Fun and fast fall garland

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I needed just a touch of fall color. I don’t normally pull out my autumn decorations until around the first of October, but with the increadibly beautiful days we’ve had recently, I wanted some way to bring that beautiful into the house. The burlap leaves caught my eye a few weeks ago at Cost Plus World Market. I knew I loved them but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with them. The other things have been laying around my scrap room. I was washing dishes the other day when it hit me exactly what I’d like to do, and this fun garland was born. The possibilities are really endless!

This Week in My Kitchen (September 15)

Joining Heather in sharing a love of whole foods and the kitchen arts.

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This was the first full week that everyone in the family was gluten-free. (Multiple family members diagnosed with Celiacs disease, for new readers.)  Ellianna began immediately as soon as the endoscopy was over about two and half weeks ago. We transitioned the rest of us to gluten free by eating through what was left in the pantry. I still had to give away quite a bit of wheat flour but otherwise it only took us a week to empty the house of gluten. It has been an abrupt transition but not as difficult as I thought it might be. I credit this mostly to our already whole-foods, plant-based diet. We have never really been a ‘bread’ family, but we did use flour tortillas in many of our lunch recipes (and we love Mexican dishes) and we’re really casting about to find a replacement. I will also confess that wwere a cereal family, too, so the transition to making breakfast has probably been the biggest adjustment. I have had so many friends send me such great resources. It’s only a matter of time until I’m back in the game! I’m also reading back through my Whole Food Kitchen notebook from the workshop to glean more ideas. Seriously, still the best investment I’ve made in a long time.

I am baking and cooking more than ever before and spending a lot more time in the kitchen. I couldn’t resist adding the dining table pictures this week- just so pretty and so fall. 

I thought I’d share our meal plans for this week- I know just how overwhelming this can be and I hope it helps someone else. They are definitely skewed towards the children this week with lots of kid-friendly taste. Normally there is a bit more of a balance. Most of these recipes are easy to make completely allergen free (no dairy, no nut, etc). You can see our family’s Gluten Free recipe board here.

Breakfast (all are usually served with eggs or yogurt)

- muffins

- oatmeal

-granola

Lunch

- lunch meat rollups

- cheese quesadilias

- hot dogs (make sure to read labels! not all are gluten free- this week was Apple Organics)

- Taco dip and corn chips (again, read labels)

- GF Chicken nuggets

- Apple Sandwhiches

- GF Pizza Twists

Dinner

- Spaghetti (GF noodles- we love TruRoots Penne)

- Autumn Bratwurst with Apples and Cabbage

- Chicken Taco Bowls

- Stir-fry

- Quinoa Chicken Chili

- Pizza Spaghetti Squash Casserole

- Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Joining Heather.

bloghop

the happy middle

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Last month I was talking about finding a household ‘clean’ that was doable. For a long time we have swung wildly between absolutely higgledy-piggledy and everything running smoothly. We have a pretty solid daily rhythm when we are home- it has worked reasonably well in the two years since the move: everyone knows what comes next and what to expect. The house has been another matter. When everyone is home and the chores get completed after their fashion, the house stays reasonably clean. When we have 8-9 doctors appointments in a week, or a hospitalization (I never thought that would become a regular part of our lives!), or any number of things, it just all goes out the window. Even the family members at home are a bit at a loss and things get done in a catch all fashion, which may leave the kitchen floor sparkling but the bathroom a stinky, reeking mess. It seems for years and years I’ve used all manner of cleaning routines and none of them really stuck. They were either unreasonable or not enough for our large family. Some of it is simply learning by experience that large families have slightly different requirements: laundry has to be done everyday, period. Often our bathrooms need cleaning more often than an average family, that sort of thing. When I wrote last month, I could feel the inklings of a peaceful rhythm taking hold, but I was still feeling pretty conflicted.

Now that it has been nearly two and a half months (during all measure of crazy!), I am happy to report that I feel like I have finally found a happy medium, assisted by a free printable from Happy Money Saver. For some reason, after trying so many, this one just works. (It’s editable, too!) I feel like everything from kitchens to bathrooms and beyond is getting properly hit once a week, and it’s not overwhelmingly complex. I have found that just about every third week the particular area needs a deeper clean (especially the kitchen and bathrooms) and it’s easy to write that in. I also like that if the week has gone completely ballyhoo, it’s easy for whomever is at home to pick up wherever the list left off. It keeps us on track without overwhelm.

