• the home arts,  the kitchen arts,  the mothering arts

    Over the river and through the woods…

    sunflowermountainsaudiobooksbookbasketwholefoods ellyandlorelei tosieanddavid packitup

    “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go…”

    It seems strange to realize that we have truly entered a season of traveling with children, not traveling with babies and toddlers. There is a pretty vast difference. I did not realize how much of a difference until this trip!

    We’ve been making roughly the same eight hour drive from one state to another for going on fourteen years now- we have the main route memorized plus three or four scenic byways. Most of the time we’re making an end run, driving straight through; this trip is the first time we are wandering our way up and wandering our way back. Honestly, it’s the first real vacation we’ve had in years- the last one was before we moved almost three years ago. It certainly hasn’t been feasible since with the all the hospitalizations for both Ellianna and Josiah. It was only a month ago that Josiah was given the okay to travel (with precautions).

    (Can you believe that sunflower? It was bigger than my head! It was at a rest stop and I loved the silhouette of the mountains behind it.)

    I feel like I’ve gotten packing down to a fine art, even with the additional twist of taking our camping gear. If you look at the back of the van (which is a fifteen passenger), all of our stuff is stored in a space which is about four feet wide and three feet deep. To the left is the camping supplies (tent, camp stove, chairs, first aid kit, camp supplies). In the middle, the clothing tubs. To the right, our food storage, including our cooler, plus most of the pillows and sleeping bags. If we weren’t camping on this trip, we’d need less than half of what you see.

    I’ve gotten pretty rigid about clothing for trips (while we haven’t been on vacation in a while, we do make the holiday runs between grandparents). In this transitional season, they took one short sleeve and one long sleeve shirt, one pair of shorts and one pair of pants, one Sunday shirt (for boys) or dress (for girls), one pair of shoes, one sweatshirt, a pair of pajamas and socks and underwear. James and I take very similar clothes. Our clothing usually fits into just one tub- with this camping trip, we took two, the second of which has mostly kitchen items (pans, cutting boards, knives, etc) and our adult clothing was tucked around it to keep it from knocking about.

    The reason we can get away with this is mostly because we are a large family. We don’t stay in hotels, as they would be uncomfortably expensive; instead we often stay with family or search out house rental options via AirBnB, which almost always have laundry facilities. I can run a load or five. If you were traveling from place to place in hotels our rather stoic packing might not work.

    This vacation was truly a gift from many people involved in the planning and preparation- the cabin we are staying in for most of it was a joint gift both from a family friend and my husband’s parents. So many people were adamant that it was time for us to rest and recuperate, which we are deeply grateful for. This trip wouldn’t have happened without them!

    We’ve also leaned a few tricks for the road. We can’t eat fast food anymore due to the Celiacs, but we know to find certain grocery stores: our favorite mid-way stop is a Whole Foods, which has an amazing salad bar, hot bar, sushi, and the like. We often eat for much cheaper that way than we would eating on the road, with the added advantage that we don’t have to carry the food with us but still eat mighty healthy, which I used to think was impossible.

    Our newest trick, besides the ever present book basket (yes, we are that family- happily guilty!) is to reserve a stack of audio-books from the library especially for the trip. We used to have portable dvd players and the like (our car does not come equipped with such) but over the years we’ve felt that unlimited tech on road trips causes more problems than it solves. This was our first tech-free road trip and it went far better than the similar trip we took at Christmas, and I earnestly believe it was due to the audio-book we choose: The Penderwicks at Port MouetteAs you can see from the stack, we have plenty more: lots of Lemony Snicket and some Harry Potter. We’ve become connoisseurs enough to tell you that the narrator is important. We love The Mysterious Benedict Society but the audio-book for it was not especially good because the narrator had a deep, gruff voice, making the dubbing difficult- it is often hard to hear and understand. The Penderwicks narrator is fantastic- such an incredible voice actor- she really sucks you into the story. The whole series, whether in book or audio-book form, is wonderful for the whole family. We’ve all laughed and cried our way together through the first three books and we will eagerly look for the next one when we get home.

    What I particularly like about our packing now is that our children are not stuffed into the car with lots of things about them; all of our traveling requirements fit in the back space, leaving lots of room between kids. Everyone can spread out. I know that if we were still in a minivan, for example, we would easily fit our stuff in the back cargo area. (If we weren’t camping. I imagine in a smaller car + camping we’d have to use a roof rack carrier.) We don’t have to carry a stroller anymore, which I think is a huge part of it too. I’m not saying that traveling in tubs or laundry baskets is always feasible, but for us, we’ve found it far preferable to lots of bags and luggage pieces.

    So there you have it- road tripping with children edition!

  • the kitchen arts

    In my kitchen…

    One of the surest signs that things are returning to normal? New adventures in the kitchen. We have about ten or twelve meals that stay in heavy rotation, especially when things are really crazy. I haven’t tried anything new for a long time. This week I added in some new possibilities to add as favorites.The more I’ve been studying Celiacs and the accompanying nutrition, I am realizing that “gluten-free” isn’t enough. Most of what makes up “gluten free” options would normally be okay in small doses (rice and potatoes come to mind), but not to be eaten at the level we’ve been eating them. Especially what I’ve been reading about arsenic in the rice, and that the glycemic index for ground potato flour and corn is off the charts compared to their ‘whole’ counterparts…it’s pretty mind boggling. I don’t know. There is so much to learn. So take what I’ve listed here with reservations- I really don’t like how much rice is in the menu this week, but I’m taking it week by week and trying to improve each week.

