Monday, March 31, 2008

March is marching on by

March is coming to a close and in some ways I’m happy to see this one go. I spent half of the month on antibiotics and someone in the family has been sick almost every day this month. Plans for training for walks and getting the garden ready early all had to get changed. Some things like blogging more often were accomplished. I’m finishing this month with 21 entries. I only have two other months were I had more entries. I’m hoping I have finally found a system to keep my blog current and somewhat informative. By adding the labels link not only is the blog easier to navigate I can also see where my focus seems to be the strongest. Now I just need to encourage more comments to be left.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tuna Rice Salad

This is one creative way of having your tuna fish sandwich and eat it too. Ditch the bread and add a cup of left over rice (white, brown, wild or mixture) and peas to your favorite tuna salad. The variation shown contains canned tuna fish, Trader Joe’s brown rice melody, peas (straight from the freezer or defrosted), sweet relish, mayonnaise, and seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay®). The peas are added for several reasons including a bit of color, sweet flavor and a different texture.

Many of you may be curious what is “Old Bay® seasoning”? This unique blend of herbs and spices started in the Chesapeake Bay area in 1939. Old Bay seasoning has become a traditional Mid-Atlantic blend of spices often used in the preparation of our native blue crabs. Those of us who have grown up with this tasty blend have found it creeping into other seafood and chicken dishes ever since.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Coping with Butterflies

I decided to try to make a walk mural for my daughter’s room since all of the DIY shows make creating your own art look so easy. I went to the local craft store for some pre-cut butterflies and craft plywood. Then there was the follow up trip to Home Depot for spray paint, coping saw and sandpaper. I photo copied the pre-cut butterflies at various sizes for patterns. One sheet of craft plywood slowly became seven butterflies. The slippery kitchen counter was a difficult work surface until a friend suggested using one of the kitchen jar opener grips to keep the wood from sliding around. After the butterflies are all painted blue I’ll stick them artfully to her bright yellow wall with some double sided foam tape. Pretty art for a little girl and easily removed when she decides she it too old for butterflies.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Canada goose

One of the nice things about doing my training walks alone is I get to see a bit more of nature then if I had others along chatting, playing music, talking on the phone, etc. On my last 5.26 mile training walk I came across this beautiful Canada goose snacking along the trail.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wheat-free Meatballs

When I'm unable to get oat matzo meal I use cooked rice or quick cooking oatmeal to make my from scratch meatballs.

Ground beef
Oat matzo meal
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning
Olive oil for frying

Mix together with clean hands and form into balls. Fry over med heat until brown on all sides. Drain and transfer to plate covered with paper towels to remove excessive oil.

A variation I often make has chopped vegetables (chopped onion and carrots) and cooked on the range top with a lid in a cast iron frying pan like one giant hamburger or stove top meatloaf.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring Cleaning

It's that time of the year to clean out the cupboards and restock the shelves. I spend a good part of the year rationing out the spelt and oat matzos and matzo crumbs I am able to find at Passover. For those of you who can have wheat you probably don't think twice about walking into a store and picking up one of the seemingly 100 different crackers available. For those of us with allergies to wheat or gluten, we are lucky if there are one or two 100% rye crackers on the shelf. Bread crumbs are even more difficult to find. The idea of turning already expensive bread into crumbs for a recipe isn't very appealing either. But with the coming of Passover I'm making my list and checking it twice.

Several companies (Streit's and Manischewitz) now make spelt matzo for Passover. I try to make sure I get enough spelt matzo to last a year. They are great with all of the traditional cheese and cracker events throughout the year. These are nice firm crisp crackers which can be dipped or topped with cheese, etc. Spelt is related to wheat and does contain gluten, but many allergic to wheat can tolerate spelt.

I have found one company who makes oat matzo and matzo meal (crumbs), Shemura (London, England). This completely gluten-free matzo is a softer mild tasting cracker and versatile "bread" crumbs. So far I have only found this product through

I stock up on what I can each year and as I do I am reminded of my friend Sandy's grandfather who decades ago would make a special trip each year to New York to stock up on kosher for Passover products to satisfy his need for corn free products. Corn is one of the forbidden grains during the 8 day holiday. Those who are allergic to corn you know that corn and corn byproducts (syrup, starch, oil, etc) are in many of the every day products we use. So if you cannot have corn and crave a soda try one that has been made especially for Passover.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Beginner Knitting Books

A little while back I asked my mom to recommend a few good knitting books for beginners. She recommended the following books.

