Monday, March 10, 2014

Gluten Free Friendly

When you have to eat gluten free, often times you feel very isolated. Stop and think for just a moment of all the times in your life where food is involved. Then, imagine yourself in each of  these different scenarios:

*Birthday party
*Pizza party
*Eating dinner over someone's house
*Holiday dinners with friends and family
*Restaurant buffet
*Wedding reception
*Graduation party

Food is involved in each one of these situations. In most cases, there is no way of knowing what each of the food offered contains, or, in the case of birthday cake or pizza, you already know that it is simply off-limits to you.

Unless you personally made the food, you have no idea what ingredients were used, and you are forced to ask many, many questions to try to determine what exactly is in each dish.

 If you are a normal person (like I used to be), you don't think anything of eating whatever food you want to at potlucks, or over people's houses, and you don't have to religiously study all the food labels in the grocery store. If you accidentally eat something that isn't "good" for you,  you probably won't regret that decision to eat that particular food for hours upon hours, or even days. Think about the worse case of stomach flu you have EVER had, and that is about close to the picture of me within about 2-3 hours of eating something that contains gluten.

When I first started eating gluten free about 7 years ago, I didn't know anyone else who had to eat that way. I got in touch with a local Celiac disease support group, and met others who, like myself, weren't avoiding gluten because it was some new fad diet they could try out to lose a few pounds. They were avoiding gluten so they could avoid ending up in the hospital (again) or to avoid getting cancer. When you have Celiac disease, consuming gluten is like consuming rat poison. Would YOU willingly eat rat poison? Unless you are a glutton for punishment.....probably not.

After awhile, I became more familiar with what I could safely eat, and what I could not. I wasted more money that I care to add up on food that was sub-par at best. When a tiny loaf of bread costs almost $5, you think very carefully before buying it, just so you can try one bite, find out it tastes like sawdust, and throw it in the trash!

Fast forward to today. Today, I was stopping in to Meijer to get one of my gluten free staples: English muffins. The last couple of times I went to purchase some, they were out of them. I am a creature of habit, and I eat the same things all the time (other than dinner) until I am sick to death of them, then I move onto something new. English muffins have been part of my diet for a little while now, and when all of the sudden......POOF! No English muffins? Tell me it ain't so!

Today, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I even saw some actual GRASS peaking through the melted snow. It was brown, but it was still grass!

I had a little spring in my step, and high hopes that today would be the day that my beloved English muffins would be in their usual place in the freezer section.

As I rounded the corner to the aisle where they are kept, I saw another woman reaching for the Udi's bread. I am a "chatty" person, and think nothing of making idle small talk with random strangers. I asked her if she also had to eat gluten free, and she said that she did. We went on to discuss the reasons why we each liked our particular choice. She asked me if the English muffins actually tasted like English muffins,and I said that while it had been over 7 years since I had tasted an English muffin, it was as close to the real thing as I could remember. I grabbed two packages, and went off to get my Tinkyada spiral noodles. Yes, they must be spiral. I think they taste better.

As I was standing in the check out line, I started up a conversation with the woman behind me. She told me that she baked cookies for a living and sold them at places like farmer's markets. She worked alone, and she mentioned that she did quite well. I asked her if she made any gluten free cookies, and she said that she was just starting to include them. She made peanut butter chocolate chip, and was working on perfecting a snickerdoodle cookie next. I also asked her if they were good sellers, and she told me that the few times she had taken them to sell, she had completely sold out of them in just a short time!

I encouraged her to keep making them, and that she should even think about making more varieties. She mentioned after the snickerdoodle, she wanted to try a cranberry, macadamia nut, oatmeal cookie. YUM!

In the few minutes I was in the store, I encountered 2 different people who either had to eat gluten free, or were striving to make the lives of those of us who do a little more pleasant.

A few weeks ago, my pastor came up to me at church and mentioned how, now that he knew that I had to eat gluten free, he was starting to notice all the places that offered gluten free food. He has even arranged for there to be gluten free communion bread for me, and anyone else who needs to eat gluten free. How sweet is that?!

More and more restaurants are beginning to offer gluten free menus for their customers. I recently saw on a television commercial that Olive Garden (a place that I have not frequently visited since my diagnosis because of their very limited menu for people like me) is now offering gluten free pasta. Did you hear that? GLUTEN FREE PASTA!

It is definitely a new day for gluten free people!

