The day we moved. Again.

Today...today begins our traveling life without dad.  I would like to write about how we feel about that, but I am on my phone in a hotel, so I will be brief.

We are so weird.  These are my many gluten free grains that are strapped behind the truck.
Friggin Hurricane Blowhard of NNY 2013 made sure everything I loaded today was soaked and me too.  There may have been some sky cursing.

We needed to take the last load of trash to the dumpster and there was no room anywhere except on GraceAnne's lap.
Violet was having a sensory day...we are crammed in and the new car seat is her best friend and worst enemy.

But after some lunch and driving in the rain the littles passed out and GraceAnne settled in. And the rest of the ride was pretty quiet.  Next up, showers, costumes and trick-or-treat at a local-for-today mall.  Happy Halloween!


Egg Free, Gluten Free, Tapioca Free dumplings (for chicken & dumplings)

My family requested chicken and dumplings this week.  I can't blame them, the weather is perfect for this classic comfort dish.  But I'd be lying if I said I didn't balk a bit...this is not a meal we've had since going gluten-free.  BUT, since there are so many GF noodles and biscuits in the world, I thought surely there must be a GF dumpling recipe hidden somewhere on the internet.

Try as I might, for 2 days I came upon recipe after recipe that included tapioca (which I've recently discovered I have really yucky reactions to) or another flour we didn't have on hand.  We're getting ready to move, so buying more flours is out.  Further, we prefer a noodle-y dumpling and most recipes are for making them "fluffy." 

Finally, I settled on a very simple recipe and tweaked it for what I had on hand. 

2 flax "eggs" (2 tbsp ground flax seed+3tbsp warm water.  Let sit until "slimy" like an egg)
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour (chickpea flour)
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
1 heaping tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
 plain kefir to achieve proper consistency (to make this vegan, you could use something else for the liquid, I just wanted the slightly tangy flavor that the kefir adds)

First, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Add "eggs" and mix until combined.  Add liquid until mixture will hold together.  Form small spoonfuls and drop into boiling liquid (in this case I had chicken broth/vegetable broth with veggies and chunks of chicken at a low boil)  Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.  Cover and cook an additional 10 minutes. 

I was very skeptical to try this, since I had seen NO recipes using a flax egg substitute and I'm not a huge fan of garbanzo flour (which I added because 1. I had it and 2. I wanted some extra protein to help achieve the density I was looking for in my dumplings)  But, as it turns out, there was nothing left to photograph once we got a taste of the finished product!  I think we've found a winner.

It was very well recieved by my 2 gluten eaters and I have to say that the texture was pretty spot on to the dumplings I used to make with unbleached flour. The flavor was not overpowering, but held its own against the gravy.

Please feel free to mess with these flour ratios based on what you have on hand and report back to tell us what you used and how it turned out.  I hope you're as pleased as my family was!


Christmas-2013 style

This year our family celebrated Christmas early so that we could include Daddy in our festivities before he deploys.  While everyone else is loathing the Christmas section in all the department stores, we were relying on it to help us get into the Christmas spirit before we've even trick-or-treated.  Pandora was our constant companion in the car, Bing Crosby and friends crooning to us in old-fashion as leaves fell red and orange outside.  The weather has played right along our fantasies-with lows in the 30's lots of nights and highs in the mid-high 50's.  (That's Christmas weather right there for these Texas babies.)

We've decorated some around the cabin:

 We've done some Christmas projects and downed some hot cocoa:

We've watched Christmas movies on the hard drive every chance we've had:

And we counted down days until our big celebration:
Allan and I decided that the best course of action would be a big gift that actually tied into the real holiday and that it would be fun to take the kids to Disney World in December to help us all be distracted from the fact that he won't be with us.  We made a theme and worked hard in the last few weeks to build the magic.

After a lot of joyful "Only 6 (5, 4, etc) more days until Christmas!" last night was finally our Christmas Eve.  We watched Nightmare Before Christmas on ABCFamily, prayed thanks for a full day and the promise of a fabulous tomorrow and the kids went to bed so Mom & Dad could get ready for the big day.

This morning we woke up before the kids to get a start on coffee and cheer.  It got pretty cold last night, and the clouds were gorgeous against a sapphire sky, so it was pretty magical!

As usual, Corbin was up first.  He wanted the presents RIGHT.NOW. but we made him wait for his sisters.  Who he woke.
Once they were up, we had a lovely time opening gifts.  One thing we're very appreciative with the kids is that they are pretty easy to please and very caring/thoughtful.  They get excited about the little things and they say lots of 'Thank Yous.'  YAY for sweet kids!

