Day of Remembrance

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NationalBloggingDayofRememb

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There Are No Words…

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The iconic Newtown Flagpole - right in the center of town. Flag at half staff in memory of those who lost their lives today...

The iconic Newtown Flagpole – right in the center of town. Flag at half staff in memory of those who lost their lives today…

I hope my followers will excuse this completely off-topic post today. I just can’t sit by and not address this one.

There are no words to describe what I felt today when I heard about the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School – a mere 30 minutes from where I live. My first thoughts were about the children. After that, I thought about the teachers and the school staff. Then the parents, and the entire community.

The events of today rocked me to the core.

First, I am godmother to a Kindergartner in a public school. That alone was enough to make me need to sit down and catch my breath.

Second, I know people who live in the town – thankfully all of them, along with their children – are safe and sound tonight as far as I know.

Third, I am an educator – a former classroom teacher. The lives of several hundred children have been in my hands over the course of my career. I remember conducting lockdown drills with my fifth grade students. Some of them didn’t take it seriously – giggling and laughing about having to pull the shades, lock the door, and hide in the corner. I remember ripping into them about how serious it really was – I think I scared them a little. In a way, I’m glad I did. They knew it was serious business. I wish I never had to do that – but today reminded me why I did, and those kids would know what to do if (God forbid) something like this ever happened to them. Those teachers and kids in Newtown knew what to do. Some of them just didn’t have the chance.

The events of today left people questioning so many things – school security, gun laws, mental health care… There are rightfully many things to question. There will be answers to some of the questions, and some will have no answers. In our quest to find answers, and in these days of 24/7 “instant” news, we often wrongly place blame and report things that are incorrect in haste. That happened many times already today. I really hope that people will allow those involved the time to find the answers to the questions that can be answered.

As for me, the teacher in me is devastated. The human being in me is disgusted. But, there really are no words to describe what I am feeling in my heart tonight. I just know that my thoughts and prayers are with anyone and everyone affected by this senseless tragedy. God bless each and every one of them.

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I Survived My First Week Gluten-Free!

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So…I made it! This was my first full week of going gluten-free! I have to say, I definitely feel a difference. I’m not sure whether it’s a placebo effect or what, but I definitely feel better. I’m not having as many issues with my stomach, and the typical “brain fog” I’ve been experiencing lately also seems to have disappeared. I know it takes a while for everything to settle down, but if this week is any indication, this was definitely the right way to go.

I’ve found plenty of things I can eat – and have been really surprised by the number of things I can’t! My in-laws (the other ones) were here for the weekend and my mother-in-law (hubby’s mom) LOVES Special K. She brought a box with her for breakfast since I didn’t have any last time, and I took a look at the ingredients. Wheat gluten – right there in the ingredients! There goes another cereal… I had to explain to her why I couldn’t have it – and that touched off the “What is gluten?” and the “What else can’t you have?” conversation. I find it really hard to explain – since I’m not so sure yet myself. I gave her the big picture – no wheat, rye, or barley, and I have to read the labels of everything pretty carefully. She was so funny – I listed so many things I can’t have that she loves – she said she didn’t think she could do it. I told her I am just learning how to do without, and how to make substitutions.

In fact, that brings me to what I wanted to share with you. Whenever we have company on a Sunday morning, I like to have some kind of a nice breakfast or brunch. Today I made a crustless quiche type of thing (eggs with scallions, tomatoes, cheese, and turkey bacon), and I tried making gluten-free muffins for the first time. I was really nervous that they would turn out like hockey pucks and I would have nothing to serve with the eggs – all of my other GF stuff is frozen! Little did I know that my muffins would be morsels of yumminess, and that they would get rave reviews from everyone! To quote my dear MIL, “If you didn’t tell me, I would never have known these were gluten-free!” SCORE!!

Here’s how I made them…

Gluten-Free Mixed Berry Muffins

1 1/2 cups King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour

3/4 cup organic cane sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1/3 cup canola oil (maybe melted coconut oil…will definitely try that next time)

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/3 cup milk (I’m sure you could use almond milk)

1 cup frozen mixed berries (I used the Welch’s Frozen Berry mix but took out the strawberries – leaving blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)

 

Preheat the oven to 400F. Either spray 12 cup muffin tin with nonstick spray or line with paper liners. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients, mixing well. Fold in berries (I used them just frozen). Fill muffin tins about 2/3 of the way. Bake for 20-25 minutes (will depend on your oven) until they are golden brown on the top.

