Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gluten free, Dairy free, Egg free - Have I lost you?

Yep, my 2 1/2 year old has food intolerences (we 'can't' call them allergies because she doesn't have an IgE response to these foods). Instead she likely has an IgA or IgG response, which isn't as testable. The 'golden standard' for food sensitivities is trial and error. Basically, remove offending foods from your diet, until you are symptom-free then add them back in, rinse and repeat. If you have a negative reaction then you have a food allergy/sensitivity/intolerance. Luckily I found foodlab, a Yahoo group of people figuring out their or their child(ren)'s food issues.

First as a hypothyroid patient, then as an infertility patient, then dealing with dyshidrotic eczema, and now with a daughter with food issues, I have discovered that doctors don't know everything. Big heavy sigh. But they think they do.
In all of these health issues I have lucked upon very knowledgeable groups of people who through trial, error, research and collective experience know more than our GPs, gynecologists, endocrinologists and dermatologists about our particular issue and how to treat them. Basically, it boils down to a bunch of people becoming experts in one field, their own condition. When you're dealing with issues the doctor doesn't give a good answer for, you dig and dig and talk, and dig some more, while the doc meets other patients dealing with a different issue. So, it really isn't all that surprising that the patients would eventually know more about their 'pet problem' while the doc only has a superficial understanding of the issue.
Unfortunately, the medical community goes to college to learn everything. They pay big bucks to soak up whatever the pharmaceutically funded college spits out.
And medical schools teach the accepted practices and knowledge that has been voted on by medical people after prolonged *funded* research.
Obviously, as one's own advocate you have to be careful and shrewd. Don't take one person's word for it. Don't pay for anything without thoroughly researching first.
Resources I have found in my web travels:

I'm not saying to skip the doctor. Just be an informed patient.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Local Art

I recently got a taste of the local skill here in what I consider nowhere, California... (If you love California, this valley probably doesn't even register, you may have heard of Fresno, or Bakersfield, but neither are one's destination. Unless you're crazy enough to move here. Sigh.) Anyway, eventually you can find the riches in the midst of the ugh.
Two Visalia artisans with serious skills delivered some gems. Below is a portrait of my daughter by Fulgere Photography wearing a gorgeous dragon fly hair clip by Swanky Baby Gear.
Melissa of Swanky Baby Gear made a solar veil ring sling for me back when the munchkin was tiny, so I'd known about her sewing and accessories for awhile. But Arielle of Fulgere Photography just recently started showing off her photography skills and we were lucky to get a photo shoot while she was building her portfolio.

Monday, October 4, 2010


My co-sleeping munchkin used the sidecar bed last night for the first time. The crib has been attached to the bed  for a long time, mostly collecting toys.  But for the first time she moved over there on her own and stayed for at least 8 hours. Sigh, talk about bitter sweet.
Perhaps that's why I went on a sugar frenzy this weekend... I whipped up:
  • chocolate chip and date cookies based on the Gluten-Free Gourmand's Scone recipe
  • experimented with orange coconut milk ice cream
  • attempted candy orange peels - not a success, I guess next time I'll have to actually pay attention to the sugar temps
  • chocolate coconut milk ice cream with double the maple syrup and 2 T arrowroot - super yum!
  • and to add something really good for me, started my first batch of fermented carrots.
Note the still solidifying homemade chocolate candy shell over the ice cream. Clearly I have a sugar issue. But oh my, that ice cream is wonderful. The munchkin can't have eggs (or wheat or a few other things) and the spouse can't have pasteurized dairy, so I've had to alter my ice creamaholicism to special brands that are rather pricey and don't help our budget... So, I am thrilled to find a handmade ice cream that is actually edible with little 'ole me as the ice cream maker. Coconut milk seems to be a natural ingredient in 'ice cream', since it is full of healthy fat and hardens creamily when put in the freezer.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

In progress

Aren't these cute? I'll attach these pockets to my skirt... as soon as I find it. I've been wearing the skirt - love it! - so it is somewhere between the closet and the laundry room.
I've never made external pockets like this, so I'm making it up as I go along. I'm a little concerned about the pockets being too heavy for the unlined skirt fabric... so I'll probably add extra fabric inside the skirt... which means there will be a secret pocket inside.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Accidental beauty

Is it just me, or is this just gorgeous? I've been rather unimpressed with regular potatoes that have grow eyes, but this sweet potato has so much character.

