Sunday, November 30, 2008


WG was looking at the bag of GF pretzels with a very concerned look on her face.
WG: "Why you gave me gluten pretzels?"
Me: "I didn't."
WG: "but it says gluten there" (pointing to the bag)
Me: "the next word is free, so it really says gluten-free."

I must say I think it's pretty funny that the first word WG read was gluten.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving thanks

I am thankful for all the "normal" things this Thanksgiving: family, enough food to eat, a roof over my head, my (and Tim's) job, etc.

I am thankful that the GF diet continues to help our entire family and that following it has become second nature.

I am thankful that WG qualified for at-risk preschool because it has made a tremendous difference. I am confident that she will do well in Kindergarten next year.

I am thankful for my wonderful husband who somehow has the skills to completely remodel our kitchen, plumbing, electric and all.

I am thankful for good friends who I can talk to about anything. When I was teaching in DeKalb, two of "my" moms were so close they were like sisters. I had always hoped for a friendship like that and it's nice to have one.

I am thankful for WG. My friend who is the mother of two preemies summed it up, she said she was thankful for her children and could never take them for granted because with the tiniest tip of the scale they might not have been here at all.

I am thankful for the things that make me laugh so hard it feels like I've done an hour's worth of sit ups.

I am thankful that my grandmother had such a nice ending to her life. That doesn't sound right, but you know what I mean.

I am thankful for caffiene. And the occasional glass of wine.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Last night one of the bedtime stories WG picked was a Berenstain Bears' book. At one point, Papa was eating his breakfast which consisted of porridge.
WG: "I don't eat porridge."
Me: "Oh. Why not?" (I was expecting an answer like, "I don't like it" or "because it has gluten".)
WG (looking at me like I'm stupid): "Because it's for bears."

Friday, November 21, 2008


It "snowed" this morning. Southern snow is not like Northern snow. Flurries make people completely lose their minds. My first winter here I went to the grocery store on my usual day and was mystified when I found that there was no milk or bread in any of the stores. Turns out we were gearing up for a "big storm," which wound up to be a dusting of snow on the grass. School was canceled that day.

WG has not experienced much in the way of snow. Last year one of the very few times it snowed she looked out the car window and asked me what was wrong with the rain. This morning we had some flurries. On the way to school I asked WG if she saw anything unusual out her window. She said she didn't. I asked if she saw the white stuff in the air and she said, "Oh. Yes, I see the white bugs."

Baking day

I'm baking today because WG is sick of corn tortillas and turkey wrapped around cheese. She wants bread, cookies and muffins. I have recently learned a couple handy things regarding GF baking, so I thought I'd pass my secrets on.

* When you are developing your own GF recipes or converting "regular" recipes, ALWAYS bake a single test cookie / muffin / cupcake / whatever before you bake a whole panful. This is important even if you are using a pre-made mix that claims to replace wheat flour cup for cup. This allows you to do some tweaking of the batter if things go wrong without having to throw away a whole panful.

* Sometimes allowing your batter to rest is a good idea because it lets the xanthan gum start to tighten things up. The flip side of this is that if you are using flour to make gravy or a white sauce, it is best to use a plain mix without xanthan gum. The xanthan gum makes gummy gravy that just gets thicker and thicker. Ick.

* It's well-known that you can freeze unbaked cookie dough balls. This works for GF, too. You can also freeze unbaked muffin and cupcake batter. Put the batter in the muffin papers and freeze. When you are ready to bake, use the same oven temperature but they might need an extra 3-7 minutes. I know you could just bake them all and then freeze them. I like fresh-from-the-oven much better than defrosted / reheated.

* Nut flour / meal is the key to really really good GF baked goods that are very close in taste and texture to their wheaty counterparts. I haven't tried extra finely ground rice flour yet but I've heard that helps, too.

The November '08 issue of Cooking Light has a recipe for pecan pie that uses oats to make the crust instead of flour. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks promising. Oat pie crust

I'm deciding on our Thanksgiving menu. I'll post it when I have it all figured out. It *is* possible to have a mostly traditional, absolutely delicious GF Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

We have cabinets!

Tim put the upper cabinets in this past weekend. He even put the doors on them (haven't gotten a picture of that yet.) I haven't had doors on my kitchen cabinets since we bought the house. To say that I am excited is an understatement. Even without the bottom cabinets done, I think I already have more storage room than I did. Tim plans to put the lower cabinets in this weekend.

A few weeks ago when he re-worked the wiring Tim was a bit perturbed because there was one bit of wiring that he had no idea where it went or what it was for. When he put the pantry in, our portable dishwasher lost it's home so he took out one of the lower cabinets next to the sink to make a space for it. The mystery wire was right there, sticking out of the wall. It was stripped and ready to go, not capped off or anything. (ACK!) Turns out the electric is already run to put in a dishwasher which is great because that was the biggest obstacle to our installing a regular dishwasher.

Anyhow, on to the pics!



Monday, November 10, 2008

A good review!

My quartet performed for the first time this season yesterday. It went well, we were happy. We were happier when we saw the review..... My heartfelt thanks to "the boys" for making this ambitious program a heck of a lot of fun to prepare.

Quartet plays togetherness beautifully from Knoxville News Sentinel

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Our family loves just about anything that has to do with pumpkin. WG has been after me for a good week or two to make pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is not hard to make, especially with a gluten free crust (you mix it in the mixer and pat it into the pan. No worries about overmixing, either, since there is no gluten to overwork!) but work has been hectic and my kitchen is under construction so I haven't felt like baking.

Today WG is off of school because of the election. (When I was a kid we didn't get election day off!) She got up this morning and asked me if I made pumpkin pie for breakfast. So I decided to improvise and I made pumpkin pie oatmeal instead. It was a hit.

Pumpkin Pie oatmeal (per generous serving)

1/2 cup plain oatmeal
1 cup milk
about 1/4 cup pumpkin
Sugar to taste (brown sugar would be good) I used about 1 T
Cinnamon to taste
Nutmeg to taste

Cook the oatmeal in the milk according to the directions on the oatmeal box. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. This would also be good with a few tablespoons of chopped pecans or walnuts stirred in.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New gig!

I am now the official musician blogger for the symphony! I will be blogging twice weekly through the season about what is going on at the KSO as well as just music in general. My first blog posted today!!! (can you tell I'm excited?) To check it out, go to the symphony's website: and click on "blog."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, all!

WG picked out her pumpkin when Grandma G (aka my mom) was here this past week. And again she has vetoed carving it. If you remember, WG has a love affair going with squash. "Lumpy Pumpkin" is safe and sound in our house. Last year's pumpkin stuck around for the Christmas pictures before he got soft and "ran away." We'll see how long Lumpy sticks around. I did just read an article on how great homemade pumpkin puree is and WG is in school every morning......

WG is dressing as a dinosaur again this year. That is, WG will dress as a dinosaur IF we can convince her to put the costume on. WG has a very fertile imagination these days and she thinks that if she dresses as a dinosaur she will turn into a dinosaur. Personally, I think that would be a handy thing to be able to do, but the idea freaks WG out. When I asked her to try the costume on a few days ago she started sobbing and said, "But I don't want to be a dinosaur, I want to be WG!" I had to smile at this because I had completely forgotten that not too long ago if we asked her if she was happy or sad or angry she would answer, "I'm not happy, I'm WG! Don't call me happy!" She did eventually put the costume on for a few minutes. She also wore it to school yesterday for the Halloween parade. Still, she has her reservations about the whole thing. We'll see.

