About Me

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I am mom to an 18 year old boy and identical twin 9 year old boys. I am the wife of a wonderful man. I have had celiac disease for 18 years, and love to share recipes I find or create!

Nov 26, 2011

Did you have a good Thanksgiving?

As you can see from the photos, we sure did! I tried a new recipe and brined a 14lb turkey the day before cooking. I cooked it at 400 for around 2 hours, and I am telling you it was so juicy and flavorful it almost wasn't turkey! Click here for the recipe :) I have cooked many turkeys in my day, and I am totally turned - I will never cook a turkey any other way! I stuffed some veggies into the cavity and around the bird, but by the time it was done cooking they were useless. Flavored the turkey nicely tho!

Hubby fried a turkey this year for the first time, and his bird was super moist too. It looked "different", I wasn't prepared for it to be so dark when it was cooked, but it still wowed me with it's moist taste. It was fun to see him out back with his pulley system to raise and lower the turkey, thank you Alton Brown!!! Very cool!!

Nov 21, 2011

Thank You Udi's!

Someone at Udi's loves me - seriously. Let me explain. I eat "normal" food - I can't stand health food, I called it all bird seed until I was forced into gluten free eating by the diagnosis of Celiac Disease. I still don't like health food, but I do eat granola type stuff for breakfast - sometimes. Gone are those warm bowls of oatmeal on cold mornings... turkey and swiss on toasted white bread... bagels with cream cheese and raspberry jam... drippy greasy bacon burgers smothered in cheese and thousand island dressing...

Those foods were all gone until I discovered Udi's. I have tried multiple varieties of Rudi's bread, which all fell apart and were just not my cup of tea. I have tried a few of the Ezekiel breads, all great if you like health food and don't expect wonderbread. I expect wonderbread. Since discovering Udi's bread stand at my local grocery store I have been regularly buying their white bread. It's awesome bread, just very small ;) Not wonderbread soft, but who cares if it tastes really good, doesn't fall apart, or mold in an afternoon! I absolutely love Udi's hamburger buns - I use them for their intended purpose as well as in place of biscuits, as rolls, I even toast them and put jelly on them! Yummy! Then I found Udi's bagels, and my toasted bagels with cream cheese and raspberry jam dreams returned. I went to the store over the weekend and found - drumroll please - Cinnamon Raisin Bread from Udi's. Of course I paid $5.99 for the loaf, I would have bought two if they had another one! It's sweet, toasts well and stays together just like "real" bread, and it tastes just like I remember Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Raisin Swirl bread tasting. Yes, that was my favorite bread of all time. I am in heaven! I have had four pieces already, toasted with a little margarine on top. HEAVEN!

So thank you Udi's for making such wonderful make mommy happy products! I still haven't seen the hot dog buns, I can't wait to have a hot dog IN A BUN! It's been what, 8 or 9 years now since I had a hot dog wrapped in bready awesomeness, drowned with ketchup and sweet relish, topped with some cheese... ok now I'm drooling ;) And no, I did not get paid for saying any of this!

Nov 17, 2011

Being Thankful

My first thought today is this: be happy with who you are.

I realized years ago while I was cooking hamburger helper for my little two year old (don't judge!) that I was angry all the time. It was quite an epiphany for me. I realized that if I wanted to be truly happy I had to accept the things I couldn't change about my life, like my red hair or having to wear glasses. I set out to change the things I could in a way that I could be happy with! It's much easier said than done, but I am one of those people who are doers, not procrastinators. It took me a few years of trying this and that, but over the years I have found my "happy place". It's not about what I have, or that I'm better off than so and so - it's about me and what makes me happy. I'm no better than anyone else, but I smile a lot!

My kids make me happy every day - even when I'm angry if Big Kid just has to be right, or when the twins play "gotcha" and make each other scream, I still love being their mom and know in my heart they are amazingly good kids. I have learned to choose my battles carefully! I married a man I cannot imagine being without, who makes my life brighter every day. I find homeschooling the most rewarding thing I have ever done other than parenting. My mother and I have an awesome relationship. I hate that I have celiac disease, but I can't change it so I don't dwell - I find foods that still make my mouth water and are gluten free. I had to wear braces as an adult, and was in pain daily - but kept the end result in sight. We have the same family issues everyone else does, I promise. I don't know how else to put it into words, other than after hitting many potholes in the road I have learned to avoid the big ones and make repairs when I do hit one. I have bad days, who doesn't - but I have realized that the good ones far outweigh the bad ones if you have the right attitude about dealing with things! If I wake up in a bad mood it can quickly ruin an entire day - I try to realize that and find something do that makes me happy. It's usually laughing with my children ;) Just take a step back and enjoy what makes you smile today!

