Friday, December 3, 2010

potato leek soup

soups have been one of the things that i have been learning how to cook.  i've found a few good gluten free soups but fresh ingredients just taste so much better!  i didn't think to take any pictures while we were cooking it this time.  maybe i will add some later.

i came up with this recipe on my own while i was craving a good hardy soup.  there aren't any exact measurements and it changes a little every time we make it.  i did glance through a couple cookbooks to make sure i had the right process.


2 lbs of russet potatoes, i buy a 3-5lb bag and just use what feels right
1 medium or 1/2 large onion, i prefer sweet onions but any would do
2-3 leeks
garlic, 2-3 cloves or a good spoonful from a jar
1-2 tablespoons of oil
enough water, vegetable or chicken broth to cover the potatoes
spices to taste: salt, pepper, cayenne, and anything else that appeals to you


1) cut the onion into chunks or half circles.  cut the leeks into half circles.  (if you've never prepared a leek, it is easy to find directions online or in a cookbook.  just make sure to clean thoroughly between the leaves.  most people say you can't use the dark green part of the leaves but i like them as long as they are cooked through.  i steam them, then saute them in oil with capers and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.)  in a large soup pot, put oil, garlic, onions and leeks and cook until transparent, stirring occasionally.

2) while the first step is cooking, peel and rinse the potatoes then cut them into small cubes.  when the onion and leeks are done, add the potatoes to the soup pot.  add enough broth and/or water to cover the potatoes and add desired spices.  cover and bring to a boil.  reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-20 minutes.  (i haven't actually timed this step.)

3) when the potatoes are done to your preference, use a potato masher to mash them up.  this will also break apart the very soft onions and leeks.  i like a chunky potato soup, so i stop here.  if you like a creamier soup, you could put part of the mixture into a food processor or blender and mash the other half.

i like to eat it with el milagro corn chips or glutino's version of saltines.  we served this at our housewarming party and it was a lot of fun.  we offered a variety of things to add to it like cheese, green onions, sour cream and bacon chunks.  unfortunately, i forgot to add the garlic and it didn't have as much flavor.  this time we used golden potatoes and left the skins on.  it turned out too grainy.  i recommend sticking with russet, they make a creamy soup.

Friday, October 29, 2010

play-dough, gluten free style!

so, i just got a job as a nanny for a family with twins who are almost three.  i've been unable to work for so long that i'm throwing myself headfirst into my work with everything i can muster and i don't even start until tuesday!  the twins, E and D, are great little kids with tons of personality and lots of energy.  E, the girl twin, is allergic to egg whites, dairy, wheat and nuts.  D, on the other hand, can eat anything he pleases.  this doesn't bode well with E, who was only diagnosed this past summer.

isn't it great that their new nanny is well versed in food intolerances and can read labels like a pro?  isn't it great that their new nanny wants to make sure these kids have tons of wonderful experiences to learn and grow from and isn't gonna let some measly allergies stop them?  yeh, well, i think it's great, and that's why i've made play-dough to bring with me on my first official day!

the idea came to me when i hung out with the kids and their current sitter yesterday.  we went over to play at a neighbor's house and play-dough was brought out.  luckily, E didn't get interested in it, so we didn't have to stop her.  i started talking with the neighbor mom and she quickly googled a gluten free play-dough recipe.  i grabbed the nearest crayola marker and vowed to make a batch of it that night.  E is quite the little builder and loves to get dirty.  i think the only reason she didn't notice the ghastly-gluten-play-dough was because she was so engrossed in a plastic tool set to care about anything else.

so, i don't know where this recipe came from, and my batches have yet to be kid tested, but i needed to post it right away!

