Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: Gluten Free Pizza Dough by French Meadow Bakery

Last time I was in Safeway (our grocery store) I noticed a special freezer section with several new gluten free items in it. All of them were by French Meadow Bakery, and I'd never tried any of their food before. I picked up a blueberry muffin and some of their frozen pizza dough.

Frozen Pizza Dough

The pizza dough comes in a two pack, each with their own little foil cooking tray, and they measure about 8 inches across.

Today I decided to try the pizza, and went with a standard sauce (Ragu is gluten free, and has no high fructose corn syrup), ground beef, and mozzarella cheese pizza. I cooked it for about 15 minutes at 450 degrees.

The Pizza is Cooking

It came out looking quite lovely. If you are gluten free, you'll understand how excited I was to see that crispy crusty bit. Yum! We don't get a treat like that every day!

Finished Gluten Free Pizza

The crust was good, a little soggy, but the flavor was like a wheat-laden crust. It stayed together well (sometimes gluten free items are overly crumbly), and I'm looking forward to eating the second one sometime soon. The blueberry muffin was straight up delicious; that was eaten so quickly that there are no photos to share.

The crusts ran about $6 for two, and the blueberry muffing, while small, was $2. I happened upon a couple of $1 off coupons, and used them both for this purchase. You can still get a coupon on their site, as of the time this post was written. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Zoom Friday: Zoom Goes on Vacation to Dillon Beach

This week we took Zoom to the beach for vacation. We tried out a new spot, Dillon Beach. We left on Easter after a lovely brunch with our family, and arrived at the rental house (found on VRBO) before sun down. We had lovely view of the beach and the sunset, and we felt the relaxation hit as we ate left over ham and split pea soup for dinner.

Zoom had been to the beach once before. Over Thanksgiving we visited La Selva, which is near Santa Cruz. He seemed to like it, even though he's never been a big fan of wind. Strangely, he makes little gulping noises when the wind hits him, like he's underwater. I guess he's not sure what to make of it.

He loved the beach this time, especially the sand. I love this photo, where he enthusiastically has just grabbed the sand on our second day out:


Today we found a wind break behind a sand dune and played there for a bit. He put fistfuls of sand in his mouth, destroyed the small castles we built, and even put his face down in the sand at one point on purpose. For him, everything was sheer joy. You could just see him take total delight in the new sites and sounds, the wind, and even the feeling of sand in his mouth.

He slept all the way home. I can't wait to take him to the beach again!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

View of the Bay from a Parking Lot

I was just going through some of my old photos on Flickr, and ran into these two. I used to work in San Francisco, and I'd drive in every day and park out on a pier. I loved working in the city, and I really liked being downtown.

This strange mannequin head is haunting, isn't it? I don't know why it was left on this fence, or who painted it. Off to the right is Pac Bell Park, home of the SF Giants :)

Blue Head

A different day, I really was drawn to the clean lines of these potties, all lined up and ready to be de"ported." (The puns and irony couldn't be any worse, right?) I'm pretty sure these were all out there for a fireworks show we have called Kaboom! There's some strange humor in that, really.

Happy Saturday, friends!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Zoom Friday: Lots of Laughs

This week, Zoom discovered a couple of important things. He learned to wave, and he learned to shake his head in the "no" direction. The waving thing happened last weekend, almost like something clicked for him and he realized what it meant when we were flopping our arms around and saying, "Oh, hi." He doesn't quite have control of the motion, but he's really excited about it. On Saturday he was waving at me every time I came back in the room, so cute.

He also started shaking his head no, but I'm fairly sure he has no idea what it really means. Most of the time he'll look at either Sean or I, shake his head, and start laughing. One morning, Sean caught him trying to get into a crawling position in his crib, and when he saw Sean he started shaking his head, laughing.

This week I got a video of the little gentleman laughing his butt off. I don't know what prompted me to start filming, but you can tell that he's cracking me up; whenever the camera shakes I'm also laughing, trying really hard not to snort.