Here is what they looked like:

YUM!!

YUM!!

So glad that my first attempt at making gluten-free muffins was a success! I’m sure I will mess up at other points along the way – there will certainly be a lot of experimentation. At least I know I have one recipe I can fall back on now!

Hope you all had a great weekend – and had a chance to relax and recharge! Time to start another week already…

What’s your favorite Sunday brunch food??

 

A new challenge in the journey…

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I can’t say this comes as a complete surprise to me, but I finally got the official diagnosis of gluten intolerant the other day. I’m still learning a bit about the range of conditions that can be caused by gluten – anything from a sensitivity to an allergy to full blown celiac disease. Although my bloodwork was negative for celiac, the biopsies taken during some other testing showed damage to my small intestine which is a pretty good indicator of some form of gluten issue. My gastroenterologist has settled on “gluten intolerance” as my particular label, and said that the more I can eat gluten free, the better off I’ll be.

Of course, many of the healthiest foods for us are naturally gluten free – lean proteins, fruits, veggies – but some of my favorite things are not. Fortunately, given that I don’t have celiac, I don’t have to worry quite as much about cross contamination, so I can still have my favorite oatmeal without too much concern. I do have to start looking out for certain tricky things on labels – anything that is related to wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and triticale (not that I know what triticale is anyway).

When I went through my first gluten free adventure a little over 2 years ago, I started a blog where I posted some recipes and reviews of gluten free products. Rather than reposting everything from there, or trying to maintain two blogs – which I just don’t have the time to do – I’ll link to some of my favorite things from that blog as we go along here. If you do want to check it out – feel free to head on over to Gluten-Free Newbie!

Thanksgiving was likely my last real gluten containing meal – and I really tried to keep it low-gluten. The only things that were heavy duty on the gluten were the stuffing and the crusts of the pies. I did make stuffed mushrooms, but I used gluten free breadcrumbs and nobody seemed to notice. One thing I did notice was that they sucked up quite a bit of moisture, so I think I’d make the stuffing mixture a little more wet next time.

Hopefully I’ll keep learning about this new challenge – and I’ll overcome it like everything else!

Do you have any dietary challenges or food intolerances?

 

3:17 a.m.

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That’s the time our power came back on this morning. We were without power for 6 days in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The winds blew through here at up to 80 mph at times, and left total destruction in their wake. We lost several big trees on our property… Luckily none of them did any major damage.

This one luckly fell away from our house right in front of our garage.

 

This is my hubby standing next to the roots of that tree – he’s 6′ 1″ tall, so you can see how big this was!

 

This big tree cracked in half setting off a chain reaction of sorts…

 

That tree fell into this one…

 

…which then took out this really tall one!

 

We were lucky this was the only damage to our deck!

 

We lost all of the food in our fridge and freezer except for this…

3 bell peppers and a lemon!

 

It got really cold last night – we were all shivering, even my poor dog and cat who have built in fur coats! We finally broke down and lit a fire in the fireplace to try to take some of the chill out of the air. It was 50 degrees in my family room!!

Ahhh…warm fire!

 

The only problem is that the crackling of the wood scares my poor dog, so she was stressed out for most of the evening. I was really glad when the power came back on – even if I found out by having our house alarm system start going off at 3:17 am – thus the title of my post. I heard the noise, the lights came on, and then…the heat. Ahh..the heat! I was finally able to shed one of my layers – I felt kind of like Randy in “A Christmas Story” when he was all dressed up in his snowsuit and couldn’t put his arms down. I had so many layers on – even two layers of socks!

I am still cautiously optimistic about our power staying on. I keep hearing rumblings of a Nor’easter headed in our direction mid-week that could bring unseasonable cold, rain, and more winds – 40-50 mph! Please…that’s the last thing we need! I still have friends and family without power, and that will only hamper the efforts to get them restored.