The thing I miss the very most though are donuts. I told my girls that, if I knew for sure that I was going to die (I would have to know FOR SURE because it is NOT worth it any other way) the one thing that I would eat would be a real, honest-to-goodness, donut. I am sure that some day, when I make it to Heaven, God will have the most delicious donut with the name "Amiee" written on it, waiting just for me. I told my girls that if I do happen to die, I want to be holding a donut (preferably something chocolate) in my hand when I am in my casket.

I am only partially kidding...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Olympics and Hamsters

If your family is anything like mine, you have been watching a whole lot of the Olympics. We have been watching so much of it, that my youngest daughter begged to be able to watch anything BUT the Olympics! Full House won over figure skating tonight. She said, "I am SO tired of watching skating! They do the same thing over and over again. Skating...spinning....throwing.....couples. I've seen it ALL week! Can we PLEASE turn it?"

I am not one of those people who have to watch every single minute of every single event. I am more of a,'s on.....I might as well watch it... type of fan. But, it does only come along every four years, and it would  feel un-American not to watch at least some of it and root for "our" Olympians. Right?

I just got done watching the women's freestyle skiing, which made me feel like the most uncoordinated person on the face of the earth! The one and only time I went wasn't pretty. I could barely ski down the hill frontwards. These women? They were doing all kinds of flips and tricks, and skiing down the hill BACKWARDS!

Then there is ladies figure skating. I have been ice skating only a few times in my life, and I could barely manage to not have to hang on to the walker while skating! Yet, here I sit, along with the rest of my family, pretending we are Olympic judges.

"Look at how slow she's going compared to the tiny 15 year old girl from Russia!" I am one to talk.

Ice dancing? I can barely dance WITHOUT skates!

The luge? I would probably be hurdling to my death. As a child, I almost impaled myself on our wooden toboggan. Remember those? All wood and sharp metal? Ahhh....those were the good ole' days.

I do have one question: Why did they choose to have the winter Olympics in a part of Russia that is not known for having the correct winter temperatures? They said that today, the temperatures were in the 40's, and the snow was like mashed potatoes. Why didn't they have it in Siberia? There's plenty of cold weather and snow there!

Of course, they could always come and take some of the snow from around here. I guarantee you no one would mind. Free snow, Russia! Take all you want! Think warm thoughts, Amiee.....warm thoughts...

On another note, my youngest daughter's beloved hamster, Daisy (2 years old), was found dead in her cage last night. Here she is in happier times:

The good part? She was all curled up with her head buried under the bedding, and she just looked like she was sleeping. My daughter went in to feed her, and then came to the stairs and told me that she thought Daisy was dead. I asked her why she thought that, and she said, "She isn't breathing". Okay then...

I had heard horror stories from other friends who had hamsters that lived a long time, and was dreading how she would eventually die. Hamsters are not known to live long lives.  Two of our friends hamster's hair had all fallen out, and they had turned purple. The poor hamsters were absolutely miserable. One friend had their cat eat their hamster. Another had lost their hamster through a tiny hole in the wall, the hamster became trapped, and eventually died in there. Compared to the other possible ways she could have died, going to sleep and not waking up sounds so much better.

We still have my middle daughter's hamster, Henry, that is living. We got him and Daisy on the same day. I'm afraid it's probably just a matter of time for him too. Even though you try to prepare yourself, and your kids, for your pet's inevitable death, it's always tough. You get attached to those cute little buggers! I am going to pray that he dies in his sleep, just like Daisy did.

Here is our dilemma now: How do you bury a dead hamster when it's winter? Since we do not live in a warm climate, the ground here is frozen solid, and I do mean solid. Trust me on this.

Some of the nativity people are still out there from Christmas. I have tried to dig them out, and I was successful in getting one of the wisemen, along with Mary (who is holding baby Jesus), Joseph, and the cow. Yes, apparently there was a cow at Jesus' birth. Not sure why there was just a cow, and not a donkey, but that is what the light-up set came with, so just go with it. However, the other two wisemen will  have to remain out there until warmer weather hits and some of this snow melts. Their cords that make them "light up" are frozen to the ground, which makes THEM frozen to the ground. Of course, because of all the snow, the one wiseman is completely covered with it, and the other one just has his head sticking out of the snow drift. It kind of looks like he was beheaded or something. So sorry, dear neighbors. I tried.

Anyway, currently, Daisy-the-much-loved-and-adorable-hamster, now resides in a makeshift coffin (Glad container), covered in bedding, in the hamster morgue, otherwise known as the cold garage.