How to Knit by Debbie Bliss
Knitting for the first time by Vanessa-Ann
Big Book of Knitting by Katharina Buss

Knitting for the first time is probably the best for that if you have little ones to knit for is great for moving past the scarf stage.

The last one is probably the best for instruction but does not provide simple projects as you go

25 Gorgeous Sweaters for the Brand New Knitter by Catherine Ham

Friday, March 21, 2008

Daffodil Days®

Spring is here and the daffodils are brining hope. For the past 35 years the American Cancer Society has had Daffodil Days® to raise funds for research, education and advocacy.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bento Experiment 8.32

I found an insolated container to keep things hot. The Trudeau® Wide Mouth Food Jar has its own carrying handle and bowl. It needs to be hand washed and can’t go into the microwave. It does hold 17 ounces so more then enough room for a can of soup or good homemade soup. I heated up some soup in the microwave and poured it in. By lunch (6 hours latter) it had cooled some but was plenty hot.

I tried the Health Valley® Chunky Chili spicy vegetarian. When I found this can of soup I was very happy to find a canned soup without wheat. Many of the canned soups available for a fast and easy lunch take short cuts in the manufacturing. Normally canned soups are thickened with a wheat product or other thickener like corn starch. This practice is done with just about every canned soup even ones that you would never think would or should have a thickener. It saves on the prep time for making it. I normally like vegetarian dishes but this one leaves me wondering “where’s the beef”. It has the right amount of spice but it really needs something else.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In the Shadows

In February I received three new knitting books from my wonderful husband.
Hooray for the wish list feature. Through the year if I come across
a book I would like I just add it to the list.
A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting by Cat Bordhi. This book shows several projects that use her moebius
Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter by Alison Hansel.
This book features patterns for many of the sweaters, scarves, and other
knits from the movies.
Stitch ‘n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook by Debbie Stoller.
This author has a wonderful sense of humor while covering the basics and some
You might think is an illusion but it is all in the shadows.

The first project from these books was out of the Stitch 'n Bitch. I decided to
use some of the yarn left over from the soap savers and washcloths to try the Alien Illusion Scarf pattern. The scrap yarn was just enough to do one alien face. This is definitely a project to do when you don't have any distractions or help. A counter is a must to keep track of which row you did last. I also found checking the wrong side helped me see progress and where I left off the night before. The technique itself is a basic set of four rows worked in pairs of contrasting colors in basic knit and purl stitches. The trick is to make sure all the stitches are where they need to be. It is sort of like doing a cross-stitch pattern in knitting. This experiment will most likely become a pillow cover.

Wikipedia: Shadow knitting 
There are several sites on the internet with patterns for "illusion" or
adow" knitting.
Knitty Gritty: Illusion Knitting

Heidi’s Knitting Room: Illusion Knitting

Snowflake Illusion Scarf

Fresh Isle Fibers: a site of pattern links

I am definitely going to be trying this technique again. I'm curious how
this technique used with glow-in-the-dark yarn would look.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Walking to Make a Difference

Fundraising is a unique position I keep putting myself. Considering I have a hard time asking for help for much of anything beyond advice or referrals it seems odd that year after year I put myself into the position to raise funds for others. Alone I can only do so much but with the help of those around me I can help to raise donations which can help improve the lives of so many. No one I know can afford to write endowment checks for hundreds or thousands of dollars but most have $5 in their pocket they are willing to put towards a good cause. Most often it just take asking or for the cause to hit home. We all care about so many causes but some mean so much more to us. I cared about breast cancer but the cause became so much more personal when I was told that what took Rachel’s life. Healthy babies meant a lot to me but when I delivered a premature baby it became very personal.

This year marks 21 years of fundraising for March of Dime® March for Babies™ (formally WalkAmerica®) and my second year for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I am hoping for a day when every baby will be born healthy and no one has to fear the words breast cancer. If you have $5 or $10 to spare please consider making an online donation to either of these important causes.

Avon Walk for Breast Cancer

March of Dimes - March for Babies

Monday, March 17, 2008

Namaste Brownies

Healthway Foods has recently started to stock Namaste Food brownies. This mix is free of gluten, wheat, soy, nuts, potato, corn, dairy, and casein. Even with all that missing they don’t taste like they were missing a thing. The package promised it was easy to make and it was. Just simply add eggs, oil, water, stir, pour and bake. They smelled great filling the house with the aroma of baking chocolate.