1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup water
food coloring
1 tsp cooking oil (i used olive)

medium saucepan
spoon for mixing
1/2 cup dry measuring cup
glass measuring cup
teaspoon measuring spoon

step 1
in the saucepan, mix 1/2 cup rice flour, 1/2 cup corn starch, 1/2 cup salt, and 2 tsp cream of tartar.  i used cheap rice flour that i've had for four years.  i figured it's safe for play-dough, even though i probably wouldn't cook with it.

tip- my three batches of play-dough used almost all of the tiny container of cream of tartar.  buy more if you plan on making more than three batches.

step 2
in the glass measuring cup, mix together 1 cup water and the desired food coloring.  next, mix in 1 tsp cooking oil.

tip- i started with the frosting guidelines on the back of the box of food coloring.  i added more after i mixed the dry and wet ingredients together and could see what the color actually was.  for teal, i used 9 drops of blue and 6 green.  for orange, i used 16 drops of yellow and 6 red.  for dusty purple, i used 10 drops of red and 4 blue.  i found that mixing the oil in after the food coloring made for more even coloring.

step 3
pour the wet ingredients into the saucepan and stir until all the lumps are gone.

tip- a whisk would be helpful for this step, but i didn't find it necessary and i wouldn't recommend it for the next step!

step 4
cook on low heat while stirring constantly.  turn up gradually, as needed.  let cool before handling.  store in an airtight plastic bag or container.

tip- after a few minutes, it will start to feel like your spoon is dragging on the bottom of the pan.  keep stirring!  dough will collect on your spoon until all of a sudden it looks like mashed potatoes  turn off the stove and keep stirring until it is all one lump and nearly impossible to stir.  take it off the burner and let it cool.

i can't wait to see what E and D make with it on tuesday!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

if you give a mouse a gluten free cookie...

this post has been floating around in my head for quite some time, slowly taking form and gathering mass.  eating over at friends and families houses has been something that i miss tremendously.  i've managed it a few times, but i get very anxious and i make sure that i eat before, which kind of defeats the purpose of eating socially.  potlucks are even scarier!  i can't school everyone on gluten free baking and cooking and i can't give every dish the third degree.

two winters ago i visited my family in michigan.  it was my first time as a super sensitive, fully gluten free kid going to my mom and dad's houses.  i hadn't had any real conversations with either of them about how to feed me while i was there.  i was crazy nervous and scared that i was going to get sick and ruin the first christmas that i'd been able to spend with them in a long time.  fortunately, both of my parents went above and beyond what i expected, and that felt very good.  my dad had gluten free chocolate chip cookie and pancake mixes.  he made sure all of his dishes were clean, and then had me wash things, like cookie sheets and pans, a second time with a designated washcloth.  my mom bought a gluten free beef stroganoff mix and a box mix for pizza crust.  it was nice cooking and baking with each of them and it was less stressful than i had anticipated.  neither of them had been schooled in gluten free cooking in a gluten containing house, but they both put effort into shopping and coming up with a few things for us to make together while i was there.  the pizza my mom and i made served double duty.  the next day was a family christmas party, where they always order pizza.  i didn't want to make my grandparents go out of the way to feed me, or worry that i wouldn't have enough to eat.  thanks to my mom, i had leftover pizza to eat with everyone else!  there were chips and plain vegetables and even one of my aunt's desserts was was incidentally gluten free.  i was able to focus on my family instead of on food.

now, back to the title of this post:

...he's going to want to know every ingredient that went into it!

the first step to cooking gluten free is knowing what foods contain gluten and which ones are safe.  gluten is in wheat, barely, rye, and sometimes oats.  there are many tricky names that these items go by in processed foods.  here are a few words to watch out for: food starch (wheat and modified are bad while corn and potato are okay), glucose syrup, flour, durum, bulgar, spelt, couscous, seitan, bran, malt, caramel, monosodium glutamate/msg, semolina, seasonings/spices, binders/thickeners/fillers.

but really, who wants to eat all this processed food anyway?!  wouldn't it just be best to eat food that is food and not ambiguous big words meant to confuse people?  so, you ask, what can she eat when she's at my house?  whole foods are all safe!  all fruit, vegetables, legumes and meat in their unprocessed forms are safe.  frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are safe as long as the ingredient list is checked for the words above.  dried and canned beans are safe with a quick label scan.  almost all rices are safe including white, enriched, brown, wild, and sticky.  i have yet to actually encounter the infamous glutinous rice that is glutinous in deed and not just name.  tofu is safe, unless it is seasoned in soy sauce.  processed meats, like sausages, can be tricky.  i scour their labels and don't buy anything that looks suspicious or has a product by the same brand that clearly contains gluten.