Here's Zoom, doing his thing:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring Flowers: Pink Tulips

Happy Spring to you all! As you probably know, I really can't resist taking photos of flowers. Here are some of my favorite pink beauties in the spring - tulips, gerber daisies, camelias, and cherry blossoms. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday :)


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

300th Post: A Recap of Welcoming Spirit

Big LagoonThis is my 300th post, and just today I hit 50 followers! I thought there would  be no better way to celebrate the last two and a half years by looking at some of the highlights. One of my hopes in writing this blog was to find a place to write about leading retreats. I'm grateful for all of you have come along for the journey this far. :) Here are a few of my own favorite things:

My favorite posts have been those where I have shared something close to my heart with you all. Those at the top of the list for me have been:
The Breath of Life, the Wisdom of Ruah
Why I Love Softball and Growling at People
Love Holds a Mirror Up to All of Us
In the Job Description
Welcoming Music: Girl Sailor

Google lists the top visited posts on this blog as these five, and I have to say that it always makes me giggle to think lots of people are searching for the term "ugly Christmas sweaters." It's even funnier to me that it's my top viewed post, and yet, it does not have a single comment!
How to Make a Homemade Ugly Christmas Sweater
How to Plan a Retreat: Coming up With a Theme
How to Plan a Retreat: The Beginning
How to Plan a Retreat: Creating the Flyer
A Love Like That Lights Up the Whole Sky

I've made a few videos on this blog, and when I do a weekend long retreat, I really like to make a slideshow with pictures and images from the weekend. It's a little cheesey, yet these still makes me smile and think of the people who came to participate.
Oh Beauty, Ever Ancient
Spiritual Pilates

In the past two and a half years, I've led five weekend retreats and six day retreats. When I started this blog, I had just led my first weekend retreat with Father Rusty. Each time I'm asked to speak, I get giddy and nervous. And I love it.

Last year, I became the leader of the San Damiano Young Adult Ministry team after our previous leader, Kevin, "retired."

This year, San Damiano has asked me to join their Advisory Board, an invitation that humbles and delights me beyond words. San Damiano has become my second home. It is near my home town, and I feel completely at peace there. My prayer is that I can pay back to them all of the peace, love, and joy that they have given me.

I've received comments from a couple of published authors, and just thinking about them reading my words at all makes me goofball. It's like when we saw Leonardo DiCaprio at a restaurant in Malibu once. I walked past him seven times when pretending to go to the bathroom. Reaaaal smooth.

There have been almost 30,000 visitors to this blog. This also astounds me. I thank each of you that's come by and read a word, left a comment, spent a little time with me. I hope that your day was made a little brighter by your visit.

Over the next little bit, I'm hoping to do a thank you, and I'm working on a new "column" where I can share the stories of some of the people who inspire me. I'm working on the column now :)

And, while it's not officially a "Zoom Friday," I couldn't end this post of highlights without a mention of my two favorite guys. Sean is my amazing, wonderful, loving partner in this crazy world. And Zoom is my curious, hilarious, joyful baby. Here's his video debut, where he's exploring his world.

Thank you all for an amazing two and a half years! I cherish each of you!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Creating Cards to Share: A Retreat Activity

At our last retreat, "Living Joy to the Fullest," we asked the participants to think of ways that they could do things for others. We were looking to ways to focus on how our actions can impact others, and bring joy to their lives, as well as our own. Kim and I are both big fans of card making, and so we decided to have a little creative breakout session. Instead of making cards for ourselves, though, we found three worthy causes to share our cards with: The St Raymond's Eucharistic Ministers, Nana's Box, and Afiveohfouruplifting. We let the retreatants know that we'd be donating the cards to these groups. Everyone was excited to create something beautiful to share with other people, even though these were people we'd never meet!

Here's the whole set of cards we made, which I will ship out on Monday!
Cards for Charity

And some lovely details on some of our cards. The man who made this card thoughtfully placed tied ribbons on the front to go with the "connection" theme in the quote:
Card Close up

I love this message because it reminds me of my friend, Father Rusty. He likes to reflect on the metaphor of dance and relationships. In order to dance, you have to agree to lead and follow, to listen, to move together, and all of it changes every second. He likens this to the relationships we have with each other, and with God. Isn't that lovely?

Card Close up

I'm super inspired by these and it's really got my wheels churning on an idea...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Zoom Friday: A Generous Kisser

Zoom Kiss triptych In addition to being a very good sitter, Zoom is a generous kisser. It started when he was quite young (as if he's "old" now); you'd ask for a kiss and you'd get a sloppy lick on the cheek. Now, he's more into what I call a "kiss-a-thon," which generally involves a very vigorous hug, and then some good solid smooches on the cheek, or forehead, whatever's available. And there's often growling. It's a thorough experience.

Sean took this set of photos this week. In any other situation, I probably wouldn't be excited about my chins in the first frame, but I can't say I care here. I actually asked Sean to send me the photos because I don't want to forget these little moments. I know Zoom won't be this size forever, and some day he probably won't want to kiss his mama with such sincere and joyful excitement.

I'd like to think that being a mom helps remind me of what's important. Being in the moment with Zoom is important. Babies have a remarkable way of living in the now, and by doing so, they remind us that we should spend more time in the moment ourselves. Guilt of the past, worries of the future, these things just rob us of the only moment we have, which is right now.