I wonder if I can cut it up and put it in the ground like a regular potato.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Farmer's Market Finds

purslane, zuchinni, green-red cherry tomatos from the farmer's market
What they say about Farmer's Markets is all true. Great fresh options with a good chance of being organic. And more variety than in your average grocery store. I saw at least 4 kinds of cherry tomatos yesterday. And purslane! I haven't found purslane in the yard this year, so I was excited to see a big bunch for a dollar.
The local farmers are bringing a lot of Asian veggies I don't yet know. I love buying something new, and with a few tips from the farmer, experimenting in the kitchen. Last year I discovered rutabaga - love them! And sometimes you get a surprise... The honeydew I bought appears to be an orange fleshed honeydew. I love honeydew, but not a big fan of cantalope, but I think I like this hybrid.
Then there's the olive guy... during part of the year he has olives cured with just salt. Right now his selections have vinegar, but we try not to hold it against him. The little one loves olives, so we buy a lot. The lemon peel stuffed olives were interesting. This time I bought Greek dried Kalamata olives. Very salty, but yum! I'm not too sure what to do with them yet, but they were nice chopped up and steeped in olive oil for an easy salad dressing.
Orange honeydew, dried olives and corn from the farmer's market

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garden salad

I'm not getting as much produce out of my garden as I hoped. But the cucumbers are still growing and I'm getting enough cherry tomatos for a small salad each evening.
I had a run-in with red ants yesterday. They appear to be living under the stepping stones next to my raised garden bed... I'm still trying to figure out how to get rid of them, I'd like an organic solution. Limestone, which is supposed to work like diatomaceous earth doesn't seem to have an effect.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


This is my first cucumber plant. Next year I'll plant at least two. I love how the little tendrils grab onto things so it can climb. And it seems to grow about an inch a day, which is just amazing to watch...

Isn't it cute?

And I haven't really had any trouble with pests. I picked a few caterpillars off one day, but that's it.


This is a little off topic... but my editor is letting this slide.

Photo of Florence Eliza Higgins Clamp with Lady Bingham and Fred Topsfield, in England 1924

Findmypast (the British version of Scotlandspeople, the Scottish version of is allowing free access to their documents on days England plays in the World Cup. For a poor genealogy buff like myself this is fabulous. Especially since the 1911 English census was relatively recently released and findmypast appears to be the only one of two place to get images.

Back to the photo. I've done a little research on my grandmother's cousin's father who was from England. His family remained in Southend-on-Sea in Essex, England when he moved to the US after 1901. The photo is said to contain Florence Eliza Higgins (his sister), Lady Bingham and Fred Topsfield, on May 28, 1924. (I thought "Lady Bingham" and "Fred Topsfield" would be uncommon enough names to help me find more information... but apparently this Yankee doens't know the English.) The 1911 census image I acquired last night confirms that Florence married a Mr Clamp - which brings up another interesting British research issue - the marriage indexes are, um, annoying. The Higgins household includes the Higgins family members I'd seen in other censuses (censusii?) plus a young daughter Bessie Ingram Higgins (which confirms the mother's maiden name - Yahoo!). Mr Clamp is not there, but Florence Eliza Clamp is listed as married (not widowed), which is interesting. Altogether a productive 90 minutes of research.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Low Maintenance Plants

The camera and cord have alternated being MIA, but we got a new computer connection and the camera has been available enough for me to finally post something...

I'm all about low maintenance... so I've been very happy with the Dusty Miller and Mexican Lavender in the front yard. I was expecting the lavender to smell good, but was sorry it learn it doesn't. This year I got some English Lavender to fill that role.
The dusty miller is so happy that I had to pull about 15 little Millers out of the lawn this year.
And our 'lavender' rosebush:

and the rather pretty rose from the rootstock.