A day in our homeschooling life

I started homeschooling Big Kid a year and a half ago. We have been hugely successful schooling at home with him, and I am very proud of him (and of myself!). I am, however, caught off guard every time someone asks me "well what do you do with your twins all day" when they learn I homeschool! What do they think I do, duct tape them to the wall until the school bell rings at the end of our day?!

I have to stop for a moment and remember, if you have never been exposed to a homeschooler's day it is foreign. Since I only have one child "in school" right now and he's 12, I do not sit at a table all day and lecture. I feel it necessary to explain this since I am asked questions often! In an average day I talk "at" Big Kid for collectively ... one to two hours, depending on the material and my involvement in it. Yesterday for example we worked together for an hour on his documentary about being a knight in feudal Europe. He has never written a documentary, I helped. We had the argument that because I am "Mom" he does not get to hand in a paper with stick figure drawings across the top. He is 12! Other days I barely sit for an hour with him! I am always nearby, and there to help, but he is pretty independent as far as school goes. I grade before cooking dinner, so I can still talk to him about things if something went the wrong direction.

I "lecture" from our Social Studies book (see curriculum at the bottom of my blog) and I usually talk to him about science lessons. For math, we read a ten minute lesson then he does practice problems, if they're correct he moves onto homework. I certainly don't hold his hand during homework, if he hits an issue he finds me and we work it out. My mother does an art lesson once a week if we can manage it (she does not live with us). Latin is a video that he watches, then I check his retention with a lesson page he fills out and we have various worksheets to reinforce the material. He reads out of a literature book every other day, and takes a quiz on what he read after the selection. On certain days we talk for five minutes about his grammar lesson, most days he just flies through his Easy Grammar book. We use a Reader's Digest word quiz book for vocabulary building. He reads every day for an hour from a book either he or I choose. Right now he's reading The Book of Three, which is one I picked since it seemed to fit with what we are studying in European history (medieval times). He takes tests, quizzes, and such just like every public school child does, the difference is I am right here to see if something fails and work with him on it. I still grade just like I would any child, I don't curve ever, and if he gets a 58 I record a 58.

So after reading that I hope more people understand how I fit in housework, reading to the twins, doing projects and puzzles and painting, playing playdoh... you get the idea. My kids come first no matter what, and we do take days off when we just don't feel like school. It's a homeschooling bonus! I am a tad bit curious about how to fit in Big Kid's school with twins in say, first or second grade, but honestly things go so well for us right now I feel we'll take it all in stride! We already have "preschool" for the twins, and have just about everything you would find in a preschool room, minus the germs and overcrowding. And my kids still get "one on one" from ME! I do NOT feel like we are together too much, nor do I feel "trapped". I'm happy in this role, and am happy I have the opportunities I do!

Nov 12, 2011

Beef Stew

Another reason I love cold weather :) This is one of my favorite meals of all time, and it's excellent with Udi's new hamburger buns, toasted and buttered like a biscuit!

Beef Stew
*as always, if you are making this as a gluten free recipe check your ingredients to ensure gluten free status! I have brands I am very loyal to, but I still check every time I buy a new container to ensure nothing has changed on the ingredient list.

2 lbs stew beef
1/4 C flour (I use GF pantry's all purpose, but used to make it with *normal* flour before going gluten free)
6 C water
bay leaf
beef boullion cube
small bag of mini carrots, sliced
3 to 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
dash of worcestershire sauce

In a large pot stir together beef and flour, and stir over medium heat until beef is browned. Add 6C water and cover, simmering on low for 2 hours. Add bay leaf, boullion cube, veggies and worcestershire sauce. Simmer uncovered until veggies are soft and ready.

This recipe has no salt in it because my mother doesn't eat salt - however if you like salty stuff feel free to add some! This is the basic stew recipe, and we love it. You can add lots of things to jazz it up - throw some peppers or onions in, maybe some ketchup or A1 sauce, maybe even some franks red hot!

Nov 9, 2011

Ikea Rast Dressers

Well, this will be my second Ikea furniture purchase. The first purchase was a set of coffee/end tables, and they have lasted surprisingly well and we really like them! This time we bought the twins two little unfinished dressers, and let them pick out paint - screaming green and electric orange. The dressers were super easy to put together, and so far I have primed and sanded both dressers. The green one is finished and in their room, and it looks awesome. Orange one will get painted this weekend! This was a really easy project, and made a huge difference to the boys. Well worth the $35 per dresser ;)

Update 11/26/11 - The green dresser is just awesome. One coat of gray gripper primer and two coats of green and it looks amazing! The wood grain still shows through just a little since I used very thin coats of paint, I am very pleased. The orange one is awaiting sanding after I used the same gray primer on it, not knowing it would never stop showing through the orange paint. Live and learn.

Nov 8, 2011

Easy Gluten Free Meal!

Yep, I'm trying to push myself back into making good gluten free meals. I usually cook good meals every night my husband doesn't, we sort of share that duty, but lately I have just been in a food rut. Trying to get out of it!

