Friday, July 18, 2014

Happy Summer Doings

We've been having a relaxing couple of summer weeks here. It is so cliched to talk about the weather, but it has been so lovely and unseasonably cool here. Highs in the 70's... In mid-July, in Missouri!  Amber has actually felt like playing outside and didn't end up sick after 5 minutes.

On the health topic, Amber has been doing great with her food. We did the trial of Sucraid, but it didn't really have any effect on Amber except to make her a little quesy one time.  Amber was finally given an appointment for this coming week to see the neuroscience specialist recommended by the GI doctor to track down her exhaustion, overheating, and dizziness.

Playing outside and being silly. (Bottom-Right) Math at the car dealership.  I love my Volvo, but the regular maintenance takes forever.  It was a total of 6 hours Thursday for our drive to the dealership and the wait.
We are about two weeks away from the official start of our new school year. Amber has been working on math all summer though and we have found a good balance to lower her math stress. Math causes anxiety for our little perfectionist.  We have our homeschool co-op enrichment classes all lined up and the lesson plans are complete for all of our regular subjects. I even have some plans going for the classes I'm teaching at the co-op.
If you are interested, I did update our curriculum page for this school year.   We have really pared back our subjects and curriculum. I'm excited to see how this works for Amber.

(TOP)Build-A-Bear fun (BOTTOM-LEFT) Kinetic Sand... Amber tolerates this feeling and it helps as a sensory activity. (BOTTOM-RIGHT) Another new LEGO kit.

After many baking sessions in June, I've felt burned out this month. I need to get back to making more than Amber's bare necessities. The problem is that pasta is next on the list. As far as I can find, all the wheat free packaged pasta has either brown rice or soy. One brand makes a white rice spaghetti, but no macaroni or any other pasta. My job is to cobble together a pasta recipe that Amber can tolerate and test it as the easier to make spaghetti before I buy a pasta extruder to make macaroni and other round pastas.  Therein lies my reluctance. That and I'm just tired.
We have been working on lots of little organizing and decluttering projects at home. I'd like to know who authorized all the stuff I keep finding in my house.  Surely, it couldn't have been me.  At some point soon the playroom has to move across the hall, but the destination room is not even remotely ready yet. That room still looks like a guest room that the cats think is their personal space.   I also need to start acquiring bedroom furniture for the soon-to-be-old-playroom and finish the painting of existing furniture.  We are also working on decluttering Amber's bathroom and hope to have that finished this weekend. Alterations of the school area are progressing as well and I hope to have the majority completed by the time school starts.  The school area isn't being changed a great deal; we're mostly trying to make it more easily adapted to two children instead of personalized for a single girl. 

(LEFT) Strawberry with plain greek yogurt (RIGHT) Flute practice.  She has moved to longer lessons each week, and so practices more each day too.

There is an update on our adoption status, however it needs to wait a bit before being published. I'm feeling much more at peace right now though. 

Today Amber and I did a bit of shopping, playing together, and just resting.   Our temperatures are supposed to become more seasonable next week, so we are trying to make the most out of the remainder of the mild and tolerable weather.

Shopping with Grandma too.  We love to try on the masks.  It's so much fun!

Happy Weekend!

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Midsummer Happenings

Happy 4th of July!  If you hadn't noticed, we aren't big party people and like low key restful holidays. Now that Amber can somewhat tolerate the sound of fireworks, we watch from afar.  We used to have dinner with my parents and then all watch one of the local municipality's display from a strip mall parking lot instead of at the actual event.  Now we keep up the tradition with my mom.   We aren't the only ones either, that strip mall parking lot is quite full these days!

(RIGHT) I'm an Independence Day rebel - I drank sweet tea and loved it.  I can't pass up McAlister's sweet tea.  My blood sugar wasn't fond of it though.  (LEFT) Amber goofing off while waiting for fireworks.  The flash of my iPhone startled her into dropping her napkin.
I had thought to have some outside family fun today, but yesterday I took Amber and a few friends bowling, out to lunch, and to a local park. The girls all had a fantastic time, but Amber ended up sick from the exertion at the park. She overheated despite drinking water constantly and it only being in the upper 70's for a high temperature. (Are we still in Missouri?) I guess next time we will skip the park. It was such a lovely day. 