For as long as I can remember, through multiple homes and moves and jobs, the state of the house has always been a huge stressor for me. I have always felt un-equal to the task, always catching up, always feeling like the home was running me instead of the other way around. It feels very strange to say now that it no longer stresses me out, thanks to this new happy medium cleaning routine: I do what needs to be done and then I put it out of my mind. I am so grateful for this peaceful state. I am confident that it will hold throughout the oncoming weeks and months- if it held through the insanity that was August, we are golden!

So what’s new at your house? What tricks and tips keep your home running smoothly?

The changing seasons…

fall Autumn has caught me by surprise this year. Oh, sure, back to school arrived readily enough, and all the getting ready, but it was still unbearably hot and somehow, it slipped my mind that cooler weather would eventually prevail. August shot by in a right blur. We spent most of that oafish, bedraggled month, humidity hanging heavy, in icy hospital waiting rooms of some kind or another, watching the condensation of the forced cold drip off the outside of the windows into an air already drenched.

The last I shared here, we still didn’t know what all was troubling our youngest child, Ellianna. August brought the diagnosis of Celiacs Disease. It was diagnosed in the most round about of ways. Either way, we finally have answers. And with that, her iron levels are rising, her mononucleosis antibodies are rising, and soon, she will most likely be back to her running, bouncing, self. We already see the glimmers of it.

Our youngest son, Josiah, has long had some gastrointestinal issues- practically since he was born, and while some of his bloodwork seemed to indicate that he may have Celiacs as well, the biopsy came back negative.

There is a strange contrast between the two experiences with the two children. Josiah has long been under a specialist’s care- and we’ve never truly found cause to worry, other than that things are not quite right. The tests and hospitalization around the first of September had all been planned; there was no dangerous concern lurking un-found with him. The waiting rooms for him were easy too; while the surgeries and procedures are unpleasant in the one sense, I did not pace the floor.

Ellianna’s were an entirely different matter. After fighting with her pediatricians for nearly two months, and in a fit of helplessness, I sent my husband on the next appointment, hoping they would hear what he had to say. Some fluke of scheduling meant he and Ellianna saw a different doctor in the practice, who with fresh eyes could see the troubling marks returning with her blood work. We were sent to a hematologist. Nothing was mentioned at the appointment that her markers could potentially indicate a certain form of cancer, so we walked into the hematologist’s practice entirely unaware, only to be broad-sided by the doctor’s friendly yet concerned tone. She had iron deficiency anemia, this we knew; but the other things were a mystery to us. The doctor was a pregnant mother, about my age, warm and engaging. She said that she did not think it was that cancer, but only the blood work and tests would show conclusively.

The doctor said more than once that she felt that whatever they did to assist the anemia, she did not think that Ellianna’s gut would help with the process. I convinced her to run the Celiacs and Chrohns panels. She said that professionally, she saw no markers that would indicate either disease and that it was outside of her area, but as a mother, she would run the tests and if the results came back abnormal, she would refer us to a Gastroenterologist friend of hers. Four days later, we receive a phone call with a message from the Gastro…” I don’t usually use this phrase as a professional, but your daughter’s results are off the charts. Can you come in tomorrow?” Sure enough, she was literally off the charts in the readings, and he scheduled a endoscopy as soon as was reasonably possible. Through all this, the specter of cancer still hung over us; Ellianna’s blood work kept staying in a marginal range that could either be the effect of the mononucleosis still ravaging her system or could be something else- only the biopsy would tell. That was the longest two hours in the waiting room, waiting, and knowing even then that we wouldn’t know for sure till the biopsy came back. The endoscopy proved she had the visually verifiable internal symptoms of Celiacs, and we were to begin a gluten free diet with her immediately. (The only way to stop the damage Celiacs causes.) The biopsy would take three to four days to return.

By some fluke, we would get the results for Ellianna while Josiah himself was under getting his scope. The biopsy was negative for cancer. With that, I finally felt freedom. Sure, she has Celiacs. Sure, it is a life-long disease. But it is manageable. It has a name. Doctors know what to do with it. The specter of not-knowing whisped away, and with it, the attendant fear.