Mandarin Chicken Salad
*as always, if you are making this as a gluten free recipe check your ingredients to ensure gluten free status! I have brands I am very loyal to, but I still check every time I buy a new container to ensure nothing has changed on the ingredient list.

1 to 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
10 to 12 oz can mandarin oranges
1 can crushed pineapple (or chunked)
1 Tbs miracle whip
walnut pieces (optional)

-Boil chicken for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken. It should be completely cooked through when you're done! Drain and cool the chicken enough to handle.
-Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, and throw in a big bowl.
-Reserving the juices, drain the fruit and add the fruit to the chicken.
-Stir the juices with the miracle whip until well mixed.
-Add the juices to the fruit and chicken, throw in walnuts if you want, and cover. Throw in the fridge until ready to serve!

This meal is great served over cold lettuce, or (like we serve most everything) over white rice! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do, it's a well loved recipe in our house!

I love fall

Fuzzy sweaters, slippers, snuggling into flannel sheets with the love of my life, knowing happy family holidays are coming, and the amazing colors Mother Nature throws into our surroundings. Fall is such a perfect season!

Nov 7, 2011

Brownie Pops done easy!

I wanted to try brownie or cake pops for our annual Halloween party. I read some horror stories about how these are those mythical recipes that only Martha Stewart can make look good, but I figured why not - I am a pretty good baker, I could take my best shot! I did, and they turned out very tasty and not so bad looking!

I used a regular old box of brownie mix, and baked it for three minutes under the recommended time. I let them cool enough to touch, and cut the edges away in a 9x13 pan. I scooped up the warm brownies and smooshed them into balls in my hand, spraying my hand with Pam from time to time. I put the balled brownies in the fridge overnight, and the next day I melted my candy wafers in the microwave in a mug, and I CAN'T SAY THIS ENOUGH - dip your sticks in melted candy and shove them into the brownie pops AND LET THAT HARDEN. If you skip that step (as I initially started to) your brownie balls will fall off your stick and get lost in your melted candy! Once your sticks are "stuck" in the brownie balls, go ahead and dip them in the mugs of melted candy. I chose white for ghosts and green for goblins.

The white was great, because the candy sort of pooled at the bottom when I put them on wax paper, so they looked like ghosts once I put the faces on. The green ones were just blobs of green lollipop with chocolate inside, but they were all gone at the end of our party anyway! I tried drizzling melted dark chocolate over the cooled dipped pops, and they looked awesome. I just didn't leave myself enough time to melt chocolate, load it into my frosting bag and drizzle each pop individually. Next time ;)

I wanted to post this because after I read all the other bloggers' posts where they failed miserably at this, I felt like I couldn't do it. Well I did. They don't in fact look like something Martha Stewart created, but they worked and I was proud of what I did. Maybe they'll look better next year!

Operation Christmas Child using coupons!

I don't ever talk about religion, I feel it is a very personal subject. I do post every year about filling my shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child, because I think it is such an awesome program. Google it if you have never heard of it, it's run by Samaritan's Purse. I pick up little things throughout the year that I get either for free or next to free, and put them in shoe boxes for OCC. Last year I did two boxes I think, this year I was able to fill four boxes for under $18!! We made two boxes for the 2-4 age group, and two for the 10-14 age group, one girly and one boyish. In the little kiddo boxes we put puzzles, crayons, barrettes, johnson's soap buddies, toothbrush/floss/paste, puppets, sidewalk chalk, mittens, small playdohs, books, mini mr. potato heads and little coloring books. In the bigger kid ones we put things like composition books, pencils and cases, little lego sets, deodorant, toothpaste/brush/floss, games of jax and small cranium games, crayons, small playdohs, starburst, knit hats, and one box got a dreamcatcher I won online.

Seriously, this is so easy and it's fun for me to think I'm making a less fortunate child's holiday season happier! We certainly can't afford to donate money, but I can afford the shoebox items thanks to couponing! I got the playdoh's free on clearance with a kohl's coupon after halloween, the composition books for $.15 each, crayons for $.25 each, puzzles came free with other purchases, soap buddies were free with coupons, tooth items were all free with coupons, puppets came free with purchase at Ikea, mittens were $.25 each at Target, pencil cases were $.25 at the Dollar Store, knit hats were purchased online for $1.79. It's overwhelming if I try to fill a box all at once, but once I got it in my head to just keep adding things to the box as the months went by the box quickly filled with next to free items! The back to school sales are awesome to find items for the boxes, as well as the right after a holiday sales.

