometimes Doodlebug would laugh, but usually he would put on his surprised face and yell "Oooooooooh!" And then jabber some more loudly. It really looked like he was trying to coach Z in the fine art of diving. We started referring to him as the German judge.

Spending a little time with Aunt K.

This is how Doodlebug spent most of the trip, clinging to Daddy. At least it gave Mommy a break.

Oh wait, is that a smile I see??? Quick, snap the picture!

We took Doodlebug to Downtown Disney. He was not impressed.

And when we stuck a hat on him, he became even less impressed.

But we did get one pretty good family shot.

Big boy walking!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Stuff of Legends...

You know the family stories that everyone loves to tell and that makes the entire family roar with laughter? We refer to those as family legends. Have you ever noticed that they are hysterical now, but at the time they were pretty awful? They usually start out remember the time...
...the dog ate Grandma's birthday cake and then threw it up in the car?
...we hit a deer on vacation? And when we stopped for help the man had locked himself out of his house so we had to help him climb in the window before we could call a tow truck.
...Dad got lost boating on the lake and we ended up trying to signal him with the headlight from our campsite?

Those are all true family legends by the way.

Anyways, to get to the point of this blog post. Last week we thought we were going to go on vacation. This week we now know it was a lengend making excursion.

The day before we were supposed to leave Doodlebug had a fever, so off to the doctor's we went. It was pronounced a virus and we were told to go ahead with our vacation.

By 8:30 that evening the fever was 105.7 and we ended up in the emergency room. Still a virus. Nothing to do except give Motrin and Tylenol. Have a nice day.

We delayed the trip a day. I wouldn't want to be stuck in a car all day with a fever, and I didn't want to do that to Doodlebug.

One day late and fever free we left for Florida.

By the time we got there, the fever was back, but at least it was only 101. Motrin and bed.

Unfortunately the fever and teething pushed Doodlebug over the edge. Our sweet boy who loves people and going places only wanted Daddy to hold him. No one else. He refused to take baths, eat green veggies, or drink anything. We thought it would end when he started feeling better.

He got over the fever and promptly got a cold. And a molar. Poor kid.

Our first family excursion in Florida was to the grocery store for dinner. It was almost time for Doodlebug to eat, but we figured we could make it there and back no problem. So we left the diaper bag (with snacks and juice) at home. Our car's battery died in the parking lot. No warning. We came out with our cranky baby and sack of groceries to a car that was not the least bit interested in starting. And it was almost 100 degrees. Fun times.

On our last full day of the legend making excursion we left Doodlebug napping with his grandparents, aunt and cousins and went out on a date. It was a great date, until the drive home. We got rear ended. Car has minor bumper damage, but it hurt my back and neck so off to Urgent Care we went. I got medicine. It made me sick to my stomach. Just another bonus along the way.

Someday our family will find this hysterical. I tried to tell myself that while standing in the grocery store parking lot. And again at Urgent Care. I guess legends get better with age and this one needs a bit more time.

Anyone want to share a family lengend and make me laugh?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Making Hostess Cupcakes

I've been debating whether this little tip is even blog-worthy. It's such a simple little thing.

My mom, who also has Celiac, used to love Hostess cupcakes. Now that she has to eat gluten free, they are off-limits. She came up with this little trick to make these gluten free cupcakes at home. I think you could also do this with regular cupcakes.

1 box Betty Crocker gluten free cake mix
1 stick of butter
1 cup water
3 eggs
Marshmellow fluff.

Make your cake mix according to the directions on the box, or you could use my slightly healthier version of making this mix.

Put a small amount of cake batter into each cupcake tin. Add a generous dollop of marshmellow fluff and top with remaining batter. Bake as directed.

The marshmellow fluff will rise to the top, but the taste is remarkably close to Hostess Cupcakes.

And just a side note, I tried to duplicate her results by using marshmellows instead of fluff. It was not nearly the same. I just thought it would be easier. Next time I'll just use the fluff

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Quick Fix for Well Loved Clothes

Doodlebug wears mostly secondhand clothes. Some I buy at the local consignment shop, others at church consignment sales and a few at garage sales. Garage sales are hit and miss but they are usually the best bargains. When I find clothing for less than a dollar I'm willing to take some chances on being able to clean it up when I get home.