    We’re eating:

    One Pot Pasta (sub GF noodles)

    Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Taco Salad (sub GF ranch dressing)

    BBQ (instead of buns, we eat it by itself or over a bed of fresh spinach)

    Zuchinni, Black Bean and Rice Casserole

    Cheesy Chicken and Rice (sub GF cream of chicken, rice)

    Bean Casserole (Family recipe)


    Shepherd’s Pie


  • the kitchen arts

    Cobbled together…

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    I made this fantastic cobbler yesterday, from Taylor’s Gluten Away blog. (Found via Pinterest) I haven’t had a chance to really poke around in there but I’m already impressed. I want to read more about his journey. I will say that if you are using real butter (not margarine or another butter substitute) you’ll want to cut the butter in the recipe probably by half. As you can see in the last shot, it was pretty much drowning! It was still very yummy, but very buttery. You can also make this non gluten-free- just sub normal flour. Cobblers of any sort just scream summer to me. I’m thinking that his recipe would go well with just about any fruit, so I’m going to try some others!

  • the kitchen arts

    In the kitchen…

    dinner balljar candle

    We’re returning to a new normal around here. I’ve found it interesting that since we have returned from vacation, I have not actually made a meal plan, and have cooked from the pantry. This is the shift I have been looking for since the diagnosis: with this groove back in place I know that the grocery budget will start to level out and I can begin getting it to a place of comfort instead of extreme stress. The hardest part, I believe, in a fundamental shift like this is actually the sourcing of things. It is easy to eat frugally in a normal grocery environment, but when special things like almond flour and the like are required to make the meals, you often find you are spending premium dollars until you can find bulk options that work. I was finally able to source gluten free oats in 25 lb. bags for a reasonable price ($1.28 lb) through our local independent health food grocery store, versus the premium ($6.89 lb) for what is available in grocery stores here. The same with flour, finally.

    The kitchen preparatory routines are also returning. Tortillas and the occasional loaf of gluten free bread are getting made again (usually all in one day). I am certainly finding that one day a week must be dedicated to prep and baking. It’s movable- it’s often the day after I have done the grocery run. I am still struggling to find a few more regular pantry items for reasonable cost (gluten is in everything!!!) and I think once that is replaced, things will be just about right. I am considering joining a CSA co-op this year for our vegetables. That has certainly increased around here- green salads and quickly sauted veggies are the most common lunches and sides around here so we are going through much more than we used to.

    My husband has been reading and studying about blue light contamination lately, and we’ve been trying to dim the lights and add candles in during the normally dark hours (both our breakfast and dinner meals fall within this category). I must say, the addition of the candlelight is beautiful and calming to the dinner crazy. It may still be a crazy disaster and kids pulling kids hair and all, but it is an addition we have been greatly enjoying.

    Here’s what we’ve eaten this last week, all pulled from the pantry. Most of the crockpot meals are served over rice. Sometimes we switch it up and make mashed potatoes instead. You can always visit my Pinterest board for inspiration, and my husband’s accompanying GF one.

    Saturday- Chicken, Bacon, Potato Hash w/ Green Onions, Cheese, Mushrooms

    Sunday- Butternut Squash, Pear, and Cranberry (Crockpot)

    Monday- Honey Mustard Ck. and Peppers (Crockpot)

    Tuesday- Shepherd’s Pie

    Wednesday- Spaghetti

    Thursday- Chicken and ‘Gravy’ over Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans (the ‘gravy’ was GF cream of chicken soup with carmelized onions, garlic, mushrooms and spinach)

    Friday- Nachos (the meat is all tossed in the crockpot to simmer all day- peppers and corn, too, with a can of salsa and taco seasoning to your liking)

    What adventures have you been having in your kitchen lately?

  • the kitchen arts,  this week in my kitchen blog hop

    This Week in My Kitchen (Oct 19)

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


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    Have you eaten a rainbow today? is the question I use to check in with myself and my needs each day. It’s a simple reminder to make sure that my food choices are as colorful and healthy as possible. In the fall season, things lean decidedly towards the orange and earthy colors. We really enjoy butternut squash this time of year, and as I’m sure you’ve noticed from week to week, it is making a regular appearance. Don’t let perfect be an enemy of good. As I said on Instagram in regards to the Shepherd’s Pie- colorful? Check! Frozen? Check! Is my family eating healthy tonight? Check! We’ve basically been eating the same variation of meals for the last two or so months, and we’re all happy with that. Things will be changing soon as November and December come on with the holiday flavors. Soups are starting to feature more prominently. Do the best you can with what you have.

    Our dinner plans this week:

    Taco Bowls

    Butternut Squash Enchilada Casserole

    Loaded Baked Potato Soup

    Chicken Pot Pie Soup

    Red Beans & Rice

    Elegant Chicken


    Sharing with Heather.