I'm not a huge rosebush fan, but I love that they keep coming back despite our less than stellar care for them.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kitchen Garden: Growing Avocado Seeds

Many years ago, when I was a college student dreaming of my future garden, I found a book that described growing food from seeds and leftovers from purchased food. The idea stuck with me and I have successfully grown potatoes and garlic from sprouted food in my kitchen.
Now I'm trying out avocados. We eat about one avocado per day when they are in season, so growing our own would definitely be a bonus. I never liked the idea of impaling an avocado seed with toothpicks and after some googling I learned that A) avocadoes can grow in my area, B) you can grow avocados by putting the seeds directly in dirt, and C) you can grow avocados in water without impaling them.
My first attempt was a seed in a Medela freezeable breastmilk container (imagine a tall plastic beaker). Oops, the seed expanded and got stuck halfway in the beaker, no way to add water, no way to remove the seed without harming it.
Then I spotted all these wonderful small shotglasses and medicine cups sitting around the kitchen. The ideal situation appears to be a cup with V shaped depression, so the seed sits halfway down the glass, supported by the sides. Keep water approximately halfway up the seed. Add water, when air appears below the seed. Some sources say to plant in dirt when leaves sprout. But to avoid seriously messing up the roots, I'll try to plant before the roots look as scrunched as the far right has.

Unfortunately, I don't know which varieties I have growing... but it will be fun to see how many little trees I can start. We've found at least four varieties at our local farmer's market, including a tiny version (they are called "Mexican" something) with edible skins. Somehow I managed not to save a seed from those. I will definitely do that this year. Those tiny ones are so darn yummy. The far left and far right seeds look the same to me, but they are sprouting in reverse of each other. The left one barely has any roots at all, while the right clearly had more roots before sprouting up.
Unfortunately, avocados don't bear fruit until their 4th or even 10th year, so we may have left this home by that time, but I can hope to see fruit before we go.
Have you had success growing food from your kitchen?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Water Kefir - again

It is like a wacky science experiment. I appear to have found the secret to water kefir... relax and follow the kefirlady's directions, lol. These things grow like crazy. This picture is 5 days after the previous kefir post's picture. The difference in liquid color is because one batch (the jar on the right) is a day ahead of the other.
So far, I use organic sugar, sucanat, slices of ginger, a pinch of baking soda in unfiltered tap water (we have very hard water here) or spring water. I've been watching to see if the water source makes a difference. The kefir in both jars seem happy, but it seems like the spring water kefir is growing a tad bit faster than the tap water.
In 9 days I went from having 1/3 cup kefir grains to 2 1/2 cups. I need to find recipes that call for the grains. They taste and feel a little like hominy. Which is fine for a bite or two, but eating a cup of plain squishy hominy isn't too appealing.

Why Kefir?
For probiotics ... all those good guys also found in yogurt (in theory) that keeps your gut healthy.

Why Water Kefir instead of regular Milk Kefir?
1. cheaper - to put the grains in sugar and water everyday than goat or cow milk
2. lactose intolerance - enough said
3. convenient - having diary on hand everyday isn't convenient
4. reality - finding a raw (and organic) milk source can be difficult to impossible, depending on your area.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Water Kefir

My water kefir grains arrived in the mail from the kefirlady, yesterday, Yay! And following the directions, I got them into sugar water as quickly as I could. Now the quandry... spring water, filtered tap water, boiled tap water, boiled filtered tap water, boiled tap water plus minerals...
Almost everything I've read says hard water = good, okay I'll use tap water, chlorine = bad, so I use filtered tap water. But if my filter removes chlorine - which I sure hope it does - is the water then too soft? Some people report their water kefir thrives on their city water, without any changes required, cool maybe I can use filtered tap water. Bah! this living healthy thing is giving me a migraine.
Chlorine can be removed by boiling 15 minutes OR run in a blender for 15 minutes. If I run my blender for 15 minutes, I will likely be deaf and have a burnt out blender. If I boil water for 15 minutes, I'm not sure there'd be any water left.
I ended up splitting the grains in half just to see which kind of water worked better. So two tablespoons of grains went in bottled spring water plus 1/6 cup sugar 1/2 tablespoon organic sucanat. The rest of the grains went in cooled boiled filtered tap water with the same sugar and grain combo. 20ish hours later there's a significant difference between the grains.
The spring water grains are round and fluffy looking with more floaty type activity going on. The grains in the left jar just look sad. So I dumped the grains into my nylony coffee filter and since I'm out of bottled water, put plain ole tap water in with more sugar. I'm afraid the chlorine and possible floride in the water may not be good for the grains, but hopefully it isn't worse than the boiled filtered water I tried first.
I think kefir lady's directions said we can put minerals etc back into filtered water... that sounds a little more economic than buying bottled water for the rest of my grains' lives.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In the Garden