...he's going to want to know if you prevented cross contamination!

most people and dishwashers get dishes clean enough to be safe for someone who is gluten free.  the ones that are of concern: things made from wood, like spoons, cutting boards and rolling pins; things made from iron, like cast iron pans and traditional woks; things that are difficult to clean, like blenders, strainers/colanders, and waffle irons.  these things may come in contact with gluten in your kitchen and cause cross contamination even if they are clean.

other causes for cross contamination include grains that are processed together, oil in deep fryers, pans that are generally used for baking, grill grates (a good scrubbing and a high heat clean them well), or simultaneously cooking gluten containing dishes at the same time.  also, it was recently brought to my attention that the stickers on produce are generally rice paper stuck on with gluten.  though i haven't had any noticeable issues, i make sure to wash my produce before eating it.

basic tips for cooking for your gluten free friends and family:

if you aren't sure, just ask!
personally, i don't mind getting called on the phone or text messaged repeatedly when you are at the grocery store.  in fact, this happened a lot in the beginning with ash and i.  instead of causing annoyance it gives me reassurance that you are being very careful and reading every label.  if you want to cook a meal with alternatives to gluten ingredients (gravies, cookies, noodles, bread, etc) it might be easiest to ask your friend what their favorite brands or recipes are.

suggest they bring a dish!
this way, you get to try something new, and they know that it is safe for them to eat.  it could also relieve the pressures of a certain course, like dessert or drinks, allowing you to focus on the rest of the meal and having a good time.

avoid sauces by seasoning with fresh or dried herbs!
sauces, just like other processed foods, often contain hidden gluten ingredients.  if the pre-made sauce isn't clearly labeled gluten free, then don't use it without first asking a discerning gluten free mouse.

make the dishes you want to!
you friend wants to come eat food with you and have a good time.  beyond having a few things they might not like, they probably are no pickier than yourself.  if they have other allergies or sensitivities, it is there job to let you know.

do a little research!
the internet has a vast wealth of resources for gluten free cooking.  there are many wonderful blogs and websites offering recipes and tips.  even the cookbooks you already have are filled with recipes that are naturally gluten free or easily adaptable.

keep it simple!
using fresh and minimally processed ingredients, makes a better meal in my opinion, and keeps the possibility of cross contamination down.

i had fun writing this and i hope that it comes in handy for me many times in the near future!  just remember to relax and enjoy yourselves.  shopping used to be very strenuous for me, but now it's a lot easier.  no longer wanting to rip open bags of bread and boxes of cereal and cram them into mouth really helps...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

25th birthday: the planning and shopping

i decided that i wanted to have chicago style hot dogs (i ranted about their gloriousness in a previous post), baked beans, potato salad and chocolate cake for my birthday party.  i have not had a birthday party in 6 years.  i have not had my own birthday cake in 4 years.

my first step was to find the perfect recipes.
the cake
the beans
the potato salad

then, hunt for the ingredients.

on thursday, i met up with ash downtown after she got out of work and we stopped at trader joe's.  it was only my second time in a trader joe's and i was very disappointed by their gluten free selection.  i was confounded by their labeling.  a friend had brought me some chips from there a few weeks ago and i couldn't tell if they were safe to eat.  i found this same type of labeling on other products.  i asked an employee, who promptly took me to the customer service desk.  they treated me like i was complaining, not asking for clarification.  we determined that i am able to eat the products in question and that they had none of the items we were looking for for the party.  we bought some new gluten free things for me to try: frozen pancakes (soggy but yummy), taquitos (just had them for breakfast, they were pretty good), mac and cheese (also decent), and a couple of granola bars (i ate one right away and gave the other to a woman who was begging for money for food).

we left and went to whole foods a few blocks away.  i was also pretty disappointed by their selection, but, we at least found a few things that we needed.  we got grass fed beef hot dogs, for the refined tastes of my friends, as well as tofu pups, which were the only vegetarian hot dogs without gluten ingredients.   we did manage to find the flour that i wanted to use for the cake, the ghirardelli chocolate powder and chips, and some cereal to stock up on.  they did not have the much needed gluten free hot dog buns.

by the time we got home, devon market was closed.  the rest of the shopping would have to wait.  i still had to find the buns.  it wouldn't be right to have hot dogs without buns on my birthday!