One of our friends told us to be sure that we didn't forget about her being in there. She said her parents put her hamster in the garage when it died in the winter, and then forgot about it. Later on, she found just the tiny hamster skeleton hidden in the garage. Yikes!

My daughter wrote a very touching story today about Daisy. It caused tears to well up in my eyes, but it also made me laugh a little too. She was very honest in it. She said that she loved Daisy so much, even though she made her room smell bad. Ha!

Good-bye, sweet Daisy. Even though you sometimes smelled bad, we will all miss you...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


As my extended family and I gathered before the clock struck twelve on New Year's Eve, we all shared one good thing that happened to us in 2013, and one "resolution" we had for the new year.

While we all had many things that we would like to see happen in 2014, we all focused on just one thing that we were going to share with everyone. Some of those resolutions were: losing weight, being more dedicated in their job, doing well in school, getting "abs", learning to read (this was said by a kindergartner), eating healthier, taking more naps (Ha!) and buying a house, just to name a few.

When it was my turn to share, I said that I while I have been doing better at it, I wanted to be sure that I had a more consistent relationship with the Lord.

This does not mean that I don't have other things that I would like to see happen this year, because I certainly do! However, I have come to realize that this is one very important area that, in the past, has often been neglected.

Just like all of you, the past couple of years have been filled with many blessings, but also many soul-crushing situations. As a family, we have faced challenging medical conditions, betrayal by friends and family (who we thought were one way, but in reality, were quite another), heartbreaking situations with those we love that we can do nothing about, death of loved ones, and major, life changing decisions that had to be made.

There were times in this past year, when my soul was so burdened and distraught that I truly felt like I was all alone. During this time, I learned to cling to God in a way I'm not sure I have ever before. He showed me that though this world I live in is filled with things beyond my control. HE would always be with me. I learned to stand on his promises, and pray for those I love. I am not able to change a person's heart....but GOD can!

I have always loved the hymn, "In Christ Alone", but this year, it has new meaning to me. It truly is in Christ ALONE that my hope is found. He is the only one who promises to never leave me, nor forsake me.

In Matthew 16:26, it says, "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"

If you put that towards common resolutions people (including myself) make, it would go something like this:

"What good will it be for someone to lose weight, yet forfeit their soul?"

"What good will it be for someone to eat healthier and exercise more, yet forfeit their soul?"

"What good will it be for someone to do well in school, yet forfeit their soul?

"What good will it be for someone to be more dedicated to their job, yet forfeit their soul?"

Now, YOU fill in the blank with one of YOUR resolutions:

"What good will it be for ME to                                 , yet forfeit MY soul?"

Makes it more personal, doesn't it?

If you don't know Christ, nothing you can do this year will matter in the end.

There is NOTHING more important than having a personal relationship with Jesus.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

December Review

Where did December go? I can hardly believe that it is already January, not to mention, a brand new year!

In the month of December, we....

Decorated the first Christmas tree at our new home

Created snow people out of socks
Made cards with stamps....even Henry the hamster got in on the action!
Tossed around snowballs...
...while ice skating...
...on the frozen lake
Went to a Snowball dance
Spent quality time together
 Enjoyed the lights and the sweet smell of apples and cinnamon
(this is my "Whoot" owl Scentsy warmer)
Crafted a wreath for the door
Made a family Christmas card
Took pictures in the snow
Attempted to make a snowman
Exchanged gifts and dressed up all fancy
And partied until we dropped
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Probably A Good Idea Santa Didn't Bring Us One

If you own a television, I am sure that you have seen this commercial for the My Spy Birdhouse at least once.

For those of you who have never seen it, here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

It looks like it would be good for hour after hour of good old fashioned family fun!

For the low, low price of only $14.99 (plus an additional $7.99 for processing and handling) we would be able to see the birds as they built their nests, and raised their families. Granted, other than the birdhouse being open in the back, and having suction cups,  it doesn't look any more complicated than the birdhouses my girls have made during one of Home Depot's kids workshops, which were free. But still!

We love birds. We love watching them, feeding them, and photographing them. We even have a cockatiel bird as a pet. Here is Howie, perched on our Christmas tree.

Isn't he presh? That is short for "precious". My daughter used it one time in my presence, and now it is my new vocabulary word. Feel free to steal it, and use it often. It will annoy your children.

So....if I thought that the My Spy Birdhouse would make a perfect gift for our family, why in the world did I not buy one?

Here is why: I was afraid that by buying one and attaching it to one of our windows, I would condemn an untold number of birds to their tragic deaths.