We also got the proofs for school pictures back today. They had two shots of WG. In the first she was biting her lip. It was not a great picture. She was smiling in the second picture but there was a look on her face that is very familiar. WG started giggling when she saw that proof. I asked her if she was growling when they took the picture and she laughed harder. Poor photographer!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

March of Dimes petition

Okay, I am lame. I sent a mass e-mail asking people to sign the March of Dimes petition and then forgot to include the URL. Doh! It is a sign of how things have been going here lately. Too many rehearsals, too much running.... Anyhow, I do urge you to consider signing the petition. 1 in 8 babies born in the US are born too soon. That is WAY too high. Even worse, in many cases there is no clear explanation as to why the baby was born early. March of Dimes is the leader in funding and supporting research on prematurity. They have saved many many lives. Here is the URL for the petition:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chicken in a pot

I made this chicken tonight and was blown away. It is really really good. I don't think it could be any more simple. Better and cheaper than picking up a deli roasted chicken. By the way, if you are following a GF diet, be wary of supermarket roasted chickens. Many are rubbed with breadcrumbs. With this cooking method, the skin doesn't brown and get crisp, but that didn't bother me because we always take the skin off the chicken anyhow. I got the recipe from America's Test Kitchen Best International Recipe. They have a pan sauce that goes along with the chicken using the drippings, white wine, chicken broth and butter. I didn't bother because I was making the chicken to get the meat to make other dishes.

Chicken in a Pot

1 Chicken, trimmed, extra "stuff" removed from the cavity
1 Tbs Olive oil
2 shallots, diced (about 1/2 cup)
4 or 5 cloves garlic, peeled and trimmed

Put the oil, shallots and garlic in the bottom of a pan with a lid. Put the chicken on top, cover. Bake at 375 for around 60 minutes until the breast meat registers 160 degrees.

I doubled the recipe and used my giant turkey roasting pan (which has a lid). I had to bake them for 75 minutes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Letter of the week

Preschool is going well. WG now enters the building of her own free will and today, for the first time, she did not have a meltdown when I picked her up. She has friends and seems to be settling into the routine. Her main beef is that they make her use the bathroom. WG has a tremendous bladder capacity which combined with her tremendous pain tollerance makes pottying an annoyance. If she had it her way she would use the bathroom once a week or so.

She has homework. Granted, it's preschool, so it's not hard homework. Last Friday she had to wear something green because green is the school's color. (Their mascot is the dragon.) Today she came home with her sheet about what they were learning this week as well as homework. They are learning all about the letter R this week. Her assignment for tomorrow is to bring something that starts with the letter R for Millie the Letter Muncher to eat.

I have never met Millie, I'm thinking they want WG to bring a picture of something that starts with R. A picture of a rainbow is much easier to send than the real thing. WG spent dinner going through a laundry list of words. "ruh-ruh-refridgerator. Does refridgerator start with R? Ruh-ruh-pisghetti. Does pisghetti start with R? HAHAHAHA!!!" She gets it.

We forgot to find pictures so I was looking for some to cut out for her to choose from in the morning. I found an old Rachel Ray magazine. I cut her out. She is a double R, which in my opinion should mean extra credit. And besides, don't you just want to feed Rachel Ray to Millie the letter muncher? I think I might send her along anyway even if WG chooses the Roadkill Racoon.

A rave and a recipe

We recently had an unexpected windfall in the form of an gift card, so we decided to use the majority of it on gluten-free fare. We got some bread mixes which we had tried before and liked and we also got a three-pack of Pamela's Baking Mix. I had never tried the baking mix and was a little leery because getting it on Amazon meant buying a bulk package of three. It's amazing. Really really good. It's somewhat like bisquick. It's a combo of GF flours, buttermilk powder, almond meal, baking soda and baking powder. Unlike bisquick it does not contain shortening or oil. There are recipes on the package for pancakes, waffles, muffins, banana bread, cookies, corn bread, etc, but you can also sub it into your own recipes with very little tweaking. I made the Baker's One Bowl Brownies and subbed the mix in for the flour. They rose a little on the sides but aside from that (ha!) they were excellent. I've made waffles twice with them and they are hands down the best GF waffles we've had. I also made the banana bread recipe and you can't even tell that it's GF. Great flavor, great texture.

And, here is another really easy really fast GF cookie recipe that uses (mostly) NORMAL ingredients!!! (Note: I use chocolate crisp rice cereal with these because I can find a "normal" brand in the "regular" cereal isle that doesn't contain malt. Malt is made from barley and barley has gluten.)

GF Peanut butter-Chocolate Rice Krispie Bars (adapted from Cooking Light)
2 T butter or margarine
1/4 Cup or so peanut butter (I don't measure)
1/2 a bag of mini marshmallows (so, about 6 oz)
3 cups GF chocolate crispy rice cereal: I *think* cocoa pebbles is the one that is GF (as opposed to cocoa krispies) but read the label for yourself. Malt = gluten. Tonight I used a dedicated GF cereal because that's what we had.)

*Melt the butter and peanut butter together in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds or so. Add the marshmallows and continue to melt and stir until everything has melted into a nice gooey mess. Add the cereal, stir, and dump into an 8 or 9 inch square pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Press down, cool and eat. You can also double this recipe for a 9 by 13 pan.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The pre-K adventure begins

WG started pre-K Tuesday. So far it's going okay. She never wants to go in the morning and, with the exception of her first day, I have had to pry her out of the car and carry her into the building but once she is physically in the building she willingly goes and sits with the other kids in her class. Her teachers say she does well during the day. Yesterday she went on her first field trip. They tromped the kids up the street, caught the trolley and went downtown to hear the governor read stories.

In other news, Knoxville apparently had the distinction of having the highest gas prices in the country this past week. Lucky us. No investigations into price gouging yet but we'll see what develops.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The 5 minute pity party

Welcome to Holland by Emily Kingsley

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

Months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

I first read this shortly after WG was born. I looked it up tonight because I am throwing myself a 5 minute pity party. I'm sad that we are still in Holland. I thought for sure we would have hopped a plane to Italy by now. I'm very excited about pre-school and I think it will be an amazing thing for WG. I'm happy she qualified, but at the same time, I WISH she hadn't. When we were first married and Tim was working at the school, we never dreamed we would have a child enrolled there. No one does, I guess. I think the reason I'm needing my 5 minute pity party is because when I explain the pre-K situation to people, no one expresses disbelief that WG qualified. It's a really stupid thing to be wallowing over: we are very confident that this is the right place for her... I guess it's along the lines of a woman complaining about a dress making her look fat and then getting mad when her husband agrees. Silly? Very. Which is why my pity party was limited to 5 minutes only.

It's not a tragedy. Life goes on, we adjust and adapt. I really like tulips, anyway.

Friday, September 12, 2008


At her four year well check, WG's pediatrician strongly suggested that WG needed to be in some sort of a pre-K program. WG has some developmental hitches that we just aren't sure about. Dr. S. thought it would be a good idea to throw her into an unfamiliar environment to see if it made a difference, good or bad. There were a few problems we were having with finding a suitable program. Cost was one. Private pre-K was out of the question. A Mother's Day Out program would have been doable, but I was having a hard time justifying the cost for the educational value. It seemed to me that the money would be better spent on a dance or art class. Another problem is that we live in the Bible belt and the majority of pre-K educational programs are religiously based, whether they advertise themselves to be or not. This is fine, however, I think it is my job as WG's parent to guide her spiritual development. Different people and churches believe different things and we were not comfortable sending her to a program where we did not know exactly what those beliefs were.