on friday, i had occupational therapy for my wrist.  this put me in evanston, near two whole foods, which might or might not have the coveted hot dog buns.  then, i remembered rose's wheat free bakery and cafe!  i had attempted to go there once two years ago, all the way from pilsen.  after nearly two hours on public transportation, i found they were closed when i got there, even though the website had said they'd be open.  i think i had written them off as unreliable and out of the way.

i wrote down their information and called as soon as i was done with o.t.  a woman answered after a few rings and i asked "do you have gluten free hot dog buns?"  she said they usually have to be ordered in advance but she'd look.  she came back to the phone and said she had a bag.  i didn't ask the price.  i didn't ask how many.  i just said "it would make my day if they were still there when i got there within the hour!"  she took my name and i started on the trek over.

(since the bun split in half when ash tried to cut it, i felt the need to hollow it out before putting the toppings on.)

i got an iced coffee from the dunkin doughnuts in the davis station and took the train up to central.  i knew there was a bus that would take me to the bakery, but i felt like these buns had to be earned.  to me, they were a holy grail that could only be claimed after a trying quest.  that said, i walked the mile there.  it felt a lot longer with the 85 degrees, sunshine, and fast cars.  the coffee was done when i got there and i was thoroughly hungry.

i saw pizzas, sandwiches, brownies, cupcakes...  i settled on pesto chicken on a pita.  it was mouthwatering goodness.  the pita had the right texture, smell, taste, and consistency.  i know this because i touched it and smelled it before i tasted it and chewed it.  and of course i took a picture of it before i even touched it.  i ate slowly, enjoying every minute and wishing the serving was bigger.  when i was done, i went to the counter to thank them for the wonderful meal.  i ended up talking with the manager and exchanging restaurant tips.  i left full, with a sense of community, and a smile on my face.

i had planned to head to one of the whole foods next, in search of our favorite pizza crusts and pie crusts for a friend.  the weather had other plans.  a storm came in quickly and when i finally found the bus stop i decided that heading straight home would be best.  it was a journey in it's own right; i really earned those buns and that meal and probably one of the brownies that i didn't buy.

that night, we got the rest of the things we needed from devon market, which is not an integral part of the quest...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

i haven't had that in years!

the first thing i did when i decided to go gluten free was to buy a few cookbooks.  the second thing i did was realize that they are almost the same as my old gluten ridden ones.  the only things that are really different and wonderful about gluten free cookbooks are that they usually have explanations of all the gf grains and flours and guides for cooking with them.  gluten free recipes for all things baked goods are essential.  you cannot simply substitute a gluten free flour in your predominantly gluten containing recipes.  there's an art and science to it.  i am only just now getting into gluten free baking that does not include a boxed mix.

but, back on topic...

there are gluten free recipes tucked in your old cookbooks right along side those horrid gluten containing ones.  you just have to look for them.  when we don't know what to cook for dinner we often start searching the internet and using key ingredients of things we already have in the house.  when one of us has a hankering for a certain dish, we pull out a stack of cookbooks and start searching.

last week one of these hankerings hit.  i wanted potatoes aux gratin and i wanted them now!  we attacked the shelf of cookbooks in a mad furry.  we looked under aux gratin, potatoes and cheese without any luck.  then i remembered they are often called scalloped potatoes, duh.  there it was, plain and simple, in my copy of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.  after reading the recipe and seeing that it would take an hour and a half to prep and bake, we decided my craving had to wait until the weekend.

side note:  not being able to use my right hand for much of anything since mid january has put a cramp in  our cooking style.  ash and i discovered early on that we very much enjoy cooking together and are naturally compatible in the kitchen.  i don't mind the prep work and she doesn't mind the raw meat and grease.  we can pick up a task the other was working on or quickly change gears.  i often did dishes while she minded the stove.  with my limited ability we have had to change the dynamic.  i try to get things ready before we start, like clearing the counter and putting away clean dishes.  she has to do almost all the hands on work and all the dish washing.  in order to keep me from standing over her should while she cuts carrots, i have taken to reading out loud to her or busying myself with various one-handed household tasks.


the long awaited day arrived and i got my cheesy scalloped potatoes!  there was only one modification needed to the book's recipe: corn starch had to be substituted for flour.  i wasn't sure at first how much to use, but a glance at the container told me to use half the amount called for in the recipe.  i didn't even have to use my brain!  so here is the recipe, as we did it, based on the previously mentioned book:

1/2 cup chopped onion (we used some white and green because it was in the fridge)
1 clove of garlic, minced (we used the jar kind)
2 tbs margarine/butter
1 tbs corn starch
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb potatoes (or so...)

