Friday, December 30, 2011

Snackmaster Multi-Grain Crackers

Crackers are More Than Snacks

When I am at work, I like to have salads for lunch. But I also like to have some sort of carbohydrate to round out the salad. If I don't have some sort of carbs, I find that I'm hungry an hour or two later.

Crackers are the perfect solution for me. I like the crunchiness and I can usually find some that are baked. Fried chips have more fat than I need.

So, I'm always looking for a good gluten-free cracker option. Some gluten-free crackers are awful. Some are fantastic. Trial and error is the only way to find out which are which.

Multi-Grain Crackers

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gluten-Free Lemon Bars

Citrus in the Winter

My husband loves citrus. I was going to invent some oatmeal cranberry orange bars.

I was thinking of how I could use our leftover, homemade cranberry sauce. We wanted to make some oatmeal bars or cookies. We found a recipe for oatmeal and raisin bars. We could skip the raisins and use the cranberry sauce somehow instead.

But that didn't seem like enough. Cranberries and oranges go well together. Maybe that was the solution.

And it just so happened that my husband brought some canned mandarins home. Great! How about Oatmeal Cranberry Orange Bars?

Sounded great.

But we didn't make them.

Somehow, we got side tracked and we ended up making Gluten-Free Lemon Bars instead.

I'll have to create some gluten-free oatmeal and cranberry and orange bars some other time. But not now.

Gluten-Free Lemon Bars

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gluten-Free Toffee Bars

New Traditions

Traditions are great, to a point. Sometimes, I feel the need to try something new.

A couple of years ago, I was trying to decide what cookies to make for giving (and eating) at Christmastime.

I was looking for something that would be tasty and easy to bake. A full sheet of cookies was even better.

Then I found some very cute white chocolate chips that were striped, some with red and some with green. I loved them and I needed to find a good use for them. I decided on these Gluten-Free Toffee Bars, which would be a perfect way to showcase those colorful, striped chips.

Everybody loved them!

That was the last time I ever saw those cute, striped chips. Bummer. I have kept looking for them every year since. I haven't seen them.

But in the process, I ended up liking the toffee bars so much, I have made them every year since then. These Gluten-Free Toffee Bars are great, even with just plain white chocolate chips!

Time to get baking....

Gluten-Free Toffee Bars

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gluten-Free Peppermint Kiss Cookies

Festive Cookies

A couple of years ago, I was gearing up to make Christmas cookies. I went to the store looking for the particular baking goods I needed.

While looking for cookie sprinkles, I came across the most adorable, striped, white chocolate chips! They were white chocolate and striped with either red or green. Both the red-striped and green-striped white chips were mixed together in the same bag.

They were oh so cute and I used them my Gluten-Free Toffee Bars that year. They were a big hit and the colors looked great!

But since then, I have never seen those striped chips again. Not red and green on white chocolate chips.

But this year, when I went to the store, I found white chocolate and peppermint Hershey's Kisses. Striped. Red and white. They were so cute!

Please note:  Hershey's makes no guarantees about their products ever being gluten-free, since they share their equipment among ingredients.  I've often wondered about kisses, but I've never had a problem with them.  Please be careful and only consume those foods that are safe for you.

But stripes and kisses in the same package? I was dying to try them and I just knew I had to find a way to use those cute, striped kisses!

Gluten-Free Peppermint Kiss Cookies

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eating Gluten-Free at Uno's Chicago Grill

Dinner and a Movie

Actually, in this case, it was a movie and dinner. In that order.

We decided we wanted to go see the new Hugo movie. Given all the constraints we had that day and for the rest of that weekend, we struggled to find a movie time that didn't impact other things.

Finally, we settled on a time that ran into dinner time. That would really squeeze us trying to fix a dinner and force us to eat late. Not desirable.

The solution: go out to dinner.

Ah, here we go again. Where can we go that everyone else likes and I can find something safe for me to eat?

This time it was easy. Both options on the table have gluten-free menus! Hurray! And we had just eaten at one of these a few weeks before, so the choice was really made for us.

After the movie, we were going to eat at Uno's Chicago Grill.
Uno Chicago Grill on Urbanspoon

Uno's Chicago Grill

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Moor

Book Review

The Moor by Laurie R. King

I recently reviewed The Hound of the Baskervilles. And I did so because of this book: The Moor.

The Moor is the fourth book in the King series, and seeing how I have already read the first three, picking up The Moor seemed like a natural thing to do.

Which I did. And I started reading it. And it is full of references to The Hound of the Baskervilles. About a third of the way in, I decided that I had to stop reading The Moor, and go off and read The Hound.

Which I did.

Then I returned to The Moor.

The Moor

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gluten-Free Lebkuchen


Some families have traditions of some kind. Okay, so many families have traditions. Alright, alright... most families have traditions.

Many family traditions are associated with a holiday. And, gee, it just so happens that Christmas is a holiday. And, wow, would you believe it, Christmas is just around the corner.

Enter, Christmas traditions.

One of my family's Christmas traditions is Lebkuchen.

Lebkuchen is a traditional German spice cookie. My maternal grandpa loved his mother's original, brought-over-on-the-boat German Lebkuchen. When my grandma married my grandpa, he asked her to make some. But my grandma didn't like my grandpa's mother's Lebkuchen.

What is it with mothers-in-law? Oh, let's not go there.

Anyways, my grandma set about to find one that suited her and made Grandpa happy. She found one.

This is it.

And this has been made in my family for as long as I can remember and even before that. But only at Christmas time. It was always a Christmas cookie. I've never seen it, had it, or even thought of it any other time of year. This is a Christmas tradition.

Now, I'm making it gluten-free. And it is delicious as ever. Even the gluten-eaters don't find anything different about them.

I see no reason why traditions can't continue, just without the gluten.

Gluten-Free Lebkuchen

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Book Review

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle 

I was forced to pick this up and read it quickly. 

Okay, so I wasn't forced. But I did decide it was well-advised to do so.

See, I've been reading the Mary Russell series written by Laurie R. King. In this series, Mary is married to Sherlock Holmes.

My most recent reading in this series, The Moor, refers back the Baskervilles case repeatedly. Setting, family curse, and characters. The references became so many, I decided I needed to know what they were talking about.

See, I've never read "The Hound of the Baskervilles". I've read other Sherlock Holmes stories, but not "The Hound".

After getting about a third of a way into The Moor, I decided it was time that I know what the original "Hound" story was all about.

It was time. And not a moment too soon.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gluten-Free Pecan Pie

No Matter How You Say It...

All that pie practice was leading us to this moment. The big test. 

Gluten-Free Pecan Pie on the big T-Day.

Do you say "pee-can" or "puh-kahn"?

Well, you know what? It doesn't matter as long as it comes with "gluten-free" attached to it.

This has been my stumbling block for a couple of years now. Back in my gluten-eating days, I made pecan pies no sweat. No problems. No fear.

Then I went gluten-free. And I made a gluten-free pecan pie. And it was soggy.

And then I tried making another gluten-free pecan pie. And it didn't set up, no matter how much extra time I added.