After a particularly difficult day with a lot of tears (her's and mine), Tim made a phone call to a teacher he used to work with when we first got married to get her opinion on what to do next. Our county has a special needs public preschool program that has added a few "regular" classes for children who are at-risk. At risk is defined in many ways: ESL, low income, odd family situation, etc. WG was deemed to be at risk for what she has been through in the past as well as the difficulties we are having now. She will be in a regular classroom with a teacher who also has special ed credentials. She will be assessed for needs as far as PT, OT, and speech therapy are concerned and will be given services through the school if they think she needs them.

She will start on Tuesday. We went and met her teacher and TA today and got the registraton packet. They were both very nice. WG originally was not thrilled at the prospect of going to school but decided it would be okay since they have scissors and glue sticks there.

Monday, September 8, 2008

GF peanut butter cookies

These cookies are my favorite to bake. No strange flour (actually, no flour at all!) and no xanthan gum to mess with!

GF Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg

Mix everything together, shape into balls, press crisscross with a fork (like regular peanut butter cookies), and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

These are also really good with chocolate chips added.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ode to the tuba

WG *loves* the tuba. When asked what she likes about it she says, "everything." Then she makes oompa sounds and dances around the room. She makes tubas out of whatever she can get her hands on: paper towel tubes, cardboard, plastic cups... Her love of the tuba has been long lasting. It's been about a year now and there is no sign of her wavering. Every day when we get her teeny 1/16th size violin out to practice she asks if they make teeny tiny tubas. And every day she sighs when I tell her that she has to wait until she's older.

The symphony's principal tubist was very excited when I told him about her love of the tuba. Last Valentine's day WG colored cut-out paper hearts to give to people. She made them for friends and family, but she saved the biggest, most colorful Valentine for the principal tubist's tuba. Not the person, but the tuba itself. He was pretty tickled by the whole thing. He offered to give her lessons. I asked if he taught 3 year olds. Well, no, but as soon as she hits jr. high...

So WG is stuck with the violin for now. We keep telling her as soon as she's big enough she can play the tuba. Honestly, she's a pretty big kid: tall and muscular so it wouldn't surprise me if she could physically handle it in a few years. She can already get a sound out of Tim's trumpet. We *know* she has lung power from the days (year) of terrible colic. Probably she needs some permanent teeth first, though....

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Four year old stats

In the interest of remembering these things when WG is older, I thought I'd write some current stats down...

Favorite color: yellow (pronounced "yayyow")

Favorite number: 6

Favorite vegetable: baby corn

Favorite fruit: grapes, strawberries and blueberries

Favorite meal outside the home: Garlic chicken from the Thai restaurant. They love her there because gets her own entree and clearly enjoys eating it. I guess they don't get too many 4-year-olds who beg to go to their restaurant.

Favorite meal at home: plain cold GF spaghetti noodles. Also, any kind of bean, olives, cheese, rice, corn tortillas.... WG will pretty much eat anything. The only thing that she is picky about (right now) is that she likes her food COLD.

Favorite item of clothing: the dress. WG will not wear anything but dresses. The dress that she chooses most often to wear is the rocket dress, but she loves all of her dresses and has a hissy fit when I try to weed out the ones that are too short.

Favorite thing to do: make bracelets from pipe cleaners and pony beads.

Favorite characters: Curious George and Veggie Tales

Favorite possession: Her red super hero cape. She wears it every day.

Current obsession: finding the holes in the ceiling wherever we go.

Current career aspiration: To be a Veggie Tale, specifically, Larry Boy. A few weeks back if you asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up she would cheerfully reply, "I'm going to be a vegetable!" We have coached her out of that one and now she says that she wants to be "Wawwy boy, supuh hewo!"

Misc quirk: WG despises white crayons. When she finds one she takes it right to the trash and throws it away. A good friend recently introduced her to colored paper so we'll see if her attitude toward the white crayon changes....

Imaginary friends: Oma, Bad Alice, and Jamie.

Collection of the moment: wine corks. She just likes them. She looks at them, sorts them, builds towers with them, and plays out little dramas with them like they are people. Also, WG has her own collection of fat quarters. For those of you who do not sew or quilt, a fat quarter is a cut of fabric that is 18 inches long by 22 inches wide. She loves fabric and I'm sure would love to be let loose on my sewing machine. When I sew she takes my scraps and pins together her own creations announcing "This is the bodice and these two will make up the skirt. I think I will put ric rac here and I will use the red to embroidery it." I will admit that her collection of fat quarters are a big pile of bribery. But, for me the price of a fat quarter is a small price to pay for a happy peaceful trip to the fabric store.

Favorite instrument: The tuba.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Artist's explanation

WG is sitting on the floor drawing pictures. She has drawn a sun and a family of three walking on grass. She's giving me a running commentary while she's drawing.

WG: "Here is a sun and here is a person. He doesn't have hands. She doesn't have hands neither and this is the dad. He doesn't have hands and he doesn't have any eyeballs...... Now he has eyeballs..... They don't have any bones, they are sacks of jelly.... Here is a big flower in their garden.... They don't have any hair. Maybe if I give them hair a dog will eat them. (!?) Here is the orange dog."

Me: "did the dog eat them?"

WG: "No, not yet. Pretty soon, though."

If Tim can scan her picture in I'll post it. It's basically as described. One of the people has fushia colored, Rapunzel-length hair. The orange dog appears to be licking it. Poor armless, boneless person doesn't know what's in store. She can't run either, because, well, she is a sack of jelly.

Friday, August 22, 2008

How to go GF without going to the poorhouse!

It is approaching our one-year mark of going gluten free. This is not an easy diet. BUT, like anything, with time you figure out little tricks and then one day you realize that it has become second nature.

I was lucky enough to have a neighbor who's family has multiple food allergies to deal with. Her husband can't eat gluten, her daughters can't have dairy, chocolate, almonds, etc. She deals with these limits effortlessly and was kind enough to take me under her wing when we started the diet. She told me which GF foods were good, which were nasty, which "regular" foods were okay, etc. And, most importantly, she has been a constant support that we ARE doing the right thing, even with the ambiguous diagnosis of "non-celiac gluten grain intolerance." During a year when the GI docs would say, "well, she does not have the celiac gene, which means that she only has a 3% chance of having celiac disease..." Marsha would tell me that she was seeing what we were seeing: WG was out of control on gluten and a happy kid off of it. For me, support was KEY to getting through the rough beginnings of the diet.

When we first started the GF diet, we experienced major grocery bloat. Part of this is rising food cost, no doubt, but GF food is NOT cheap, either. In the past year I've figured things out and our food budget is just about where it was before, adjusted for inflation.

Here are some tips for going GF and not blowing your whole paycheck at the health food store:

(Disclaimer: YOU need to read all food labels and decide if things are okay for YOU to eat. Just because I mention something here doesn't make it safe for YOU to put in your mouth. Oh, that I had that kind of power.....)

* Find the things that are "naturally" gluten free. Fruit does not have gluten, nor do veggies and we all need to eat more of those. Nuts, popcorn, chips: all these are available at the regular grocery store and are generally GF (check the seasonings, though!)

* Redefine your definition of breakfast. Breakfast is tough here. Don't even bother going down the cereal isle in the regular grocery store. Cocoa Pebbles is currently GF and that's about IT. All the rest have malt, which has gluten. Some people can tollerate regular oats and some can't. WG's current breakfast rut consists of a few pieces of ham, a piece of cheese, and a piece of fruit. She eats it and I figure it's more nutritious than the GF cereal that is full of sugar and not much else. I eat leftovers from dinner. We also do homemade granola quite a bit because it makes a huge batch and we all like it.