1) grease a 1 1/2 qt casserole dish (a square one worked perfectly).  preheat oven at 350.
2) thinly slice potatoes.  place half the sliced potatoes in the casserole dish (we layered them at an angle so that the next potato half covered the one before it).
3) for sauce, in a small saucepan cook onion and garlic in margarine until tender but not brown.  stir in corn starch and pepper.  add milk all at once.  stirring, cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.  add in cheese and stir until melted.
4) cover the first layer of potatoes with half of the sauce.  add a second layer of potatoes and cover with the remaining sauce.
5) bake covered for 40 minutes.  uncover and bake for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and cheese is browned.

ta da!

it was so good that i don't even remember what else we ate with it, probably steak.  i savored every bite and the left overs were fantastic.  it was the first time in years that i'd had cheesy scalloped potatoes, and they were so much better than the boxed ones i had as a kid!

thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

oh, the days when life was simpler!

i used to eat out a lot, like many people that have busy lives.  i could just grab something on my way home from work, or order delivery (which was a recent accomplishment in the face of social anxiety).  all that changed four years ago when i realized that gluten was causing me a slew of nasty symptoms.  i tried to say goodbye to some of my favorite places and gluten filled foods.  that, of course, only helped to affirm that pizza made me run to the bathroom, while a nice apple or some rice kept me from looking three months pregnant.

i remember my last chicago dog...  it makes my mouth water to think about that soft bun, the vienna beef dog, charred of course, covered in grilled onions, slices of pickles and tomatoes, celery salt and of course some mustard.  those were the days.  the days of agonizing migraines, dangerously fluctuating weight, dizzy spells, anemia, exhaustion...

in the last two years my symptoms have gotten more acute and my ability to eat at restaurants has diminished while increasing my fear for social functions containing food (which is a whole post in itself).  i've also learned of a few more hidden ingredients and can scan a label for gluten in a matter of seconds.

my current list of chicago restaurants and what i can eat there

tank noodle i can eat spring rolls, beef pho, chicken pho minus the dried onions, and curry chicken; there are probably more options but our language barrier keeps me from being adventurous
chipotle any kind of burrito bowl; gloves are changed and my meal is made by one person
jimmy john's any kind of unwich except for the roast beef; gloves are changed and paper is put down on the cutting board
osaka express and shiroi hana i avoid unagi, teriyaki and soy sauce, tempura, and imitation crab meat; i've had bad luck at a few other sushi places; i prefer to stick to one place so that i know what i can eat
gino's east and aurelio's both have gluten free pizzas and salads and prevent cross contamination
falafill only gluten items are the pita and two noodle salad bar choices; i wish they'd just make it completely gluten free!
flat top grill they cook food for people with allergies in a wok and had decent gf dressing and seasoning options; i've only been there once
wendy's baked potato, side salad and frosty
george's they have a list of allergens and everyone is ready to pull it out and make sure the flavor i want is safe, now only if they were to get gluten free cones, that would make me cry tears of joy...
da luciano is a one of a kind place!  members of their extended italian family have celiac disease so they have an extensive gf menu.  i got to go here for my birthday last year on our way to rockford to see journey.  when i saw the menu i wanted to cry.  when my ravioli arrived i wanted to hug everyone that worked there.  we got frozen cannoli to eat after dinner, there are no words for that.
joe's i've only been here once; our server was knowledgeable and made sure that what i ordered was safe; there was an appetizer of scallops that was fantastic and i had king crab legs
cy's crab house i get crab legs with a side of mashed potatoes or broccoli, i've also had oysters but didn't care for them; i make them take the basket of pita bread off the table, it is too tempting; they carry strongbow cider which is gluten free

two nights ago we went to cy's for ash's 31st birthday, along with two friends, one of whom is gluten intolerant.  it's a fantastic meal, and is decently priced, though it is currently difficult for me because of my wrist injury.