You see, our lovely home with the large windows is where birds like to kill themselves. Time after time, we have heard the loud, sickening thump of a bird meeting its untimely death as it flies like a Kamikaze suicide pilot directly into our house. I have lost count of how many innocent, naive birds have lost their lives, or have at least sustained some form of brain injury from our windows.

Earlier this year, we had some beautiful bluebirds around our bird feeder. The feeder was up high in a tree, far away from our death trap windows. The bluebirds flitted around, without a care in the world, until one of them flew SMACK into the window. The poor bird struggled unsuccessfully to get up, but it could not. To my absolute horror, the other bird started pecking unmercifully at him! I assumed that it was trying to kill him, to put him out of his misery, but after discussing it over with Hubs, we think that he was trying to help it up the only way he knew how. He kept flying around the other bird, and pecking at its neck, crying over and over to the struggling creature. If we could have understood his bird language, I'm sure he was saying something like, "Get up! Get up! It is not safe for you to be on the ground! Don't you know a fierce DOG lives here?!"  Finally, he gave up trying to get the helpless bird, and he flew away. The injured bird just laid pitifully on the ground, still struggling to stand.

I hurriedly called Hubs over to the window, and pointed to the sad little bird on the ground. I got Hubs an old t-shirt and a box to put the bird in, and we brought him into the laundry room.

 The little bird was shivering, and breathing rapidly.

After looking him over, it seemed that he just had a few surface injuries, and a dirt encrusted, slightly bloody, rather unfocused eye.

 I got out my bottle of eye drops and cleaned out his eye to the best of my ability. Once the dirt and blood were wiped away, he seemed to appreciate being able to see better.

I placed him back into the warm box to rest, and try to clear his head.

After a little while, we went back in the laundry room to check on him. Hubs picked him up, and the bird immediately hopped onto his shoulder! In spite of smashing up against the window, it seemed like he was going to be okay.

When we were fairly sure that the bird was well enough to be on his own, Hubs placed him back in the box, took him outside, and let him go. He flew right up into the tree, and sat there for a bit, before flying away. Since that time, we have never seen him, or any other bluebird, in our yard again. It's as if he flew back to all of his friends, and warned them not to go anywhere near the birdie house of horrors.

While I still think it would be neat to have the My Spy Birdhouse, we will just have to be content to watch the wild birds from afar.

If you also have a home that birds like to fly into, what do you do to prevent this from happening? The birds in my backyard would be very appreciative of your advice...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Inexpensive Gift Ideas For Christmas

It's that time of year again, folks! Time for roasting chestnuts on an open fire (who does that sort of thing? Anyone?) singing Yuletide carols, and dressing up like Eskimos (unless, you happen to live in Florida).

Oh....and buying everyone and their brother something for Christmas.

Are you running out of money, AND out of inexpensive ideas for every teacher, neighbor, friend you want to give a present to? Then, feel free to steal my idea:

Christmas in a mug!

I love plants, and have quite a few of them. Just the other day, I was separating my plants (again) getting ready to give some friends and relatives some plant starts, when the idea came to me. Why not create an inexpensive Christmas present out of them? So, off I went to my local thrift store, to purchase some Christmas mugs. Now, some of you have never even set foot in a thrift store, unless it was to buy an ugly sweater for that annual office Christmas party.

Why not? Are you too proud to be seen in one? You would be surprised at all the treasures to be found there! That is a whole different blog post, but one thing you can find there this time of year is very low cost things for Christmas. For only 59 cents, at our local thrift store, you can get a like-new Christmas mug. 59 cents! That is even cheaper than going to the dollar store!

Here is an example of one of the Christmas plant mugs I created for a teacher gift:

If you don't already have plants, and you want to create a Christmas plant mug, you can buy a few starter plants at just about any store, and separate them out into several different mugs that you have filled with potting soil. I made sure to include at least three different varieties of hardy plants that transplant well. I used some festive garland I already had, and attached a little red bow.