* Find bread alternatives. GF bread can be made / found in various degrees of edibility (is that a word?). It's expensive and not always worth it. Rice cakes and corn tortillas are generally GF, and can be bought in a "normal" grocery store cheaply. With WG getting enough calories was a problem around the time when we started the diet. Her absolute favorite lunch from that time was microwave nachos: corn chips on a plate with canned refried beans, whatever veggies I could throw on and cheese. Nice lunch, "normal" food, no bread!

* Take advantage of the low-carb craze. There are TONS of cookbooks out there dedicated to the low-carb diet. Lucky for us many of the recipes fit very nicely with the gluten-free diet. These are GREAT to page through if you are having a hard time figuring out what the heck you can eat now. Actually, I almost prefer them to the gluten free cookbooks because they don't call for ingredients like xanthan gum.

* Passover is my favorite non-Christian holiday. Actually, I really like right after Passover when all the "kosher for Passover" food goes on sale. Bullion, soup mixes, etc that are marked this way are generally GF (watch out for matzo, though.).

* Shop in bulk. has a huge grocery section with, in turn, has a very respectable GF section. The only problem is that you have to buy in bulk which is a little risky if you haven't tried the products before. The savings are HUGE, though. I recently priced our family's favorite GF pretzels. In the store here they cost about $8 a bag. On Amazon they are $5.21 a bag. If you sign up for the automated repeat shipping on Amazon (you can always cancel) it's even less: $4.43 with free shipping. Of course you have to buy 12 bags at a time, but if you have storage space and know you like the product this could be a great way to save money. There are similar savings on GF bread mixes, etc. My neighbor and I have talked about splitting a shipment which would make storage more reasonable.

* Check out online options for flour. Gluten free mall has a ton, including pre-mixed "all-purpose" types. That's another thing: sometimes it's a wash cost-wise between buying all the flours to mix your own and the pre-mixed flours.

* If you have been diagnosed as needing to eat this way, you can deduct some of the cost of the GF food from your taxes. (Disclaimer: I am a violist, I am NOT an accountant!) The jist is that you can deduct the difference of what the GF food is from what the "normal" food costs. So, if a bag of GF pretzels costs $8 and a bag of regular pretzels costs $3, then you can deduct $5.

* Adjust your attitude. I say this gently and with a lot of love. Think about it: gluten free foods, *especially* baked goods / flours are more expensive than their wheaty counterparts. BUT, think of all the doctor co-pays, medications, missed days from work, etc that you are saving by eating this way! Not to mention the horrible stomach pain, diarrhea and constipation! The last time you were hunched over wishing for a swift death I bet you GLADLY would have paid the price of a bottle of xanthan gum to be done with the misery.

It's tough. My advice is to allow yourself some budgetary wiggle room for a few months to figure out what GF things you like, what you don't, and what the heck you can actually eat! Sometimes (especially in the beginning) you need to make the $6 brownie mix for the sake of your mental health. A world without any baked good of any kind is a bleak one. Cut yourself some slack to adjust to your new normal. Grocery bloat doesn't last forever.

appt updates

WG had two doc appts this week.

Her four-year-old well check was Tuesday. She's around 39 pounds and about 43 inches tall (3 foot 7) which is tall and slim. So, par for the course. WG has been an amazon since birth. Her pediatrician looked at her feet and said, "Those feet are big enough for a six year old!" That's my girl!

We talked a lot about her sensory issues. Sensory Integration Disorder seems to be the trendy dx of the times. Like ADD/ADHD, it's a tough call. Certainly the disorder exists, but when does quirky cross over to disfunction? Preemies especially seem to have sensory issues. This has been a battle in one way or another with WG since birth. She has always been funny about her feet, which makes sense since preemies are subjected to several heel pricks every day. When the child refuses to put their feet on the ground (in WG's case as a baby) it clearly crosses over to the problem area. You can't learn to walk if you won't put your feet down. The issues right now are related to her perception of (or more accurately, lack thereof) pain. Well, that's my biggest concern, at least. I'm scared silly that sometime she will have some sort of infection and we will have no idea until things get serious because she doesn't experience pain the way most of the population does. WG's also a very physical child: spinning, leaping, hanging upside-down, in-your-face. The dare-devil stunts coupled with the lack of natural consequences pain-wise is a frightening combination. Does this cross the line from normal quirky four-year-old behavior? I don't know. It causes stress in our home, which is why we talked to the pedi about it.

We also talked about speech, learning, eating. The pedi, at least, seems glad that she's still GF. Her own daughter has celiac so she has done a lot of research into it lately and realizes that going GF can greatly benefit many many people, not just dx'ed celiacs.

WG had another follow-up with the GI doc today. Mostly routine. She is still constipated so we're upping the Miralax to twice a day and staying the course with the Prevacid. (BTW, the discount card worked but it took 4 Pharm. Techs at Walgreens a good 20 minutes to figure out how to do it. Hopefully now they know and it won't be a production every time she needs a refill!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Drama Queen

It was time for bed. The stories were read, teeth brushed, medicine taken. Cue the stalling.... WG: "But, Mom, I will miss you!"
Me: "I'm not working tonight, WG, I will just be in the living room."
WG: "But, you are going to leave me in the prison that is my room!"
Me: completely speechless.

Last week her violin teacher gave her a belated birthday present of a flipflop keychain with the words "Drama Queen" written on it. Boy does she have WG pegged!

Monday, August 18, 2008

a goodbye

My grandmother died Friday night. She was 90 years old. This is a hard thing to write about because, well, death just is. I love my grandmother very much and will miss her. I'm sad that WG probably won't remember her. She will know her through stories and pictures.

I've been thinking about what I will tell WG about Grandma. The beach... the zoo, and her relationship with Max and Jenny who were two ourangutans who lived at the zoo... Taffy the very large next-door-neighbor dog... the fun times playing in the attic with Aunt Bonnie's old formal dresses, crutches and Grandma's shoes... playing with Dad's old skee ball... the push lawnmower... the horse hitch in the front and the milk door in the back... Little tree Lindon who absolutely REFUSED to die despite everyone's best efforts... bridge mix (mmmm)... Playing Uno, Yatzee and occasionally rummy... Hamburgers on Friday (Sat?) night with buttered grilled buns... Fried perch... jello salad (99% of the time she made a great jello salad with jello, marshmallows, nuts, and who knows what else. It was creamy and while it was solid I don't remember it being particularly gelatinous. One time, though, she told us that she had made jello salad and it turned out to be lemon jello with spinach, celery, nuts and something else that was equally horrifying. It sticks out in my memory because she was a very good cook and it was one of very few misses.)... O&H bakery... bedlunch... the wooden puzzle that looked like a shoe... her knitting and many many donations for charity... watching wheel of fortune... writting letters back and forth... seven kinds of homemade cookies every time we visited.....

Grandma was a knitting fiend. She always had something going until a little bit before WG was born when she couldn't knit anymore due to arthritis. She knit sweaters, caps, layettes, blankets... She donated TONS of items to a gift shop to be sold to raise funds. (I can't for the life of me remember what the affiliation was, I think it was a Lutheran nursing home?) We are lucky enough to have a pink sweater she knit. It's a little small on WG now. We've packed it away for whichever grandchild winds up having the next girl. We also have a baby hat she knit. She gave me the hat when I was pregnant with WG saying that it was to be her going home hat. I smiled and thanked her but was privately freaking out because the hat was HUGE. The hat still fits WG's four-year-old head to give you an idea of the size. As a first-time-mom I had no idea what to expect and the thought of something that large coming out of my body made me want to run to my OB and ask for a C-section.