Time after time, I had gluten-free pie failures. After a few of these, my confidence in baking had been shaken.

Hence, this fall's Gluten-Free Pie Practice. I've been making gluten-free pies throughout the fall. I made a variety of gluten-free pies, some better than others.

But then, do you know what happened?

The big T-Day snuck up on me. I ran out time to practice my gluten-free pecan pie.

How did this happen? I had planned way back in August to start making pies and to be sure to leave enough time to practice a gluten-free pecan pie. And now I was out of time?

Yup. Too many other pies. Too little time.

Well, the good thing about Pie Practice is that practice is practice. I think I've learned a few things along the way, so... I had to put my abilities and new-found experience to the test.

Oh, and no pressure. Nah. No problem. I'd just be doing it on the Big T-Day!

... It Comes Out Tasting Fabulous!

Gluten-Free Pecan Pie

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Odyssey: Poetry and Graphic Novel

Book Review

The Odyssey by Homer and graphic novel by Gareth Hinds

Somehow my education never included any Greek reading. I am still completely unfamiliar with Greek myths, with the only exception being the tidbits I picked up through astronomy. That still didn't include full stories or much general knowledge of the Greek gods.

Now I do acknowledge that I did not have a very strong liberal arts exposure. I was focused on the physical sciences. That was fine then, because I was on a mission and didn't have much time or interest for things outside of my mission.

Now, I have time. And I'm on a different mission. Now, I'm on a mission to fill in perceived gaps in my literary education.

Greek mythology is one of those gaps.

So, for many years now, I have wanted to read The Iliad and The Odyssey. I started The Iliad earlier this year.

And I struggled. I read a bit and then put it down. Put it down for too long. When I would pick it up again, I had to go back and reread most of the brief bit I had read before. I was continually losing the flow of what I had read. And then, suddenly, my library renewals of the book were up.

Okay, not actually suddenly, but they were gone. I had to return the book. Our library gives us 3 weeks to borrow a book and 2 renewals. That makes for nine weeks.

I didn't get very far in nine weeks with The Iliad. So, I bought a copy at the local used book store.

I haven't opened that book since.

It was proving difficult to get through. And I was trying to stick to my guns about reading it before I started reading The Odyssey, since The Iliad describes events taking place before the events in The Odyssey.

But then I went to my daughter's Back-to-School Night. This is where we get to meet teachers and find out what our children will be doing in school for the current year.

This is good, since we are now in the realm of the teenager. This particular realm consists of a product of my loins who has forgotten how to use her vocals chords for normal, calm, illuminating, straight forward information exchange. Timely. Did I include timely? That's forgotten now too.

Anyways, it was during Back-to-School Night that I learned that they would be reading the major books of The Odyssey this year. I'm not sure what "major" books means, specifically, but in any case, I now had a very real incentive to start reading The Odyssey sooner, rather than later.

And that's just what I did.

The Odyssey

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gluten-Free Turkey Pot Pies

Leftovers, Anyone?


Turkey, turkey, turkey.

Are you tired of turkey yet?

Last year, when I made everything from scratch and gluten-free, I ended with lots of leftovers. And I needed to find a way to deal with them. My family wasn't interesting in having repeat Thanksgiving dinners for weeks on end. And we have limited freezer space.

So, I looked around at what I had left and I started thinking. I looked and thought and thought and looked.

And then I came up with a solution for many of my leftovers:  gluten-free pot pies!

Leftover turkey. Leftover mushroom soup. Leftover green bean casserole. Make a new gluten-free pie crust. Add some new peas and carrots.

Voilà! Gluten-free turkey pot pies!

Gluten-Free Turkey Pot Pies

Monday, December 5, 2011

Half Broke Horses

Book Review

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Somewhere along the way I became vaguely aware that this is a book I wanted to read. I don't know when it happened. I don't know how it happened. But it did.

And when I had a gap in my reading on the treadmill, I just happened to stumble upon this in large print. Available right then in large print. Ready for reading in large print, immediately.

Good enough for me!

Right on the front cover, this is advertised as "a true-life novel". See those labels that I chose at the bottom of this blog post? I listed this as both fiction and non-fiction, since it is based on true events, but the details and dialogue have been manufactured.

But that's fine by me. This reads like a novel, is enjoyable like a novel, but rings truer than a novel.

Half Broke Horses

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gluten-Free He 'n' She Lime Meringue Pie

No More Time to Practice

Time's up!

There's no more time for Pie Practice. It's time for the real thing.

But before we get to Thanksgiving pies, I have to make a Birthday Pie, by request.

This is completely exploratory and experimental. This has never been done before. Do not try this at home.

Or, rather, do try this at home, if I get a favorable result!

This is intended to be a combination of our favorite parts of a gluten-free Key Lime Pie, a gluten-free Lemon Meringue Pie, and a gluten-free graham cracker crust.

We want lime, but no evaporated or condensed milk. We want meringue, but no regular, gluten-free pie crust.

We want a gluten-free pie that is lime, without milk, with meringue and with a graham cracker crust.

I don't think this has ever been tried before.

Viewer discretion is advised.

Gluten-Free Graham Crackers

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Book Review

Heartwood by Belva Plain

This was one of those nearly-random choices from the library. It was available in large print and it was available at my local library when I needed something to read.

It looks girly. I don't usually go for the girly books, unless I'm specifically seeking out "fluff."

The description didn't make this sound like it was going to be in the "fluff" category.

But I had never heard of Belva Plain. I didn't know if it was going to be too girly. Time to try her out.

Then I found out that this is the last book she wrote before she died.

I still didn't know what to expect and I essentially had no expectations.

It's always better to start out that way.

"Expectations are premature disappointments."


Monday, November 28, 2011

2011 Thanksgiving Gluten-Free Stuffing

Gluten-Free Bread

Stuffing. Ah, yes. My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal, hands down.

If there is no stuffing, there is no Thanksgiving for me. Forget the turkey. Forget the cranberries. Forget the pies.

Yes, I wrote that. Forget the pies.

For me, Thanksgiving is all about the stuffing.

(Oh, and the family and love and being thankful. Really.)

But stuffing, people. It's the stuffing!

I've tried making cornbread stuffing and I've resisted wild rice stuffing. I just really, really like the regular, ol' bread stuffing too much!

I made this gluten-free bread specifically for the stuffing on Monday. I used my bread machine.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Confessions over Sunsets


I confess: This post has nothing to do with gluten-free food or books. I just have something to confess. Some things to confess.

I balked when our daughter said she wanted to go shopping on Black Friday.

I hate the crowds. I hate the mall. I hate the craziness. I hate the idea of shopping on Black Friday.

So we went to the library and the park instead. Whew.

But then we ended up at the mall on Black Saturday. Is it called that? Well, I'm calling it that, starting now.

I confess I didn't want to go. I confess I pitched a mild, minor fit about it. I confess I dreaded the idea only a little bit less than going to the mall on Black Friday.

But the guys were busy and I had some shopping to do that could only be done at the mall and Dear Daughter wanted to go shopping.