We've been putting into action a few of our new school ideas and have seen some positive results as Math has been much less of an irritation point the last two days. Amber has also been showing a great deal more responsibility in certain areas.  I hope her willingness to pitch in with extra tasks is not just to earn back her allowance. 

Bowling and park fun with friends.  She says it was worth feeling sick.
Fred did make it back from his South African trip and was happy to be home. He brought Amber her obligatory stuffed animal and a very nice painted ostrich egg.  We decided to display her egg in the main part of the house on a shelf where the cats can't let their curiosity damage such a precious gift. 

We are still working through more sensory issues with Amber, but she did great at her dental checkup this week. Those have never been easy for her and braces were a 21 month constant sensory irritant. Monday Amber saw her GI doctor who was very pleased with Amber's progress over the last couple of months. While the dietician would like to see more weight gain, the GI doctor is pleased that there has been about a kilo gained in the past 3 months. 

(RIGHT) The day Fred returned and at our normal lunch spot.  (LEFT) Amber's South African gifts.
The GI doctor is working on getting Amber seen by a specialist to figure out the exhaustion and overheating. It isn't right and sounds like a category of conditions that have GI components similar to Amber's issues. It is terribly difficult to qualify to be seen by the appropriate specialist though and requires enough documented symptoms and another doctor's recommendation. This is not an insurance issue but the policy of the specialist.  I should be a circus performer given the number of hoops I've been jumping lately for various people. 

Speaking of hoop jumping, the adoption hasn't made any progress this week. In fact it might have taken a step backwards. We are still waiting on other people to finish reports, but a situation has occurred that is not giving us a warm fuzzy feeling. This maybe a problem for our future progress. Maybe.  I'm praying for guidance and patience.   

Planning out one of her projects for this weekend. 
Because of Independence Day I had an entire week day where I couldn't do anything about doctor appointments or the adoption.  It's been nice and I've got two more days of slacking before I need to start calling people again.  This weekend Amber has a couple of projects she would like to do together.  I have a couple of home and school projects I need to complete.  Hopefully we can both get what we want and live to tell the tale.

Happy Weekend!

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Gluten Free, Low FODMAP Foods - May / June 2014

Amber and I have been working hard to try a lot of new recipes with the ingredients she can handle without reactions.  She follows a specialized low FODMAP diet for her severe fructose malabsorption (and other issues), while I follow a strict gluten free diet for my severe gluten intolerance. We are a pair.  Amber is also gluten free as a part of her low FODMAP diet since wheat is a FODMAP food (it contains chains of fructose).

A lot of our new foods have been carbs and bakery type items.  Amber desperately needs to gain weight, so we emphasize foods that can help with that but are made with good ingredients.  For example, our new ice cream recipe is milk, vanilla and a small amount of dextrose.  Seriously.  There is nothing bad about this; it's actually good for Amber since she no longer likes to drink milk and she needs some sugar to keep her going.  An entirely sugar free diet went very poorly for Amber.

Low FODMAP Vanilla Ice Cream - This is honestly some of the best ice cream I have had in years. Amber was in tears when we first made it.  She begs for it almost nightly now.   My husband even likes this recipe and he is an ice cream snob.   We developed this recipe entirely on our own after being frustrated with the available options in the stores and ice cream shops.  Who needs them now.

Another huge hit for Amber was a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Chip-Style Cookies at Gluten Free on a Shoestring.  While the original recipe was not entirely suitable for Amber, it was a fantastic start.  We have found that Amber tolerates the Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips in moderation. She can't handle milk chocolate chips for some reason, but the dark chocolate has fewer ingredients anyway.  In the recipe we used only 1.5 ounces of our Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips, chopped into small pieces instead of the called for 3 ounces of semi-sweet mini chips.  We did have to modify the recipe to use a mix of 1/8 cup sugar (or less) and 3/4 cup dextrose in place of the 7/8 cup of sugar called for in the recipe.  Lastly, the recipe lists 1/2 tablespoon of molasses, but Amber can't tolerate even the smallest amount of molasses.  In most recipes I generally substitute an equal amount of sugar water for molasses or honey.  I know it's a different flavor, but it helps to keep the dry / liquid ratio in check, especially since dextrose absorbs more liquid than sugar.     