I will miss you, Grandma, but I am happy that you have gone home.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A good resource

WG is taking Prevacid for reflux and whatever else is going on in her tummy. We have pretty good prescription drug coverage, but it's still a $30 copay every month. Add to this that she is taking two other GI meds and it gets expensive quickly.

A friend tipped me off that Prevacid offers a "frequent buyers" program of sorts. If you sign up on their site, they will send you information about prevacid (of course) as well as an instant rebate card that takes $25 off each refill. No forms to fill out each month, you just give the card to the pharmacist and get the discount. We got WG's card today just in time because she needs a refill.

Here is the URL to sign up for the program: I put in WG's information (name, age, etc) which was strange because she's only four, but it seems to have worked. I have no idea if Prevacid will spam me or send us things in the mail, etc, but honestly, for $25 a month in my pocket I don't really care!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, WG!

Four years old. It's crazy because I feel like WG was a baby last week. I blinked and now she is a little girl....

We had a nice day today. WG's birthday is bittersweet for me. Of course it's a joyous thing to be celebrated, but it's also the anniversary of the beginning of a very scary time for Tim and I. It's a difficult thing to explain to people who have not been affected by prematurity. Watching your child struggle to live when life has hardly begun is something no parent should have to do. It is life-altering. Every year the memory gets easier but I think it will always be something we think about on her birthday. WG and I had a relaxed day. We snuggled in the morning and around 10:30 am, which, incidentally, is about the time she was born, she asked me to "tell (her) the story about when she busted out of (my) tummy." She was particularly interested in the part where Tim and I ran around like crazy people at 4 am trying to pack bags since my water broke a month early and we didn't have the hospital bags packed. She wanted to know what we took with us. I told her that I only remembered what we forgot to pack: underwear, toothbrushes, basic essential items.... We looked at her hospital anklet which shocked both of us with it's smallness. I held it to her ankle now and it didn't even go half way. We also looked through her NICU baby book which has pics and stats from that time and is one of her favorite things to look at. We had cake and presents when Tim came home from work. I pushed the "easy" button this year and bought a gluten-free cake, chicken nuggets and tator tots from the organic grocery store. WG wanted to eat her cake first so we had backward dinner tonight: dessert first, then dinner. She was so excited about blowing out the candles that we lit them for her twice.

She (of course) loved all her presents. Aunt Beth, she opened the card you sent, took out the fabric and started waving it around yelling, "A fat quarter! I got a fat quarter for my birthday!!!!" I'm still on the hunt for a needle guard to get her started sewing on the machine.... I'll have to take some pics of her creations. She does a whole lot with my scraps and a bunch of straight pins!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Let the demolition begin!

Originally uploaded by kgawne78
The kitchen overhaul has officially started. It's hard to find words that express my glee... Today we found a range hood / microwave on clearance at Home Depot so we scooped that up along with flooring. I had a wedding and reception today so Tim started ripping out the old floor while I was away. At first he shooed WG away but she was very insistent about helping so he put safety glasses on her and had her pick up bits of tile and then scrape paper off the floor. He said she loved it and was actually a very big help.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Endoscopy follow up

WG had her follow up with the GI doc today. In a nutshell, nothing new. All the allergy tests came back negative, she tested WG again for the celiac gene: also negative (again), nutritionaly she is also doing okay. The biopsies just confirmed what she saw: irritated, angry, enflamed GI tract.

SO, the game plan for now is to finish the carafate, stay on prevacid and add miralax for the next month for constipation. WG is horribly constipated. Who knows if this is due to her tummy woes or if it's due to the prevacid / carafate. Constipation is a side effect of both drugs.

The doc asked if WG was having any stomach pain. I told her that it was hard to say because WG has a very high pain tollerence and would do just about anything (including lie) to avoid having to go to the doctor. Also, as our friend pointed out to me, WG has had so many chronic tummy issues that she probably doesn't know if she is in pain.

WG will see the GI again on August 21. She has her four year (!) well check on the 19th, so an appointment filled week for her. I was dissappointed that we were put on a short leash (three weeks between appts). I was hoping that she would get a three month window before needing to be seen again. Her doc is concerned about the constipation (WG is bleeding with BM's) and also thinks that an emptying study may still be in her future, so three weeks it is.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Endoscopy update

WG's endoscopy went well. Here are the results in a nutshell:

* The pancreatic rest is not causing a blockage (YIPPEE!!!!!!)
* She has damage to her esophagus from GERD
* The lining of her stomach is inflamed
* The tissue of the upper part of her small intestine is inflamed and friable (which I understand to mean brittle)

The results of the abdominal ultrasound and barium swallow were normal, which we figured. They didn't show anything last go-around either. We won't know the results of the biopsies or the allergy testing until her follow-up appointment which is July 22nd. In the meanwhile her GI doc has added carafate to the prevacid. She also mentioned that she thought that WG's stomach might not be emptying as it should. Tim and I would concur with this since there are times that WG vomits in the morning and her dinner from 12+ hours before is completely undigested. There is a good possibility that an emptying study is in WG's future.

WG did pretty well with the whole thing. She freaked out when they did her vital signs at check in and then again when they were ready to take the tape off her hand to take the IV out after the procedure. She recovered swiftly from the anethesia and was very anxious to get her "huey-huey." She's back to running around and being herself this afternoon. Tim and I, on the other hand, are beat. Neither of us slept well because we were anxious and then we had to be at the hospital at 6:45am. Tim is currently napping and WG and I are about to join him.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The other shoe...

WG is having some health issues again. When she was somewhere around 6 months old she started vomiting for no apparent reason. At it's worst she would vomit 15 to 20 times a day. When the gastroenterologist did an upper endoscopy he found the cause. WG has a pancreatic rest, which is basically a volcano-shaped mass of pancreatic tissue that has grown on the inside of her stomach. Many people have pancreatic rests and never know because they never cause problems. The unique thing about WG's rest is it's size (it is huge) and it's placement. At the time it was causing a blockage and her food couldn't always pass through. We took a "wait and see" approach hoping that as she grew the blockage would lessen and the vomiting would stop which is what happened.

About two months ago, WG started vomiting again. For various reasons (in the interest of not making YOU puke I won't be graphic) it is obvious that something is not right in tummyland. She saw a different gastroenterologist (her usual GI doc is on vacation) who decided that it would be a good idea to see what is going on with the rest. WG had an ultrasound and barium swallow and will undergo another upper endoscopy scope tomorrow morning. While she is under for the scope they are also going to take blood for extensive food allergy testing.

Tim and I are going okay. We've sailed these seas before.... We are being proactive with trying to figure out what is going on this time instead of waiting until she is throwing up nearly every meal. She is also not a frail little baby anymore. WG (finally) has some heft to her. Right now she is at the 95th% for height and the 75% for weight. When we went through this the first time she was around the 98th% for height and the 30th% for weight. There is more wiggle room before panicking about weight loss this time. WG has been a real trouper through it. She did very well with the first round of tests. I don't think she knows what's going on tomorrow, just that she is headed to the hospital and that when she is done (and is up to it) she will get to go pick out a "huey-huey" aka a hula hoop. WG has wanted a huey-huey all summer.

I will post an update when we know more about what is going on. We have always conferenced with her GI directly after the upper endoscopy so I expect that will be the case tomorrow.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

My first smocked dress!

It's much cuter with WG *in* it but those pictures didn't turn out well so I asked Tim to take some pictures of it on the dummy. I'm pleased with how it turned out. It is smocked on the back in the same colors and pattern as the front. For me the smocking was the easy part. I had some problems with construction. I had to adjust quite a bit. I don't know if I cut out the wrong size facing to line the bodice or what, but it's still not completely right. The facing is too tight / small at the sides. Eventually I am going to put a zipper in on the side under the arm. I learned a lot, though, constructing it and the next one will be better and easier. I have fallen in love with smocking. I finished this dress yesterday morning and pleated up my next project last night. I started smocking it today.

