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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Gluten Free Dairy Free 3 layer Cookies and Cream

Gluten Free Dairy Free layered Cookies and Cream Dessert

This is a perfect dessert for a hot summer day.  Not too sweet, light and refreshing.  Make the chocolate wafers and cream in advance and then these are super easy to put together and look fancy and impressive!  

First make the gluten free chocolate wafers from Nicole Hunn Gluten Free in a Shoestring website

Next make your whipped coconut cream.   I use 2 cans of tai kitchen coconut milk that has been in the back of my fridge.  Carefully take out without shaking or jostling, open and scoop out the thick cream that has seperated from the water.  Save the water in a mason jar to add to smoothies, homemade juice recipes or to drink by itself. Whipped the coconut cream on high speed while adding 2 TBSP powdered sugar and a tsp vanilla.  Taste and add more powder sugar if Desiree but I really don't add much, just enough to slightly cut the strong coconut flavor with a hint if sweetness.  Refrigerate the whipped coconut cream.

To assemble, it's pretty simple. Cookie, spoonful of whipped coconut cream, cookie, spoonful of whipped coconut cream, cookie topped with a smaller dollop of whipped coconut cream.  Then if Desired, add a splash of color with 1-3 ripe raspberries or blackberries etc.  cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.  
Soo good I could eat these all day.  Low on sweet, light and refreshing...yum yum yum! The dark cocoa cookie, the whipped coconut cream with its barely sweet cool creamy coconutty the really gluten free and dairy free?!?!  Yes...yes it is!  Hope you enjoy as much as I do...

Monday, June 8, 2015

Gluten Free Dairy Free Strawberry Trifle

There's nothing like fresh strawberries, whipped cream and some pound cake for a light, refreshing scrumptious summer dessert!  I made gluten free dairy free triffle to bring to a BBQ this past weekend and it was....eyelid flippin' good and easy to make ahead of time.

Gluten Free Dairy Free Strawberry Triffle with Coconut Whipped Cream

1 loaf pound cake (I used the recipe from gluten free on a shoestring and used a blend of earth balance buttery spread, organic palm shortening and coconut oil Bc I was low on all those things but all together had just enough to replace the butter in the recipe)

4 cans Tai Kitchen coconut milk 
Powdered sugar

Package of strawberries

At least the day before I put the cans of coconut milk in the back of the fridge to seperate the cream from the water.  
I also made the gluten free pound cake the day before. 

When ready to assemble, open your cans of coconut milk and scoop the thick coconut cream out into an electric mixer and save the coconut water for smoothies or to just drink.  With the whisk attachment, whip the coconut cream in high speed until fluffy, add a tsp vanilla (a splash I didnt exactly measure) and then slowly add a couple Tablespoons of powdered sugar.  You don't need very much, just taste and add a bit then taste and add a bit until it's slightly sweetened.  

Slice your gluten free pound cake into 1 inch cubes 

In a glass serving bowl add a layer of pound cake.  Then spoon on a layer of coconut whipped cream and top with sliced strawberries.



Cover with plastic wrap and keep chilled in fridge and ENJOY!!!!

Monday, June 1, 2015

DIY Mermaid Tail with Monofin

DIY Swimable Mermaid Tail with Monofin 
Under $12!!!

Last year when we were in FL with my husband for work, the kids and I were perusing some of the shops in Destin and this one fun children's boutique had these super cool swimable mermaid daughter and I both were excited when we saw them...until we saw the price.  The tails were well over $100 and since having my 3rd haven't really been interested in any sewing. But recently my daughter found a video tutorial on YouTube by Aprils Life and made me watch it and when I did I thought, ok that's AWESOME!!! But...jigsaw? Plexiglass? That black material over the plexiglass Monofin with the little cuffs for the feet to go through?  It was a great way to do it and the finished product looked very professional but more work that I was up for.  Then I saw another video and started to realize how simple it could be.  So I used inspiration from both those videos to construct our first swimable mermaid tail with a monofin.  First I had to hunt in my basement for something that would make good fin material and came across this cracked sterilite storage container lid we didn't need and decided it would work. I drew out a fin template and traced it onto the lid.  

(I think the pictures explain it pretty well so just scroll through a couple times to get the idea)

Carefully cut it out with a box cutter utility knife.  Be careful doing this and always cut away from yourself and go slow.

Lay your mermaid to be on a large piece of paper and trace around her waist legs and feet to make a pattern.

Cut it out

Get out your stretchy swimsuit type fabric Lycra/spandex.  I had 1 1/4 yards.

Fold in half with right sides together and wrong side facing out.  Make sure the stretch in the fabric is going horizontally to your fabric is folded the way it came off the bolt so you really just need to lay it out and make sure it's flat.

Cut around your pattern 

Line fin up and cut around the fin

Then take the fin you just cut out and flip it over and use that as template to cut out another set of fins.  You will have 4 fin pieces. 

