Archives for posts with tag: Mom

In honor of Mother’s Day (or as I call it “Crazy Family Celebration Day”), I bring you a three act play, and totally true story, titled “The Night Nothing Happened and Other Delicious Drinks,” along with family photos that have absolutely nothing to do with this story.

I love this photo of Mom and me.

I love this photo of Mom and me.

The Night Nothing Happened and Other Delicious Drinks, Act 1:

MOM: I don’t see why I don’t get to go to her 85th birthday party, and you, Mother, and Auntie do.
ME: Well, I’ve been visiting Sinus with The Gram since I was 4.
MOM: Do you still call her that?
ME: Well, yes, the mispronounced name I gave her has kind of stuck over the years. So, yeah, sometimes.
MOM: Maybe don’t call her that in front of everyone tonight.
ME: I don’t think she cares, but I promise to be on my best behavior.
MOM: You got an invite and I didn’t…
ME: Can we move on from that? Besides, I think it was just a natural following. She is The Gram and Auntie’s cousin. I visit her often with them. Ergo, I got an invite. When was the last time YOU saw her?
MOM: There was that one time…well, when I was a kid…fine. Whatever. Just keep them out of trouble.
ME: Trouble? Why? It’s two old ladies, okay, three old cousins, who are hanging out tonight with extended family, in a private party room at a fancy hotel or something. What could possibly go wrong? Hey, does my dress look okay?
MOM: It looks great, and I’m telling you, keep them out of trouble.
ME: Sinus never gets in trouble.
MOM: I’m not talking about Sinus.

Once we arrived at the party, it didn’t take long for Auntie to discover the private bar and for The Gram to realize her clip-on earrings weren’t going to stay balanced.

THE GRAM: Okay, are they even on my ears now?
ME: Um…yes? Yep, they sure are. They look great.

And then someone begins to tell the story of Sinus’ birth 85 years ago. The Gram and I look around to see who is starting it, and to our horror, it’s Auntie, three sheets to the wind with a butterless butter knife in hand for pointed effect.

AUNTIE: 85 yearsh ago…it was me and Frieda and Mattie and we knew something BIG wash happenin’ that day. We wurh told to go outschide to play, but we knew something BIG was happenin’. Sho I schaid to everyone, c’mon kidsch, lets go schit outschide thisch window and wait. Somethin’ big ish happenin’. I know it.
THE GRAM: Oh, Sister, um, maybe let’s get you a roll to go with that butter knife.
AUNTIE: Why would I need a roll? I’m tellin’ a schtory!
THE GRAM: Yes, well, you’re….
AUNTIE: I’m the oldest pershun in thish room ish what I am, schtill your older shister too, and if I want another Manhattan, I’ll have another Manhattan! Sho anyway, Sinus wash born just a few hoursh later…
THE GRAM: Oh, bravo, good story, Sister! Loved it!
ME: Is she done yet?
THE GRAM: Oh, dear God, I hope so.

We. Were. Wrong.

First Intermission.

Auntie was formidable, but oh, so lovable. She called me Sunshine. :)

Auntie was formidable, but oh, so lovable. She called me Sunshine. 🙂

The Night Nothing Happened and Other Delicious Drinks, Act 2.

AUNTIE: Then a few yearsh later, our family got another baby and SHE wash born!!!! [Auntie points her butterless butter knife at THE GRAM who begins to groan uncontrollably.] I DIDN’T LIKE HER WHEN SHE WASH BORN!! Not one bit!!!! Mother, I said to my mother, you’re too old to have another baby with a new huschband. This ish WRONG! I’m 17 and I don’t want a schibiling now!

Speaking of siblings, The Gram is now nervously and uncontrollably laughing. And the room is dead silent.

ME [whispering to The Gram]: Is this true?
THE GRAM: Oh, God, yes. All of it.
ME: What happened?
THE GRAM: Well, a divorced Danish woman (our mother) married a poor Italian, and together they had me. It was a little scandalous for the times, I guess you could say. And it was hard on Sister. Her father had abandoned her and Mother years ago. When he was around, he wasn’t very nice to them. But my dad doted on me and was very good to Mother. It was hard for Sister to see. Some wounds take a long time to heal. So, she stayed away and we didn’t really talk much over the years.
ME: Omigod! Then what happened?
THE GRAM: Well, her husband died and I guess one of us called the other. I think she called me. And we started spending time together, and all these decades later, we haven’t really stopped.

I LOVE THEIR STORY. Auntie was always so brave in my mind. That night I learned why. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable. To pick up the phone, let go of the bitterness, and say “hi” to someone.

And I always knew The Gram was unconditionally loving and forgiving. That night I also learned why. Love is best when it’s shared.

AUNTIE: Scho!!!! I didn’t lichke her scho much for a lot uh yearsh!
THE GRAM: So true, dear Sister, but um, well, we’re so good now, aren’t we? Just two peas in a pod now. Okay, now…
AUNTIE: We are!! We are!!!!! When my huschband died, oh, nearly 25 yersch ago, I descheided I wash going to get to know my dear little shister. And, sho, all theesh yearsch later, we’re good friends.
ME: Umm, Gram? Are you going to grab the butter knife or should I?
THE GRAM: I’ll go for it.
ME: Actually, I’ll grab it. Wait, no, you grab it! It’s by…she’s flailing it by you!

We both missed the butter knife.

SINUS [approaching us cheerfully]: I’m so glad you three could make it tonight! Where would I be without my cousins?!
ME: Umm…
THE GRAM: Are you…
ME: Sure?
SINUS: Of course I am. You three are always a fun time. Why, I am just so glad you could all make it.
THE GRAM: Well, we won’t stay long. Must get Sister home in one piece.
SINUS: Nonsense. My dear older cousin is right. She’s the oldest in the room and can drink whatever she likes.
THE GRAM: Speaking of drinks, I need one. Maybe a fruity one. Without alcohol!


