Wednesday, December 19, 2012

a holiday mad lib

Do this section first, without looking at the second part. Fill in the blanks with the words called for. Then, using the words you have selected, fill in the corresponding blanks on the story page.

Please send us your complete mad lib in the comments so we can see what you came up with!

Your Last Name: _________________________________________________

Verb: _______________________________________________________

Adjectives (2): ____________________   ________________________

Adverb: ____________________________________________________

Plural Noun: _________________________________________________

Time Period: _________________________________________________

Superlative: _________________________________________________

Pet: _________________________________________________________

Nouns (2): _______________________   __________________________

Form of Transportation: _______________________________________

Noun: _______________________________________________________

Verb ending with –ed: ________________________________________

Baseball Teams (2): __________________   ______________________

Number: _____________________________________________________

Relative: _____________________________________________________

Girl’s Name: __________________________________________________

Plural Noun: __________________________________________________

Foreign City: __________________________________________________

Verb ending with –ed: _________________________________________

Verbs (2): ________________________   ___________________________

Abstract Nouns (2): ___________________   _______________________

Time Period: ___________________________________________________

Adjective: _____________________________________________________

Relation: _______________________________________________________

Greetings _____________family,
                    Last Name

We want to _________ you a(n) ______________ Christmas and
                                         verb                                           adjective       

_____________ New Year! It's time for our annual end-of-the-year

 newsletter, which we know you are ______________ anticipating!

Here are some of the exciting ____________ we have experienced this
                                                    plural noun

____________! January brought a good friend and Seamus, the ________
    time period                                                                                                                              superlative          

_______ in the world. Having him here made our little ________
      pet                                                                                                                             noun   

complete! January also brought twenty-two feet of

_________, which took some getting used to! In March, we rode the

______________________ to Tokyo with our _________ Devon.
            form  of  transportation                                                                    noun   

 While there, we ____________ the city and attended the MLB exposition
                                     verb ending with -ed

game, where the ___________ stomped on the ___________. Over the
                             baseball team                                                  baseball team     

summer, we had ______ guests come to visit us, including Ben's

 _________s; Kari's old roommate, _________; and various __________
       relative                                                                   girl's name                                       plural noun  

 from North Carolina. Autumn in ___________ has been lovely, and we’ve
                                                                                      foreign city

_____________ exploring the surrounding forests and lakes. We plan to 
verb ending with -ed                                                                                                                                               

__________back to the  states for about two months next summer,

 and hope to ___________ many of you while we are there! Until then,

 we wish you____________ and ____________ this Christmas and for the
                         abstract noun                     abstract noun

upcoming ____________.
                   time period


Ben and Kari, your ___________ ____________
                                    adjective                    relation

Thursday, November 29, 2012

thankful thursdays - thanksgiving wonderfulness

Thanksgiving is always that time of year when it's easy to be thankful for the little things. All the little traditions that make everyday life so fun: the movies, the fall leaves, the decorations, the time with family, even if via Skype. The cozy blankets and the autumn smells and the Black Friday shopping and the fun! Even the stress of planning my first gluten free Thanksgiving was totally worth it! It was every bit as delicious as we were hoping it would be.

77. Beautiful Japan (Oirase)

78. Tools that save so much time as energy! This baby saved me hours of chopping today.

79. Yearly family traditions that never get old. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

a gluten-free thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was a hit!

I will admit, I was worried.

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year and I was already feeling a bit blue about the whole thing, knowing that we'd (again) be spending it away from family. So messing up my first gluten-free Thanksgiving meal was not (do you hear me? NOT) an option!

Luckily, my fretting was in vain, because it was the best Thanksgiving dinner we've had since moving away and having to learn how to cook it all myself.

On the menu:

Turkey, of course! We roasted a lovely free-range turkey, stuffed with various fruits and vegetables. It was the most moist turkey we've had in a while.

Stuffing! My mom's favorite stuffing has all the best stuff. It's got celery and carrots. It's got onions and spices. It's got pancetta (which we found for the first time since we have lived here! Someone's looking out for us!!) and Italian sausage.