In many ways, Zoom is much a teacher for me as he is a student. We teach each other a lot, every day. I feel like our souls knew each other, somehow, before this lifetime. I wonder if by the simple fact that he was with God more recently than I was, that he brings with him the simple reminders of what it's like to sit with the Eternal. His never ending joy, his delight in simple things, his exuberant way of showing his love, these are a connection to a bigger Love, a universal truth. His generous kisses are a gift and a reminder that each of us is loved beyond explanation and without reserve by Someone so very much bigger than any of us can comprehend. I'm grateful to have daily reminders of that Love, mirrored in the face of someone I love so very much.

Faking a Bulletin Board in the Dining Room

wall_noboardWe used to have this strange blank space in our dining room, in one of those awkward spots; large enough for a small piece of furniture, yet, the wall space has both a thermostat and a light switch on it. Every time I looked at that wall, I knew I wanted a bulletin board above that little black sideboard, but I couldn't figure out a way to hang it with those two eye sores on the wall. It bugged me for weeks. (This is an approximate "before," I won't even try to lie, this is photoshopped.)

Then I got this idea to fake a bulletin board around the thermostat and light switch. I decided to dismantle a bulletin board that used to be in our bedroom, and re-purpose it. You might remember that bulletin board from this post. The old girl cost about $15 after I DIYed it!

I drew out the basic height and width I wanted the board to be, by using the frame I had as a guide. Then I bought some cork (it comes in 12x12 inch squares) from Target, and nailed them on the wall in that space. I cut the cork to fit around the light switch and the thermostat.

light switch and thermostat

Here's what the space looked like after I'd finished with the cork. It doesn't matter that the outline is a bit messy because that is about to get covered up by the frame.

Before the frame on the Bulletin Board

I nailed a couple of nails on either side of the cork to match up with the hangers in the frame. This allows the frame to hang around the cork. See, now the messiness is all covered up!

Empty bulletin board

Once that was all done, decorated my bulletin board with a calendar and other essentials, turning this area into a little command center in this awkward space sitting right near the kitchen.

Completed bulletin board

Now our phone, mail "stuff," scissors, pens, all have a home! I got that little mail sorter at HomeGoods for about $20.00 and that cute pen holder? It's a toothbrush holder from Walmart that cost about $8. I love how it looks there, and it keeps everything handy. And, the black cupboard was a FREE "roadkill" item, it was discarded in our last apartment complex and we picked it up.

I'm so excited that I found a way to get a bulletin board into this space, and I love how the light switch and thermostat just blend in with everything else going on there.

I linked this post to:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Prayer Available Here

Awhile back, I was walking around a small town near where I grew up hoping to take some pictures for the "Blogging Your Way" Class I was taking. It was raining, and most of the shops were closed. But, I found this inviting sign in a shop window. I like to think that Someone was reminding me to stop trying so hard, and just go with the flow. After all, it seems like you find the best things when you're not really looking for them.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Gluten Intolerance Discussed in the Wall Street Journal

Some of of you who have been reading for awhile may recall that I am gluten free. I cut all wheat out of my diet about two years ago after having an myriad of strange health issues which included migraines, severe bloating, intestinal distress (along with very loud stomach noises, possibly the most embarrassing issue). I had a hunch that the symptoms were somehow related to sugar and possibly wheat, and then after doing a lot of research, I discovered something called Fructose Malabsorption. Basically, my body can't break down fructose. There's fructans in wheat, which break down to fructose, so people with Fructose Malabsorption can eat varying amounts of wheat. I cut it out entirely for about a year and now I have some once and a while.

In my research, I found that the vast majority of people who believe they have Fructose Malabsorption (sometimes referred to as Fructmal - read more about it here or here.) are self diagnosed. Most doctors I speak to have never heard of it, and even in the hospital (when I was having Zoom) there was a lot of confusion around what it meant to be gluten free - and this was with dietitians!! One day the mysteriously were giving me meals without any ... dairy... because someone got confused in the kitchen.

It's been a real delight and relief to see gluten free products go mainstream over the last year. Target carries an amazing array of gluten free foods, and even Bisquick has made a gluten free version! Let me tell you, that caused a ripple of excitement in the gluten free community :)

My Mom noticed this very cool article in the Wall Street Journal, "Clues to Gluten Sensitivity". New research has been done around people who have problems digesting gluten and they've discovered there is a distinctly different physiological response to gluten amongst those people who are intolerant. And, it's different from those with Celiac, and different from those in the "normal" population. What's even more fascinating is that they've discovered that there is also a different immune response towards gluten amongst those with a sensitivity.