ME: So, Gram, what did you get?
THE GRAM: Something summery and sweet.
ME: Mmmm, it’s good. I want one. Does it have alcohol in it?
THE GRAM: I don’t think so. I didn’t tell her I wanted alcohol, so I would assume not. I’m not much of a drinker, unlike my SHISTER over there who is retelling that lovely story on a continuous loop.
ME: Well, I’ll go up and get one myself.


ME: I would like the same drink you made for my grandmother. It’s wonderful. What’s in it?
BARTENDER: Just a little peach schnapps and pineapple juice.

Second intermission.

When I was little, there was absolutely nothing in my life The Gram couldn't fix.

When I was little, there was absolutely nothing The Gram couldn’t fix in my life.

The Night Nothing Happened and Other Delicious Drinks, Act 3. 

ME: Well, that answers our question, Gram. The drink doesn’t have alcohol in it. I went up and asked for the exact same thing you got, and the bartender didn’t even flinch. Didn’t ask for an ID or anything. So, that’s that.
THE GRAM: Well, sure. Of course she’d ID you if it had alcohol in it.
ME: She did say it has a little peach and pineapple to it.
THE GRAM: I thought I got a hint of peach.
ME: You know, we have a pretty great family. I mean, you can’t take us anywhere, but we know how to have a good time.
THE GRAM: We sure do. And who wants to be boring? Not I.
ME: Me either.


MOM: So, how’d it go? Did you have fun? Where are Mother and Auntie? Go out and help them up the stairs.
ME: Um, well, The Gram is taking Auntie home.
MOM: They could have come up for a while and talked about the evening. I can be big about it and hear all the details.
ME: Yeah, well, I hope you still feel big and mature and open-minded, you know, later.
MOM: Why? What happened?
ME: The Gram is taking Auntie home to sleep it off.
MOM: Auntie got DRUNK tonight?
ME: Oh, yeah! She drank her weight in Manhattans. Speaking of drinks, The Gram and I had the most wonderful summery drink tonight. You should get it the next time you’re at the store.
MOM: Hold it a minute, you were supposed to look out for them!
ME: I tried! I didn’t know there would be alcohol. And anyway, I went after the butter knife.
MOM: What?
ME: Never mind.
MOM: I just, okay, fine, what’s this drink you guys liked so well?
ME: Peach schnapps and pineapple juice. Would the schnapps be in the fruit drink aisle or with the produce?
MOM: OH MY GOD! MORGAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s BOOOOOOZE!!!!!!! Schnapps is booze! This is getting worse. This whole evening is getting worse. You drank booze tonight.
ME: I did?
MOM: Omigod! You got drunk with MY MOTHER!!!
ME: Nope, no I did not! We only had one!! Auntie is the one who got drunk!
MOM: That. Is. Not. Helping. Who drove home?
ME: Gram did.
MOM: You didn’t drive them home?
ME: Why would I drive them home? I just started driver’s ed.
MOM: Omigod, you’re all three drunk.
ME: I’M NOT DRUNK. Nothing happened tonight, except for the part where Auntie…
MOM: I get it. I get the picture. Oh, good Lord. I cannot believe this. One night. One night out, and you three…..

She went to her room and closed the door, muttering, “My daughter got drunk with my mother. My daughter got drunk with my mother….”

But, WHATEVER, because I thought that evening WAS OUT OF THIS WORLD as were the women who raised me. And just, whatever, man, because The Gram and I were not drunk. That is my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Happy Crazy Family Celebration Day!


Toodle and Twinkle and Goopy Goodness 2015

Toodle and Twinkle yukking it up at the center.


Because cheesy, goopy goodness makes the world go round. Seriously, make this once and be prepared to make it again because you will want it in a bad way. My dear friend, Jane, first made this for K-Hubs and me when Toodle was born. We loved it so much she brought ANOTHER batch of it, and I’m pretty sure I cried. This was after I dreamed about it. The cheese was pure heaven in the midst of sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, a crying newborn, and maternity pants (best. invention. ever.). Is it healthy? I don’t know. Do you consider calcium and happiness to be healthy?

Toodle, Twinkle, and I decided to pass along the love and took this lovely cheesy, goopy goodness to a women’s center tonight. The class? A parenting course for new and expectant mothers. I just kind of got weepy there looking at all the women with their new littles and the mamas-to-be. Omigosh.

Toodle couldn’t contain herself either. She asked the volunteer director if the apples had gluten in them. Bless. And when we confirmed for her that they did not, she proceeded to get a tour of the center with an apple in hand. Then she pronounced to the attendees, “WOMENS!!!! Don’t forget to eat your food! There are milk and rolls!”

She wasn’t quite sure how to rattle off cheesy, goopy goodness, but it is the best recipe when making something for other people. It makes a lot. It’s comforting. It can be frozen. It can be made immediately. The directions call for you to “plop gently” into a 9 x 13 pan. Any recipe that calls for plopping gently is a recipe I want in my cookbook.

And if you are wondering whether this is a hard recipe to conquer, allow me to say, I descend from my mother and inherited her cooking skills. Which is to say, I was born with none. You cannot mess this up. This delicious recipe WILL NOT ALLOW IT. The cheesy, goopy goodness is stronger than your ability to ruin it. Speaking of Mom, she always said a good recipe had “goop.” The good, runny, often cheesy, stuff. This has it. Omigosh.


  • 2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 2-lb package frozen hash browns
  • 1 package diced ham

Cheesy Goopy Goodness In Progress 2015


  1. Combine cheddar cheese, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, onions, salt, and pepper.
  2. Add hash browns and ham.
  3. Stir until mixed evenly.
  4. Plop gently into a 9 x 13 pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-90 minutes.