Take a sheet of crafts foam and trace the front 3/4 of your child's (or yours if it's for you) feet and cut it out.

Then on another sheet of craft foam, cut out a larger version as picture below.

Place the smaller piece on fin and have child place their feet on it.  Then place the larger foam piece over top and figure out the placement and where you will glue it so it create a pouch for their feet.

Use glue gun and glue on the smaller black foam near the top...and follow the pictures as follows, it's very simple.

I cut out an extra little piece to cover that little bit if plastic that was poking out the top.  This wasn't completely thought through I was experimenting as I went.

When you glue on the top piece make sure it's popping up a bit so it's not too tight and easy to slip feet in and out. 
This would count as the "handicrafts" portion of a Charlotte Mason-ish education, working alongside me, helping with the parts she can.  Here we pinned all along both long sides of the tail leaving the top and bottom open.

Pin your mermaid tail fin together all the way around leaving the top open and repeat on the other fun set.

Sew around the edges, if you don't have a serger (if I did this would have been soo much easier) go SLOW.  At first it kept slipping but I finally found the right tension and got it to work.  I also went back over all my seams with a zigzag stitch.

Flip your tail find right side out.libe them up with the bottom of your tail like pictures below.  I folded in the bottom of my tail to create a point and pinned in place.

Then opened it up

And did the same thing in the other side with the other mermaid tail fin.

Then I sewed along the folder edge of the tail, with fabric lined up right with right edge if presser foot and the needle set to the right (I'm not a professional seamstress I don't know the right lingo)

Should look like this...

Then sew other fun on the same it should look like this

Line up the mermaid tail fins as best you can and pin the edges's OZk to fudge it if you need to.
Straight stitch down both sides of tail (when you get to the tail switch it to R side stitch to get a little closer to the edge and stitch around tail leaving a good amount of the bottom open for taking the Monofin in and out). After you can reinforce with a zigzag stitch down the sides and then stop at the fin.  Unless you have a serger than you don't have to worry.

Showing how I only sewed the fin together a couple inches on the bottom of each corner leaving most of it open.

Nowf flip that mermaid tail right side out and insert the monofin and have your mermaid try it on and check everything.  It felt tight to her at first in her feet but the fabric has loosened a but but also she just wasn't used to the feeling of the mermaid tail.  Ours had a lot if extra length at the top, enough she can pull it up to her underarms for a full body mermaid tail or she can just have it more bunched up around her waist like in the photo below and not pulled up all the way.  This tail is fitted do well and with the stretch fabric I really didn't feel the need to add an elastic waistband or drawstring so we just left it the way it was ...I didn't even good the top over to hem because it looks fine as is and functions fine as is.  We tried it out at the lake the next day and at a friends pool today and she has had lots of fun swimming with it. Also it is nice having the bottom open to easily get the fun in and out to help get sand out and also if she needs help getting her feet in I can reach in there to help guide her feet in.  And I like the idea that if the craft foam ever rips I can easily access it and repair it.

Made a couple more and used a ball point needle and had no issues with the fabric slipping and skipping stitches.  These are a couple of pics I posted to Instagram as part of #thelittlestmermaid challenge doing Acro yoga with the kids :). We love this my mom used to do this with us as kids but we didn't call it a to yoga we just called it an airplane ride ;)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Frozen Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Balls

My Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Recipe variation!  My family loves granola bars.  I started making homemade granola bars after my first was born and became addicted to having something healthy, filling and easy always on hand, especially in those first 2 years of motherhood when my thyroid which was hypo since I was 15 turned for the worse which I later found out was Hashimotos probably following Post Partum Thyroiditis.  (The endocrinologist I saw at that time only tried to give me a heavy duty anti depressant when I asked her if my symptoms were related to my thyroid, she laughed, said no gave me the prescription and I asked if that medication would be bad for my daughter whom was still nursing and she said "oh, she's starting to get active and mobile so if anything it will be good for her too...if she gets any from your breastmilk it will just help her be more calm."  Thank goodness for a caring pharmacist who was friendly at our neighborhood pharmacy.  He knew me from when I would pick up my levothyroxine and when I brought him that prescription he looked alarmed and cautiously commented "this is a pretty serious medication for major depression, what was this prescribed for? You just don't seem like....well...." I said I had checked off the box on my questionair about getting anxious and that I thought it was my thyroid because it wasn't always but I was getting anxiety attacks from time to time.  I could see how conflicted he looked and like he had a lot he wanted to say but had to be careful what he did say..,.do after some facial contortions he said "here's the prescription but do yourself a favor.  Don't take it until you read about ALL the side effects and decide if it really makes sense for you and if the benefits will outweigh the risks and side effects."  Well I wasn't even halfway through the known common side effects when I realized the side effects were worse than dealing with periodic anxiety.  I later moved and found a new endocrinologist who said at that time I was suffering Post Partum Thyroiditis and that my tiny dose of levothyroxine was equivalent to taking M&Ms and he named every symptom I had dealt with (including the periodic anxiety) like he was reading my mind! I didn't even have to explain.  He knew his stuff.  Anyways....all that to homemade granola bars were essential to me back then...when you're feeling so fatigued all the time it's hard to take care of yourself.  When your energy is that low, EVERYTHING feels exhausting, even making a sandwich so being able to make a tray of granola bars that I could eat off for the week was so awesome.  When we went gluten free this recipe hardly changed, I used gluten free oats, flax seed or puffed millet instead if wheat germ, rice chex instead of Cheerios...and either the Giradelli or Costco chocolate chips that are not made with dairy.  