And... in the end...

I confess:  It wasn't so bad.

We did our browsing, sniffing, walking, smelling, shopping, chatting, gawking, gagging, and groaning. Then it was time to leave.

We headed to the car, which just so happened to be westward.

Why do I know this?

Because this is what we saw:

That would be the results of the sun setting in the west.

Light Up the Sky

Thursday, November 24, 2011

2011 Day of Giving Thanks

  1. I am thankful for sun dogs.
  2. I am thankful for gluten-free bread.
  3. I am thankful for my bread machine.
  4. I am thankful for my leak-free roof.
  5. I am thankful for being able to consume dairy.
  6. I am thankful for gluten-free graham crackers. Stay tuned.
  7. I am thankful for my food processor.
  8. I am thankful for green food coloring. Sometimes.
  9. I am thankful for my local library.
  10. I am thankful for flowers.
  11. I am thankful for coffee.
  12. I am thankful for my oven. Even if it is electric.
  13. I am thankful for mushrooms. Really.
  14. I am thankful for electricity.
  15. I am thankful for my job that I love.
  16. I am thankful for onions.
  17. I am thankful for my deep frier. Maybe I shouldn't be.
  18. I am thankful for my treadmill.
  19. I am thankful for my workhorse KitchenAid stand mixer. Just like Grandma's.
  20. I am thankful for my family.
  21. I am thankful for my gluten-free pecan pie setting up!
Oh, and just so you know, those are in no particular order. This might be an incomplete list. Actually, I'm pretty sure this is an incomplete list. I don't have time to make a complete list.

I've got a full day of cooking ahead of me! Can you hear the mound of stuffing hitting my plate? Not yet, but soon. Oh so soon.

I am oh so thankful for gluten-free stuffing....

Have the best Day of Giving Thanks ever!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gluten-Free Birthday Breakfast

Yet Another Birthday

We are celebrating yet another birthday, but this one is being celebrated with breakfast and we are doing it a day early, due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

When was the last time you thought about your breakfast? Not just your breakfast, but all breakfasts.

Is there any meal (aside from maybe Thanksgiving Dinner) that is more dependent on bread products?

Pancakes. Waffles. French toast. Muffins. Bagels. Scones. Cereal. Crepes. Biscuits. Donuts. Toast. English muffins. Croissants.

Seems ridiculously tough when you have to be gluten-free. Seems overwhelming.

When cooking at home, most of these things can be converted to gluten-free. Maybe a little trial-and-error is necessary, but my family doesn't seem to have any problem with my errors.

But when eating out, it is a whole different ball game.

I just look for other things I love. And I don't stare down the toast and muffins and pancakes that the others at the table get. I just don't let myself look. I look into the faces of the people who share my table. I study the cream swirling in my coffee. I savor a sip of orange juice.

Don't stare down the pastries! Focus on other things.

Things like bacon. What better breakfast meat is there?

And I love cheese. This is a major failing for me.

So, quite often, when eating out, I look for omelets. I know I love bacon and cheese, so now I'm completely comfortable asking for egg whites, instead of whole eggs. There's nothing wrong with whole eggs. I just want to save my fat for the bacon and cheese! And I don't miss the flavor of a whole egg for one nanosecond. Egg whites do me just dandy.

And potatoes are nice, but I'm a bit picky. No potatoes from a fryer, due to probable cross-contamination. Maybe hash browns or home fries, but they need to be really well-done (but not burned) for me to like them. Really, I can do without morning potatoes. But they do handily replace those simple carbs of that pastry list above when needed.

Fruit! I love getting fruit that I don't normally let myself buy for home. Pineapple! Strawberries! If I can get these fresh, I will happily stare them down before I chow down. Fresh berries are even better!

Of course, there are other options usually available too, but these are just a few of the strategies I use. I don't think about them anymore. I just started thinking about it, in anticipation of going to a restaurant that doesn't have a gluten-free menu.

Eggspectation on Urbanspoon


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gluten-free Birthday Cake and Dinners

Many Ways to Celebrate

There are many ways to celebrate a birthday. Around here, the kids usually get a weekend party of their choosing for their friends, and if the day of the actual birthday falls during the work week, a dinner out with the family on that day at a restaurant of their choosing.

This time, it was my daughter choosing the party and the restaurant. And choose she did.

Last year, we put on a big, themed party and did a ton of decorating and preparing. I spent a large number of hours working and preparing that party. This year, she wanted to do it all by herself.

Well, almost all by herself.

She wanted to plan the party. She wanted to decorate for the party. She wanted to bake her own cake. She wanted to plan the activities. She really wanted to do it.

And she did.

And it was the easiest party I have ever done. Oh. Easiest party that I have ever "not" done.

She baked the gluten-free cake, but we decorated it together. Her dad made her birthday (gluten-free) party dinner, with me assisting. She chose a birthday restaurant that has a gluten-free menu.

I really don't think it could have been much easier on me. Huh. That feels weird. I don't know that I've ever not done much for a birthday party. Strange. But I'll take it!

Gluten-Free Birthday Cake

Monday, November 21, 2011

Baltimore Blues

Book Review

Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman

I hadn't read anything by Lippman when a friend suggested that I do. Then we started talking about it and I realized I needed to start at the beginning. See, I had stumbled upon the umpteenth new release of a series.

This was going to be the beginning of another series.

I wasn't sure if I was ready for another series, since I'm still working on another.

Ah, well. Sometimes what's available in the library wins out.

Baltimore Blues

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Planning a Completely Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is almost here?

Oh, right. It is November and we've already had our first snow of the season and the leaves are still falling outside and the colors are gorgeous and I'm trying to dream up birthday gifts at the same time as Christmas gifts and it was pitch black on my drive home from work last night.

Right. It's time for Thanksgiving!

I love this holiday. It's all about food and being thankful and food and family and food.

It was only a few years ago that this holiday brought terror into my newly gluten-free heart.

Now, I know how to do this holiday completely gluten-free. It certainly helps when I'm doing the cooking. And that is exactly what I plan to do!

Don't think that this a cinch.  Don't think you can throw a few cans of this together with a couple bags of that. No, I'm talking about homemade.

Homemade everything. Homemade everything gluten-free.

Stuffing. Gravy. Biscuits. Green Bean Casserole. Pie. Another pie.

It is a lot of work, no doubt, making everything myself and making everything gluten-free. But the rewards are well worth it!

Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Dinner

Here are our plans for this year.  We are only cooking for four, so we've opted to skip a few dishes, like sweet potatoes and/or yams.  There is already likely to be far too much food.

Gluten-free Stuffing
    gluten-free bread (based on gluten-free sandwich bread, but done in a bread machine)
Gluten-free Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Gluten-free Green Bean Casserole
    gluten-free mushroom soup (can't find the recipe from last year --- bummer! It was so good!)
    gluten-free French fried onions
Cranberry and Orange Relish
Green Salad
Gluten-free Pecan Pie
    gluten-free pie crust
Gluten-free C 'n' E Lime Meringue Pie (by request, for the birthday that falls on Thanksgiving this year)
    gluten-free graham cracker crust

Remaking Gluten-Free Leftovers

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gluten-Free Pizza!