The real test was going to be the taste and texture. The brownie had a wonderful brownie flavor and a nice texture. My son liked them but my daughter didn’t care for them. A visiting friend read the package before sampling a half of a piece, trying to be good on her diet. It was so good she went back for the second half. Considering how well she usually sticks to her diet and she can eat wheat and gluten this speaks very highly of these tasty chocolate treats.

The Namaste brownies were so good I’ll get them again and even be willing to try some of their other allergen-free products.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Going Global

Trying to figure out what time it was somewhere else I found the website ( This has several tools to help conduct phone calls and meetings between people in multiple time zones. As we all go more global this website could be come essential.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Kasha is a wonderful buckwheat dish. In spite of its name buckwheat is not wheat and is gluten-free. Wickipedia describes Kasha as a porridge which is normally buckwheat but can be made of other grains.

Wolff’s Kasha is made in dedicated mills and packaging in Penn Yan in the beautiful Finger Lake region of New York State. Since it has dedicated machinery those of us with wheat or gluten intolerances can enjoy their kasha and buckwheat flour with out any concerns. My family’s favorite way of enjoying Kasha is the Kasha Pilaf recipe on the back of the Wolff’s box.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Soap Saving Crusade

I had one soap saver left which didn’t quite match any of the washcloths. I decided to try it out on the kids. Bars of soap can be so slippery when trying to wash moving targets. The kids tried it out and they thought it was great. I decided I had made it a bit big for the bar of soap. I switched to smaller needles and made a new sample. I realized that after making wash cloths and soap savers for what I thought was everyone I discovered I missed a person or two, including my husband, oops.

The soap saver above was done with a slightly altered pattern from the original. Size 9 US needles for both the washcloth and the soap saver. There is still a lot of wiggle room for a larger bar of soap. The wash cloth stitched in the slightly larger needles (7US vs. 9US) but tightly stitched has a more distinct lace edge from the yarn over stitch.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Split Pea Soup

Split pea soup is one of my favorite comfort foods and it is so easy to make. I’ll make it with or without meat but always try to put in as many carrots as I can.

Split Pea Soup
  • Olive oil
  • Onion, chopped in big chunks
  • 1 bag dried split peas, rinsed (usually green but other color peas work too)
  • Carrots, pealed and sliced into 1-1.5" pieces
  • 1 lb Smoked turkey, ask deli for one slab- not sandwich slices, cut into cubes
  • 2 pk Trader Joe's Savory broth vegetable - reduced sodium liquid concentrate (or other broth or bouillon)
  • Black pepper and garlic to taste
  • Bay leaf

Sauté onion in olive oil in 2 qt or larger pot
Add peas, carrots, broth packets, turkey, spices, and about 6 cups of water.
Simmer over med to med low heat, occasionally stirring and checking if more water is needed.
When the carrots are soft and the peas have absorbed enough water to form a pot of molten green lava its ready.

Split peas soup can be made without any meat and is just as tasty.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

FUNctional Bentos

I made the observation that my bento experiments are getting much more functual and less fun looking. I finally found a cure to go with just about any of the bento lunches - bugs. Well beetle spoons and sporks that is. The Container Store finally got some in after being on back order for weeks and I bought the last set they had. After testing them out my reservations for having a 2 or 4 year old holding the wings to feed themselves vanished. Their teachers may need to help unfold and fold them up again after lunch.

I also found it just takes a minute or two to add a few well placed mini chocolate chips to bring a smile to lunch. This day my cheese cake is looking back at me. The kids' morning pancakes and doughnuts have been getting similar grins made out of M&Ms and mini M&Ms. It is amazing how 6 or 8 well placed chocolates can change the attitude of a not hungry little kid.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bento Experiment 08.3

Another trip to The Container Store and more lunch time experiments. Well this round had more breakfast test then lunches.

First came two little snack containers to replace the plastic sandwich baggies the kids use for their breakfast. The typical weekday morning is all of us rushing out of the door without breakfast. The kids were getting baggies files with the cereal of the day. To be a little more environmentally friendly I picked up his and hers snack dished to replace the baggies. Selena seems to like hers and can open and close it with a little effort. William is resisting the change but he to can work the snap lip. We made it through the first week without a spill.

The next experiment was testing a "thermal" snack jar. I ran the experiment with hot cream of rye cereal. The jar had plenty of room for the ingredient (1/3 c rye 2/3 c boiling water, and optional raisins or dried cranberries). I immediately closed up the jar. Three hours latter I opened it up and gave it a try. It was very tasty but not even warm. Unfortunately this little container is NOT microwavable so even with an office microwave I'm still stuck with cold cereal. The redeeming feature of this snack jar is the folding fork and spoon which continentally fits into the lid. I think this jar is going back to the store with the suggestion they sell just the folding self contained fork and spoon at their check out display, if they come separately.