The tricky part was going to be the bread. I have been trying to bake a perfect loaf of bread since I was diagnosed as a Celiac in June...and it hadn't happened yet. I've made runny bread. I've made grainy bread. I've made perfectly cooked bread that tasted like cardboard (in fact, I would have preferred the cardboard).

Luckily, I discovered Jules gluten free flour, just in time. My first loaf of her bread was so good that I thought about NOT making stuffing so I could use the bread to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Yes, I'll admit that's a bit crazy, but I haven't had a piece of GOOD bread since June! I held out, though, and the stuffing turned out to be A-MAZ-ING.

Green Bean Casserole... Some of you already know the torment that cream of mushroom soup has brought upon me this month. Luckily, I had worked out how to make it already and was able to whip up my homemade-from-scratch cream of mushroom soup for the casserole. Then, I used a recipe from another gluten free friend for the casserole itself. It was the best green bean casserole I have ever tasted! It didn't have that fake-tasting onion topping. Instead, it had real grilled onions with gluten free coating. (The recipe is at the bottom of this post if you want it! You can do whether you're sticking to an allergen-friendly diet or was that good.)

Mashed Potatoes. Thanksgiving isn't complete without mashed potatoes. There was really nothin' special about them; just plain ol' mashed potato-y goodness.

Cranberry Sauce! This year I made orange cinnamon cranberry sauce. It was surprisingly easy to make and it was fabulous. I usually don't like cranberry sauce, but I enjoyed this one. (The recipe is at the bottom.)

Pumpkin Pie and Gingersnap Ice Cream... Last week, I made homemade graham crackers for a Saturday-night-bonfire. They were great for s'mores and I used the leftovers for my pie crust. Delicious! I also saved a bit of my graham cracker/gingersnap dough to use for some ice cream to go with the pie! I used my typical vanilla ice cream recipe (recipe below) and added pumpkin pie spice to give it a nice flavor. Then, as it was churning, I added ribbons of the gingersnap dough. Oh goodness, the pie and ice cream together were a bit of Thanksgiving heaven!

So, we made it through our first gluten-free Thanksgiving, and will reap the benefits of not having to cook for the next several days!


Green Bean Casserole, courtesy of Angela Glunt, my Thanksgiving hero!

**I substituted some Oikos greek yogurt in place of the sour cream since I have issues with lactose. I also used lactose free Kraft Mozzarella and vegan buttery spread instead of real butter.**

Casserole Ingredients: 

1 large bag of frozen green beans. (NEVER used canned!)
1 C. of Sour Cream
10 oz. Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (divided)
Morton Brand: Nature's Seasons to taste
1 Med. yellow onion, chopped and sauté in butter
3-4 fresh Garlic cloves or 1 Tab canned, minced and sauté with onions
4 oz jar of pimientos with liquid

Topping Ingredients: 
3-4 cups Corn or Rice Chex cereal. (I used corn and it was really good, not too overpowering.)
3 or 4 stalks Green Onions chopped
Garlic Salt with Parsley-to taste
Onion Powder- to taste
*Blend cereal and seasonings in food processor until well chopped then add onions last and pulse until blended. 

*Mix all ingredients in large bowl until everything is well coated. Put mixture into large greased casserole dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake at 365 for 30 minutes, then add Topping and continue to bake for additional 10-15 minutes.

Cranberry Orange Sauce, Courtesy of the Food Network


  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 orange, zest cut into strips and juiced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
Put all the ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve at room temperature or cool and refrigerate. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.

Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream (Note: I use an ice cream maker for this recipe!)


  • 14 oz. coconut milk (I use Goya - it's certified gluten free)
  • 1 cup almond milk or soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • Seeds of one vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

  1. Chill coconut milk and almond milk for at least a half hour prior to making. (Also, make sure you have your ice cream maker prepped.)
  2. Mix all of your ingredients in a blender and pour it into your ice cream maker.
  3. It takes about 20-25 minutes of churning, depending on your ice cream maker. 
**If you want to add toppings, wait until ice cream is about 2/3 of the way through the churning process. Then slowly add toppings to ice cream maker.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

beef stroganoff, for the win! (a cream-of-mushroom-recipe)

For about three weeks, I have been craving stroganoff. Not anything fancy, just plain ol' cream of mushroom soup with ground beef and noodles (maybe some spices thrown in for good measure).