As I said in my post from Thursday – with all that happened, I am so very thankful that we fared as well as we did. I learned several things from this experience….

1) We need a generator – not one of those little ones, but the big whole house one. Our heat is supplied by electric heat pumps, so one of the little ones really wouldn’t do much other than save the fridge and give us a few lights. If power goes out during the winter when it’s cold for multiple days in a row, we’re screwed.

2) I would not have done well back in the pioneer days. I survived the long, cold, dark nights reading books on my iPad, watching movies on my laptop, and lurking on Facebook on my iPhone. I am a techno-geek. Gotta have my gadgets.

3) My thermos totally rocks – so I bought another one. It stayed hot enough for warm tea for 48 hours. Yup. That’s pretty damned amazing. Here’s the link to Amazon where they have it. Wish their associate program was still legal in CT… Best Thermos On The Planet

4) When a storm like this is coming, fill up the gas tanks in both cars. There have been lines for gas ever since the storm – due to the inability to get trucks here to refill the stations, stations not having power to pump gas, and people using a ton of gas to run generators. I have never seen lines like this before in my life. I remember my dad telling me about the gas shortages in the 70s, and how lucky he was to be able to get gas whenever he needed because he was a volunteer fireman. I’m hoping things ease up in a few days because I’m going back to work again tomorrow…and my commute is about 32 miles a day.

5) Always have extra D batteries. My favorite flashlight uses Ds, and I only had enough to replenish it twice. I also learned that a set of batteries in that flashlight lasts about 4 hours straight (left it on for the pets when we went out).

6) Be patient. Long days with no heat, no sleep, and no hot showers wear on everyone’s nerves. I was doing okay until day 5 – but lots of people around me started losing it after a day or two. I get it…but everyone’s in the same boat. Getting upset with other people isn’t going to help. Throwing eggs at the lineworkers trying to restore your electricity isn’t going to make them work any faster (yes -that actually happened!!). Threatening to kill the mayor of the city you live in if you don’t get power doesn’t work either (yes – that actually happened too!!). People are so used to instant gratification and modern convenience that a few days without wreaks havoc on daily living. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, it’s annoying. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. But it’s not as bad as all that. Really.

Well – all in all, I’m very thankful to have made it through this, and I’m hoping that this next storm decides to take it easy on us. Hopefully things will slowly but surely get back to normal around here….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankful Thursday #3

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Ok…so I’ve been MIA for a week! Only because someone named Sandy decided to come pay us a visit and totally upend my life!

We lost power on Monday afternoon, and are still sitting here in the dark – and now it’s starting to get cold… We lost everything in our fridge and freezer except 3 bell peppers and a lemon. Our 150 gallon hot water tank is far from hot. The school district I work for has been closed all week, and it will be a miracle if we open on Monday given all I the downed trees and power lines, not to mention flooding and damage to homes and buildings.

To most, this may sound like a laundry list of complaints. To me, I am thankful that these are the greatest of my worries. Amidst the destruction, my family and friends are safe. My house is still standing. And here are some other things I am thankful for – silly as they may seem…

1) My husband’s crazy habit of buying me Yankee Candles for every occasion known to man. They have kept our house well-lit, however it does smell a bit funky since they are all different scents…

2) My new grill. I bought it a few weeks ago after going the entire summer without one. I contemplated just waiting until the spring, but got this one at an end-of-season tent sale. It has been a lifesaver!

3) My built-in sense of improvisation. I can make just about anything work. I made scrambled eggs on my grill the other morning. I made quesadillas out of chicken burgers. Not sure what tomorrow will be, but it’s looking an awful lot like PB&J for a while.

4) My thermos. Silly? Not at all. I boiled water at my office yesterday afternoon around 3:30. This morning, my assistant burned her finger pouring water out of the darned thing, and tonight it’s still hot enough to make (much needed!) hot tea. She was so impressed that she had me order one from Amazon for her – and I ordered a second one. It’s a Thermos floating insulated bottle – I think model 2595 or something like that. Looks like a grey torpedo. Best $30 I ever spent – on an insulated beverage container anyway.