Not Quite Pie Practice

The guys headed off for a weekend of camping, which left us girls to fend for ourselves. Hurray!

I don't think I've ever had a complete weekend with just my daughter before now.

What a joy!

It was easy and nearly instantaneous that we both wanted to go shopping during the weekend. And we both wanted to cook.

What would we cook? We could cook anything we wanted. We had the time to do whatever we wanted.

I wanted pizza! We wanted pizza!

And pizza doesn't quite qualify as Pie Practice. The dough is different. The handling of the dough is different. Pie Practice will have to wait.

I struggled for a long time, going without pizza entirely, after going gluten-free. Then I tried making different crusts, but there was always something wrong with them. Many were just simply not edible.

And then I stumbled upon a combination of gluten-free flours that I liked! No. I loved it! And best of all, my family loved it too! We wouldn't have to make separate pizzas with this crust! The gluten-eaters wanted to eat my pizza!

This the pizza crust I have adopted ever since.

Gluten-free pizza... here we come!

Gluten-Free Pizza

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Healthier Without Wheat

Book Review

Healthier Without Wheat by Dr. Stephen Wangen

My husband picked this up at the library and was thumbing through it. Then he handed it to me.

At first glance, it looked like it might have some useful information, so I checked it out and brought it home.

And there it sat. Week after week.

Finally, I had nothing else to read, so I picked up. I was sure there was something I could learn from this book, even if it had waited for so long.

Healthier Without Wheat

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gluten-Free Lemon Meringue Pie

Picnics and Pie Don't Mix

Another picnic. Another pie.

It seems like the perfect solution: Want to practice the Art of Pie. Need to make something for the potluck picnic. Make one pie to satisfy both.

Sounds simple enough.

But it's not.

Invariably, I end up making my pie the morning of the picnic and there isn't enough time and I end up rushing and things take longer than expected and then something goes wrong and then we need to leave and somehow I make it work and then time is up.

Another rushed pie. 

This happened with my Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie too. Now, it was happening to my Gluten-Free Lemon Meringue Pie. Drat.

After making this pie, I called my grandma, the Queen of All Pies. This is according to my mother, who has never bothered to try to compete with Grandma's pies. At 91 years old, Grandma still knows her stuff.

And she didn't waste any time letting me know it, either.

I asked her how cool each step (crust, filling, meringue) needed to be before adding the next part. She told me. Boy, did she ever tell me.

"Well, by the time I get to it, the previous is completely cool."

Completely? Great. I didn't have time for that.

"Um... my picnic is today. Like, now. We need to leave right now."

"Oh, well, then I would have made it the day before."

Um... too late for that now. Wonderful.

"Hmm... okay. And then you refrigerate it overnight?"

"Oh, no. I would leave it out, but covered, overnight. I would make it ahead of time, for sure."

Double drat.

Today's lesson: Don't let your friends picnic and pie. At least, not all in the same day.

Gluten-Free Lemon Meringue Pie

Friday, November 4, 2011

Moonwalking with Einstein

Book Review

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer.

I had heard about this book somewhere, but now I can't remember where. But it is new and shiny. It must be good.

Well, not really. I recall that it did sound interesting. And it is new.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gluten-Free Halloween Candy

Trick or Treat?

Halloween is always fun for us. The neighborhood has a hayride and the kids all Trick-or-Treat together. It's fun to see all the different costumes and the kids are so excited!

My kids are old enough now that they usually want to go the entire route. Unless the daughter decides to go to a friend's neighborhood, like this year.

But The Boy stayed with his buddies in our neighborhood and we went with him. Sort of. He wanted to run with his pack, ahead of all the little kids.

Running is good. Especially given the amount of candy he is and will be consuming in the near future.

And he looked tired when he finally got done. Tired is good.

Of course The Boy was eager to see what he had gotten.

"I'm going to graph my candy!"

I had a pretty good idea of what he was intending to do, but this is not something I taught either of my kids. They just picked it up. Maybe at school? I do talk about graphs with them, nerd that I am, but I've never "graphed candy" myself. 

Later, when my daughter got home and saw his candy "graphed" on the table, she promptly did the same.

The question I immediately ask is: Which of these are gluten-free?

Gluten-Free Halloween Candy

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Book Review

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson.

This is the second in the series and is just as long as the first. I finished the first book of the series a couple of weeks ago, but it was now time to move this series along.

And hopefully the violence would be a little bit in my face this time. I'm not a fan of violence in any form.

But then again, I know that this series is predicated on the presence of violence in the world.

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Monday, October 17, 2011

Eating Gluten-Free at Red Robin

Corn Maze

Fall is here and I had made up my mind that this would be the year for me to do my first corn maze. People from around here scoffed at me.

 "You've never done a corn maze?!!!"




They don't have them at every turn out west. Around here, yes. Out there, no.

But we are here now, and our time has come.

It also helped that I got an email that NASA has coordinated with seven farms around the country to make space-themed corn mazes. The Hubble maze is up in NY, six or more hours for us. Bummer. It's not likely we'll be able to get there.

But the closest maze was only about 2 hours from us. That's better. We can manage that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mom's Cancer

Book Review

Mom's Cancer by Brian Fies

Okay, so this isn't really a graphic novel, per se, but I did happen to find it in with the graphic novels, in that section of the library. It's really more than a comic strip. This comic-strip-plus-some is heavy.

Heavy duty.

Not for kids.

Not for anyone looking for a light-hearted chuckle.

So, how did I come across a heavy-duty comic strip?

I was browsing the graphic novel section of the library, looking to see how many classics were available that particular day. Classics in graphic novel form. I was surprised.

There were lots!

But I didn't need to get any right away. I still had plenty to read at home. But I was taking a mental inventory.

And then I saw this.

"Mom's Cancer." In comic strip form.

That's out of character. A comic strip about cancer?

I was curious. And we were going to stay at the library until our daughter finished the craft class she was taking. There was no telling how long we might have to stay.

So I picked it up and started reading.

Mom's Cancer

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie

More Pie Practice

If you've been reading, you know that I'm in the midst of practicing The Art of the Pie. Gluten-free pies, to be precise. It was pretty easy to come up with a list of pies to try. Of course, the family helped with ideas.

And since this is the season of a gazillion activities every weekend, what better way to practice The Art of the Pie than to make one for sharing at the neighborhood picnic? I get to practice. The family gets to taste. The neighbors get fat.

Okay, not fat, but they help us to keep from gaining weight by helping us eat the Pie Practice. That makes this a WIN-WIN-WIN (practice WIN, family tasting WIN, minimal gaining weight WIN)!

The neighbors are going to be sampling Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie. Why Key Lime? Why not? It was on our list of pies to try.

Then autumn arrived. And it got cold. And it kept raining. And the Sun ran away with the Moon. And I just wanted to make hot apple cider and sit by the fire.

