Cultural Summaries for the ’00s & ’90’s?

So as I was taking my car to get an oil change the other day, American Pie by Don McLean came on. I cranked it.

As I was riding home with my husband, and pondered the song, it occurred to me that song summarizes many cultural happenings from the 60’s into the early 70’s. Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire does something similar for the 50’s through the 80’s

In the early 90’s I made the switch to country music. Pop music was dominated by rap, techno and electronic music. I still wanted some guitar and harmonies in my music. Now that I have kids, I’m back listening to pop radio at least part of the time. Some of it is awful, some of it isn’t half bad (Fun., Pink to name a few).

I was wondering are there any songs that chronicle culture from the 90’s and the ’00’s?

Come on people help me out here.

 

Eating Allergen Free – Buffalo Wild Wings

Fish is now living gluten free, dairy free and egg free. Sounds easy right? Just don’t eat foods with gluten, dairy or egg in them right? Yep, that’s it. *Snort* if it were only that easy.

Seven years ago, we discovered that A-Man’s migraines were caused by maltodextrin, a thickener, I started reading labels and stopped purchasing about half of the convenience foods normally in my pantry. I learned how to make home made versions of dips, crispy coatings and gravies and other processed foods I’d come to rely on. I knew from my previous label reading experience, in removing all of Fish’s trigger’s from her diet would be no picnic, but I honestly had no idea how complex it would be.  Most labels don’t say “contains gluten”.  Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s book The G-Free Diet has 12 pages of information about ingredients that can contain gluten.  Some labels say “gluten free”, but then I have to look for dairy and eggs and their derivatives. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are many more gluten free foods in the grocery store than there were even 5 years ago, but you still have be very careful especially with multiple sensitivities. Many people were quick to point out that Udi’s makes the best gluten free bread, but their breads contain egg whites, so they aren’t an option for Fish. The same is true for a number of GF pastas. I read every label and I try to remember to read them every time I shop (manufacturing practices can change quickly).

I can honestly say that eating out and quick meals have been the hardest part of this whole process. It’s one thing to stand in a store and read a label and be able to make a judgement about the safety of the food with regards to your child’s allergies, but it is entirely another to rely on a perfect stranger who has limited knowledge what goes in to the food he or she serves and doesn’t really understand the consequences. Then there’s cross-contamination, when a “clean” food comes in contact with an allergen during preparation. For example when french fries are cooked in the same oil as breaded onion rings or chicken nuggets. It’s enough to make you never eat out again. Oh, but some nights, some nights, eating out is the only option.

Recently we ate at Buffalo Wild Wings. I had heard they had a number of allergy friendly options on their menu. One had just opened nearby and the kids had been nagging me to go. We don’t have that many restaurant choices locally, so anything new is always a novelty, especially a potentially allergy friendly option.

When we sat down Fish immediately notified the server of her allergies and asked if they had a gluten free menu (it’s the easiest place to start). The server said she’d be right back. When she returned, she brought with her 5 lamented sheets of paper. Every menu item was listed along with a complete ingredient list. There was a also grid that listed each menu item and which of the most common allergens it contained. I was floored. This meant we could also determine if any of the sauces would trigger a migraine for A-Man (best as I could tell, none would). If only it was always that easy!

5 laminated pages of allergy information at Buffalo Wild Wings

It was small print (hey you can’t have EVERYTHING), but we poured over the sheets until Fish identified some wings that sounded good and were allergy free for her. She loved it and it was nice to watch her relax and enjoy the meal. Mim ordered his standard grilled cheese and fries and I had a combo platter with cole slaw and fries.

I’ll be straight with you, this is not gourmet cuisine, but it was decent and reasonably priced. I would make different choices next time, (I didn’t realize the boneless wings were breaded and deep fried. DOH!) but I’d go back for the allergy friendly environment alone. I wish more restaurants would follow their lead.

Have you found any restaurants that handle food allergies well?

Showing My Age

I love live concerts (I’ve just learned to bring my ear plugs). I was a teenager when I went to my first show, REO Speedwagon at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Concerts were the only time I wished I smoked. I loved it when everybody held their lighter in the air and we sang and swayed a long to the music.

Times have changed, smoking is no longer allowed in public places and fewer and fewer people carry lighters. Last week I went to see Miranda Lamber, Dierks Bentley and Lee Brice. As a side note, it was an AMAZING show, but that’s not what this blog post is about. During his set, Dierks yells out “Come on New Hampshire light up those cell phones!” Yes, yes indeed, times have changed.

I’ll always be a little nostalgic though.