When we were living in Dallas, our apartment would be really hot in the summer and I was making a batch of these granola bars and was loathing the idea of turning the oven on when I had an idea to just use a cookie scoop and plop scoops of dough on a tray and freeze them.  Like those Oris Spunkmier cookie dough plops I would sneak and eat from my mom's freezer!  Well, we all became obsessed!  So now that is what we do, regular granola bars in the cool months and cold granola bar balls/bites in the hotter months.  

I make this recipe so frequently now I don't measure the peanut butter so they are a little different every time but the recipe is essentially this:

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

1-1 1/2 cups natural peanut butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple sauce/coconut oil or other oil you have
1/2 cup raw honey
2 tsp pure vanilla 
3 cups gluten free oats (I get Bobs Red Mill on amazon subscribe and save)
1 cup puffed millet 
1/2 cup rice chex 
3/4 cups chocolate chips

You can also add in ground flax, ground almonds etc.... It's a great recipe to play around with to get the flavor and consistency you like.  My consistency also changes depending on if it's the top half if the peanut butter jar or bottom half! Lol!  I try to stir it good but doesn't matter it's always runny on top and dry in the bottom.  

Then either roll into bite size balls or use a cookie scoop and place on a parchment lined baking sheet or plate, cover with plastic wrap and freeze (or if you have a big Tupperware container that would work) the parchment paper keeps them from freezing into the tray and then you have to pry them off and it's annoying to do that.

Then.... Enjoy!  

I didn't plan to have that whole story to post a recipe but it is part of the story.  And as another side note, after going gluten free and dairy free, my endocrinologist had passed away and I moved again and had a new dr.  They tested my antibodies and said I didn't have hashimotos...although before I did.  It was weird and no one really thought about it but I now think that maybe I don't have antibodies because my body was healing from the gluten and dairy.  Celiac and autoimmune disease run in my family and although I never got tested for celiac, I react to gluten the same as my sister who is celiac.  At that time I had learned the tests weren't totally reliable and I just decided to test by elimination instead.  I had also read somewhere in my thyroid research that the cellular structure of gluten is very similar to that of our thyroid so if our body is reacting to gluten, it could cause an autoimmune attack on the thyroid.  

Fast forward 4 years later after going gluten free and 5 years dairy free, I feel better than I ever have in my life.  Even as a teenager I was exhausted, tired and never could get enough sleep.  Teachers hated me because I couldn't hardly keep my eyes open or sit up straight and showed up barely on time looking disheveled...I was just quiet and tired all the time!  Teachers took it personally even my art teacher didn't like me Bc I guess they thought it was an attitude problem but I was just suffering and not really understanding it.  The teacher of my best subject said to me as I walked in class one day "How do your parents even love you!" Rolled her eyes and walked away...

Anyways, now...having changed my diet over the last few years I can look back and see the difference in how unhealthy I always was and the slow recovery I've made in the past 4-5 years.  The only major noticeable difference right away going off gluten was my joint pain stopped, I thought I had fibromyalgia because I had pain every day and always somewhere  new, each day I'd wake up and some random part of my body would just hurt all day.  I also couldn't braid my daughters hair and it was becoming more and more painful to open small containers or unscrew anything.  My fingers would lock up and throb.  That all stopped pretty quickly after gong completely gluten free.  But the thyroid health I can now say is so much better too!  I was diagnosed with Hashimotos before I changed my diet now I never have antibodies in my blood work anymore so technically I don't have hashimotos now....although I was told once you have it you have it forever so maybe it could flare up again...all I know is since being off gluten 100% for a time I no longer have thyroid antibodies and currently haven't been on any thyroid medication for probably 2 years. I was on a VERY high dose of thyroid medication, But I started getting symptoms of hyperthyroidism and had to keep cutting back more and more to avoid those hyper the point where I couldn't even have a sliver of a dose without feeling irritated, racing heart and I just stopped taking it all together and have continued to feel good and have my lab work look good. Lab work is great but at the end of the day it's how you feel that matters.  I know lab work can look fine and a person can be suffering greatly because that was me from age 15-26 taking 25 mg levothyroxine and bring told "yep your good!"