i've been told that i can eat at demera, as long as i call ahead, but i haven't yet gone.  i went to p. f. chang's in denver, co and was fine.  i went to the chicago location for my birthday last year and got very sick, but it didn't ruin my day!  i am willing to give them another shot to see if it was just a miscommunication on the part of the waiter because they have identical menu items that do contain gluten.  i was reading another gf blog and heard mention of roy's having a gf menu.  that might be a good one to try for a special occasion.

just because a restaurant has a gluten free menu, or items marked as gluten free, doesn't mean that they have safe practices to keep those items gluten free.  there are so many ways that cross contamination can make a simple gluten free item no longer safe.  utensils, pots/pans, grills, cutting boards, hands, sauces, and friers can all cause cross contamination.  for example, gino's east has taken great care to keep me safe.  they make their gluten free pizzas at a separate facility and freeze them to send to their restaurants.  then, they are cooked in a separate oven and cut with separate knives.  this means i only have the choice of cheese, sausage or pepperoni, but it also means that i will not get sick!

i used to be a very adventurous eater.  i would try anything at least once and loved eating at different ethnic restaurants.  i definitely miss chinese, indian, thai, korean, italian...  i would like to be able to travel one day, but am scared of getting sick, especially away from home in a place i have paid money to be.  i have heard of a few different kinds of dining cards, which are used to explain to waiters and chefs what you can and cannot have.  the free ones don't have a lot of information, but come in many languages.  the ones you can buy online, have less language options but include a list of common gluten ingredients for that cuisine.  i haven't committed to buying or printing any of these yet, though i think they would help prevent miscommunication.  i often get flustered trying to explain things to people, especially when eating out.

anyways, this post had been brewing for a while.  thank you for reading.  i go through a lot to be able to eat out and when it goes wrong it can be bad very bad.  i want to be able to eat at more places but it scares me.  tips, restaurant suggestions and invitations to try new places are welcome.  a special thanks to my core pho phriends jill, tim, alex, joe and ash, as well as those who have joined us carolyn, jim, bill, andrea, glenda (and her mom!), jet, jera, jeff, debbie, amy and dan for making so many tuesday nights a special occasion.

Friday, May 28, 2010

i used to keep a livejournal.

i wrote in it almost every day, sometimes many times, updating it with the most mundane highlights and reading comments from people in more interesting places than flint.  not many people read it and it sure wasn't public.  it was back in the day before facebook was talked about as if it were a sentient being, keeping us current on everyone's whereabouts and observations; the ubiquitous neighbor over the fence.  you had to have a recognized college email address to have an account.  it hadn't even entered my radar.  i wasn't as connected to everyone online as i am now.  i wasn't as picky about what i wrote either.

i used to sit with my brand new powerbookg4 open to livejournal, itunes and a crafting site.  the magnetic latch made an awesome pin cushion while i sewed and stuffed sock monkeys, made clothes for myself, and played around with stenciling.  i'd give my puppy a pigs ear and she'd curl up on her little bed, obsessively gnawing it until i was ready to call it a night.  it was a pleasant change from my whirlwind life and her manic behavior that earned her the name dory.

i met so many people through livejournal groups.  i was so open to new experiences.  my eyes were bigger, brighter, bluer then.  everything awed and inspired me.  i was so certain of who i was and where i was heading.  i was working two jobs; preparing for my move to chicago and art school.  i rented half of a two story house with a yard for half of what our one bedroom-plus, sub-level apartment costs now.

every morning i'd wake up and get ready for my job at borders.  i'd work a full shift there, change in the car, and then head to papa john's and work until they closed.  i'd eat my free ten inch pizza on the eleven minute drive home, shower again, and start writing and crafting.  i had so much creative energy that i had to have two outlets going at once.  when i had afternoons off i took dory to the park.  we'd run and play for a few hours.  then, i'd get a nice break while she napped, exhausted by the sheer excitement of living.

looking back, i can see how all the dots connected to get me where i am now.  i had to make choices, take chances and learn lessons, sometimes repeatedly.  my life is drastically different and yet i am still predominantly the same.  or maybe, i am just more me than i was then.  i am bigger in some way.