Here is a close up of the smocking:

Monday, June 9, 2008

Poison Ivy

Friday WG was playing next door and got into a wee bit of poison ivy. It wasn't too bad, but I guess the first exposure isn't usually. Saturday Tim took her outside with him while he was working on the yard. She was warned several times not to venture into the "jungle" but WG is not always the best listener. She is also at the age where she thinks that she knows better than we do. (oh, wait, isn't that just a universal thing with kids?) Tim turned his back for a second, and when he looked back WG was in the "jungle," had picked some poison ivy and was rubbing it on her face. This time she reacted. I did not see WG until Sunday morning because I was out playing weddings past her bedtime Saturday. When she got up she had red rashy streaks on her face, including on her eyelids, and her eyes were puffy and a bit swollen. The rash also extended to the inside of WG's nose. We called WG's pediatrician's on-call service for advice. The nurse said that they needed to see her within 24 hours of exposure since it involved her face and strongly suggested that we take her in the the emergency room.

So we packed WG up and headed to the ER at Children's. If my math is correct, this is the third time we have hit the ER in about a month and a half. It is a new record for WG.... I have lost count of how many times overall we have been in the ER with her, I think it is around 15 or so. Yup, this is a lot, but in our defense the only time that wasn't an emergency and was due to parental freak-out was when her toe got smooshed under in her shoe and she screamed so much for so long that we thought that she had dislocated her elbow. She was not talking at the time and Nursemaid's elbow is what over 50% of her ER visits have been for. The discharge papers for that visit had the instructions, "Have the child measured for larger shoes." Our other favorite discharge instructions instructed her to avoid pushing objects up her nose.

WG got a big dose of oral steroids at the ER and within an hour looked (and felt) a whole lot better. She is on oral steroids for the rest of this week and is also taking benadryl for the itch. Today the rash has faded almost completely. WG is feeling much better. Tim took a picture of her yesterday. I'll edit it in here when he downloads it.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


There have been many UFO sightings here as of late.... Not UFO's of ET fame, I'm talking about Unfinished Objects. Projects that are half-completed and then left, for whatever reason, for another day that never comes.

Last night I started in on my UFO's. I finished two bibs and a lunch bag to send to a friend, converted a large pile of WG's winter knit pants and tops to shorts and shortsleeved shirts for summer PJ's, and (finally) finished hemming the curtains for my bedroom. We've had a blanket covering the window for longer than I care to admit. I finished the curtains, Tim hung them and it is sooo much nicer than it was. Funny how a small change like that can make the whole room more relaxing.

I still have a bunch of UFO's. So I've decided from now until July 4th is UFO challenge time. Let's gain independence from our unfinished projects! It doesn't have to be sewing or craft projects; household projects, garden projects, etc all count. I would love to hear about completed UFO's. (Mom, Aunt Beth, Amy I know you probably have a few!)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

WG's first violin recital

Originally uploaded by kgawne78
WG had her first violin recital Thursday. Considering the many many factors that could have proven disastrous it went pretty well. It was at 6:30 which is not a good time for WG. She was not hungry enough to eat a good dinner before we left the house even though I *knew* there was no way her little tummy would last the recital. She also fell asleep in the car on the way over. This is bad news because when WG is tired enough to fall asleep in the car she is incredibly cranky and uncooperative when she is woken. When I saw that she had conked out I almost turned the car around and headed home. But she did well despite the hurdles. She played the first part of Twinkle (so, "twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are"). She got very upset because a little boy who went before her played the same thing that she was going to play. She told me that she wasn't going to play Twinkle, she was going to play the "boat song." (Which wound up sounding remarkably like the first part of Twinkle....) When she walked onto the stage and turned to see the people in the audience she laid down face down on the floor and covered her head. Miss Maryanne convinced her to play and once she was on her feet she did a great job.

Her heart still beats strong for the tuba, though. Before the recital someone asked her what she was going to play (meaning what piece) and Alice said, "I'm going to play the tuba!"

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Granola Recipes

I always do something special for my section at the end of the symphony season. We always have a good group in the viola section and they make my job as principal easy. The past few years I've made fudge but this year in an effort to be healthier I decided to make granola to give. I still made some fudge (hey, if you were expecting fudge and you didn't get any wouldn't you be disappointed???) but not the five or six kinds I've made in the past. The granola was a huge hit. Everyone has said it is the best granola they have ever eaten. (Thanks, Dad!)

Here's my father's original recipe:

5 C rolled oats

1 C wheat germ

1 C wheat bran

1/2 C Cream of Wheat

1/4 C sesame seeds

1/4 C sunflower seeds

1/2 C chopped nuts

1 t cinnamon

*Mix all ingredients together in a BIG bowl. Then melt together on the stove: 1/3 C honey, 1/3 C molasses, 1/2 C vegetable oil, 1/2 C peanut butter. Pour over dry ingredients and mix well. Divide the mixture into 2 large greased baking pans. Bake @300 for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. DO NOT LET IT BURN! Allow to cool. Add dried fruit as desired.

Here is my Gluten Free version (and the version I made for my collegues):

6 C GF oats

1 C pumpkin seeds

1 C sunflower seeds

1/2 C sesame seeds

1 C chopped nuts

(I missed the cinnamon. Whoops!)

For wet ingredients I used 1/2 C natural peanut butter, 1/2 C canola oil, 1/3 C honey and some brown sugar because I didn't have any molasses. I just eyeballed the liquid measurements. The rest of the procedure was the same as Dad's original recipe. When I made it for my collegues I doubled the recipe and used almond butter as well as peanut butter. For fruit I used dried pineapple, Turkish apricots, and craisins. Yum!

Future accountant?

WG has discovered money. And she really really likes it. She has taken over Tim's old bank and is constantly collecting change to stash in it. She knows the names of all the coins although she frequently calls dimes "diamonds." Don't we wish?! She doesn't know values yet. She does understand that work = pay. The symphony shot a commercial for a health insurance company last week and she asked me if they would give me a penny...... I told her that if I was really lucky I'd get a couple pennies.

WG also understands that you need money to buy things. This is where her change hoarding has come in handy. When we are out and she asks for something I have started telling her that we'll have to see if she has enough pennies saved for it when we get home. WG hasn't been pestering me too much lately because she is saving her money to buy a ball with Thomas the Tank Engine on it. She probably has enough to buy it now. I'm not really sure she'll be willing to give up her money for it, though....

Friday, May 16, 2008

Not a baby

WG is growing up. Sometime in the past few months she has morphed from toddler to little girl / preschooler. Physically she's looked like a little girl since before she turned three. WG has always been very very tall. Currently she is just shy of 43 inches tall which puts her at the 50th percentile for a FIVE year old. WG will not turn four until August. Someone asked her how old she was yesterday and she told them that she was five. They said, "Wow! She's tall!" Then I told them that she was three. (For anyone wondering, her weight is doing well. She is still a skinny mini but is at an appropriate weight for her height.) But it's more than her size. She knows how to write letters, how to spell our last name, we've "caught" her reading. Of course, with new skills she is a total turkey and won't ever let on that she knows how to do anything. (Mom, I can hear you laughing all the way from Northern WI. What can I say, she is my kid....) Someone asked her what her name was the other day and she replied with both her first and last name and then spelled her last name. When I asked her to do it later she grinned and said, "PRNULB."