Cheesy Goopy Goodness Finished Product 2015

NOTE: If you first freeze it and then want to serve it later, pull the frozen dish out the morning of the evening you want to eat it and let it thaw in the fridge during the day. Still bake 60-90 minutes in the evening.

Really, I should tie up this article with something clever. But now all I can think about is making this again. So, well, um, happy gooping!

I’m just going to say it. I think we should all walk around declaring we have toxic load in our bodies, which we probably actually do. Then we can do detox spa treatments completely guilt-free. Just, whatever, man. It needs to happen. At-home spas that cost just a few bucks? Yep, I’m going to try them out. Gotta keep making deposits into that energy bank.

After taking the 14 food allergies out of Toodle’s diet and attempting to introduce predominately whole foods, we’ve embarked on an “environmental clean-up” in our family.

From what we’ve learned, autoimmune diseases and allergies have genetic components. Then, something in the environment triggers the allergy or disease into action (which might explain why some people have problems with foods or toxic build-up from chemicals and others don’t).

And, as you’ll see, I wasn’t exactly raised this way. An environmental clean-up of the home is all new territory.

For starters, we are doing bentonite clay foot baths right before bed two to three times per week. According to The Wahl’s Protocol, clay is excellent for detoxification. Of course, check with your doctor first – I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on TV. People with autoimmune diseases can have toxic load, or build-up, in their systems, which complicates their health. Reducing the toxic load reduces the problems they experience.

Whether it works or not for Toodle is yet to be determined. At the very least, foot baths are an excellent excuse for at-home mother-daughter spas. And she looks absolutely adorable with her little feet soaking in the bowl. I die. She also falls right to sleep afterward. Calmer immune system? This mama thinks so.

Foot Bath Detox 2014

If you’re dying to do this at home, it’s super easy. Bentonite clay is usually found at any drug store or health foods store. We do about a half cup of clay for each large bowl of warm water (adjust more or less for stronger/diluted mixes). Stir it around and soak your feet for 20-30 minutes. Love. It. When we’re finished we pour ours out on the lawn.

We also decided to make her room a healthy place. The Wahl’s Protocol suggests going organic wherever possible, and not just with foods, to encourage the immune system to relax and balance itself. Growing up I’m not even sure I knew the word “organic” existed. I’m not sure my mother did either.

K-Hubs and I bought organic cotton bedding, curtains, and blankets for Toodle and Twinkle. We bought them from Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teen because those were the only places I could find child-friendly designs and colors. Thank God for Black Friday specials. That stuff isn’t cheap.

For the record, even organic people like the color hot pink. Maybe I’ve just stumbled on a business idea. Organic housewares that aren’t brown or it’s cousin, beige.

Anyway, I swore my entire adult life that my kids were NEVER getting Pottery Barn stuff. They would just have to slog through life, like I did, with run-of-the-mill brands that cost $5. That lasted until about five days ago. I totally caved and didn’t even look back.

Whatever. I….I have no excuse. I bought them and felt giddy. I felt even giddier when Toodle fell immediately to sleep the first night the sheets were on her bed. You know how I feel about this if you’re following along on Facebook. Whether you can prove a parenting win or not, just take it. Take the little, unscientifically proven wins wherever you can.

Okay, then we decided to make our own carpet cleaner, using this recipe (it worked, by the way). What we had on hand was full of chemicals and potentially problematic for Toodle’s immune system. Never mind her allergies and the fact that I kept sneezing every time we used the store-bought brand. Maybe I have toxic load, too, and need to go to the spa (medically necessary and all).

You guys, what have I become? Mom and I used to clean our carpets with that powdery perfume stuff you dump on the floor and suck up with the vacuum cleaner. Remember those? They were horrible. They were also my childhood. And I survived. Making my own carpet cleaning solution is about as irreconcilable to my childhood as I can get.

So, I’ve hit a new low (or high, depending on which side of the argument you’re on) and made my own cleaner, with essential oils no less. ESSENTIAL OILS! My mother would no less have bought EEs (they have their own nickname!) than she would have put her clothes away after washing them. For the record, she left her clothes in the dryer and pulled them out throughout the week to wear to work. True story, I pulled her clothes out one time, put them in her dresser drawers, and SHE COULDN’T FIND THEM. “Where are my clothes???” In your dresser. “WHAT????” Serious as a heart attack.

The fact that I made my own carpet cleaning solution would likely have caused Mom to purchase an over-the-counter maternity test, confirming our lineage. But a few EEs later, K-Hubs and I now have fresh carpets that are relatively safe for Toodle. Oh, and I don’t sneeze anymore.

To continue the detoxification process, we bought a filtered water pitcher. But I dropped the filter in the sink. Me to K-Hubs, “Well, the water won’t have lead or whatever in it. But it will have e coli and salmonella.”

And then there was Soygate. While researching ingredients for the homemade carpet cleaner, we came across ingredients inside ingredients (with me so far?) that looked like they were allergens. And come to find out, we were right. Soy. That son of a business!

SOY IS IN ALL THE THINGS. It is in shampoos and hand soaps and dish soaps and sunscreen and EVERYTHING. Some people are highly bothered by it while others are to a lesser degree. Because we’re dealing with an autoimmune disease and allergies, we decided not to risk it. Out it goes.

So there we were with these “all natural” products that were in tune with her immune system but were totally at odds with one of her food allergies. We are on our 47th purge of the cabinets. Actually, it’s more like the 4th or 5th. But still, that’s a lot of purging.

K-Hubs and I emailed and called companies to get the 411 on their ingredients since some are derived from corn, others from fruits, but most from soybeans. I’m three shades shy of being a soy dietician. I even know how to spell D-Alpha Tocopheryl without having to look it up. No one should know how to spell that. At least I don’t know how to pronounce it. That would be the ultimate soul crusher.