The problem is that our commissary doesn't carry any gluten free cream of mushroom soup. So online I went, only to find how difficult of a mission this would be. Not only do I need it to be gf, but it needs to be lactose free as well. I could find one or the other, but not both. Not anywhere.

So for three weeks, I have been craving in vain. Finally I decided I would just make it myself. It couldn't be that hard, right?

Oh, when will I learn?!

I found a lovely recipe for homemade cream of mushroom soup. The only drawback is that to make it, you have to have condensed milk.

Of course, our commissary does not have lactose free condensed milk. Lactose free milk? Yep. But not condensed.

So back to the interwebs I went, to search for a recipe to make condensed milk.

Why, oh why?!

Many of my searches for condensed milk used evaporated milk or milk powder as one of the ingredients. Really, internet? In this day and age, with all the allergen-friendly food recipes out there, there isn't an easier way??

After getting over my initial rage annoyance, I began looking at how-in-the-world one makes evaporated milk.

So I evaporated, and I condensed, and I creamed. FINALLY, I had some cream of mushroom soup to put in my stroganoff!

I was seriously worried at this point that it wouldn't taste like 'real' stroganoff and that the hours of torment and hard work were all for nothing.

Luckily, I was wrong! It was delicious, and now I will forever know how to make my own cream of mushroom soup completely from scratch.

I have put both recipes here, so if you have found this post on a frantic search for gluten free/lactose free cream of mushroom soup, you won't have to look any further!

Cream of Mushroom Soup

  • One small can of mushrooms (or a handful of fresh ones), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (or to your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder 
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 8 ounces condensed milk** (see below for substitution)
  1. Using a blender or food processor, blend all of your ingredients. Pulse until mushrooms have reached the consistency you prefer. (I like them nice and small, so I tend to pulse longer than you might want to.)
  2. Pour into a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl and microwave for two minutes. Remove from microwave and stir. Then, microwave for another minute. 

Condensed/Evaporated Milk (makes approx. 8 oz)

  • 14-16 oz milk. This can be regular milk. I used Lactaid milk to cut out the lactose. I have not yet tried this with almond or soy milk, but probably will in the future.
  1. Put milk in a saucepan on the stove and bring it to a simmer. The purpose of this is to reduce the water, thus making your milk thick and creamy. Make sure to keep the milk from boiling in order to keep it from curdling, and make sure it doesn't get scorched on the bottom of the pan.
  2. Continue simmering and stirring until milk has reduced by about half.

If you are in a hurry, I have tried out this substitution and it's worked well. Instead of using condensed/evaporated milk, use 3/4 cup of milk and 3 tablespoons of softened butter instead. (Last time, I used 3/4 cup of almond milk + 3 tablespoons of vegan buttery spread and it worked like a dream.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

bittersweet thanksgiving

Time's a rollin' and it's already that magical time of year where the leaves are changing, the snow starts to fall, and everything just seems a bit more whimsical. For anyone who doesn't know me well, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

I love that this day has evolved to mean more than it once did. I know it seems odd that we as a nation celebrate a holiday to commemorate our forefathers invading an already-inhabited land, eating their food, and then spreading diseases to the natives who were kind enough to help them.

We are more than our mere history, though, and this holiday now inspires much more. It's about family. It's about friends. It's about coming together and being truly grateful for all the blessings we have in our lives. 

In my family, it's about being together and spending the day full of parade-watching, cooking, decorating, and celebrating the holiday. There is laughter, warmth, and often the arguments that make our family what it is

I think it's one of the few things I truly miss about living in the states. Obviously, we miss our friends and families, we miss the ability to shop in stores we are used to and eat at our favorite restaurants. Missing out on some of those things is worth it when we look at the wonderful adventure we are having here in Japan. We have met amazing friends, learned about unique cultures, and have seen so many sights we only dreamed of seeing.