Technically this is the backyard... but "In the Garden" just sounds so much prettier.
Anyway, some good news and some bad...
My irises have come up. I love the color lavender, and since lavender/purple is a darn difficult color to find in plants and flowers, I have expanded my love to blue. Note the lovely blue rosemary in the background. Ignore the date on the photo (the camera doesn't seem to know what "no date/time" means, ugh).
I love perennials that have the audacity to naturalize and thrive in my 'garden'.

The mole/vole/gopher/stinking varmint fight continues. I suppose if we had a smaller yard, this wouldn't be a problem. But when you have 1/3 of an acre, the dratted animal can just move to another part of the yard. These seven piles showed up two days after we thoroughly watered the holes about 15 feet from this spot...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gluten free scones

My dad is mostly Scottish, so I've a fascination of things Scottish. Shortbread and scones are part of that. My wee one is allergic to eggs (plus onions, leeks and cabbage) and we're avoiding a few other allergens (garlic, wheat/gluten, milk, peanuts, nuts) until we verify they are safe. So, I haven't had 'real' shortbread in a long time. But we found a box of delectable shortbread cookies in the gluten free section, so I'm satiated with those. Although, I'm working on finding a good GF/DF/EF shortbread recipe.
Then I ran into a recipe for scones...  I somehow missed trying a scone when last in Scotland. And I haven't been thrilled with the options at Starbucks, etc. So, I'm not exactly sure what they are supposed to taste like, but I liked what I made.
The recipe calls for cardamon, which I don't have. But cinnamon and dates worked well. Walnuts and chocolate chips are even better. It also called for arrowroot flour, I substituted tapioca starch flour.
My first batch disappeared so quickly I couldn't take a picture. This time I made a double batch and added the dates, nuts and chocolate combinations after dividing up the batter. I used the sugar on top to mark what's in them. The baby gets the plain nut-free ones.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Family cloth

When I can spare the time, I've been serging up some new flannel wipes. After almost two years, I'm upgrading, wahoo! I got a lovely flannel sheet with a plaid that perfectly divides into 6 inch strips. The t-shirt wipes didn't feel absorbant enough. I found myself preferring my flannel/velour wipes, but not the velour side. Although the velour is very pretty and soft against your hand, one's um other bits don't like it as much. Live and learn.
So... 6 inch double thickness flannel it is.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Between rain showers this weekend, I got some gardening in. Oh happy day! I planted a combination dwarf asian pear tree, a nectarine tree and an orange tree. They join a combo apple tree planted a few weeks ago. I'm finally fulfilling my dreams for a fruit orchard... I've been making lists of what I want to grow since high school. There's more to go, but we're on our way!
We know we have some sort of critter in the back because these piles of dirt magically appear in the yard. I just smoosh them down and continue trudging through the yard. But while digging a hole for one of my trees I found this:

Out of fear for my trees and plants in my new plantar I purchased and have been spreading around this stuff to scare a variety of critters away. We'll see how effective it is. So poor little (cute I'm sure) critter found his/her tunnel closed off, which a handful of the go-away powder to make our sentiments clear.
Was it a bad idea to plant the tree right there anyway? We'll see. I'm not that fond of nectarines anyway.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jill in the Box

Kids in boxes are always so cute. This one decided she'd rather hang out in a box than brush her teeth.
She is sitting in a vinegar box, but I tend to think of her as rather sweet. :-)


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Something Green

I don't have much time for the yard, but snuck in some time on Saturday. And discovered this cute little green sprout poking out of the mulch in my new planter box. Someone suggested it is celery. I'm pretty sure I didn't plant celery, but I did put in one rhubarb. So maybe it is rhubarb.
I bought a rhbarb rhizome (I think that's what it was) on a whim - don't you love how that happens? You go into Home Supply Depot and leave with all these fabulous things you don't know how to use/grow/eat. Well if it is rhubarb and it survives all the way up to ripeness (oops, something else to figure out), then we'll tackle what to do with it.