There are many other things that would work well to put in a mug. By balling up tissue paper and placing it in the mug first, you can make it so that whatever you put in the mug will be elevated. Here are some other ideas for things you could put in a Christmas mug that would make great gifts:

*Hot cocoa mix and mini marshmallows
* Cup O' Soup packets or any other "cup" food (my oldest daughter's term, and her favorite kind of food!)
*Assortment of hand sanitizer, lotions, or chapsticks
*Homemade or store bought candy
*Assortment of different flavored tea or coffee
*A variety of office supplies like paper clips, white out, erasers, etc.
*Small notepad and pens or pencils
*Golf balls and tees
*Deck of regular playing cards or UNO cards
*Small frame with picture of kids (would make a great Grandparent gift!)
*Nail polish and other mani/pedi supplies
*Any gift card (iTunes, coffee shop, movie theatre, book store, restaurant, etc.)
*Brownie, cupcake, or muffin baked in a mug (make sure the mug can be put in microwave or oven first!) Or, you could just write down a bunch of yummy recipes for mug desserts down on recipe cards that you make yourself. Need some recipe ideas? You can go here for some inspiration.

If you cannot afford to give much other than the mug itself, fill the mug with little slips of paper of all the things you admire about the person you are giving it to. Who wouldn't want to read all of the things you love about them?! That's a true gift from the heart.

You could also make up coupons for those people you know well. Need to give a gift to a friend or family member with small children? Offer to babysit their little tikes so they can have a quiet night out! Some other ideas could be to shovel their drive, a meal given to them at a later time, pet sitting, free house cleaning, really whatever you can think of that is a labor of love that the person receiving the gift would enjoy!

Use your imagination,  and I'm sure that you could also come up with some creative ideas on creating Christmas gifts in a mug.

Now, put on that Christmas thinking cap, and get busy! Only 8 more days until Christmas....

Monday, November 11, 2013

Table Tipping Part 2

Since the last time we "spoke", have you tipped over any tables?

If so, how did it go? Better than you expected? Worse? About the same?

Now, it's time to look at a totally different approach to table tipping. Those would be the tables that have been filled with the things that we, ourselves, have put there, either intentionally, or unintentionally.

Not only can other people pile things on our theoretical tables, but we can put things there ourselves. Take for example, bad habits that we never intended to develop, but over time, we have found ourselves entrenched in anyway.

It is said that it takes about 21 days to develop a habit; good or bad. I would say that for most people, it takes even less time than that for bad habits to stick, and more time than that to form good habits.

Other people can tell us what we need to do to change things, but until we genuinely want to change, things will remain the same way they have always been. Take for instance, someone who is a smoker. It is a rare person in this day and age that does not know the effects smoking has on a human body. You only have to look at the cigarette package warning label to know that smoking is probably NOT the best idea. Commercials appear on television, showing a lady in a wig, with a stoma in her neck, speaking about her experience with neck and throat cancer caused from smoking. The smoker may even know of someone who has died from the effects of smoking. And yet, they continue to smoke. Why is that? It's because, for whatever reason, they do not want to stop. Oh, they may WANT to stop, but they are not willing to do the hard things that are required of them to become a non-smoker.

Just like the rest of you, there are things that I want to change in my life. Some of my life tables have become cluttered with things that I never intended to be there, but have placed there any my OWN hands. People can tell me that I need to tip over those tables, but, unless I resolve to make those hard decisions myself, nothing will change. It is time to tip over those tables and start anew!

Most of us make some sort of resolution to start out the new year, such as losing weight, getting more exercise, or stopping a bad habit, but why wait until then? Why not start tipping over some of those tables now? Tables that YOU have piled high with bad habits, flimsy excuses, poor attitudes, unhealthy life choices, etc.

Just like last time, this type of table tipping may not be pleasant. It is not easy to take a good hard look at our lives, and realize that we have caused many of our own problems. Gulp.

How do you start making these necessary changes? By taking one baby step at a time.

 If for example, you feel that your spending habits have gotten out of control, it's time to tip over that table and begin again. What better time to start than before the beginning of the most expensive season of the year...Christmas. Resolve to just simply spend less. Sit down, and figure out how much you can realistically afford to spend on each person (which will probably be a lot less than you want to spend on each person) and then, stick to it! Try to remember that while people do enjoy getting gifts from you, it truly is the thought that counts.

Other than a few key items, I really can't remember very many of the exact Christmas gifts that I received as a child. Isn't that sad? Through the years, my parents and other family members and friends have given me tons of gifts, but I can only count on one hand the ones I actually remember. Just how many gifts that you have given to others do you think they will remember years from now? Yeah.....not many.

If you want to exercise more, you could start out by attempting to do P90X every day (although, if you have been a couch potato prior to this, I wouldn't recommend it) or, you can do what a wise person once told me, and just start out by walking a little bit each day. Which one do you think you would be more likely to stick with?

What is it that you have been wanting, but have not been willing to make those hard changes that are required to get what you want? What are you waiting for?

The time to start table tipping is.....NOW!