I toyed with changing the plans to some other, more fall-like pie. I considered jumping ahead and practicing a pecan pie.

But I didn't. Key Lime is what we planned for, and Key Lime is what we were going to get, regardless of the weather.

No matter that it was raining. Again.

Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Book Review

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson.

I've had a couple of weeks recently where I've struggled to find something I'm interested in for reading on the treadmill. This is where I really prefer to have a large print book. The reading is much easier as I jog and I don't feel any straining of my eyes with large print.

But many, many of the things I really want to read are not available in large print. If I had my way, everything would be available in large print. For those books that are not available in large print, I read them while sitting down or get them in audio.

I've thought about trying a Kindle/Nook/iPad, with the ability to change the size of the print, but I haven't done it yet. There is still something very tangible about turning the pages and advancing the bookmark each day. Maybe one day the electronics will win, but not yet.

In the mean time, I'm continually on the hunt for interesting books in large print. After being unsatisfied with my large print selections for several weeks, I finally got into the library catalog and just searched for everything they have in large print. It automatically sorted by something called "popularity." I have no idea what this means. Number of times it's been checked out? Number of times it has been requested? Number of reviews? Number of positive reviews? Number of stars? Number of comments? Sales numbers? Weeks on the best seller lists?

I have no idea.

But, I've already learned, all too well, that a "popular" label can lead to some books that I very much dislike.

Oh well. I quit wondering what "popularity" meant and started browsing the list.

I noticed as I browsed, title recognition became my de facto decider for clicking on a title to investigate further. Maybe this is what "popular" means. I just don't know.

If the full description of the book seemed interesting, I added it to a list. That's it. I didn't look for reviews or stars or quotes or comments. I just added it to the list.

I must be getting desperate.

Don't think that I don't have options. I do. I just find it more enjoyable to mix the classics with modern books. One or two old, then one or two contemporary. Not too many of one or the other all together.

Luckily for me, now there are lots of classics available in large print. That wasn't true a year or two ago, when I finally asked the librarian about it. Why couldn't I find Austen or Dickens or Steinbeck in large print? Like magic, classics started appearing in the large print section. Hmmm... I wonder if my question had something to do with it....

My list has quite a number of classics on it. But it needed more modern books on it. Now I was getting some, but my level of interest is somewhat less in books found by searching this way.

In spite of this, I'm hoping that this will lead me to something unexpectedly different. For now, it has led me to my current list choice, Major Pettigrew.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Friday, September 30, 2011


Book Review

Room by Emma Donoghue.

A friend told me about Room. I hadn't heard of it. An extremely brief synopsis indicated that this would be a depressing book.

It is.

It is also an astonishing book. It got under my skin.

I wanted to keep reading, but I didn't want to read it when my kids were milling about. It is too depressing to read and look up and see and think about my own kids.

So I read when they weren't in the vicinity. But I kept reading. I didn't want to stop.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gluten-Free French Onion Soup

All Soups are Suspect

When trying to eat exclusively gluten-free, all soups become suspect.

Many don't need any gluten, but when ordering at a restaurant, you can never be sure what they have done to their soups.

French Onion Soup is tricky. It doesn't seem like it should contain any gluten, except for the obvious bread floated on top. But, in fact, many recipes do include some flour to thicken the soup.

This is done all the time to soups. I don't trust any soups anymore, unless they come with a complete and explicit label or I make it myself.

And I really believe that anything with a "complete and explicit label" will never be as good as something I make myself. Flavor is lost in the processing. And all that time needed to do the labeling? Freshness is long gone by the time a label is attached.

In the case of French Onion Soup, that pesky toast/baugette/bread ruins my chances of ever ordering French Onion Soup at a restaurant. Sure, I could try ordering it without the bread (risky risky risky --- and I don't like taking risks in restaurants), but without bread to float, I can't have the toasted gruyere cheese on top! The toasted gruyere really is the key to the deliciousness of this soup.

I just have to make it myself. And it is so worth it. No can of gluten-free soup can compare to the flavor of home-cooked gluten-free soup. (This is probably true of glutenated soups too, but that's not what this blog is about.)

Gluten-Free French Onion Soup

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sweet Thursday

Book Review

Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck.

This was serendipity at work.  I had nothing to do with it.  I wish I had.

While visiting the library, my husband picked up two John Steinbeck novels, Tortilla Flat and Sweet Thursday.  I had read Tortilla Flat, but I hadn't even heard of Sweet Thursday.

And I think of myself as a fan of John Steinbeck.

I'm only fooling myself, apparently. It seems that true fans of Steinbeck's know that this is the sequel to Cannery Row.

I didn't even know there was a sequel to Cannery Row.

Well, now I do and now I've read it.

Can I delude myself into thinking I'm a true Steinbeck fan again?

Sweet Thursday

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Book Review

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

This is the classic. I've never had much interest in reading it, but then I sort of stumbled upon the idea of reading it. By accident.

I was browsing the large print section at the library, and a book caught my eye. I picked up "The Casework of Victor Frankenstein". It sounded familiar, but didn't register right away and I didn't immediately investigate. When it came time to start reading it, it was sounding very familiar to what I knew generally of the original Frankenstein story.

Then I looked up the book on the internet. It turns out that this author has a habit of rewriting classic stories. I had no interest in reading a rewritten classic! I certainly want to read the original before I decide whether or not to read a rewritten version. And then a friend said the original was good.

That was it.  I stopped reading "The Casework" I requested the original. I almost never stop reading a book without intending to finish it. This time, that is exactly what I did. I started reading the original.

Then at my daughter's Back to School Night, I learned what she will be reading this year. Guess what? She'll be reading Frankenstein soon! She'll also be reading Romeo and Juliet and The Odyssey.

I've read other books that have been her assigned reading; The Cay, Antigone, Watership Down, and others. I've already read Romeo and Juliet, but the The Odyssey has been on my list a very long time. Now I'm pumping it up on the list, so that I'll be reading it before or while she reads it.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gluten-Free Quiche Lorraine

The Irene Chronicles - Part 3

And now... the conclusion....

We had power. We had water. Whew!

We found out that our daughter's school was going to be open for the delayed first day of school on Wednesday. Our son's school was still closed, due to lack of power. We made plans to have him ready to go to school, in case power was restored in time.

We also found out from a neighbor that the county was giving out Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) and 3 liters of water to every resident without power. The problem is that they had been handed out at an intersection in an area that had power and no one was stopping to pick them up.

Why would you hand out food and water in an area that has power? The people without power don't know it is being handed out and they aren't anywhere near where the distribution is being done.

Well, it didn't matter so much for us anymore. We had power and that was great, but it still made me wonder who was making these decisions about distributing food and water....

Tuesday night we went to bed relieved.

Early Wednesday morning, I got email that The Boy's school was going to be open too. Finally! The kids were finally starting the school year two days late. I wonder if these will come out of our usual "snow days" at the end of the year....

I headed back to work. I had been able to weed through the most important emails Tuesday night, so I knew pretty much what I was facing. No catastrophes, but I needed to get caught up on what happened in those missed meetings.