So as of now, my lab work is fine but most importantly I feel my best and I'm realizing that is a few years into my diet changes and my body has had time to heal.  Now I'm still a mom with a toddler I still have tired days and I'm not some energizer bunny person, I have a chill personality.  I do notice though that I can have flareups if I'm not eating properly or managing stress well or putting too much on my plate...but for now, as long as I'm not eating too much sugar and balancing out carbs with protein, not saying yes to everything and running around too much, not worrying too much and just trying to make the moments count and be content, and teaching my kids to be content, that we don't have to have big plans all the time...we get into our own creative flow and living life at a slower pace than most, but feeling a lot healthier and balanced and I don't feel like I'm going to collapse when I have to stand in line, fall out of a chair sitting in a waiting room or like my arm might fall off from the exertion of reaching up into the cupboard to get out a glass.  I've learned and still learning to pace myself.  I'm naturally a people pleaser but I feel like just learning NOT to be that...has helped my health so much too along with being off gluten and dairy.  I don't have a perfectly healthy diet, I'm not a nutritionist, I eat potatoes and hamburgers and even though I looked into the vegan lifestyle when I went dairy free since I never really enjoyed being more in tune with my body I actually thrive on red meat particularly and feel my best when I'm eating it regularly over chicken/turkey.  So our gluten free dinners consist of normal meals like hamburgers and homemade french fries, tacos with either ground beef or pulled pork, pasta with ground beef and sometimes also some ground pork, fried rice with chicken and easy vegetarian nights we do a big sheet of roasted veggies like red potatoes, peppers, onions, broccoli wtc depending on what we have on hand and season it and just eat a huge plate full iof that.  We're a family with young kids, and easy go to dinners we all like and repeat those a lot and then try new things when we are up for it and have the time but between those staples and having these granola bars around has made being gluten free and dairy free so much easier without feeling like we're starving or spending tons of money or going over the top with effort because as you can now see, I didn't have the energy for things that required too much effort when we first changed our diet.

These Chocolate Chip Granola Bars are quick and easy to whip up and everyone likes them, whether you are gluten free or not, it's a great staple to have on hand. Even for an easy filling on the go breakfast, lunch or snack.  

Friday, May 15, 2015

Charlotte Mason Nature Study - Garden

We had a wonderful day at a beautiful, large and boutique-y garden center for our Charlotte Mason Nature Study today.  I adore garden centers, even if it gives me more inspiration than would ever be in the's just such a happy place for me!  And all the kids in our group seemed to really enjoy it too. 

After we explored the many different areas of the nursery, we regrouped and took some time for our nature journals and we did a simple garden scene.  I try to keep the demonstrations simple because we aren't spending a TON of time on it during our meetings but the idea is to get the kids just doing it and inspired so they can do more nature journaling in their own.  

I made 2 examples for the kids.  The first example was a blend of the famous painter/scientist Carl Linneas from the 1700s who studied plants and made botanical illustrations and then would add  up close details of different parts of the plant along With the style of John Audobon and his bird paintings and adding notes and facts about the item being illustrated. The idea is to pull a plant up by the roots (if you have permission) and hold it in one hand or lay it beside your drawing page, study it and then just draw it, the same size and just have fun.  Then paint it with watercolor or use colored pencils.  After going hone you can look up the plant and find the name and some facts about it and write them down around your illustration.  I did a dandelion (although I did mine at night so I looked at a picture online lol) 

The other example was a simple watercolor landscape of a garden showing perspective.  We focused on perspective and just having fun capturing the general shapes of the plants as they get small as they get farther away, and using various shades of greens, yellows and browns.  It was very simplistic and quick but they did great.  The kids got the perspective down and had cute little garden scenes Peter Rabbit would be happy to visit.  We started making a horizon line on the top third of the page then drawing lines for our garden rows showing the perspective.  Then we drew our fence, just draw lines that go straight up along each row bigger in the front to smallest in the back.  Then I encouraged them to just have fun with the vegetation capturing a general shape rather than sorry about any details.  For the first row of what might be collards I just did swirly lumpy shapes that started smaller in the back and increased in size towards the front.  With the climbing plants maybe some pole beans? Who knows it doesn't matter...same thing...just sort of scribbled in some general plant shapes going upwards etc.  
on to the watercolor, first did a wash for the sky wet on wet, then did a brown wash on the lower section for the ground.  Let that dry quickly and then quickly just threw some color on our plant shapes, again nothing fancy just capturing the general shape and adding maybe a little variety of shades mixing in some yellow, various greens, and maybe a hint of is very simple and easy for young kids to create a simple watercolor garden scene for their nature notebooks.  

Here were a couple great books the kids were looking at during our Charlotte Mason nature time