A couple weeks ago I found a yard stuff with boy clothes in the next size up for Doodlebug. They were priced at $.50 each so I dug around and found a couple of cute things. There was a cute little Winnie the Pooh fleece pullover. At first I put it back because Pooh looked dirty, but when I looked closer I realized he was just covered in fuzz balls. I decided it was cute enough to take a chance on and put it in my pile. This is what it looked like.

When I got home I got out my old sweater shaver. Actually, if you look closely it's really called the Magik Fuzz Buster. I forgot where I got mine from but I've seen them for sale in fabric stores.

I spent about five minutes going over Pooh and shaving off the fuzz balls. My guess was that once he was cleaned up the whole jacket would look a lot better.

It's amazing what a few minutes of restoration work can do to a piece of clothing. I don't hesitate to buy sweaters, shirts or other clothing that looks a little pilly because I know that I can clean it up quickly at home.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Some Reasons I Love Being a Stay at Home Mom

  1. Baby giggles are the best things ever. Seriously, if I could bottle them sales of Prozac would drop dramatically.
  2. On beautiful spring days I get to play outside.
  3. Doodlebug is my favorite baby in the whole world and I get to hang out with him all day.
  4. When I’m really tired, I can take a nap (as long as Doodlebug is on board with this plan!)
  5. I get to play with bubbles.
  6. The commute is awesome.
  7. My boss is so stinkin’ cute!
  8. Doodlebug makes sure I don't take myself too seriously.
  9. Part of my job description is snuggling.
  10. Every day is a new adventure.
  11. I love seeing my little guy discover the world.
  12. I get to be creative and stretch my capacity to be resourceful.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer Spaghetti

This is one of those a-little-of-this and a little-of-that recipes. The kind that's hard to translate into something on paper for another person to be able to follow. But summer's coming, and so are the fresh tomatoes. The tomatoes in my garden are starting to flower and I am looking forward to being able to make summer spaghetti again. Since fresh tomatoes are the base you really need home grown ones, not the kind you buy at the supermarket.

Summer Spaghetti

One large tomato peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
2t oil
2T vinegar (I've used red, white, balsamic and a mixture of the three)
2 cups cooked pasta (you can use gluten-free pasta for this)

Okay, those are all the essentials for this dish. But there are lots and lots of things that you can add to make it taste better depending on what you have in the fridge, how much time you have and what you like to eat. Here are some of my favorites...

Sliced black olives
1/2 inch chunks of sweet pepper
1/2 inch chunks of cucumber
minced garlic
Thinly sliced onion

Mix tomatoes, oil and vinegar together in a bowl. For a dish with more bite to it, let the tomatoes marinade in the vinegar and oil for up to a day before serving. Add olives, sweet pepper, cucumber, garlic and onion. Serve over cold cooked pasta. Mmmmm...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

Yesterday was our three year anniversary.

I was smart enough to marry the nicest man I've ever met.

And I am lucky enough that he puts up with all of my shenanigans.

Love you Hon!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Chocolate Cake Mix Experiment

I had a couple of the Betty Crocker Devil's Food Cake mixes in my cupboard and I wanted chocolate last night like crazy. But as any of my reader's know by now, I really have trouble following a recipe. It's not that I can't, but I don't want to be limited by the directions on the box.

But since it was a success I thought I'd share.

In the freezer I had a couple of cups of cherry puree. This is a mix of fresh spinach leaves and frozen cherries pureed together. I don't remember the ratio, but maybe I'm guessing roughly half and half. (This would be no fun if I remembered everything, now would it?) So I made up a new recipe.

1/2 cup water
2 eggs
1 cup cherry puree
1/2 stick of butter (softened)

Combine all ingredients. Once combined mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Bake according to directions on the box. Check your cake a little sooner than the directions say to. Mine was done in 30 minutes in a 9 x 9 pan.

I was hoping the cake would taste like a cherry chocolate cake, but it really didn't. It was moist and chocolately and yummy though! And the best part was that I cut out 1/2 of the butter and 1 egg that the recipe called for. And I replaced it with fruits and veggies! Much healthier and I thought it tasted better than the way it is supposed to be prepared.
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