Several of my friends and colleagues at work still didn't have power, but they had water.

One friend and her family still did not have power or water. I was feeling their pain. I offered to help any way I could. She assured me that they were doing fine, considering.

Another colleague had his basement completely filled with water. His insurance company sent out a repair company who proceeded to pump out the water, and then rip out all the carpeting and all the wet drywall in his basement. And apparently they left one heck of a mess behind. He hadn't heard when they would be back to fix it and but it all back with new materials.

One friend who lives very close to work never lost power or water.

It was interesting driving to and from work Wednesday. Debris was everywhere, except in the road. There were a lot of leaves still in the road, but the branches had been moved to the sides of the streets and into the medians. As I left work, I saw this tree down.

Being as hollow at that, it's not surprising that it finally gave up the ghost. I'm glad it didn't fall on a house or car.

By Wednesday afternoon, I started getting daily emails from the school system announcing that the MREs and water were being handed out through the senior centers at various locations around the county. That's better. Somebody started thinking about better distribution.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until Friday that I realized that some of our nearby friends were still without power and water. One of our family friends live in a more remote area not far from us and they still didn't have power on Friday afternoon. I called them for a separate reason and learned that we could have shared our water, our power, our showers, our phone, our information with them. I wish I had known sooner! If only I had known....

But the mom told us that the fire department had just stopped by their house and delivered MREs and bottled water to them. The fire department was going door to door! Now, that's getting the food and water to where it is needed. Very good. I was relieved to hear this. And the power company was promising to have their power restored by that same night.

In spite of all my angst about getting water, we faired well. We had a nice neighbor that gave us power through an extension cord. Other neighbors gave us pool water. Two fire stations gave us water. And we didn't have a tree come down in our yard. We only lost the top third of one tree and it fell away from the house. Lots of branches and leaves, but nothing serious. No storm surge. No flooding. No leaks.

We were very lucky.

And we are very thankful to those who helped us. The neighbor with a generator and long extension cord. The neighbors with the pool. The fire fighters. I hope we can return the favors some day. And even if I do, these folks are still getting Christmas cookies this year!

Gluten-Free Quiche Lorraine

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Letter of Mary

Book Review

A Letter of Mary by Laurie R. King.

This is the third book in a series that extends the Sherlock Holmes story and character. I originally stumbled upon the ninth or tenth book in the series, and I even started reading it. But I didn't like coming in the middle of the series.

Besides, I liked what I was reading and I might like the early books in the series too. Time to back up and start at the beginning. Which I did.

Just to catch you up, the series starts with Sherlock Holmes retired from private investigations and raising bees. A teenage neighbor girl, Mary Russell, shows promise in observations and analytical thinking and they become friends. As Mary grows up, she spends time with Sherlock and becomes is apprentice. She attends Oxford and becomes his partner. They come to respect each other and each has a fondness for other. After they each witness the other's life in peril in separate circumstances, they realize their attachment for each other. They subsequently "negotiate a marriage," despite the large difference in their ages.

Don't be mistaken. Of the three books that I have read of this series, none of them qualify as romances. They are all mysteries incorporating an interesting, extending twist on an old, favorite sleuth.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

If You Ask Me (Of Course You Won't)

Book Review

If You Ask Me (Of Course You Won't) by Betty White.

This turned out to be a fun, quick little book. It was not on my reading list. I had never seen it before. I had no idea it existed.

But I was desperate. I needed something in large print to read while on the treadmill.

Everyone is familiar with Betty from her publicity of the past year. The Facebook fan page. Saturday Night Live. Super Bowl commercial.

Sure... why not? I've never been a huge fan of Betty's, but I know who she is. And she's funny.

And the book was available.

This is one of several memoirs of Betty's, but it mostly just covers the most recent years. This is good since I wasn't really interested in an deep rehashing of her entire career. She writes in an easy, accessible way. And she's funny.

It's nice to hear that she appreciates her job as an entertainer. She appreciates her fans and even responds to fan mail. And she's funny.

If you are looking for a quick, light-hearted look at her take on her recent career, give it shot. And she's funny!

Don't touch that dial. Coming up next is the conclusion to The Irene Chronicles....

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gluten-Free S'mores

The Irene Chronicles - Part 2

By Sunday night at bedtime, we noticed that the water I had put in the bathtub had drained out. We had already used some of the tub water for flushing toilets during the day on Sunday. But Sunday night saw the end of that source of water.

I knew our tub leaked, so when I filled it, I had resorted to shoving a plastic bag and wash rag into the drain as best as I could. I even topped them off with a heavy, stoneware bowl, hoping that the weight would keep the bag and rag in place. I tried to plug that drain.

I may have slowed the drainage, but clearly, I didn't stop it. And now the tub was empty. No more designated toilet flushing water.

During the day Monday, I called five or six hardware stores within a reasonable driving distance of our house. None of them had water containers. None of them. Bottled water, yes. No containers.

We had periodically been calling the power company to get updates on our expected return of power. The recording didn't change: Monday, 10:30 PM.

Monday night at 10:30 didn't sound so bad. We wouldn't have to worry about the empty tub if the power came on Monday night at 10:30.

We still had plenty of bottled drinking water. But we still wanted to get more water for everything else. We loaded up the containers we could and decided that a fire station should be able to help us.

We chose our closest fire station. They have a beautiful new building. Our daughter had even had a tour of it as part of a school trip. They didn't quite know what to make of us asking for water. But they showed us into their firehouse kitchen and we filled our containers at their kitchen faucet. It turns out that they didn't have power either and were running on backup generators.

We were very grateful for the water and tried to thank them on our way out, but we barely got any acknowledgment at all. That felt a little weird. But we had more water.

We puttered the rest of the day and fixed another dinner on the camp stove and grill. We called the power company again.  Still Monday, 10:30 PM. I headed to bed hoping they were right.

Tuesday morning arrived. No power.

So much for Monday at 10:30 PM.

Time to call the power company back. Apparently, that 10:30 PM recording was a "glitch" in their system. They didn't expect to restore power for us until Friday or maybe Saturday.


Friday! It was only Tuesday morning! Friday was a long, long way away.

We would have to do something about finding more water. We couldn't wait for Friday.

We needed water. The little bit we had gotten at the fire station wasn't going to be enough.

We needed all kinds of water. Water for the toilets. Water for bathing. Water for cooking. Water for cleaning dishes. Water for drinking.

We needed more containers to hold water. Drinking water containers. Many gallons more.

While my husband had been out cleaning up debris on Monday, some of our neighbors whom we had never met offered their pool water. Pool water for flushing toilets. Great. Now we just needed a way to transport it from their pool, across two street corners, to our house. I didn't want to put pool water into our drinking water containers. But I was willing to put pool water into our large cooler and one small cooler and five-gallon bucket and a three-gallon pail.

We drove our containers over to their house, filled them, and drove them back. Wonderful! Flushed toilets, and chased with a bit of chlorine. Terrible for the septic system, great for the toilets. I guess.

You weren't really expecting to see a picture of pool water, were you? I don't have one.