Every time I see “glycerin,” “Vitamin E,” or “vegetable protein,” a part of me dies. I start to type the email, “From which of the three sources are your ingredients? Corn, fruit, or soybeans?” Please don’t say soybeans.

I’m so going to be on an episode of Cops one day. It’s going to be me throat punching soy outside a heath foods store.

However, there is a high note here. The MBA grad in me feels compelled to share a successful customer service experience. Acure was the first to get back to us. The Brand Educator was amazing. She answered all my questions, including follow-up questions to her answers because I had no clue. It was an email from a real person with a real name and a DIRECT NUMBER. Holy cow. Then she told me about the Cyber Monday specials and free shipping. Merry Healthy Christmas to us!

Will we be buying from them in the future? You know that’s right. Acure Organics Body Lotion, Calming Lavender + Echinacea Stem Cell (from plants) is to die for and is soy-free, thank God. It’s a spa in a bottle.

Stop everything you’re doing right now and go to their website and buy some for yourself. It’s medically necessary. You know, toxic load and all. “I need to get through the holidays” is a perfectly reasonable excuse to make the impulsive purchase. You could spend $10 on way worse things, like animal print leggings in the 50%-off bin.

Will any of this make a difference for Toodle’s alopecia? I honestly have no idea. After pulling out 14 foods, encouraging fruits and vegetables, and dealing with the emotions that went with those, this is a blast. “Toodle, do you want to do a foot bath?” Oh, you know she does. She’s nobody’s fool.

Blueberry Oatmeal Smoothie Ingredients Close-Up 2014

If I had just one word to describe this smoothie, I’d pick two and say “comfort food.” Not the sweetest smoothie I’ve ever had, the blend of oatmeal, berries, milk, and juice is a balanced breakfast wrapped up in one comforting drink. For those times I don’t want a sugar high from a fruity beverage, this is a nice alternative. K-Hubs really likes blueberry/orange combinations, but many of the smoothie recipes we’ve enjoyed in the past contain ingredients we no longer keep in the house.

So I set out to find a blend we could all enjoy, allergies be damned.

Blueberry Oatmeal Smoothie Finished Product 2 2014

This one has been a hit in our house. Toodle curiously sips it when she thinks I’m not looking. Twinkle gets excited whenever I offer it. And K-Hubs thought it was so good the first time he tried it, he was convinced it wasn’t my recipe.

The conversation went a little like this:

ME: I just made a new smoothie concoction. What do you think?

K-HUBS: Wow, it’s really good.

ME [Grinning from ear to ear]: Yeah?

K-HUBS: Yeah. Whose recipe is it?

ME: Mine.

K-HUBS: No, I mean, where did you get the recipe?

ME [Grin fading a little]: From myself.

K-HUBS: You? You made this? You came up with this?

ME: Yeeeessss. Is that hard to believe?

K-HUBS: I just…it’s just…you were grinning so I thought you were hiding something…I just…

ME: No, I played around with the ingredients and this is what I came up with. Some people grin when they are excited.

K-HUBS: Ah, yes, well…it tastes soooooo delicious. It really is a masterpiece. You knocked this one out of the ballpark. Yep, you’ve outdone yourself. [Taking another sip] Complete masterpiece.

Nice save. Nice save, indeed.

Blueberry Oatmeal Smoothie Liquid Ingredients Close-Up 2014

It is a thick smoothie, so I played around with how much of each liquid to add. A little orange juice goes a long way. If you decide you want more liquid, I’d increase the amount of milk. Too much juice and it just turns bitter…trust me. And if it’s still too thick for your liking, the next time you make it reduce the oatmeal by a 1/4 cup or so.

Speaking of which, this recipe is great for getting in a daily dose of fiber. That’s why I keep the amount of oatmeal at one cup. This recipe makes enough for two people, so each person gets a daily serving of oatmeal in their smoothie. Success.

I try to eat high-fiber foods, but sometimes it’s just work. How much more broccoli can I stand to eat in one sitting? I’ve eaten three pieces and hit my max for the day. Someone, please hand me a slice of cheese or at least slather the broccoli in butter or dip or something.

I come by this attitude honestly. Mom and I tried to eat celery once during movie night at home. And then what, you ask? That’s it. That’s the end of the story. We tried to eat it once. But Doris Day and Rock Hudson aren’t as funny if you’re eating celery. Mom went in search of peanut butter, but then we had more peanut butter on the celery than actual celery. Finally we gave up and ate the peanut butter by itself. We patted ourselves on the back for the initial effort.

With this recipe, I get my flavor and my fiber. Since I can’t knowingly subsist on Ruffles potato chips alone (although there are days I’d love to try), food combos like this are a godsend.


  • 1 cup plus 1/2 cup Rice Dream vanilla-flavored rice milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (I just prepare frozen orange juice from concentrate according to package instructions, nothing fancy)
  • 1 cup gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand)
  • 2–2 1/2 cups blueberries, just slightly thawed

Blueberry Oatmeal Smoothie Ingredients Outdoors 2014


  1. Combine 1 cup of milk, 1/2 cup orange juice, and oats in blender on high speed for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add blueberries and blend another 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add remaining milk and blend until smooth.

Blueberry oatmeal Smoothie Finished Product 1 2014

And there you have it. A healthy comfort food perfect for rainy days or breakfast on the deck.


This isn’t a sweet-tooth recipe. If you’re inclined to make your smoothie sweeter, consider adding a little agave nectar. The blending warms the smoothie, too. If you like a cooler smoothie, add a few ice cubes to your serving glass and stir. This can also help thin it a little because it is a thick blend to begin with, courtesy of the oats.