Her intrests have changed as well. She is doing a lot of imagination play with her blue babies, aka the Russian stacking dolls that our friends brought back from their trip home. I broke down this week and put together a sewing box for her. I was tired of fighting her for straight pins. She loves to "sew." While I sew she sits near me on the floor pinning scraps of fabric together to make anything from a blanket for her friend to a jacket for the cat. These projects always require many many pins. WG is very pleased with her sewing box which includes pins, a tape measure, a hem marker, buttons, a zipper, some elastic, a bunch of really wild fabric that she picked from the remnant bin, etc. She did inform me, though, that she needed her own sewing machine. I told her we'd consider it when she could sit in a chair and have her feet touch the floor.

Along with the sewing notions, I gave her some beads and string. What a hit. I had forgotten that girls can sit for a looooong time making jewelry out of beads, embroidery thread, etc. We have many beautiful necklaces to show for her efforts.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

RIP Gordon

We needed a veggie for dinner. Gordon was on the counter. I looked at him, he tried to run, but as he IS a squash he didn't get very far. He was delicious.

WG did not completely freak out but she wouldn't eat him either. I guess I can understand that.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Father's Day, Mom!

This is what WG greeted me with when I got home from my church gig yesterday. A few minutes later she handed me a picture she drew for me and said, "Happy Birthday, Mom!" It was a nice day.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Scrap skirt / tee shirt dress tutorial

Sew Mama Sew ( is my favorite sewing blog. They are doing a tutorial contest, so I thought I'd put up my very first how-to. This project is a great way to use up all the little scraps that are left over from previous projects. Hopefully my instructions are clear. If anything is confusing, please drop me a comment and I will try to clarify.

***edited to say that I have no idea why two of my pics are sideways. It is correct in photobucket...***


Lots and lots of fabric scraps. I find pieces that are at least 4 inches from top to bottom are the most useful, but smaller scraps can be sewn into bigger pieces. 100% cotton is my fabric of choice, but this project would work with a variety of fabrics. If you plan to wash your skirt / dress, make sure all fabrics are washable and have been pre-washed.

Elastic for the skirt waistband if making skirt

A Tee-shirt that coordinates with your fabric scraps if making the dress. Basic colors such as black, white, gray or navy coordinate with many colors and are your best bet if you have a wide variety of colors in your scrap pile.

The usual suspects: tape measure, thread (gray goes with pretty much everything), scissors. Additionally, a rotary cutter and accessories could be useful, but are not mandatory.

I use my serger for most of the work for this project because it makes fast work of sewing the scraps neatly together. Of course, it is possible to do the whole thing on the regular sewing machine. If you go this route, I suggest using French seams to keep the underside of the skirt looking neat.

Okay, here we go!

1. Measure the waist of whomever you are sewing for. Multiply by 1.5. This is how long the first tier needs to be. (if sewing for an adult, use hip measurement instead of waist.) For the second tier, multiply the length of the first by 1.5. For the third, multiply the first tier by 2, for the 4th (if you do more than 3) multiply by 2.5 and so on. So, if the first skirt tier is 30 inches, the second will be 45, and the third will be 60. Honestly, I eyeball it and try to make the third tier twice as long as the first and the second somewhere between the first and third.

2. Sort your scraps. You can organize the skirt by color values (so, a tier of blues, a tier of reds, and a tier of yellows), you can alternate colors (a blue/red tier, a black/yellow tier, etc), you can go for a totally random look, the sky is the limit.

3. Cut the scraps into somewhat uniform rectangles. In this case, having a consistent measure from top to bottom is more important that a consistent width. Actually, a variety of widths adds interest and charm to the skirt. If you wind up with some scraps that don't quite make the height measure, you can combine two or three stacked to equal the height of one regular scrap. To figure out how high your scraps need to be, figure out how long you want the skirt and divide by how many tiers you want the skirt to have. For my 3 year old, I generally make 3 tiers that are around 4 inches high each.

Here are my scraps sorted and cut up:


4. Sew the scraps together, lining up the top of each scrap. It doesn't matter so much if the bottom is mis-matched. Do this for each tier of the skirt.


5. If you are using a serger, serge the long ends of each tier. If using a sewing machine, cut the mis-matched side of each tier to make it neat and even.


6. Working with the longest tier first, lengthen the stitch length on your sewing machine to 5 or 6. Sew along the top edge of the longest tier.

7. Gather the bottom tier to match up with the next biggest tier. Pin it in many places, right sides together. Either sew or serge the tiers together.

**Because we are gathering and sewing in a straight line and will sew up the side seam later, it is VERY important to make sure that your tier is the same height on both ends AND to keep the SAME seam allowance while serging or sewing the tiers together. If you vary the seam allowance the tiers may not line up when you sew the side seam.**

8. Working with the newly sewn two tiers of fabric, gather the fabric and sew to the next biggest tier.

9. Repeat the gathering and sewing until all tiers are attached.


10. Sew or serge up the side seam.


11. If making a skirt, go to #12. If making a tee-shirt dress, go to #13

12. turn the top and make a casing for an elastic waistband. Insert elastic, sew elastic ends together, and sew casing shut. Go to #17.

13. If your teeshirt is long, cut it off to the desired length.

14. Gather the top tier of the skirt.

15. Pin the skirt to the tee-shirt. ****Pay attention to where that side seam is! It doesn't have to be on a side, you just want to avoid having it run down the front of the dress!!!****

16. Set the serger or sewing machine to stretch knit. Sew the skirt to the dress, wrong sides together.


17. Hem the skirt / dress.

Here are some variations that I've done in the past:

WG's Easter dress which used long strips for tiers instead of patches:

The 20 minute Valentine's Day skirt (two long strips with patches in the middle)

The Rocket Dress. I used scraps at the bottom to make it longer because WG is a tall drink of water.

Monday, April 21, 2008

opera rules

This past weekend was Knoxville's annual Rossini Festival. There were two different operas performed and an Italian street fair. Probably other festivities as well. Knoxville Symphony partners with Knoxville Opera Company, so I played two performances of Tosca. You would think that during the Rossini Festival we'd play a Rossini opera, right? (or I would, at least) Puccini wrote Tosca and Verdi wrote La Traviata, which was the other opera performed.

Usually I have enough down time during an opera to piece together the plot from reading bits and pieces of the translation that is projected above the stage. In Tosca, though, I rarely was able to put the viola down. It is one of the rare pieces of music where the violas have more juicy bits to play then the 1st violins. I looked up a synopsis on the internet and realized that tragic operas all follow the same basic rules:

1. True love is not allowed. If you follow your heart, you WILL pay.

2. Opera characters have terrible eyesight. Women masquerading as men, men changing their names to escape whoever.... As an audience, we have just met these people. WE recognize them when they are disguise and we're sitting far away. It's a wonder they are able to negotiate the stage when they can't recognize a disguised lover who is two feet away from them.

3. It's not over until EVERYONE is dead. There is NO happy ever after in tragic opera.

4. Death is never swift

Earlier this season I had the pleasure of playing Verdi's La Forza Del Destino. (also with KOC) The basic plot is as follows:

Don Alvaro and Leonora are in love, but it's forbidden. (Rule #1) Leonora's father enters to see them about to run away together. D.A. surrenders to father, drops his gun on the floor. It goes off and kills Leonora's father. (one down) D.A. and Leonora run away separately. D.A. changes his name and Leonora masquerades as a man. (rule #2) They both join the army. Leonora fears that it will be discovered that she is a woman, so she goes to a monastery and pleads with them to take her in since her brother has vowed to kill her because she (and D.A.) killed Dad. The monks take her in but make her live in a cave in solitude.