I was relieved to have the toilet water issue solved, at least for the time being. We still needed more drinking and cooking water and we didn't have quite enough containers for our liking. Friday was still a long way off, and we weren't really interested in having to chase down water every day until then. We really wanted more containers and more drinking water to put in them.

I emptied what drinking water we had left in our containers into the pots in the kitchen. We loaded these empty containers and all the other lidded containers we had, plus three for another neighbor into the car and headed out on The Great Water Hunt. Monday we had had success getting water from a fire station. They didn't seem overly thrilled with us, but I figured we might have success again with another fire station. I didn't want to push our luck with trying to go back to the same fire station so soon.

On our way to a different fire station, I spotted our favorite, local health food store. And then it hit me:

Health food. Environmentally conscious. Reusable containers. They might have reusable water containers! Wait! Go back! Let me just run in quickly and see....

They had them. They had a lot of them. In all different sizes. And a water filling station! Bliss! We paid an arm and a leg for two, five-gallon reusable water bottles. We filled them with Reverse Osmosis water. We paid and I didn't care.

We had containers full of pure drinking water! Big containers!

Next we headed to a different fire station. This station was attended by a Firehouse Mom. A talkative, caring, helpful Firehouse Mom. She and the others invited us around the back and helped us to use their hose to fill all the other containers we had.

As the filling of the containers started, the boy and I scoped out the engines. Big, beautiful, red and white and gold fire engines! He never tires of looking at fire engines. When we went back to help with the filling, the boy counted how many gallons we filled at the fire station. About 15 gallons in the large cooler. Two gallons in the small cooler. Two 3-gallon bottles. Eight 1-liter bottles. One 1-gallon milk jug. One 5-gallon paint bucket. Three 4-gallon bottles for our neighbors.

That's about 31 gallons of fire station water for us and 12 gallons for our neighbors. Plus our brand-spankin' new 10 gallons of Reverse Osmosis drinking water in their brand-spankin' new, 5-gallon bottles.

Now we were set. I felt like we wouldn't have to be looking for water again the next day. We might be able to skip a day before going back out for more. And we knew where we were welcome to go back for more water. That fire station is getting cookies at Christmastime! Well, the other one will too, but these guys might get a few more cookies.

I felt a distinct sense of relief. We had water and knew where we could get more without any problems. I could relax a little.

Before heading home, we went into the grocery store for a few necessities. Not bread. Not milk. Not toilet paper.

The fixings to make S'mores. Chocolate. Marshmallows. Graham crackers. Now we were properly set.

The kids had been great throughout all of our efforts to get water and all the uncertainty of finding water. They deserved this. And if nothing else, it was one bit of fun deliciousness that we could enjoy without power. They had earned it!

Once home, we unloaded all the water and had some time to relax before starting dinner. The girl had a bit of summer math to finish up with some help from me. And we chatted in between problems. And then it hit me:

The library has internet! If they have power....

I got so excited at the prospect of reading email! I had missed several meetings at work while out hunting for water. I was a bit curious how things went and what was or was not waiting for me.

We called the library and they had power! We made a plan to go to the library after dinner. We were all thrilled and I even promised that the kids could play computer games the whole time we were there!

I was just kicked to have some way to check email and let the kids have some computer time. I was sorry it hadn't occurred to me sooner. And then I realized that right next door to the library is the community center. And the community center has a gym. And if they have a gym, I'll bet they have a locker room. I'll bet they have showers!

I called the community center and asked how much a one day pass was. Five dollars. Fine. Steep, but we were all so ready for showers, it sounded great!

But then the guy at the center asked, "Does this have something to do with the power being out?"

"Yes, I wanted to find out if you have showers there."

"Well, I didn't want to embarrass you by asking that, but if you don't have power and just want a shower, we will let you in free."

"Free?!! Embarrassed?!! AWESOME! Thank you, thank you, thank you! How late are you open tonight and what time do you open tomorrow morning?"

That was it! We made plans to eat dinner quickly and go take showers and check email! We were ecstatic! We had a plan. We were all bouncing around with excitement over getting a shower soon.

As we cooked dinner, we got a call from our next door neighbor. They had power.

We did not.

Humpf. That took the wind right out of my sails. We still had a plan, but that pales in comparison to getting power back.

We ate our dinner by candlelight. We cleaned up quickly and started packing our ditty bags and preparing to go to the community center to take showers. And just as we were getting things together...

The power came back on!

Woohooo! Happy dance, happy dance, happy dance! Friday came on Tuesday night! We'll take it!

Of course, we didn't need to go to the community center or the library now. We did need to start plugging things back in. Well, my husband and I did that while the kids ran outside whooping and hollering. They showered a bit later, at home, after burning off some energy outside.

We had just one more thing we needed to do that night. S'mores! We had cause for celebration!

Gluten-Free S'mores

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Inheritance

Book Review

The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott.

This is a brief novel by the author of "Little Women". I remember my mother recommending Little Women to me when I was in middle school. She had read it.

These days, I have have a hard time imaging me recommending Little Women to my own daughter. I see what she reads. I don't know that she would ever get around to cracking the cover, if I could even get her to agree to check it out.

I'm coming to realize that there are some times during one's life that are better for reading certain things. I doubt I have the patience to read Little Women again now.

But I was curious about this book, "The Inheritance". I hadn't heard of it before.

Apparently, it was not widely known to exist at the time I read Little Women. According to the Afterword of my copy, this novel was still unpublished in 1988. Louisa herself identified this as her first novel, written when she was seventeen years old.

The Inheritance

I was more curious about this book than anything else. I didn't expect a great novel. I didn't expect much of anything. 

This is a very short novel. I might even call it a novella.

I was surprised. It turned out to have a few plot twists that were unexpected, but good. This kept me interested.

The characters were quite predictable and a little too perfect. This didn't surprise me. This book is so brief, there couldn't possibly be enough space on the page to fully develop complex characters.

Since I have read all six of Jane Austen's novels, reading The Inheritance was considerably shorter and breezier. But the setting and the class society is very similar. Austen certainly has more depth, but The Inheritance is admirable for what it is. A first novel, written by a teenager. If the setting and characters had been developed more, and with the plot as it is, this could have been nearly comparable to an Austen novel. Not quite, but approaching.

Then again, I remember having a hard time getting through the length of Little Women. Maybe there is a happy middle ground in between.

If you are even a moderate fan of Austen and are looking for quick read, give this a try. I was surprised. You might be too.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gluten-Free Hurricane Hamburgers

The Irene Chronicles - Part 1

We saw this one coming. Her name was Irene.

Hurricane Irene.

We watched the hurricane model tracks. We evaluated the model errors. We checked for hourly updates to the models.

We started thinking about preparing.

We watched the models veer to the east of us. We watched the models veer over us. We watched the models veer to east of us again.

We got serious about preparing.

We had batteries. We had two cases of bottled drinking water. We did all the laundry. We had candles. We did all the dishes. We had several, full, 3 gallon containers of water. We got a new, filled bottle of propane for the grill. I filled large pots with water. We had small propane bottles for the camp stove. I filled the bathtub with water.