Toodlebug went in for allergy testing and came out allergic to the world. I’m joking, of course. Mostly. In addition to the standard fare one might expect, think indoor/outdoor allergies and cats, Toodle is also allergic to peanuts, pork, soy, and wheat. Round two added asparagus, cauliflower, raspberries (poor girl!), tomatoes, sesame seeds, ginger, and navy beans to the list. That’s a bit…tricky.

We purged the pantry again, and I ended up at the grocery store more times in two weeks than I had in the previous three months. Because we have nearly eliminated all processed foods from our diets, the hardest part is coming up with something quick at lunch or dinner if we don’t have a lot of prep time.

The big question now is whether the allergy testing was worth it. Have we seen any progress? K-Hubs and I say yes. While she still has bald patches, they aren’t spreading and new ones don’t appear to be forming. There are follicles in each patch, and hair is growing in, albeit slowly.

Another question is whether Toodle’s health, aside from hair, is improved. And to that we also say yes. Toodle is, and always will be, a spirited girl. It’s one of the many things I love about her. But she seems calmer, more able to follow through on actions and ideas. Like my mother, I am digging my heels in on this one. I whole-heartedly believe the behavior of Toodlebug’s hair is an indicator of her overall wellbeing. And maybe I can’t fix her alopecia areata, but I still believe wellness and alopecia are related.

I’m glad I pushed for round-two of allergy testing because the allergist, a little more traditional in nature than K-Hubs and I, said if her hair didn’t grow back after eliminating foods identified in the first round, there would be no need to do any other testing because the allergies were then not related to her alopecia areata.

However, per usual, something kept bugging me. Why wait? Couldn’t it be possible that some other food we hadn’t tested for be the one food that was bothering her? Couldn’t we unknowingly offer her large quantities of food that irritated her? Many people with alopecia (areata, totalis, or universalis) don’t see progress until the particularly offensive food is removed or all offensive foods are eliminated. In an effort to find alternatives to foods she could no longer eat, couldn’t we inadvertently introduce new foods that also caused allergic reactions?

It turns out, yes, that is exactly what could have happened. Tomatoes and raspberries, identified in round-two testing, were two otherwise healthy foods she not only ate in large quantities but also was highly allergic to.

Feeling self-conscious about being so persistent, I feared I was turning into “that” parent. The one everyone in the clinic whispers about. But then I had another familiar feeling. It was similar to the way Mom acted throughout my childhood every time she felt something was wrong and she was the only who could see it. She advocated for me even if, and especially when, everyone else disagreed. In spite of her 5’1 frame, she was a force to be reckoned with.

For example, there was the time she argued incessantly with the orthodontist. She simply would not hear about anything to do with headgear. In spite of his protests to the contrary, she was convinced the gear would pop out of my mouth and into my eyes, blinding me forever.

And then there was the time she wouldn’t let me sign up for pointe ballet classes because she was convinced I’d need foot and ankle surgery by the time I was 20.

So although I was going to wait a while for further testing after round one, I listened to my inner voice and lasted a whopping three days to set up round two. True confession, I would have set it up sooner but it was a weekend.

We have learned that autoimmune diseases are primarily environmental and less about genetics, which meant I had another nagging feeling. And an innocuous comment from the pediatrician (not the family physician referenced in the previous post) about early exposure to prevent future allergies led me down a pointless path.

This time the nagging feeling was that we had done something wrong. Maybe we washed our hands too much when she was little or not enough. Maybe we bathed her too often or not often enough. Did we overexpose her to germs, but maybe the wrong ones? And the family cat we never got? What if that was the whole reason she acquired alopecia areata. The “environment” we created for her was all wrong. This could have all been prevented had we just gotten a family pet. Well, shoot. We failed as parents before we even got her to Kindergarten.

But I like to think God smiles on us more often than we realize. And after the first round of testing, a woman approached me in the health foods aisle at the grocery store with a question about milk alternatives. This led to trading stories about our allergy-prone children. The woman, to whom I will always be grateful, said, “Oh, you need that book by that doctor who cured herself of Multiple Sclerosis through diet and exercise. Can’t remember her name. Something like Wall.”

Enter The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine. The book has been a game changer, a lifesaver, for us. The Wahls Protocol answered many of my insecurities about Toodle’s health and why I am drawn to doctors who also have a functional approach to medicine.

Environmental doesn’t automatically mean “parental screw-up” like I had been secretly thinking. Environmental includes anything from an illness at some point in one’s life to exposure to a toxin. High fevers are also possible culprits. And combined with genetics, which do play a part, there are some people who are going to be more prone to autoimmune diseases than others. But if the environment is the main cause, then maybe the environment can be the main cure, too. Hence the emphasis in her book on diet, exercise, and assessment of stress and environmental toxins.

Dr. Wahls’ book got me thinking maybe symptoms don’t always tie nicely into one diagnosis. At the risk of making Toodlebug “special,” I found myself wondering, instead of anaphylactic shock, what if her symptoms were behavioral? What if, instead of getting physically sick from offending foods, she is ill behaved at the table because she genuinely doesn’t feel well? What if, instead of swelling and rashes with each meal, she is distracted, irritable, and hyper? This seemed to be the case for Toodle.

What are we doing about it? I remember having extremely sensitive skin until I was in high school. Mom, Dad, The Gram, and Auntie tried to keep me away from potpourri stores, perfumes, certain jewelry, and even makeup. I didn’t wear foundation until I was a sophomore. Only once Mom suggested I give it a try did I actually start.

In that same vein we have focused on perfumes and chemicals that might be bothersome. We have changed out her detergent. Overkill? Probably. But we had some Charlie’s Soap on hand so the switch was easy. Reflecting back on the little things my family did for me, I remember secretly thanking them for trying.

And once I learned the medicine she takes thins her scalp to allow it to work (I don’t know how that one never dawned on me), I traded out her shampoo and conditioner. Thank you to the lovely Whole Foods employee who helped me find an all-natural alternative that didn’t include wheat or soy. That was not an easy task.