 Traditionally, the kids each get an ornament for the year.  GraceAnne has her ninth flower fairy from Hallmark this year. 

She's getting too big

Legos are always a hit!

And after all the carefully chosen Mickey Mouse paper had flown, we were ready for the big reveal!

I had to bring back the link to the video, because I was told this video doesn't have sound.  Sorry about that!  I guess we figured out one thing 4g mobile hotspot is not good for!

So HERE IS THE LINK for the video of the scavenger hunt/Walt Disney World reveal.


Can Veterans Day Come Early?

This was not a post I planned to make.  I will NOT get into politics here or play a blame game.  Frankly, what is about to occur in this country is something we ALL need to look long and hard at and figure out where we can put our noses to the grindstone.

My husband is a disabled veteran.  We live in the flux that is military retirement.  Thankfully he also has a job.  But check out some of these loose statistics:

(credit goes to Veterans Day: Census Facts)
  • There are 21.5 MILLION veterans in the U.S.
  • 9.2 MILLION vets are over age 65 (read: beyond typically employed age, relying on retirement income)
  • Florida, Texas and California are home to over 1 MILLION veterans each
  • 3.5 MILLION of these vets have a service-connected disability.  This ranges from simple issues to men and women who will never be able to re-enter the work force.

And finally: Only 9.1 MILLION of these 21.5 MILLION veterans are gainfully employed.

What does this mean?  If the goverment does not figure it's shit out SOON, how many of these men and women will go hungry?  How many will end up homeless?

I've heard lots of veteran families say, "We are hoping it works out by the time we're supposed to get our checks."  Look, I think that's a pretty dangerous assumption, but hope is all they have.

I've heard some people in the community say, "We are all just thinking it will be fixed by the 1st."  Look, I think that's a pretty dangerous assumption and hope is NOT all WE have.

I am crying out to the people of this nation and to the CHURCHES-RALLY FOR THE VETERANS!  Most of these people will not stand up and cry out for their own benefit.  They NEED US.  Write your congressperson, but beyond this, DO SOMETHING.  The churches I've been involved in have complained that the government is forcing tax payers to do the job of the church-well, this is our chance to STAND UP and take our position as caretakers of the weak back. 

What does that look like?  It could be as simple as churches putting up signs that every veteran can come get bags of rice and beans until checks come or it could be as elaborate as opening homes or giving 3 square meals per day.  Really, there is a lot of room for creativity here and there is a vast NEED.

This is not some pie-in-the-sky issue that *might* come to fruition...these are our fellow Americans facing rent deadlines that will not be met and landlords who don't understand.  This is our brothers and sisters facing the prospect of being hungry and not being able to bring enough food for their families.

Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) and USAA are both putting their words to action.  I am linking to both of them in the event that veterans stumble upon this post and can benefit from these services.  Please link other organizations in the comments section so that we can serve as a small corner of the internet that HELPS instead of points fingers at a certain political party or another.

WWP is giving checks to anyone registered as an Alumni as of October 14 if pension checks don't come on time.  If you are registered with them and haven't been in contact for a while, make sure your address is up to date. http://www.wwphighcap.org/

USAA says this: "USAA Bank remains ready to offer a zero-interest, 0% APR payroll advance loan to affected members if the next federal budget issue — the debt ceiling — disrupts pay to active-duty service personnel.  Affected members whose federal payments are delayed by such an impasse and who have existing direct-deposit arrangements at USAA Bank for active-duty military or military retiree pay, or VA or Social Security payments, may be eligible for the loan."  https://www.usaa.com/inet/ent_logon/Logon

PLEASE think on, pray about, consider and decide what you will do, or what you will inspire those in your circle to do if these checks are not sent on the 1st.  Don't wrongly assume that if this is sorted out by the 1st of November that checks will be on time; they will not.  What if your paycheck were 2 weeks late?  How would that affect your family?  Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck and that is representative of most veterans, as well. 

Let's be the solution to this problem.  Let's stand in the gap the government has created for those who have served and sacrificed.  Our family is prepared to help in any way that we can.  Will you join us?  Share this post and let's create a network of resources around the nation for those who need a safety net.

If you are a Christian, CALL YOUR CHURCH and find out WHAT they WILL be doing.  Do not be the people who walked past the battered man in the ditch.  Let's show the world what our faith really means with a biblical response.  This problem is NOT too big.  We can be the change. This won't require a mission trip or fundraising-it only requires a willing heart.