We are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood surrounded by farmland. We call ourselves semi-rural. This is also known as "WE LOSE POWER EASILY AND WE DON'T GET IT BACK RIGHT WAY".

And we are on a well. If we lose power, we can't pump water to the faucets or water heater.

We are surrounded by trees and the neighborhood and surrounding area is filled with them.  Tall trees. Eighty to a hundred feet tall. Everywhere you look.

For us, it looked like the biggest threats from Hurricane Irene would not be storm surge or flooding, since we are well inland and not close to a large body of water.  Our biggest threats would be the excessive wind and rain. And since we are on a hill and have good drainage around the house, lots of rain worries me less than wind.

Wind is the enemy. Well, sort of.

I don't worry about the roof being blown off. All those trees? They surround our house and keep the winds very low right around the house. All those trees? They tend to come down in wind storms.

The wind itself wasn't likely to get us, but downed trees would. My biggest fear was a tree coming down through the roof.

As Irene approached, the rain started, got heavier, and didn't let up for twelve hours. That is unusual for us. But our drainage proved adequate to the heavy, sustained rain.

And the wind picked up. And stayed up. Steady wind, with heavy doses of gusts.

My son wanted to sleep downstairs.  I had given it some thought and decided that I wanted to sleep upstairs. But since it would make him feel better, I let our son sleep downstairs.  My daughter and I went to bed upstairs, and my husband stayed awake downstairs to listen and watch most of the night.

The wind howled and the rain pelted the house. Branches fell to ground and on the roof.

And I couldn't sleep very well. It was loud upstairs! I finally drifted off to sleep, but only after an hour or two, I woke up startled. More wind, more rain, more howling.

I was spooked.

I wanted to sleep downstairs too.

But I didn't want to leave our daughter sleeping upstairs by herself.  I wanted us all together downstairs.

I went in and woke her and helped her downstairs. Then I had to make up a bed for my husband and I on the floor of the familyroom.

When I was finally able to lie down in the makeshift floor bed, I had peace of mind. And pain of back. The wind was considerably quieter downstairs, but my back started hurting.  Ultimately, I felt better that we were all down there, but I didn't sleep much at all. When I woke, everything hurt.

What's worth more? Peace of mind or my own bed? I'm glad I chose peace of mind.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, I noticed that we had lost power. My husband says it was about 1 AM Sunday morning.

By daylight, the worst of the storm had passed. I asked the kids to wait a bit before going outside to play, since the wind was still blowing some. I didn't want branches to fall on them.

Finally, we went out to survey our place. We faired well. No downed trees, just branches. One tree in the front yard lost the top third of it and, luckily, it fell away from the house. Lots of branches down. Tons and tons of leaves stripped from the trees were everywhere on the ground. The street was covered with green leaves. Everywhere you looked were green leaves. That was the worst of it.

Except the power was out. And we never know how long we will be without power.

Our dear neighbor next door had his generator out that morning and offered to give us some of his excess power, via a very, very long extension cord. Wonderful neighbor! We were able to plug in our refrigerator, so we wouldn't lose all our perishable food! It turned out that there was enough margin still on the generator that we could also power the coffee pot and then later, charge our cell phones. Our neighbor is getting cookies at Christmastime!

The entire area was hit, so I figured we wouldn't have power at least through the day Sunday. And without power to run the microwave, I needed to think about what we would be having for dinner.

It was easy enough to pull out ground beef from the freezer so that it would thaw by evening.

Then we went out walked the neighborhood to see how things fared.  Two doors down and across the street, this neighbor only lost a tree. It could have easily been the house or the car. Look how close it was!

You can't see it from my pictures, but the entire root ball is out of the ground. The downed tree isn't touching the car or the house!  

Can you see all the leaves and branches all over the driveway? It was like that everywhere we looked.

As we walked farther down our wooded street, we came across this tree that was down in another neighbor's front yard.

This one was too far from the house to do any damage.

And then we were walking through the part of the neighborhood that is not wooded. There are a few trees, but not like on our part of the street. Here, in the open side of the neighborhood, the street was clear of debris and there were virtually no leaves on the ground. You couldn't tell there had even been a storm!

We made around our part of the neighborhood and those two downed trees seemed to be the worst of it.  Thankfully.

Of course, we were all without power.  Oh, except those with generators. I'd never properly fallen in love with the sound of a generator before Irene.

When dinnertime arrived, the ground beef was thawed. We would cook the burgers on the grill.

Hamburgers, here we come. Hurricane hamburgers!

Gluten-Free Hurricane Hamburgers

Actually, there's nothing much special about these gluten-free hamburgers. They are good and they are gluten-free and we make them often. But for Irene, I broke out the gluten-free hamburger buns.

Buns are special. Gluten-Free buns, that is.

Udi's Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns, to be specific.

In the midst of all the discombobulation, I forgot to take pictures of our Hurricane Hamburgers. So, I'm faking it with pictures from after the fact.

For the hamburgers, I used very lean ground beef.  I like the using this to cut down on the unhealthy animal fat, but it also tends to make a very dry hamburger.  To compensate for the reduced animal fat, I added a tablespoon or two of olive oil (good vegetable fat). This makes a tenderer, juicier burger.

For seasonings, I added some sea salt, seasoned salt, garlic powder, worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke. I think I also added dash of taco seasoning. I was just grabbing things out of the cupboard in a darkened kitchen.

To help bind all of this together, I also added some rolled oats. Oats are controversial in the gluten-free world. They are not always safe for those on gluten-free diets, mostly due to processing. Fortunately, gluten-free oats are now being more available. I have been lucky, in that I haven't had problems with the oats I buy from Trader Joe's. I don't know if I am tolerating a small amount of cross-contamination or if their oat producers are good about limiting cross-contamination. Either way, I'm doing fine eating a small amount of the oats I find at Trader Joe's.  Please be careful and only do what is safe for you.

I mixed the beef, spices, oil and oats together with my hands and made it all into patties. They were then ready for the grill.

Have you ever tried to wash meaty hands with no running water? No fun. I had to have help with the water. I would advocate for never having to wash hands without running water, but that's just not practical. Please, please, wash your hands with soap and water very, very well after handling any meat!

I wish I had taken pictures of the burgers on the grill.

Here's the fake, after the fact picture of cooking burgers in a skillet (not on the grill) in the kitchen (not in the backyard). Sorry about that.

I wish I had taken pictures of my burger on my bun.

Here's a picture of a different Udi's Gluten-free hamburger bun taken after the fact.

Udi's Gluten-free hamburger buns. These are great! They are light and fluffy and whole grain. They taste great. They look great. But they are a little small in diameter. But they make up for it in height. This bun made my burger almost too tall to eat.

If you can find these gluten-free buns, they are worth having for when you want a real burger. Better than gluten-free bread or gluten-free bagels with a burger between them. These buns are good. Give them a try!

The Irene Chronicles - Part 2 is coming soon... but not until after I tell you a bit about what I was reading while the power was out.