We have eliminated nearly all processed foods. Someone hold me. I could really go for boxed brownies right now.

Toodle also drinks rice milk, and we buy our fruits and vegetables in bulk at Costco. K-Hubs is the official freezer of foods for the family. He found this site particularly helpful for learning how to freeze various foods.

What about sugar? That’s where I draw the line. I’ll give up wheat and all the goodness that goes with it. I’ll give up soy and every soy-laced chocolate on the planet. I’ll steer clear of cheese and eat it privately in the company of dear friends who let me eat the last piece. I’ll eat Jimmy John’s in my car on a side street and sneak cookies at kids’ birthday parties. I’ll develop an honest affection for fruit and kale smoothies (sweetened, of course). But sugar? I will not give up sugar.

Why? Because I have absolutely no idea how to cook with it’s brothers and sisters. Stevia? You have no idea how many desserts I have thrown away trying to bake with stevia and a bulking agent like applesauce. Agave nectar? Well, of course it isn’t recommended in large doses because that’s the one I have reasonable success with. I’m like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. “That’s the fork I know.”

Twinkleberry eats the rubbery cookies I have attempted to make, but she also tries to eat foam bath toys, so I don’t take her vote with a lot of confidence. To the men and women who have learned to make 7-layer cakes with stevia, honey, and egg whites, I salute you. K-Hubs does, too. He’d actually like to meet you and not-so-secretly wonders if you’ll adopt him for dinner and let him stay for dessert.

People with alopecia areata often do give up sugar. And eventually, I will have a burst of patience and attempt to bake with sugar alternatives again. For now, we are letting Toodle eat some sweet treats but only in small quantities. In cutting out processed foods, I was surprised how much we had cut back on sugar already.

There may be other foods to avoid, but the first two rounds were enlightening. The testing process was bothersome enough for Toodle (we are doing the scratch test as covered by insurance – I’ve heard of a blood-draw/panel option, too) that K-Hubs and I decided to postpone testing for tree nuts and shellfish since she doesn’t eat foods in either group with regularity. Already we feel a sense of relief and an ability to care for Toodle, which has been our main goal from the beginning.

As curious as we are to see how this evolves, there is another person to add to the list. The allergist. We go back for a follow-up assessment in two months. When I asked what the meeting would be about, he said, “I want to see if the hair grows back. I want to see what her scalp looks like.” I’ll accept that. We want that as well.


I promised in my previous post that I would share articles and websites that have been helpful in understanding what to try and what to expect. Below are a few of my favorites.


  • Vitamix Recipe book that came with my 5200 Series
  • Better Homes and Gardens – I modify individual ingredients
  • The Wahls’ Protocol – Awesome starter recipes


I can’t speak to the validity of any of these articles and resources, only that they helped me better understand Toodle’s situation and my own uncertainties of how we were initially addressing her alopecia areata.



It’s true, Kraft broke my heart.  When they pulled their delectable olive pimento spread from store shelves, I was like Barbra Streisand seeing Robert Redford on the street at the end of The Way We Were.  Or maybe I was technically Robert Redford’s sad, forlorn character, Hubbell.  Either way, I was unhappy.  I’d meander the aisles looking for olive pimento spread only to find pimento (not even close to the same thing), some Old English stuff, and pineapple.

Um, no.  Just. No.

I kept thinking the problem was with my stores.  Like maybe we needed to move to a new geographic region where we could easily purchase olive pimento.  But, alas, I learned Kraft had discontinued my favorite product.

I still can’t figure out why they discontinued such a popular product. So if someone knows, please tell me.  It always flew off the shelves every time I visited a store.  Maybe knowing why will lessen the heartbreak I feel.

When I realized they no longer made the product, I also realized it meant I could no longer make Mom’s famous breaded casserole.  And then I was morose.  I felt kind of like this elephant.

baby elephant in water

Via BuzzFeed – click the pic for more cuteness.

Okay, truthfully, I just want to share this because I love elephants.  That and I want to adopt them.  Over the holidays I came across a conservation effort for baby elephants, and I told K-Hubs I wanted to foster parent an elephant from across the pond, and he didn’t even flinch. So not only did that go better than expected, but I guess we will soon foster elephants.

I digress.

So, the spread and Mom’s casserole and whatever else I was rambling about. I tried to make the casserole with just pimento spread.  No dice.  And my heart remained broken.  But isn’t that elephant just adorable?

Finally, I researched Kraft’s long-lost product and found they shared the recipe on their Facebook page.  Apparently, you just need green olives and cream cheese.  Simple enough. Oh, and I’m not the only lonely heart.  It seems many people are missing this family favorite.  But, I bet cute photos of squishy little elephants would perk them right up.

One lady commented that if they do bring back, then she’ll order a whole case.  I hear that.

Since that isn’t happening any time soon, I thought, what the heck, I miss Mom’s recipe.  I’ll give it a shot and make my own. You should note that you’ll end up with more than the 5 ounces you usually got in their jars.

Olive Pimento Spread


  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup green olives with pimentos


  1. Combine ingredients in food processor or blender.
  2. Mix until smooth.

I blended the cream cheese with a handheld mixer first.  This gave it a creamy texture.

Olive Pimento Spread 2014 - Blend the cream cheese

But once I added the sliced green olives, the mixer was out of it’s league.

Cheese Spread with olives 2014

We don’t own a fancy food processor.  So I whipped out the blender.  It got the job done but, I’m not sure I should show you the final result.  You know those ugly food photos you see on Facebook and Instagram and here on the blog sometimes {cough, above, cough}?  Yeah, it was kind of like that.  But we’re friends here so I’ll show you the ugly mixture photo.