As far as we can tell, Amber tolerates up to 10 of these cookies per day (they are quite small) and 4-5 per sitting without any effects whatsoever, except a happy tummy.

These are the easiest little cookies to make and so yummy!

Now that Amber is definitely good with milk products, we've been able to go back and alter recipes that didn't work with dairy substitutes. A new chocolate muffin has passed the trial and can be added into rotation with the cinnamon muffin for easy make-ahead breakfasts. Again, I did sub dextrose for sugar and we greatly decreased the number of chocolate chips.  Still, they are scrumptious and reaction-free, so far.

If you hadn't noticed, we love Gluten Free on a Shoestring. The recipes are obviously gluten free, so many of the offending ingredients are already removed. It is also our type of food.  Food we would have eaten before all the problems and made with ingredients I can find. In other words, not foo-foo food. But food we actually want to eat at home.

Amber is in love with the buttermilk biscuit recipe in Gluten Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread. I mean the child loves it. Begs for a biscuit at each meal. It's freaky. I am quite happy with the biscuits too. I was giddy all evening the first time I made them.  I actually made edible buttermilk biscuits from scratch. Who cares about the gluten free part. I'd never made edible biscuits unless they came from a can prior to this recipe. 

One bonus about the recipe is that the dough can be frozen. I simply cut the dough into biscuit shapes and freeze them. That means 15 mins from freezer to table for yummy, golden, flaky buttermilk biscuits.  Bonus number two? It makes heavenly doughnuts too. Same biscuits, but cut out the center and deep fry for a couple of minutes. Literally, two, no more than three minutes in my handy dandy fryer. So far we haven't had a complaint about the doughnuts and guests have even tried them!

Bonus number three: no substitutions are needed. Hallelujah. I make 4 batches at a time so that we always have enough on hand.  

Buttermilk biscuits and doughnuts.  The doughnuts fry up fast and easy!

But occasionally there are the recipes that flop.  I tried to make what looked like simple sandwich rolls. Seriously, they are called Easy Gluten Free Sandwich Rolls. I usually measure as many ingredients as possible by weight, not volume. It's just better that way. Because of substitutions that I need to make, sometimes my measurements aren't the same as listed in the recipe. But that's my issue. With this recipe I followed everything to the letter and measured it all by weight - even the eggs. I triple checked it all. Amber even saw. Yet the dough was like a liquid. It was runnier than cake batter, and in no way formable into roll shapes. So to salvage it I just started adding flour until it was a manageable consistency. It ended up making edible rolls. Amber liked them. She didn't love them. I want to try again and use volume measurements, except for flour. Never for flour.

Well, they shaped and were edible. That's the best we can say for the sandwich rolls
We also tried flourless brownies one evening on impulse.  They used chocolate, peanut butter, cocoa, and other generic baking ingredients. Not even a hint of the almond flour that hurts Amber so badly. Yet the end result was was only, meh. I do have to say that the recipe called for equal amounts of cane sugar and brown sugar, however Amber tolerates no brown sugar and very limited cane sugar. I can only assume our substitution of dextrose for both sugars was the cause of the meh-ness. That just means this is not a recipe for us. Too bad though. It had potential. 

We did hit a jackpot with Gluten Free Arancini. Amber and I made them together one evening and we made quite the mess. Even we found our attempts to make these rice balls comical. In the end they came out perfect. Who would have thought? We did use plain hamburger instead of mushrooms, but otherwise we didn't even need the make changes. We also found that one Arancini was enough for each of us. The recipe made eight. There were some serious leftovers.

The Arancini prior to frying look pretty pathetic, but they turned out perfect

We've already completed a few new recipe trials in July and have plans for a handful more, including another recipe of our own device - it just needs a little perfecting.  Hopefully, we have as many successful attempts as these past two months.