Edited to Add: I know enlisted personnel stand to see a loss of payment, and I feel for them and their families.  However, the sad fact is that veterans have nowhere near the network that enlisted personnel do.  My focus here is on vets, although I recognize this shutdown affects far more than just them. 


Three Forces

I have three forces propelling me forward right now.  Since they are working in unison, they are shoving against my natural inclination to relax and soak up every second of this last 16 days of being a whole family. 

The first is positive momentum.  This is the newest force in the mix.  This force came after my trip to the WOW Summit.  It's a fabulously happy momentum!  I'm contacting people I met and working out new relationships that are fun and will help out the blog.  I love this kind of force! 

The second force is time.  This is the force that cannot be helped.  Time rolls on, whether we are okay with it or not.  The weeks start off feeling like forever and before you know it, the weekend is here and hopeful and then Sunday at church reminds that last week is over...where did it go?  I'm not always sure.

The third force is pure "have to."  On one hand, this is good.  It gives our days purpose (though they still seem to slip by) On the other hand it makes the days too full for our regular routine and makes them go by at break-necking speed.  After a summer of rest, it seems the "have to" is a bit overwhelming.  Or maybe it's thinking about only having 16 more days as a whole family.  I'd venture to guess it's a combo of both. 

I have a milion thoughts swirling through my head and these three forces keeping me going, going, going...but I feel myself getting achy and tired.  I keep taking my doTerra On Guard beads (doubling up, actually) hoping to not get sick.  I *should* be getting enough sleep.  I think I might just be emotionally exhausted. 

This is when the guilt tends to settle in.  "You're not doing enough with the kids."  "You're not being intentional enough with your last 16 days."  "You're not keeping the cabin clean enough."  etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  ad nauseum.

So, I think it is time to breathe again.  To re-learn how to breathe in the chaos of getting ready.  I got a breath of fresh air in Philadelphia, but I can't keep running on that same breath.  It's time to remember my roots and talk to God about the guilt.  He doesn't condemn and He will refresh. 

Be on the look-out, I have LOTS of blog topics flying through my head.  I know they need to come out.  Soon!  ;)


Moms Meet-WOW Summit 2013

A little while back, Hail Merry posted on their facebook page that they had been accepted as a vendor into the Moms Meet program.  I went and signed up without knowing much, because of my relationship with the ladies at HM.  To over-simplify the group, they are a product testing site that hinges on it's "ambassadors" making connections with other moms.  Over the last few weeks I've been poking around the site, applying for product testing opportunities.  I liked the idea of it (I've participated in lots of these types of things over the years and enjoy it) but I wasn't completely sure what was behind the Moms Meet name.

In my campaign signing frenzy, I won a trip to the 1st annual WOW Summit, hosted by Moms Meet in Philadelphia, PA.  Allan and I decided to make it a fun little family trip.  When we did our October budget, I wasn't sure we could pull it all off, but the Moms Meet people went above and beyond to make sure we could get there.

We started the 5.5 hour drive from our current residence in Northern New York on Sunday morning and got to the Sheraton in Philly in time to be the first ones at registration.  That worked out well because it gave us time to settle the brood in before I went down to the cocktail reception.  At check-in I got my name tag and bag for collecting goodies. 

The Sheraton in downtown Philadelphia is gorgeous.  The kids were quite impressed with the place, (as were we!)  We were, however very surprised by the valet charge.  Not that we would expect a hotel not to charge for valet service, but there are literally NO other overnight options for parking near the hotel.  So if you ever go, know that you will pay for parking and if you have a "big" vehicle (like a '96 Chevy Suburban, haha) you will pay extra.  As the kids and I travel this coming year, we will be sure to ask that before we reserve any rooms from now on.
 Our room had a great view of the bridge to New Jersey and some of the boats on the river.  At 4 stories, there aren't many other places taller in the area, so we got a great panoramic view.
At 6:30 I headed down to check out the cocktail reception in the hotel's restaurant.  They had a mashed potato bar set up for us Mom Ambassadors and some Applegate finger foods (all-natural deli meats and cheeses).  I wasn't sure what was gluten-free, so I stuck to the potatoes, which were super-tasty.

Zevia was a big sponsor for the Summit, so the cocktail party featured some of their "Zero Calorie Soda" in mixed drinks.  Not being a big drinker, I ordered the non-alcoholic Pinapple Upside Down Cake drink (cream soda and pineapple juice).  It was pretty good!  I have seen Zevia at our local Target before and have wanted to try it for a while, but to be honest, when something says "Zero Calorie" I tend to steer clear.  I learned a lot more about the company and product at the Summit, and I must say I am impressed.  I am hoping to talk to them some more about possibly doing a review soon, so keep your eye out.