A picture of the Virtual Zippo Lighter App on my iPhone

Maple Sugaring

Have you ever had maple syrup? No, not that artificially flavored and colored corn syrup you buy at the grocery store, I mean REAL maple syrup.

A three pane collage, the "Sap Cow" (patent pending) used to collect from the individual trees, off loading the sap for transportation to the boiler, close up of sap pouring into buckets

If you stand in front of the super market shelves and see the price difference between manufactured goo and real maple syrup, the temptation might be to reach for the goo. I beg of you, resist. There is a difference and it IS worth it.

A three panel collage the wood pile necessary to fule the fire. The homemade maple sugaring stove, Adding more sap for a consistent boil

Our neighbors have made maple syrup for a few years and this year, we (*ahem*, A-Man), got in on the action. Making maple syrup is very time consuming and mother nature has to cooperate for the operation to work well. The process actually starts in the fall, when you traipse around the woods tagging maple trees. Once the leaves fall off, it’s hard to tell the maples from other indigenous species. 

When the daytime temperatures start to climb out of the twenties, and the night temperatures still dip below freezing, then, it’s time to tap the trees to collect the sap. A good sap year has a few weeks of daytime temperatures in the high 30’s or low 40’s and night time temperatures below freezing. Once you have a good quantity of sap collected, it’s time to boil it down to make syrup.

A three pane collage the sap pan in the dark of nigh, finishing the boil on the stove, the final product

Sounds relatively straight forward, why then is Maple syrup so expensive? It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap and approximately 12-14 hours to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. The first boil of the season was yesterday. They started at around 7am and by 9pm they’d managed to make just about a gallon of syrup.

Oh, but what a heavenly nectar it is!

A waffle drizzle with the results of the process.

Note to A-Man: What I wasn’t able to collect with the waffle, I used my finger to wipe up.  Not a drop was wasted in the creation of this blog post. 

Bouncing Off The Walls, Literally – Sky Zone

It’s February vacation around these parts.  A whole week off from school.  Oh, yay. I mean OH! YAY!

Mim mid-air at Sky ZoneWe had no grand travel plans for this week. So that meant a week of little trips here and there in an effort to stave off cabin fever. In my research of new, exciting and reasonably priced adventures, I found a place where they could literally bounce off the walls.

Sky Zone is an indoor trampoline park with independently owned locations around the country.  Our closest location is an hour and twenty minutes away.  The trip was originally scheduled to coincide with a visit with family, but when the plans fell apart, I had already let the cat out of the bag, so we went anyway.  I can honestly say it was totally worth the trip.

This location has 5 courts, a kids area for those under 40”, two dodgeball courts (during our visit one was for big kids and one was for little kids), Foam Zone, where you bounce from trampolines into a huge pit of 3-D foam shapes, and an Open Court where everyone bounces in their own trampoline rectangle . At 48” Mim was tall enough to bounce with the big kids, but they still divide jumpers by size, so while I could see him and jump next to him, he was on different side of the court. We were separated a open mesh curtain.  This didn’t phase him in the least, but some kids might not be so happy with this arrangement.  

Fish bouncing into the Foam ZoneSince we’d traveled a bit, we opted to bounce for 90 minutes at a cost of $16 per person. As much fun as we had, 90 minutes was a little too long. Mim loved dodge ball even though by his own admission he wasn’t very good at it.  Fish & I alternated between the Open Court and the Foam Zone.  She tried Dodge Ball a few times, but her teammates were bigger, faster and more competitive.

The facility was clean and well staffed.  Before bouncing, you must have a waiver signed by a parent or guardian and you must meet with a staff member to go over the rules.  There are court monitors at ever court and they kept things under control without harshing the groove.

You are not allowed to bring in any food from the outside, but they have water and healthy snacks available at relatively reasonable prices. We all had a blast and will definitely head back again.  For locations and details, visit the Sky Zone web site.

This review was not requested nor was I compensated in any way. The words and opinions are my own.

Live Free or Feel Like Crap

'allergies?' photo (c) 2009, miheco - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ Almost 3 years ago *shudder* Fish started to complain that she wasn’t feeling well when she ate. She felt nauseous and was having some difficulty swallowing. At first it seemed this only happened when we were eating something she didn’t want to eat. She’s always been a selective *ahem* eater, but this was pushing it. She was also beginning to have trouble with dairy. Lactose intolerance runs in my husband’s family, so this issue wasn’t a total shock.