Ugly Pimento Mixture 2014

I did have to add some olive juice so my blender would play nice.  This made it soupy instead of spreadable.  If you have a fancier blender or food processor, you can probably reach the desired consistency easier  than I did.  I thought it would taste as horrible in Mom’s recipe as it looked.  But it did just fine.

And as for Mom’s casserole?  It takes a little while to make, so K-Hubs and I often had it for celebrations.  Or when we were in the mood for a warm comforting meal during winter.  I was a finicky eater as a child, but any time Mom made this, I was hooked.

Here’s a picture of her recipe card.

Mom's Tuna Fish Casserole 2014

Every time I see her recipe cards I think of how much I love her cursive writing.

Mom’s Tuna Fish Casserole


  • 1 can tuna, drained
  • 5 oz. olive pimento cheese spread (since I had more, I added more, and I wasn’t disappointed)
  • 3 Tbsp green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups macaroni noodles, mostly cooked through
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, sliced and diced
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • Bread crumbs


  1. Combine the tuna and olive pimento cheese spread in round casserole dish.
  2. Add chopped green pepper.
  3. In saucepan, combine milk, flour, and salt.  Stir constantly until thick. Add to casserole mixture.
  4. In another saucepan, cook macaroni noodles.  Add to casserole mixture.
  5. Boil 3 eggs.  Slice and dice when done boiling.  Add to casserole mixture.
  6. In a small skillet, melt butter and add bread crumbs. Spread bread crumbs on top of mixture.
  7. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

This recipe does take a little time to make.  Once you find a rhythm, it becomes a lot easier.  I’ll share the rhythm I found.

I start with the milk, flour, salt mixture. The flour curdles at first each time I make it.

Roux Beginning Stages 2014

After a few minutes, it starts to blend together but is still thin.

Roux starting to warm up 2014

About 15-20 minutes in, it starts to thicken.  It’s even bubbling a little in this photo.  That’s when you know it’s ready to go.

Roux ready to go 2014

It takes a while for the roux to warm up, so I don’t constantly stir in the beginning.  Instead, I multitask by starting the eggs.  Like the roux, they take about 20 minutes to reach their desired consistency, so it’s nice to start them at the same time.

All 3 Going 2014

I also start the macaroni noodles.  I don’t cook them all the way through because they’ll continue to cook in the oven, absorbing some of the casserole mixture.

Once the roux is thick, almost like cream of wheat, I add it to the casserole.  I also add the macaroni and sliced/diced eggs.  Because everything gets mixed together, it doesn’t matter what order you add the ingredients.  I plop the macaroni, roux, and eggs in with the tuna, olive pimento spread, and green peppers at the same time.

The last step before baking is to place pieces of bread in a skillet of melted butter.  The bread doesn’t need to cook.  I coat both sides and then top the casserole with them.

Buttered Bread 2014

You can see here how the ingredients are stirred together.  I’ve gotten halfway through covering the casserole with bread at this point.

Breaded halfway 2014

According to K-Hubs, it was, “Exactly how I remembered it.”  Even Toodlebug went for the baked bread topping.  That’s how I started out with it as a child.  Mom let me eat her bread, and I gradually worked my way up to eating my own helpings.  I suspect Toodlebug isn’t far behind.  She was pretty excited to go back for more bread, which happened to be covered in all the other ingredients.  Win.

Finished Product on the Plate 2014

My Mom wasn’t much of a cook, but…wait for it…she did make a mean batch of pickle wraps.  So when I found this recipe on Pinterest to make a pickle wrap dip, I knew I had to give it a try.

Did I nail it or fail it?  Well, it’s hard to tell.  It involved slicing and dicing, so you know I didn’t do that right.  Let’s view that photo again to see what it was supposed to look like.  And, as you can see below, it doesn’t look like that at all.  And mine are served with Fritos.  Hmmm…

I did one package of cream cheese, one package of beef (in the lunchmeat aisle), and one jar of whole pickles.

Picke Wrap Mix

And did I mention I served it with Fritos?  I don’t recommend this.  But in my defense I had already eaten the Triscuits with K-Hubs’ help.  And Toodlebug had already eaten the last of the tortilla chips.

Pickle Wrap Dip

We usually eat better than this.  Really, we do.  And we will start eating well again around January 2nd of next year.

But the dip itself was actually really good.  And, bonus, I thought this was a lot easier to prepare than good old-fashioned wrapped pickles. Those always took forever, and I always managed to get more cream cheese on the palm of my hand than on the pickle.

But a word of warning – the temperature of the pickles makes a difference on the outcome.

I prefer the refrigerated, crunchy pickles. Because they aren’t room temperature to start, I found it harder to mix the ingredients together. And although the dip was amazing, it had a firmer, not-so-dippy consistency.  So, you may want to stick with a jar of pickles that can be stored at room temperature prior to opening to make blending easier.

And look who found a way to use the word “dippy”  in a sentence.  Bah-zing! My work here is done.

Today’s post was supposed to be a nice Halloween article about decorating for fall.  I was telling K-Hubs about how Mom always decorated for Christmas, and I kind of took it to the next level and now decorate for fall because I can’t wait until the day after Thanksgiving.  I told him I needed some hot pink glitter pumpkins but they probably don’t exist.  And then he told me THEY DO EXIST!

I’m now on a quest to find hot pink glitter pumpkins because I think every woman needs hot pink glitter pumpkins.  A quick search on the Internet, and, wouldn’t you know it, there is a Pinterest project to MAKE YOUR OWN.  I was content just to buy some at a store.  But maybe I’ll have to give that a try.  And although I had total writer’s block about glitter pumpkins I don’t have, K-Hubs suggested I go a different route and maybe try a pumpkin recipe.

Dead in my tracks.

What?  We were talking about pink glitter and fake pumpkins.  Right, he said, except we don’t have any for you to write about.