I didn't know anyone and everyone seemed to be sticking to those they knew that evening, so I went back to my room early and wondered if I had made the right choice in coming.  Allan and I took the kids out for a drive around downtown Philadelphia (such an amazing place full of so much history!) and crossed the "big blue bridge" at their insistence.
It's free to cross into New Jersey, but you have to pay 5.00 to get back.  I think it's because New Jersey's gas is 30 cents cheaper than Pennsylvania.  haha  It was well worth it, though, we really enjoyed the drive and the view.  (and no, it doesn't seem my children ever get sick of driving around...they were made for this roadschooling stuff)

The next morning I was up bright and early and got to enjoy a breakfast with the fam before the Summit started.  Despite my reservations the night before, I was quickly proven wrong.  The WOW Summit had a lot of really fun speakers and as the day went on, I was more and more excited to be a part of this group of people.  Maxine Wolf is the CEO of MayMedia and kiwi, who is the umbrella over Moms Meet.  After hearing her speak and tell about her vision for the group, I feel the same way about being a Mom Ambassador as I do about being affiliated with Hail Merry.  Where there is a group of women focused on green-parenting without guilt I want to be!  Maxine is so laid back and kind and smart, as are the women she has surrounded herself with while building these different organizations, groups, whatever you'd like to call them.  I wish I had gotten a picture of her, but I was too busy writing notes and being excited about all I was learning.

 There were tons of giveaways at the Summit and the vendor room was packed with lots of goodies and product samples.  I wondered if the freebies would be the highlight of the summit, but they were certainly not.  I think I most enjoyed getting to know the faces behind kiwi and Moms Meet, (including the other Mom Ambassadors)
The vendor room was a lot of fun

But the speakers and workshops were a close 2nd to the new connections and networking that was done.  We got to hear from professionals (including a pediatrician and psychiatrist) who believe in the holistic approach to raising children.  This fits so well with our family's philosophy...those of you who have been around our blog for a while know that our son has had a lot of health issues that have required surgeries.  The last 2 surgeries saved his life, and we are far from anti-modern medicine, but we choose to do things as naturally as possible unless it is absolutely imperative that we resort to the medical field.  So can I just say that everything I learned about kiwi and Moms Meet made me that much more excited to be on board with them!?  No green-guilt, no holier-than-thou attitudes, just a lot of moms who want to know better and do better for their families.  SCORE!  These are my peeps, y'all!
Dr Drew Ramsey (psychiatrist) discussing the importance of a plant-based diet for good mental health
Allan and the kids managed to find some fun things to do after we all enjoyed a gluten-free lunch in Old-Town Philadelphia together.  
Independence Hall-currently closed to the public thanks to the gov't shutdown, but still pretty cool to see and getting caught in the rain was a big bonus for the littles
 Of course they had to learn the history of the city...what kind of roadschoolers would we be if we just locked them up in the room to watch TV?  (Okay, so there was plenty of that, too...it's all about flexibility, right?)

After our day of learning and sampling, there was a banquet for us with live music.  I was very impressed with the server who went out of her way to be sure my food needs were met (gluten free eating out is sometimes a huge bummer, I had actually been glutened at lunch earlier and not excited at the prospect of hurtingx2) I was also impressed with the band and most of all, I was impressed with the group of amazingly fun women I get to be a part of!

Oh my yum!  This was fab.
The server went out of her way to get me a separate GF desssert.  That's service!

I was sad when it was all over, but so happy to come home and implement some changes here on the blog that will help us be more interactive and useful for you.  (I'm still looking for a good web designer that isn't too expensive if y'all have any suggestions!)  I am always open for suggestions from you, so feel free to leave me a note about what you'd like to see from me in the future.  I have some ideas already about a cost comparison from our traditional living vs. on the road (thanks Heather!) 

I'm also excited to get in on some sampling campaigns and reviews.  Here's my plug...if you'd like to be a part of the Moms Meet community, (it's FREE and you get an excuse to share awesome products with your friends!) just click on THIS LINK and sign up.  I'll get 100 "points" for referring you and you'll be a part of a really neat group of ladies.

So to put a nice little bow on it all and say the same thing for the 25th time, I am so glad to have had the opportunity to get to know this group and I am looking forward to being a part of next year's Summit.

Of course, coming home with loads of goodies is always great, too! ;)