5) Zumba. Yes, Zumba. Going to class tonight literally saved my sanity. There’s only just so much sitting around in the dark reading on an iPad one person can do! I really needed a pick me up today, and as usual, Eva picked me right up. We had a fun crew tonight, and it was just what I needed.

6) My iPhone – without which I would have had no access to the outside world this week – including the ability to check up on friends and family via Facebook, get emergency notifications from the city, follow Twitter feeds of the local EOC, or write this blog post.

That’s it from here – before my battery goes. I won’t be able to charge it again until I get to work. I really don’t want to have to run my car to charge it given the run on gas around here… I paid $48 for a half a tank before because all they had was premium. I don’t think my 8 year old car with 125,000 miles on it will know what to do with that much octane…

Stay safe, and be thankful.

Thankful Thursday #2

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It’s Thankful Thursday…and first, let me say thanks to Julia at Black Tag Diaries for hosting the link-up!

It was kind of a strange Thursday today…I had to take the day off work to go have an upper endoscopy done. If you’ve never had one, it’s really no big deal – sounds much worse than it really is. Basically, they send a little camera down your throat to check out your esophagus, stomach, and all that good stuff. This was a follow-up to one I had a while ago, so it wasn’t because I was feeling poorly or anything. It’s still a little nerve-wracking when they put you under, but at least you don’t remember any of it! My thankful things pretty much revolve around this strange day.

1) I’m thankful for my hubby – again! Seems to be a theme here… He took time to drop me off at the hospital this morning and pick me up afterwards, and even took me to Panera for lunch since I hadn’t been able to eat anything since the night before and I was HUNGRY! He didn’t even laugh at me when I ordered the kids’ grilled cheese sandwich with my soup. Okay, so he smirked and shook his head, but he didn’t tease me for it. He knows that grilled cheese is my go-to comfort food. He even promised to make me tea tonight if I promised to rest when I got home. I have done NOTHING all day, so I think I’ve held up my end of the bargain…

2) I’m thankful for my awesome GI doc. She is really nice, and takes the time to explain everything really carefully so that I understand it. I’m pretty good with medicalese (spent WAY too much time around doctors/nurses in my life), but I always like to make sure I have it right. She’s patient and just a really sweet person. I also think it’s pretty cool that her name is Rakhee – but it sounds like Rocky. Makes me think of the theme song from the movie every time. I know…dork.

3) I’m definitely thankful that nothing seemed too out of place. There was an improvement in one thing from last time, but she did have to take some biopsies this time around. She didn’t seem too concerned, so I’m assuming that means I shouldn’t be either.

4) I’m thankful for the other folks who took care of me today – the nurses were all really nice, and I liked the anesthesiologist a lot. One of the nurses and I had a conversation about the sedative they use – propofol. Yes, the stuff that killed Michael Jackson. She was telling me that this 80-something year old lady had a fit when they told her they were going to use propofol “…because that stuff is evil! It killed that young man…what was his name? Michael Jackson, right? I don’t want that stuff!!” Once they reassured her that it was okay because she was in the hospital and being monitored, she finally went through with it. When she woke up, she grabbed the nurse by the sleeve and said, “Thank you so much! That was the best sleep I’ve had in 20 years! No wonder he abused this stuff!”

5) I’m thankful for my awesome Zumba instructor, Eva. Tomorrow night is our Zumba master class breast cancer fundraiser. I have been looking forward to this event for what seems like forever – but probably more like a month or so. When I got my discharge papers from the doctor, they said no exercise for 3 days. 3 days?!?!?! That meant no master class! I even clarified with the doctor, and she said absolutely not – there is a risk of bleeding because of the biopsies. I was literally bargaining with her in the recovery room – half an hour? Two songs? No such luck. I sat there and fought back tears as I messaged Eva on Facebook that I wouldn’t be able to come. She convinced me that I could still go – at least be there. She said it wouldn’t be the same without me there! How cool was that? So – I will be going to master class, dressed in pink, cheering on my fellow Zumbaholics! Since I can’t “shake it like Polaroid picture” I’ll just have to take a bunch of pictures instead.

Since I’m still feeling a little spacey from the procedure, I’m going to call it a night. Look for a post tomorrow all about master class!!

What are you thankful for this Thursday??