i've lost contact with most of the people that i met through livejournal, but somehow they are still with me.  they helped me to learn and grow and introduced me to new people and experiences.  i still make sock monkeys and i started writing and performing poetry.  i had to give dory away, but now i have two cats.  i dropped out of art school after only a few months but i'm still in chicago.  my once sparkling laptop has a few dents and scratches to go along with the new battery and hard drive.  my eyes are still big, bright and blue and every day is awe-inspiring.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

i must confess...

i feel terribly knowing that people have been visiting my blog and yet i have only written once this year.  it makes me feel ashamed.  i created this space and yet i've failed to fill it with anything.

i could make excuses for myself.  the list would be long.

but every one of my excuses could be easily refuted.

i have lots to say about being gluten free.  i live it every day, the good and the bad.  i've been living with celiac disease for four years and, in my belief, my whole life.

so, to turn this blog productive, to get me actually writing the ideas in my head, will you help inspire me?

i need ideas and prompts and support.  i need comments and questions.  no comment is too small or question too big.  what do you want to know?  what brought you here?  do you need support or a gluten free friend?  have you tried a brand of food or restaurant?  did i leave something out?

please help me to be a better blogger.

Monday, February 22, 2010

keep on the sunny side!

every morning when you wake up you don't know what to expect for the day ahead of you. you may have everything planned and scheduled and prepared ahead of time. you might go over that days events the night before when you are falling asleep. even though you studied you can't always be prepared for that days pop quiz.

the unpredictability of life is what makes it so fascinating and yet so difficult. we have so many choices and oftentimes don't even acknowledge that we in fact have control of the outcome of each and every day. we choose which doors are opened and closed before us.

my favorite example of this is a story of a day of mine two summers ago...

i had planned to meet with a friend of a friend to do a photo shoot for an idea he had. we'd been intending to work together for quite some time and never got around to it. that very hot and sunny afternoon i rode my bike the ten and a half miles to the photographers house. when i got there i was tired but exhilarated and ready to be creative. unfortunately, he had not tried out some of the more intricate aspects of this particular idea. we spent an hour setting up and then another hour failing at attaching the ends of plastic tubes to my skin. if you compound the scent of the adhesive, the hot sun on the long ride and my now empty stomach, you'd get one horrible migraine. we decided to end for the day and i was going to go home instead of to meditation like i had planned. my migraine was escalating by the minute.

i left his apartment and walked out into the sunny street to find my bike had an eight inch pinch flat. this means that the person who helped me with my tire last, a former bike delivery guy, had failed horribly at putting my tube in and the rim of the wheel pinched my tube rendering it unfixable with my patch kit. in knew that the closest bike shop did not carry tubes that fit my tiny bike. i was very upset all of a sudden but was determined to get home and fix it and rest my head. i walked my bike to the train station and found that the trains were not running due to someone deciding to jump on the tracks a few stations south of where i was.

i started crying. i didn't know what else to do. i sent a text to my friend who was hosting the meditation and another to the friend of the photographer. i reformulated my plan on how to get home which would require an hour and a half on a bus and then 2o minutes on a train. i managed to catch the necessary bus a few minutes later while i pulled myself together.

when i was seated on the bus, my bike safely riding in front, i received a text from the friend of the photographer. she simply said that i could choose how the rest of my day would go if i decided to see the positive. this was very empowering. i started counting the blessings of the situation i found myself in and they just kept adding up:

the bus was air conditioned! people were giving up their seats on the over crowded bus to elderly people and parents holding babies! i could see out the window! i didn't get motion sickness! the bus ride was quicker than i thought! my medicine was working and taking the edge of the migraine! people were smiling and being nice left and right! there was a little boy on the train platform who liked my pink bike and the horn and played with me! there was a mom with a toddler in a sling on the train and we played with the horn, making the ride go by so much faster! my neighbors were friendly! my roommates weren't home!

the day just kept getting better! by the time i went to sleep i was a completely different person than the one who started crying when it seemed as if the whole world were conspiring against me. it was all because someone told me that i could mould my day into my own creation. i had a choice as to how i would see the world for the rest of the day! i had the power the whole time but someone had to tell me to grab hold of it.

this story has stuck with me and i have used it as an example of positive thinking many times. i am telling this story now for my own benefit. i need to find my rose colored glasses and keep them on as i find myself facing many challenges and an even rougher few months ahead of me.