This was very scary because it’s Halloween (see what I did there?) and I’ve never made anything with pumpkin.  I guess that’s not true.  I burned some pumpkin seeds once in an effort to bake them.

Anyway, I thought pumpkin bars would be a nice start because we had the ingredients already.  And then I joked that my pumpkin bars might not turn out any better than Mom’s pumpkin pie that consisted of nothing more than filling and crust.

It gets even scarier (see, I did it again!) because not only did I have the ingredients to do the pumpkin bars but I also had the ingredients to do Mom’s pumpkin pie.  I actually had a crust and a can of pumpkin!  So, of course we made both recipes…and hoped we didn’t burn down the kitchen.

They're Both Goin' In

For the pumpkin bars, I used my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and combined the dry ingredients first.

Dry Ingredients

I had whole cloves and the recipe called for ground cloves.  Fortunately, we had a grinder so I ground the cloves myself.  This worked out fine.  But to get the right consistency, I had to grind for a while.


Then I added the pumpkin, oil, and eggs to the dry mixture.  I had a picture but it was so blurry, I couldn’t bring myself to give you the headache it gave me.  My eyes couldn’t stand it.

For this stage, I needed a larger bowl.  Mom’s stainless steel bowl wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  I used both a whisk and a spoon to combine the ingredients.  It was a lot easier to do once I had the large bowl.

My baking pan was also ¼-inch shallower than the recipe suggested, and I was worried about overflow.  I didn’t use all the batter I had, but I still baked it at 25 minutes, and it turned out fine!

Mixture in pan

Baked Pumpkin Bars

To make the frosting, I used the maximum suggested amount of powdered sugar.

Cream Cheese Frosting

I didn’t frost them right away because Toodlebug and Twinkleberry declared I had run out of time.  So I came back to them later in the evening, and they made for a wonderful breakfast treat the next morning.  I’ll eat my whole grains, or whatever they are, later.  As for which recipe turned out better, well, according to the judges, K-Hubs and Toodlebug, the bars were delish.

And Toodlebug took one look at the pie goop and said as politely as she knew how, “Umm, I’m not going to eat that.”  Diplomatic for a three-year-old, I’d say.

Mom's Pie Goop

Before it even went in the oven, Toodlebug declared she wasn’t going to eat it.

Comparison 2

And the next morning, after it had been baked, we all declared we weren’t going to it it!

I’ve gotten way worse reactions from her over PB&J.  So we’re going to call the pumpkin bars a win.

Finished Product

Pumpkin Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
4 beaten eggs
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 cup cooking oil

  • Combine dry ingredients.
  • Stir In eggs, pumpkin, and oil.
  • Spread in ungreased 15x10x1-inch baking pan
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes – a toothpick should come out clean
  • Cool for 2 hours on a wire rack.
  • Spread with cream cheese frosting and cut into bars.


Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 ¾ – 6 ¼ cups sifted powdered sugar

  • Beat cream cheese, margarine, and vanilla extract with electric mixer until mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Gradually add sifted powdered sugar.
  • Refrigerate frosting and/or any frosted cakes.

I really want to go make those glitter pumpkins now.  I mean, it’s virtually impossible to decorate with too much pink or with too much glitter. They practically solve everything.

The Gram was a fabulous cook.  My mother was a terrible cook.  And I’m somewhere in the middle.  Whereas Gram could bake a 6-layer cake with her eyes shut and one hand tied behind her back, Mom found herself in the great pumpkin-pie debacle of the 1970s.

The story goes that she tried to bake a pumpkin pie for my dad not long after they were married.  With good intentions she plopped the pumpkin filling in the crust and shoved it in the oven.  That’s right.  No spices, no other ingredients.  Just the crust and the filling.  She served my dad a slice, and he ATE IT.  Well, the part that wasn’t burned.

Since I’m an average cook, I need repetition to get a recipe right.  And one of my favorite recipes also stems from one of the best summers I spent with my dad sometime during the early ‘90s.

He taught me to bake an apple pie.

And it’s only taken me about 20ish years to get it mostly right.

NOTE:  You’ll need more than crust and apples for this to work.


  • 6 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Cinnamon (welcome to my dad’s cooking – no actual measurements – spices are “to taste”)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 pie crusts (If Gram were here, she’d be appalled I’m not making my own crust.  But to save on time and sanity, I confess I use store-bought crusts and hope for the best.)

Apple Pie Drifts and Plateaus


  1. Peel and cut apples and put in a large bowl.
  2. Mix cinnamon, sugar, and flour together.
  3. Add dry mix to apples.
  4. Press one pie crust in greased pie pan (Dad diligently greases with a stick of butter, followed by a light dusting of flour – I use a spray can).
  5. Pour apple mixture into pie pan and form a hill with the apples.
  6. Cut off excess crust around edges of pie pan.
  7. Lightly pinch the crust edge to pan (this always trips me up – my crust usually looks a little haphazard).
  8. Put four slabs of butter on top of apple mixture.
  9. Place second crust on top of apple mixture, maintaining the shape of a hill (again, always trips me up since my hill turns into a plateau or bumpy drifts – as evidenced by the photo).
  10. Slice in bird feet in second crust.
  11. Repeat steps 6 and 7.
  12. Put foil around the edge of the pie pan.
  • For the first 25 minutes of baking, keep the foil on.
  • For the last 25-30 minutes of baking, remove the foil.
  • Bake for a total of 50-55 minutes at 375 degrees.

As for the leftover crust that was trimmed off?  Well, we don’t waste things on either side of my family.  We also don’t believe in foodborne bacteria.  So, germs be damned, we’re eating that raw crust with the leftover cinnamon/sugar/flour mixture.  We’ll have digestive systems like steel and be ready for the apocalypse.  What are dads for, anyway?