Meanwhile, D.A. (who now goes by a different name) has become fast friends with Leonora's brother who doesn't recognized him because he changed his name. (Rule# 2) D.A. is wounded in battle and thinks he is going to die, so he asks brother to get rid of a box without looking in it. Of course brother looks, he sees a picture of Leonora and figures out who D.A. REALLY is. D.A. is miraculously saved in surgery only to find himself in a sword duel with Leonora's brother. He escapes, changes his name again (rule #2) and joins the same monastery where Leonora is hanging out in a cave. Leonora's brother tracks him down and forces him to duel. D.A. kills him. (two down) Hearing D.A's voice, Leonora comes out of her cave. Realizing what has happened, she leans over her dying brother who, in his last effort, stabs her in the heart. (three down) She goes on to sing a looooooong aria before dying. D.A. then throws himself over a cliff. (four down) And, CURTAIN.

Beautiful music but what a depressing way to spend an afternoon! I'll take comic operas full of man-birds, dragons and men dressing as women / women dressing as men any day.....

By the way, if you do attend an opera (and, despite my personal dislike of the plots of tragic operas, it IS a really fun thing to do. Just think of it as a soap opera in Italian.) try to get seats where you can see into the orchestra pit. All sorts of crazy things are going on. Friday night our giant set of orchestra chimes started to pitch over. A bass player caught them, boosted them back up and they started pitching the other way. Turns out that they were off of a caster. So our panicked percussion section was madly trying to steady the chimes as quietly as they could while still counting rests.

Monday, April 14, 2008

National Library Week

This is National Library Week. Have you kissed your librarian today? I have, but, then, I kiss him every day. : )

Sunday, April 13, 2008


It is a bit of an understatement that I am not a morning person. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. My work schedule regularly requires me to be "on" until 10 or 10:30 at night. Throw in the post-concert high and I don't get to bed until around midnight. Hey, that's better than a lot of my colleagues who stay up until 2 or 3 am! Many musician's kids keep musician hours, aka late to bed and late to rise. WG is not one of them. Tim and I value our couple time (and WG has a tendency to really wear us out) so she is in bed every night by 7 or 7:30. She gets up at around 7:30am.

The hardest thing about this for me is what the heck to give the child for breakfast. In the good old days of gluten, things were much easier. (Think about traditional breakfast fare. With the exception of eggs and meat, it ALL has lots and lots of gluten.) As I mentioned, WG is NOT picky. She LOVES instant oatmeal and bananas and would happily eat them every single day. Oats don't have gluten per se, but it is very difficult to find a source that hasn't been contaminated by some grain that DOES have gluten. Our neighbor, who is also gluten sensitive, can eat regular oatmeal every day and not have problems. We re-introduced oatmeal into WG's diet a few months back and it was disastrous. All of her symptoms came back full-force.

This left us back at square one for breakfast. There is exactly one "normal" cereal that is GF: Cocoa Pebbles. All the rest have malt, which is made from barley, which has gluten. GF cereals are okay, but the kid-friendly ones are still full of sugar and not much else. And with the expense it kills me to buy a box of nutritious GF cereal only to throw most of it away because it goes uneaten. I do like to bake (which is a very good thing since I have to make all the baked goods we eat!) but I have a hard time keeping up supply with demand on busy work weeks. WG will eat the occasional egg. I expect she would also like a rice porridge but that is something that is too complicated for sleepy me to put together in the morning. Breakfast lately has been some dry Gorilla Munch (basically GF Kix), a glass of milk and a piece of fruit.

When I was shopping for GF flour I discovered that Bob's Red Mill now offers GF oats. So today I made a big batch of my dad's granola. I, unlike WG, was a picky eater as a child. My dad's granola was the only breakfast cereal I'd eat for years. I had to tweak it quite a bit because his original recipe calls for cream of wheat, wheat germ, and wheat bran. I just added extra of the other stuff. Even with the extra cost of the GF ingredients, I casually calculate that the HUGE batch (it fills the pan that we roast the Thanksgiving turkey in) only cost around $10. GF granola runs roughly $5-6 for 2 or 3 cups. And I *know* that it is more nutritious than Gorilla Munch.

WG was so excited about the granola she tried it fresh from the oven. Then she asked for more. The granola is officially a hit.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

dangerous ballerina

WG really likes dressing as a ballerina. A few days ago she dressed up, was dancing around and suddenly ran off. She returned wearing her bike helmet and proclaimed, "Ballerinas need helmets!" We did not correct her.

Photobucket Photobucket

Favorite foods

WG is a tremendous eater.

I don't think that we can take very much credit for this. As primary hunter-gatherer / household chef, I do my best to limit the influx of junk and provide an interesting varied menu. Still, I would say her (current) status as an eager adventurous eater is 5% our doing and 95% the grace of God. WG has always had tummy troubles. Looking back at that time I am amazed at how well she did. Her chronic vomiting started while she was still getting the hang of eating solids, yet she never rejected food. We were pretty low-key about the whole thing around her, which I'm sure helped, but still, I know children who have experienced less and wound up with feeding tubes. It's just another mystery that I don't even pretend to understand.

Right now, WG's favorite foods (to eat, NOT to play with...) are baby corn, brown rice, red bell pepper slices, pepper jack cheese, olives, and bananas. Her favorite restaurant (one of very few "safe" gluten-free places we've found) is Thai food. She even knows what to order. Of course, she loves cookies and sweets, but if you make her choose between a snack of a cookie and a snack of olives, she'll probably go for the olives. I am enjoying this while it lasts!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Squash the fourth

The halloween pumpkin (which was in the Christmas pictures with WG under the tree) "ran away" sometime in January. In reality, it froze, then thawed, and was disturbingly squishy so Tim disposed of it. We have been squash free since then until yesterday. WG came grocery shopping with me. For a treat, I had told her before going into the store that she could pick out a new vegetable to try. Of course I meant to eat, but silly me, I didn't make that clear. We walked into the store and right at the front of the produce section was a big beautiful display of squash. There were butternuts and crooknecks and acorns and spaghetti squash. WG was in heaven. She picked out a small orange acorn squash. I told her that if we bought it then we'd have to eat it. She just smiled and nodded. So we got that one and another larger acorn squash.

I should have figured out that there would be trouble when she wouldn't put the squash in the cart, prefering to cradle it in her arms while we went through the rest of the store. We got home and WG snatched her "new baby pumpkin" out of the bag and took it into the living room to play. She stopped long enough to peel off and give me the sticker that had cooking directions on it. I started reading the cooking directions out loud:
(me)"Preheat oven to 350. Cut squash in half and take out the seeds"
(me)"place cut side down in a buttered pan..."
(me)"cook until tender"
(tim)"Oh! You got squash?! I love squash! I'm going to eat that squash with butter and brown sugar!"
a few minutes later
(WG)"Mom, can you sew my squash a dragon costume? He wants to dress up."

We did not eat the squash. In fact, she took it to bed with her last night. She has named it Gordon. (Aw, I think it's her first pun....) Today WG and Gordon have watched Dora the Explorer (Gordon's request), done puzzles, eaten lunch...... It could be worse, I guess. A good friend pointed out that WG could be obsessed with zuchini. Acorn squash last longer before getting soft, at least.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Post, the first

After looking at this beautiful blank blog for a few days wondering how to open it with a bang, I've decided to just get it over with and write something. Anything. I have several beautiful blank journals that have been gathering dust for years because I like the look of the blank pages. Getting started, marring the surface with ink, paralyzes me for some reason. A bit odd because I tend to jump right in to other things....