Our season is changing yet again. The rest of the family remains to be tested, but I would strongly suspect that both my husband and Isaiah will test positive. While Josiah does not test positive, everything with in his blood work shows he has a strong gluten sensitivity. We’ve made the decision as a family to go gluten free. I thought it was difficult the first time around with Isaiah and all his food sensitivities to preservatives. It is another thing entirely when gluten enters the picture. It is everywhere, in the most unusual places. We have already seen just how dangerous it will be for Ellianna, when after just a week and a half of being entirely gluten free, the tiniest bit of cross-contamination immediately made her quite ill. In many ways, I have to re-learn everything I ever knew about cooking and baking. I must become an avid and consistent label-reader. I must gain knowledge and understanding of the disease. It wasn’t what I expected for this autumn season, but it is here and it is a new aspect of our life.

We have struggled with so much medical mayhem…ironically, this diagnosis explains so much.  I strongly suspect that the longer we are gluten-free, the healthier the entire family will become. This mess finally has name. It has tools to fix it. If anything I feel much more at peace than I have in a very long time. It feels far less overwhelming to me now than the not-knowing did. There is something to be said for the naming of things.

Far more overwhelming to me is the constant strain on our finances these last eight months, the fights with insurance. They don’t like codes without diagnoses, but how do we get that without the tests!?!?! I pray now with conclusive diagnoses for both children they will begin to pay some of the costs, because of course they won’t pay all that they are supposed to. Because, insurance. (Yes, grumpy grammar cat, I did just use that abomination. How else can one express such incredulous frustration with an institution?) I pray that God will continue to provide the means with which to pay these bills and attendant costs.  Gluten is in EVERYTHING and of course the alternative options (even the basics like almond flour!) are nearly double the cost of ‘normal’ food. It’ll work itself out in the wash, as my mom likes to say. Meanwhile, we toss about! Good thing there is such a glorious Autumn ahead. I have the windows wide open this fine September morning, drinking in the coolness and crisp leaf-scented air. All is well and all manner of things shall be well.

the home arts

photo (7) I loved Auntie Leila’s post about housewifery the other day. She has such a lovely sense of humor. (And if you haven’t been reading Like Mother, Like Daughter, you’re really missing out!) I agree with her on all points except for the advice about hanging out the wash…that seems to be going the way of the carriage. My neighborhood will not allow clotheslines, and I can’t think of one of my friends whose neighborhoods allow it. It’s a shame, really. It seems to afflict urban areas. It certainly has been a change from where I lived before.

I have long struggled with my approach to house and home. Certainly it was easier when I had fewer children, and they were younger and non-mobile. Once mobility is achieved, all bets are off! Although the mobility means that they will eventually turn into capable children able to deal with chores themselves. But in the interim, it gets a little crazy. Add to that a lot of medical crises, and it gets downright chaotic.

I haven’t had a good attitude about it all, either. It is completely possible to miss the forest (a pleasant home life) for the trees (a clean and organized home). Most of all, it’s incredibly disheartening for all when the woman of the house is a raging lunatic task master snapping orders. (Guilty as charged.)  My bad attitude has shifted different directions at times- sometimes trees for forest thinking. Most of the time though, it is a resentment that so much of my time is pulled into the endlessness and seeming futility of caring for a home. It’s not true, exactly, but it often feels that way.

It’s the wrong approach, really, to think this way. It’s one thing to know that at an intellectual level, but it has taken me nearly fourteen years to get it to the heart level of knowing that what I do in this home is simply an expression of love. You can have a completely clean house and a home full of discord. You can have a messy, chaotic house and a home full of love, and all variations in between. Most importantly, the standard shouldn’t ever be perfection. You can tell yourself that and then work yourself ragged trying to achieve perfection anyways. I guess that’s why I’ve always appreciated Leila’s version of “reasonably clean” and that’s the standard I try to hold myself to now.

Most of all, though, I am challenging myself to be a maker of beauty. It’s a different idea all together from making sure the house is clean to questioning what I can do to make this room beautiful today? Cleaning plays a part, yes, of course, but in making things homey and beautiful, it may mean reading materials strewed invitingly, or a math game to play- essentially, ‘mess’, but something that invites my family in to relationship, not spurns it. It’s given me a lot to think about. It’s certainly better than having a bad attitude all the time. I’m hoping I can turn that around.

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