Patchwork Progress

patchwork skirt front view, view of me wearing ankle length skirt with three pocketsI started a patchwork skirt back before Thanksgiving with the intention of finishing before Christmas. The actual patchworking went smoothly. I had a nice rythmn going: match pieces, stitch, serge, top stitch, assembly line style. It takes a long time, but I loved it. Every free moment I was at the dining table (aka my sewing station).

A few patchy things I learned in the process:
  • keep seam allowence in mind when cutting the fabric, you probably don't want lots of really skinny patches
  • work assembly line style - for speed
  • don't plan out patchwork too much, the fabric has a mind of its own
  • you will use lots of thread, if your top thread color is important, be prepared with at least 3 spools
  • side view of my patchwork skirtas a firt time patchwork fabric, corduroy is very forgiving
  • corduroy is very thick, make sure your sewing machine can handle the layers you'll have to sew
  • patchworked panels are thick and heavy
  • don't give yourself too much waistline allowence, all that fabric will have to bunch around your waist
  • if you insert pockets in your panels, take the height of the waistband into consideration
  • if you insert pockets or other important features in your panels, remember to inset them enough, that it doesn't get chopped off in seam allowance
  • if you want vertical strips to connect panels, either: have horizontal patches in the strips, or make sure the panels are very a-line (very triangular), see second picture to understand why.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wool underwear

Back when I was in a frenzy buying wool sweaters to make longies for the wee one I picked up a sweater at a thrift store. Not just a wool sweater, a wonderful, soft, thin wool sweater. It was missing its tags but I'm optimistically positive it is Smartwool. I originally thought it would make a nice pair of summer longies, but hesitated and then discovered the little one is a naturalist in the summer. Well, she's probably a naturalist the rest of the year, too, but we keep her covered up.
Back to this wool I need to use... underwear, grownup underwear. It gets cold in our house in the winter. Wool is supposed to make great underwear, requiring less washings than regular cotton (umm, we'll see about that part, I'm a bit skeptical of the idea of rotating unwashed underwear). So off google to find directions for turning a wool sweater into underwear.
Perhaps my problem was using the term underwear instead of panties. Anyone else have an issue with 'panties'? I never liked that word. Anyhow, I found this post: Any Size Long Johns from Wool Sweaters Now that's an idea. A few odd seams in a pair of long johns won't matter if no one's going to see them anyway. And it combines another project I've been contemplating - something warm for under skirts in winter. Flannel bloomers had been the direction I was going, but wool long johns sounds even cozier... Now to find out if my sweater can cover more than just my butt.

Monday, January 4, 2010

There's Something About Rosemary

Rosemary Steeping in Vinegar
I love how easy it is to grow rosemary here, in the central valley. We have four bushes, the three in full sun are about 5 feet tall and 5 to 8 feet wide now. I love that it is evergreen and makes the yard look like perhaps I know what I'm doing.
We use rosemary to season meat and potatos. And I can usually get freecycle takers when I offer up clippings from the branches that grow in the wrong direction (over my patio).
I love the idea of being self-sufficient and growing herbs to use. So, I was thrilled to find another use for this wonderful herb... hair rinse. I've been trying to go 'poo free for a few years now. I made the leap for a few months, then felt guilty about the unfinished bottles of 'poo & conditioner, so switched back. Well, the Aubrey Organics products are all used up, and I ordered shampoo bars (from Chagrin Valley) - love them. And now I get to make my own hair rinse to help rinse out the hard water. I use Chagrin Valley's Vinegar Hair Rinse Recipe #2...
I have my shampoo bar and two sports water bottles in the shower:
  • rosemary vinegar with filtered water
  • filtered water to rinse out the rinse
When the house is cold I keep the bottles at my feet during the shower, to warm up the water a little before pouring it on my head. Some people use vinegar rinse rarely, like once a week or less, I use it after every hair wash.