Thanksgiving will be kind of bittersweet for us this year, knowing that we can take part in all of our favorite traditions, but won't get to do it in the company of our families. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

what i'm loving wednesday

I've got so much to say and so very little time to get it onto the blog! With report cards and parent teacher conferences, buying a car, making and changing vacation plans, and way too many family emergencies, it seems like there just hasn't been time to step away and breathe!

So here's a quick "What I'm Loving Wednesday" post to sum up the past few weeks:

I'm loving the beginning of the holiday season and all the traditions that go with it! Halloween parties, eggies in a basket and V for Guy Fawkes Day, plans for Thanksgiving...

I'm loving Jules Gluten Free flour, which has now changed my outlook (most days) on having to live gluten free. I actually MADE PIZZA! Those of you know have followed this journey know that my mission in life for the past few months has been to make a pizza. Not just something edible, but something that I'd feed to my non-celiac friends. And, my friends, it IS possible! 

I'm loving my new (well, new-to-me) car! Just about everything in this car is efficient, and it just suits my personality to a tee.

I'm loving iMessage. The fact that so many of our family members now have iMessage is SO wonderful. Knowing I can text family and friends, despite being in a different country, is such a blessing.

And last for today, I'm loving fall. *Sigh.* The leaves and trees are so dreamy and surreal. I can't get enough of them!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

thankful thursdays - blustery bliss

The time between the summer heat and the first snow are glorious here. Autumn storms brought rainbows, hailstones, and gusts that made us break out the blankets and hot chocolate! We used the indoor time to experiment with some recipes and I FINALLY made a pizza that tasted decent!

72. Rainbow on the flight line.

73. Solace in the form of waterfalls and autumn forests on my monitors.

74. Hot apple cider and warm pajamas on a cold, blustery day.

75. Finally having a good pizza recipe! Egg and turkey sausage pizza.

76. Finally finding a car in great condition that we could afford. It should do nicely when the snow comes!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

life as a celiac

There are many things I expected when I started this gluten free journey. I expected to not eat out any longer. I expected to have to find new recipes. I expected to have to give up many of the things I was used to eating. I even expected to have to explain to everyone why I couldn't go out with them to certain places or partake in food at parties or barbecues.

Then there are the things I didn't expect. I didn't expect the weird things you find gluten in (like soy sauce, many medications, and even the glue to seal envelopes). I didn't expect the excruciating pain and other side effects that happen every single time I accidentally ingest something that contains or has touched gluten. I didn't expect that even a crumb could make me sick. And most of all, I didn't expect apathy and even antagonism in response.

As I write this, I am awake three hours after "bed time" because I can't sleep due to what feels like crunching glass in my stomach, nausea that won't let me leave the house, and other side effects I never expected wheat to have on a person. This is the reason I feel I need to write this and to let others know what Celiac's can do to a person.

A few days ago, I went to the hospital. I felt faint and dizzy and went to the Urgent Care JUST in case there was something wrong. Typically, any time I've used the hospital on the base, I've had excellent experiences. In fact, I know some of the people who work there (it's impossible to be on such a small base and not know SOMEBODY who works there...) On that particular day, though, I experienced the type of person with whom all those with severe food allergies must come into contact with eventually.

She wanted to give me a medication to help me feel better. Because I learned the hard way that many medications have gluten in them, I explained my "allergy" to her and asked her if we could check the ingredients prior to taking it. I offered to do this myself, because I have an app that lists all gluten free medications and their ingredients. All I needed was the specific brand and name. She rolled her eyes at me and left the room for a minute. She came back and then tried to give it to me again. I explained that I have an allergy to anything with gluten and that I'd be sick for about a week if I took it and it had gluten. She argued with me and then said something to the effect of "a rash isn't that bad of a side effect" and that I should just take it. She was extremely perturbed that I refused the medication until finding out what was in it.