Here are some of the key points of the story:
- As many as 1 in 20 Americans may have some form of gluten sensitivity.
- Common symptoms are "IBS-like stomach problems, headaches, fatigue, numbness and depression, but more than 100 symptoms have been loosely linked to gluten intake, which is why it has been so difficult to study."
- It appears that gluten sensitivity triggers an immune response where the body attacks gluten, causing inflammation, which can migrate and spread, even to the brain.
- Some people with a sensitivity may be able to tolerate small amounts of gluten.
-  The story ends in saying gluten sensitivity is a real medical issue, and people with it aren't crazy.

I find the study and its findings to ring true with what I've experienced. I had severe migraines for a couple of years before I gave up gluten, and I haven't had more than couple in the last 15 months (after I gave up gluten). I often wondered if there was a link to inflammation, as I seem to be very sensitive to it. I'm really pleased that there seems to be more research going on around the issue, and I'm super hopeful that more will be found out about gluten sensitivity.

Here's the video that goes along with the Wall Street Journal story:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Quiet Place to Rest

We had our "Living Joy to the Fullest" retreat today and it was just what I needed. After a long week, it was wonderful to find a quite place to sit and gather thoughts amongst the graceful California Live Oaks.

In Northern California, our hillsides are only green for a few weeks in the spring, and then they turn "golden" as the grasses dry in the summer. It was felt like a homecoming to take in this view of Mount Diablo. I grew up just North of here, and went to high school at the foot of his mountain.

I breathed a little easier being out in nature, seeing God's beauty every where I looked. Big, fluffy clouds looked as if they'd been painted on the sky.

Danville Hillside

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Zoom Friday: Zoom goes to Filoli with his Cousins

We recently went out to Filoli for a little family outing. It's one of my favorite places around, with lots of gorgeous flowers and a big pretty house. I will share photos of the flowers another day. Since it's Friday, it's time for Zoom pictures!

There's a big field of daffodils that come up every spring on a hill. We showed Zoom the flowers, and they were all about as tall as he is.

We went with my sister and her family. Have I mentioned that Zoom has twin cousins who are just five weeks older than he is? Yep! And he loves them! Here's a glimpse of his sheer delight at hanging out with them. He really likes to grab their hair and hug them.

It was nice spending time just soaking up the warm spring sun, and hanging out with family. Zoom really liked taking in the sights. I think in this photo, he was watching a woman do somersaults on one of the formal lawns. (and no, I'm not kidding! the warm weather was making people gleeful.)

At the very end of our afternoon we found this sweet chair near some pretty read tulips. Zoom's a good sitter and he was happy to show off his skills.


Next week, I'll have some photos of our retreat (which is on Saturday.) I hope to bring a little of the relaxing feel to share with you, here. Let me know if you have any prayer requests; I'd be happy to say a little prayer for you and your family while I'm up hanging out with the Friars. 

Happy Friday and have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Flowers: Anemones and Marguerite Daisies

Over the weekend, we went to the Farmer's Market. It was sunny, and fairly warm, and very nice outside. We stood for awhile just listening to musicians, and Zoom loved watching a juggler there. We also picked up some flowers. A small group of cut anemones are sitting on our coffee table, reminding me that Easter is just around the corner with their muted spring tones.


And, we also picked up some planted Marguerite daisies for the patio. I can't wait until these are potted so I can see them out the kitchen window in the morning!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spicing it Up! (or a Thrift Store Spice Rack Finds a New Home)

Sean and I like a good trip to Savers. It's a thrift store near us. A couple of weeks ago we made a trip to Savers and spied a spice rack.  We both knew that our spices had gotten out of control. There had to be a better way to store spices than what we had going on. Honestly, there was a state of chaos visible from the front door. Check this out:
spice rack mess

We did a little dance when we saw a new Pier One spice rack marked at $13. It didn't have any spice bottles in it, but well, any spice bottle would fit, right? We got home and found out that assumption was wrong. They didn't fit at all. I measured the diameter we'd need and found some glass spice rack bottles with white lids on Amazon for $18.50. AND, I'd just scored a Social Living discount coupon for Amazon at half off $20. So, the little bottles were down to about $10 for 16 bottles. Not too bad.

I cleaned the little rack up and then churned out some labels on my computer, using my Xyron "create-a-sticker" tool to attach the labels on each bottle. I made two of each label, placing the spice names on the lid and the side so it would be easy grab the right spice as we cook.


Now everything is all uniform, lovely, and organized. Here's the before and after of this area on the kitchen counter. Much better!


So, what kind of crafty near-disasters have you been working on at home? :)