The last experiment this week was for the long awaited Beatle spoon and spork. These cute little bugs come in their own travel case. Their folding wings make for a surprisingly nice handle. The fork is a bit challenging for salad but I doubt the kids will willingly eat salad for a few more years. I like these critters so much I'm going to try to get a set of each of the other colors for the kids - they come in 3 color combinations.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Home on the Range

I remember being excited about our "new" home having a double oven when we moved in two and half years ago. The excitement gradually faded. First I found it difficult to stir pots on the back burner especially if there was any thing on the front burners. My not so large two quart pot barely fit. I found myself making only one or two pot dinners on the front two burners. Then the lower oven started having problems igniting and eventually the thermostat stopped working. The upper oven hung in there a little longer but could only hold a small cookie sheet or two small cake pans. When the upper oven igniter started to hesitate it was time to weigh the options of repairing it or replacing it. We considered repairing the old unit but decided it would be costly and I still wouldn't be happy with the stove top. I did make sure the old one was hauled off to recycling rather than to the landfill.

I made a point of checking with my parents to get the ins and outs of range shopping and to see if they remember seeing any recent Consumer Report articles on kitchen ranges. I took notes about what they liked and didn't like about their range, the Consumer Report finding, what the typical extra charges were (delivery, install, moving the gas line, and taking away the old range) and places to check out. I went to several stores to see what they had and for price comparison. But I have to admit that after all of that logical thinking and research I ended up with an emotional response. McGuire’s Appliances was the last store I walked into. It was highly recommended by a coworker for their service and prices. I compared their low end range to the ones I saw at places like Kmart and Home Depot and then I spotted it, my new range. It was a discounted discontinued floor model. For just $300 more then the nicest stainless steel range at Kmart I could have a professional grade gas range with two ovens. The main oven has a convection oven option. The little oven/warming drawer is on the bottom and completely out of the way. And even better five easy to access burners.

So far the kids are suffering though batches of cupcakes as I test the main oven and the little bottom one. I made a batch of split pea soup with carrots from the garden on the middle burner and had no problems stirring or cleaning up. I'm hoping the creations in the kitchen get more numerous and tasty as I learn how to use my new "toy".

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Training for Walks

It was going to be a short walk around the neighborhood. I was hoping for a walk around 3 miles long but with the encouragement of the children and the chilling wind the walk was shortened a bit.

According to our Sunday afternoon stroll came to about 2.33 miles of rolling sidewalks. It was windy and only 46 degrees. Making the walk a bit more challenging I pushed tandem stroller, not one of those fancy jogging strollers, over hilly sidewalks with lots of dips for driveways. The image above shows the elevation changes of the walk. The stroller was loaded with waters, snacks, and 2 kids (75 pounds together) . I calculate I was pushing nearly 100 pounds. If I keep training while pushing the kids the walk itself will be a piece of cake.

The kids were kept busy snacking on Gold Fish and on the look out for spring flowers. They found crocuses and daffodils. Kids would prefer shorter warmer walks but seemed to enjoy checking out everyone’s gardens.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Fishy Gluten-free Treat

Lately I have been craving fish sticks. It maybe because they regularly show up on their school menu. Because of my wheat allergy we weren't having them at home.

A friend I hadn't seen in a long time met me for lunch. We decided on Legal Seafood since they have a gluten-free menu, delicious food and good service. Legal Seafood has fried fish and French fries on the gluten-free menu, but not together. With the simple requests for fish and chips the waiter was off to check with the chief. My request was rewarded with a very tasty plate full of flakey fish lightly dusted and fried to perfection accompanied by delicious fries. Neither the tarter nor cocktail sauces are gluten-free but the catsup and horseradish are fine for a do-it-yourself cocktail sauce with the "bite" customized to taste. It all went perfectly with his stories about being on a Hollywood set and everything else he was up to. The food and company were wonderful.

I had found a way of quenching a craving for fish and chips while out but not at home. At least until I found Ian's Fish Sticks at Healthway Foods. These taste little fish sticks are wonderful. I can cook them at the same time as the Trader Joe's cod fish sticks which the rest of the family loves. One plain for them, one for me since theirs contain wheat. Both fish sticks were such a success the kids and husband have asked to have them again.