Now, I know it's possible she was having a bad day or is just used to difficult patients and that I shouldn't take it personally...but this isn't the first time I've encountered someone who was so out of the loop when it comes to a gluten allergy. I mean, if I had told her I had a severe peanut allergy there is no way she'd have given me something that had peanuts in it, but with Celiac it was "just a rash." Unfortunately, with all the celebrities touting the "gluten free diet" people unfamiliar with the disease (even in the medical community!) believe it's not actually a disease, but just a healthy lifestyle choice. Oh, how I wish.

So I want to describe to you how being a Celiac has affected me, so that you are aware. (Keep in mind that it affects everyone differently.)

If I have even a small amount of something that has gluten (or has touched something with gluten) I usually know about it within a few hours. The first sign of being "glutened" is a panic attack. I had NEVER had a panic attack until around the time I was diagnosed with Celiac. The panic attack simulates chest pain and a huge adrenaline rush, mixed with an urgent sense of anxiety that won't go away, sometimes for several hours.

The next symptom that arrives is brain fog. At first I didn't associate this with the gluten, but after researching it I have found that most of those with Celiac also experience this. It's like my brain has been shut off. I can't remember what I'm doing, and have no ability to focus. On anything.

That usually doesn't matter a whole lot, because after the brain fog comes extreme fatigue. Fatigue that often causes me to fall asleep right then and there. Last month, I fell asleep while in the middle of eating dinner.

Then comes the pain. Nausea. Searing pain. Migraine. Heartburn. Acne. Cramping. Joint pain. Muscle pain. Stomach pain that feels akin to crunching glass. This lasts for several days, depending on how much gluten I came into contact with. Again, I know other Celiacs who have different symptoms.

I know this was probably more information than you ever wanted to read, but you probably know someone with a food allergy, whether it's Celiac or something different. Luckily, I have some amazing friends who are tolerant of the difficulties we have to work around. They aren't offended when I bring my own food to their houses, or when we have to choose "safe" restaurants. They understand if I can't go out because I got sick (which, thankfully, doesn't occur too often anymore!) Some of them even go out of their way to point out anything at the grocery store they've seen that might be gluten free!

I hope that this will help you to sympathize next time you have trouble understanding those in your life who have these lifelong food allergies, or even the next time you have to go out of your way to accommodate them.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

thankful thursdays - autumn is near

The heat is finally starting to diminish and the summer flowers are starting to fade. Autumn is almost here and we absolutely cannot wait! Also, Marce came back to visit so we had a great time traipsing around some of our favorite spots!

65. The big fluffy clouds that brought cooler weather today!

66. The first day of fall and Japan has dressed accordingly.

67. Picking up friends from the station. Marcie is here!

68. Autumn rain

69. Knowing a bit of Japanese and not feeling so helpless not knowing the language. It took a while, but I read this diagram! (It tells the distance between Hachinohe and various other locations.)

70. The relaxation and sun that can only be found at the beach.

71. Shiriyazaki picnic spots with ocean ambiance.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

thankful thursdays - summer storms

Several summer storms coming in mean that autumn is on the horizon! This time of year is perfect for bike trips and road trips! September's thanks include:

62. The last of the hydrangeas are starting to wither. Autumn is near!

63. We had rain, a rainbow, and a beautiful breeze today. It made the heat bearable for a day.

64. Finally having a Starbucks nearby! 40 minutes is way more manageable than 2.5 hours... 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

thankful thursdays - sunsets galore

I feel like I should call this "the week of the sunsets." I'm not sure if we just had spectacular sunsets this week or if they just spoke to me more than they usually do. Seeing them this past few days has helped bring me back out of the stress of the first weeks of school and back into a place of calm wonder.

School is going well. There is always chaos during the first few weeks as we struggle to instill those rules and routines with students who are coming back fresh from summer break. There are always meetings and fire drills, orientations and open houses. Usually the end of the second week is when I start breathing again, so I am happy to have made it this far without too many headaches!