We started buying Lactaid, but after six months she was still complaining, even if there was no dairy in the meal, so it was off to the doctor. The first idea was acid reflux, after 3 months on otc medications, there was no improvement. Time to up the stakes and make a trip to a pediatric gastroenterologist. You have to be a special person to talk about poop with kids and actually get more than giggles. Dr. Anthony Repucci is that person. Let’s face it burps, poop and tummy troubles are the stuff that giggle fits are made of. Dr. Repucci owns his profession. He’s great with the kids and reassuring and explanatory with parents. If we had to go down this road, I’m really glad we got to go with him.

After more than a year of office visits, medications and testing, including an endoscopy, a swallow study and an MRI, we still didn’t have a distinct cause for the problem and she was still in pain. The next step was an off label use for a long term medication.

'Gluten Free tag at New World' photo (c) 2007, Aidan - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ I’m not against medications, but I felt we hadn’t exhausted all of our investigative options. It seemed like Dr. Repucci had exhausted all of his diagnostic tools, but I felt there was still more learning to be done.

After talking to a family member who was diagnosed with food sensitivities, I decided it was time to explore that. We had nothing to loose. If we struck out on this path, the medications would still be waiting for us. I didn’t want Fish to suffer, but I really wanted to find a cause rather than just Band-Aid. Enter, Dr. Kristen O’Dell, a naturopath and physicians assistant. After an office visit and a food sensitivities panel and we had a theory. Fish showed level three sensitivities to eggs, dairy and gluten. *Facepalm*. Eggs? EGGS? Seriously EGGS?

Somewhere in the midst of this diagnostic process, the Lactaid had stopped working. As a result, she’d basically already removed dairy from her diet. Next up was removing eggs. Not a huge deal until she discovered all of the cookies and cakes she likes to make have eggs in them. Grumble, grumble grumble … until, a week passes and she’s starting to feel a little better and then another week passes and things are still improving. Hmmm, might be something to this.

Fish made the decision to drop gluten just for two weeks. I’ll be honest, I really wanted to solve the whole problem, but I was hoping it wasn’t gluten. Of course, I should be counting my blessings it wasn’t corn, but still. One week without gluten and she’s feeling better. Two weeks without gluten and bingo! We have a winner.

In the two years that we’d been exploring these issues, Mim had expanded his palette and I’d finally gotten to the point where most nights I was making one meal for everyone. *fist pump* The thought of going back to 2 different meals just made me want to cry. That’s the selfish side. The upside is that she IS, finally feeling better.

I ache for her because although food allergies are more common (a topic for ANOTHER blog post). It’s still a tough row to hoe. Until you live it, you don’t understand the complexities and the fear that accompanies food sensitivities. We’re fortunate her reactions are not anaphylactic, but no one wants to see their kid in pain.

After about three weeks, we had an incident that confirmed we were on the right path. I pack dinner when we ski, but the “treat” is an order of french fries. On this night, about an hour after eating, Fish came to me and said “I don’t feel good, I feel nauseous like I used to.” Oh crap. I knew what I prepared was allergen free so that left the french fries as the only variable. It turns out, the snack bar at the ski resort also cooks chicken nuggets and onion rings in the same grease as the french fries. Welcome to the world of cross contamination. So much to learn, but we are SUPER fortunate to have a ton of support. We’re getting better at this every day.

Dr. O’Dell feels there is a chance she’ll out grow at least some of these issues, but there is also a chance she won’t. The plan for now it is to keep her eating “clean” as much as possible. She’s done an amazing job adjusting. There are times when the limits are frustrating, and she has “cheated”, but her body reminds her why cheating is not the best idea. According to others who have followed this path, it gets easier the longer the toxic-to-you foods are out of your system.

Despite the challenges, I’m glad to finally have a diagnosis.

Do you have food sensitivities? How do you deal with them?

The Cross-Body Bag from SeamsFineKS

I admit it, I’m a bag lady. I just love bags. A bag for everything and everything in a bag is my motto. I’m always searching for the perfect purse. It has to be large enough to carry 4 pairs of glasses, a wallet (slim), a phone, some pens, a small note book a hand held telescope and it absolutely MUST have a place for me to hook my keys. I’m definitely a function over form kind of girl but show me a bag that can meet my functional needs AND look good and I’m all over it. For a long time, I was a huge Baggalini fan.  Then I found this Dakine mini backpack while traveling last year and I was in heaven. Cute but wicked functional. It didn’t get much better than that. Well that is until I found The Cross Body Bag by Dawn Shew of SeamsFineKS.

I found Dawn via an online auction organized to raise funds for Jessica from Balancing Everything. I was thrilled when I won the auction for the custom made cross body bag. As soon as then auction closed Dawn promptly got in touch with me to discuss my needs. Here’s a clip of the email I sent her.