Hopefully my family understands that while these items didn't cost us much they mean something to another child! I think the twins get it, they thought the boxes I made for kids their age were "awesome" and while I don't think they understood the "less fortunate" part, they totally got that we were making the boxes for other kids who didn't get presents like they do. They wanted to add some of their hot wheels to the boxes! Big Kid was impressed with how little I spent, and after I showed him the website for OCC I could see he was happy I had filled four boxes to do our part :)

Gluten Free Slump

I have totally been in a food slump lately. I grabbed some Udi's bread last week, which usually inspires me to make awesome sandwiches - toasted ham and cheese, tuna melts, maybe a good ol' grilled cheese. The last few weeks have been just bleh food weeks for me! I have been using the bread to make jellied toast. Not very exciting! I have been eating black beans, salsa, corn and boiled chicken thrown together on chips instead of real meals, since it's faster to make "normal" meals compared to gluten free meals. I just haven't had any "get up and go" to make gluten free meals! Maybe I need some inspiration... or maybe it's just knowing I have a lot of cooking ahead of me with the holidays coming! I can't stand getting everyone together and worrying about gluten - it's so much of a pain when people ask "oh, what can I make for you?"! My immediate response is "don't worry, I'll bring my own". I know it aggravates the person inquiring, but they won't get sick if they mistakenly mix their noodles and my whatever stovetop. I will. Nothing is worse than being violently ill all night Christmas night! I wish gluten free was easier to understand...

I do enjoy baking Christmas cookies. Every year I'm torn between making them with normal cheap flour and possibly breathing too much in, wiping my face by mistake... or using my expensive flour to make cookies to give to neighbors and friends. At $4 per small box my flour gets expensive fast, but do I want to risk using real flour? I have a month to choose. In the meantime maybe that is what has me off cooking - knowing I have a LOT of cooking ahead of me!

Nov 1, 2011

Winterizing our house

We are seeing a hard frost every morning now, which means to me it's time to winterize the house. I can't stand feeling a cold breeze sitting INSIDE my house with all the windows and doors shut, I just feel like I should be warm inside and it feels like money just pours out our heat vents when cold air comes in unwanted! So I do a few things to try to help prevent cold coming in. I thought sharing what we do could help others, since I was online researching forever when we first bought our house, trying to find ways to better insulate this, weatherstrip that...

I have eclipse brand thermal curtains. I bought mine a few years ago and boy have they helped. I close them at night and keep them open in the afternoon, to let the warming sun in. I have levolor brand thermal shades on every window facing west on our house, to help cut the summer sun baking our house all afternoon. That seems to help in the winter as well, even if it's just a barrier to cold. We install small bubble wrap in every window we don't need to see out of in the cold weather. Seriously, it really helps. We have double hung windows, from '95, and they are just awful. Spray a little water on the window and place bubble wrap (bubble side to the window) and bam, you have an instant layer of insulation on those freezing cold windows! This is our first year trying out the Mortite brand caulking rope. It's sort of like clay, and I stuffed it into the edges of all of our downstairs windows, where the windows meet the frame. I have aluminum windows, and every one is crooked. Thank you lovely builders. Since I don't have $20,000 to replace the 26 windows in our home, I instead seal them shut through the cold weather. It works for us! I will say I put the Mortite in and the bubble wrap up yesterday, and felt a huge difference coming downstairs this morning. Yesterday I froze, today it's pretty nice, and the temperature has been 36 to 37 both mornings! I feel victorious ;)

Last year we replaced our patio doors with sliding glass doors, and that made all the difference in the world to our temperatures downstairs. The patio doors were old, crooked, and leaked terribly. $600 later our sliders are more air tight than we could have dreamed of! We also put in new weather stripping on the two exterior doors, and put in new sweeps on the bottom. The front door is so crooked (frame as well) that until we can replace it I keep it locked tight all winter and hang a quilt over the entire frame. It's ghetto but helps. We put in a storm door, it helps a little, but cold still pours in over the top, side and bottom of the door. Again, awesome builders!

We have gone through the entire house using Great Stuff and sealed all the gaps around pipes, vents, etc. coming in from the outside. Last year we also realized there was cold air POURING in under our mopboards on every exterior wall. So I got sick of freezing cold feet and pulled the rugs back a little, sprayed Great Stuff under the mopboards to seal it tight, and put the rugs back when it dried. I had to cut the excess off, and if you look hard it does look trashy, but I tell you what my feet stay warm. Why the heck would the walls leak cold air under the mopboards?!!

Hopefully I have inspired someone to stay a little warmer this year, maybe save a few dollars on their heating bills. Our big project we are trying to get to before the new year is insulating our eaves. Our bonus room is over our garage, and has slanted ceilings. Some idiot created little "cubbies" of sorts where the ceilings got too low, and never insulated the cubbies. At all. So the walls of the room are uninsulated, and part of the ceiling is uninsulated. It's about 40 outside right now, and I guarantee that room isn't warmer than 50 right now. We might as well leave a window open in there, it has the same effect! So we bought two rolls of insulation, and plan to install it this month. I really hope we have time to get it done!!!