56. The sky was a gorgeous orange-purple after my evening grocery shopping trip!

57: A hubby who will make a yummy dinner so I don't have to cook after a long day at work 

58. Beautiful views on the way home from work.

59. Amazing timing. I spotted this gorgeous site out the window as the epic Doctor Who (11th Doctor's song) music came on.

60. Boots: A sign of autumn soon-to-come!!

61. New pens for a new year!! ♥

Thursday, August 30, 2012

thankful thursdays - back to school

We are back to school! Not in the sense of having students, but in the sense of "having to be in a non-air-conditioned-90-degree-building-to-clean-out-a-gross-classroom-left-by-a-hoarder." It was a long, hot week, by my classroom is finally ready for the kiddos! I'm excited to meet them and to get this year going!

We've been having fun with some of the new teachers, showing them our favorite spots and restaurants around Misawa. This has been a good transition week between the relaxation of summer and getting back into the "daily grind" of the school year.

50. Beautiful view on a beautiful day with some new friends!

51. New recipes. Experimented with gluten free tomato basil and pesto muffins!

52. Beautiful flowers everywhere I look

53. Reminders of my best friend in random places..who knows how long this empty Altoids box has been mixed in with my school stuff!

54. Beautiful sunsets.

55. After a week of hard work and long days, I'm just about ready for school.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

may turns the big 3-0

I don’t even know where to begin. I could write about when we met (biology, McQueen) or when we became friends (listening to “Rockabye” on the way to and from that youth conference in Sparks, which at that point, seemed SO far away) or even the times we visited each other in Santa Barbara and Folsom and Fayetteville and Seattle. I could detail the future plans we have to visit each other in South Africa and Japan or the plans we are making for our “sisterchicks” vacation in 12 years. I could reminisce about the times we have commiserated over school and family and friends.  I could even wax poetic about all the big decisions we had to make over the years, many of them coincidentally occurring at the same time. Our “big” moves to Fayetteville and Seattle and then our even bigger moves to Misawa and Capetown. Our frequent talks on the phone about visas and customs forms and passports, where one of us calmed the other down, only to switch places the next day. Those days I thought I would collapse from the stress, only to feel better knowing that you were facing the same situation and that I wasn’t alone. Yes, I could talk about a lot of the memories I have, some ancient past and others more recent.

Instead of writing about all of those things, though, I decided instead to write about how I feel about all of those things. Despite moving all over the world, changing jobs, graduating, making and losing new friends, our friendship has been one of the few constants in my ever-changing world. I always know that even if we haven’t talked in a while, you are my best friend and sounding board and venting buddy and prayer warrior and fellow world-traveler. I know you’re only a skype call (or facebook  chat) away and that I’ll soon have a two hour conversation with you that will inadvertently make us both laugh, cry, and then laugh again at our crying.

I feel so lucky to have been a significant part of your first 30 years and am excited to continue in that role during the next 30.

Happy birthday, friend.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

thankful thursdays - summer's end

We are in the midst of that bittersweet time all teachers understand: knowing that school will start again soon. I say bittersweet because of the conflicting emotions rolling around my head! I'm so excited to start a new school year, to meet my class, to broaden my horizons and learn new strategies of teaching.


that also means the end of summer vacation. I'm never quite ready for it to end, but end it will.

We've been making the most of our last cherished moments and here are a few of the activities I'm most thankful for this week!

40. Gorgeous view at lunch. I take pictures of this lake every season, but I think it's at its most glorious during mid-summer!

41. Actually seeing someone respectable on an entertainment magazine cover. (Plus, it means Doctor Who is coming back soon!!)

42. Finding out that one of my favorite restaurants can accommodate a gluten free diet

43. Constant reminders of my mom - thinking of her every time I see a dragonfly

44. Beautiful colors and patterns. The hydrangeas are everywhere!

45. Wallflowers with smells that remind me of autumn!

46. Brewing sun tea on the porch

47. The squeals of delight from happy, playing children! We were excited to help out some friends of ours by watching their kids for the evening. We invited one of the new teachers and his family over so the kids could all play together!

48. The aftermath of four kids in a non-childproofed house. They really had a fun time! Lol

49. Lovely walk through our neighborhood