“On a regular basis, I carry my Kindle or a notebook and 4 pairs of glasses, three of which are in an over size cases. Those three can more or less roam free in the bag. The things I perpetually chase are my iPhone, my reading glasses (typical glasses case) and my wallet (a slim item that just holds cash & credit cards). The wallet and the glasses could share a pocket.

I am not a gentle flower 🙂 I am ruff and tumble and go through life with gusto. My favorite color is purple. Blues and greens come in second and third. Red is great for contrast, but I tend to shy away from yellow and oranges. White is a color I admire from afar because inevitably I will spill my tea or accidentally smear some chocolate on it :).”

SeamsFineKS Cross Body Bag in Lilac & Chocolate

She showed me some fabric swatches and I narrowed it down to a lilac & brown combination or a dark blue. Once she told me the Lilac was outdoor weight fabric I was sold.

I love it! It holds all my necessities and is cute to boot! It’s very well made and very sturdy. The wide strap is very comfortable and since it’s adjustable, it works both cross-body and just over the shoulder.

On the left the bag full of my stuff.  On the right all of my stuff that the bag holds.
My phone was charging and my small notebook was open on the desk while I was drafting this, but they fit too!

 You can find more of Dawn’s work at http://www.etsy.com/shop/SeamsFineKS.

Note: I received no compensation for this review. Dawn donated her time and materials to help Jessica. I wanted to highlight her good deed and talk about an awesome bag.

A Life Well Lived

Not an Aunt by blood but by choice and I am honored to have been chosen.

When I think of Marie, I hear her laugh. It was loud and infectious. I think of music, she loved to sing and she organized Christmas Caroling parties. There was always music when we gathered as a family and she was notorious for trying to organize us into singing rounds. Timing was definitely not our strength  but it didn’t stop her from trying.

When I hear the cymbal part in Simon & Garfunkle’s “The Boxer”, I will think of Marie (again with the timing).  I remember sleepovers, Miracle Whip and hair curlers. The woman never met a stranger and you were always welcome at her house. The party started when Marie entered the room.

Aunt Marie, THE biggest flyer's fanThere’s an e-card floating around Facebook that says “A woman is like a tea bag, you don’t know how strong she is until you put her in hot water”.  Marie was a very strong brew. She buried those she loved dearly. Not only did she survive the pain, but she went on to start a chapter of Compassionate Friends so that others could find support when they needed it. When the chips were down and someone was facing challenges, she made a effort to bring the family together. As a child I didn’t understand, as a woman I treasure the memories. 

When I think of Marie, I think of a beautiful voice, a hearty laugh and a fierce love.  So many of us are better for having experienced that love. Rest in peace Aunt Marie.

A beautiful close up of Aunt Marie

How I Cut My Laundry in Half

'laundry' photo (c) 2009, Martijn van Exel - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ Does anyone actually “like” doing laundry? I suppose there must be someone out there who enjoys sorting, lugging, washing, drying, more sorting, and more lugging, I just know it’s not me. I’ll take a daily trip to the grocery store over weekly laundry any day.

Still, knowing how to wash and dry clothes is a skill that is required to live independently as a successful adult. I can remember getting to college and watching some of my classmates pondering the coin operated washers and dryers as though they were some of life’s greatest mysteries. Oh, the shock when they pulled blush colored socks out of the same load as the new maroon sweatshirt emblazoned with the school insignia. Oh wait, silk isn’t washable? What happened to my wool sweater?

I figure it is better for them to practice on their childhood clothes. A Star Wars shirt is replaceable at a low cost. The dry clean only blouse that goes with the interview suit not so much. Of course I hope to educate my daughter in the beauty of machine washable fabrics, but that’s another blog post. We aren’t moving to a nudest colony (can you imagine how much sun screen we’d go through?), so the kids need know how to do their own laundry.

My list if laundry directions for the kids. In October, I handed over responsibility for their laundry to them. I had a meeting on this particular day, so I left instructions and made sure Mim knew that he was to be as equally active in this chore as his sister.

It’s been a few weeks and a few laundry cycles and so far, things appear to be going well. They sort their clothes and then alternate who is responsible for which load. Teamwork for the win! I am enjoying my lighter work load and while I won’t go so far as to say they are “enjoying” their new responsibilities, the clothes are getting clean. The part about folding and PUTTING THE CLOTHES AWAY might need a little tweaking. I found a pile of clean clothes on the floor by Mim’s door this morning. *Sigh* Baby steps. Baby steps.

Eventually they’ll need to learn to iron. I may need to hire a tutor for that lesson, cuz mama don’t iron except under EXTREME duress.

Hmmm, *racks brain for ironing tutor*. Oh GRAMMMY!

What chores are your children responsible for?