Busy: an update

First and foremost I want to say: No I have not forgotten about all of you!

Second: I have been busy!! I am not telling you this to apologize from my blogging absence. Instead I am actually sharing with excitement that life is finally getting full.  We have been busy with social outings, holiday events, small group meetings, and of course work. So what have I been up to?

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1. Mama Mia: On Thursday the 21rst Luke called me early in the morning and shared that one of his co-workers was giving away two tickets to see a local production of Mama Mia for that night.  I was excited, it has been two years since I’ve seen a musical and how do you say no to free tickets?! Luke said he would go with me but I told him I would ask my friend Sarah to come along for a girls night out, sparing him from a night of ABBA . It was wonderful to get all dressed up and check out our closest preforming art center: Clemens Center . We had seats in the first few rows and this more informal performance included a three song sing-along after the curtain call (costume change and all).

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2. Thanksgiving x 2: This past Tuesday we had our first round of Thanksgiving meals with our small group from church. So Tuesday I was busy making stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a fresh salad. That was our first day of real  snow and the ground was wet and slippery so it took Luke awhile to get home from work. Running a little late to small group, we came in to our friends Scott and Sarah’s mudroom to the smell of turkey and gravy. It was a great laid-back night; a nice change of pace. We enjoyed just spending time together talking about hobbies and our Thanksgiving plans.

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Second round of Thanksgiving we shared with our good friends Tre and Miki. They moved out here 6 months before we did from San Diego and are also newly married. We went to their house in the dark and snow around 4:30pm and enjoyed a great Thanksgiving dinner just the four of us. We played a little Dominion, watched Charlie Brown and clips from the Thanksgiving football game while eating pumpkin bread and drinking coffee. We were grateful for a relaxing day with good food and great friends.

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3. New Job: Coming Soon!! :You read right! After months of applying, waiting, and frustration I will have a new teaching position starting in February. I will be teaching a Business/Professional Writing course for Keuka College’s ASAP program (Accelerated Studies Adult Program). Right now I am in the middle of the hiring paperwork followed up  by online teacher training and so on. This has been a long time coming and although it is only one class for now, I am grateful for a foot in the door!

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4. Winter Has Passed: No I’m not delusional. I realize winter is only beginning, evident by the snow falling outside, Winter Has Passed is the title to a new book about to be published. This is my mother-in-law Diana Greene’s 4th book and my second book as her editor in chief.  We have been working around the clock to get the final edits together for this second book in her Extraordinary in the Ordinary series so it can be sold for Christmas. I also had the privilege this time of writing the book’s introduction. For more on this book check out: Diana Greene Ministries or Diana Greene Ministries facebook page.

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What’s next?: Today I am baking like crazy for our first Christmas event of the season that has potential to become a new tradition. Then next weekend is Sparkle (Corning’s biggest winter festival) and a Christmas concert. All of which I will share more about later.

So now it’s time to catch up with all of you:

Are you still stuffed from Thanksgiving? What do you do with leftovers?

Are you ready for the Christmas season yet?

The Great Pumpkin

Sorry for my clear hiatus from blogging this past week. I instead spent the time catching up with friends and family (whom I haven’t spoken to in months) via skype and phone calls. I also want to apologize for  any “ghost posts”. Apparently  I had chosen to date some blog posts months down the road so I had time to either complete them or  be sure they were ready to post. That obviously did not work out. Live and learn. Anyways changing the subject: The Great Pumpkin!

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In the last few weeks the temperature has dropped  10-15 degrees and now that the sun is going down around 5pm, it is clear our wonderful fall is fading quickly. For more proof of this our creative Halloween pumpkin art headed for the dumpster last weekend and my pumpkin candle is down to it’s last bit of wax.

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But fall is not over yet, we still have a few colored leaves on the trees and plenty more on the ground. And I’m pretty sure I’m not done experimenting with cans of pumpkin puree. As we transition into these late fall days I thought I’d review the wonderful pumpkin goodies of the season so far:

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1. Pumpkin spice latte mix and Pumpkin spice creamer.  I mentioned this once before in Glimpses of Fall.  These two items are the easy and cheap way to keep me out of the Starbucks line. If you want some helpful hints on how to make your own Pumpkin spice creamer see Coffee Creamer Simplified.

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2. Roasted Pumpkin seeds: sweet and salty. This was my first year attempting to roast pumpkin seeds. And yes I used the pile of seeds you saw in our carving pictures (why go and buy them when they come with the pumpkin?). I split the seeds in half and tried two different recipes: one sweet and one salty. For both I used foxinthepine.com as a baseline.

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I found that after melting butter in with the mixture you can pretty much add any seasonings and stick them in the oven to roast. For the sweet seeds I used honey instead of white sugar and for the salty/savory I added Siracha to the mix of spices they listed. Both seed recipes turned out as great snack for Halloween and to throw in packed lunches.

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3. Pumpkin Cheesecake popsicles. It may seem odd to some of you but they honestly taste like mini frozen creamy pumpkin pies. The ingredients and instructions are simple. I used one box of sugar free cheesecake pudding mix, a little pumpkin puree, milk, and fall spices. For more on my pudding pop/homemade popsicles and ingredients check out cookies n cream pudding pop; or  Tropical Banana creamsicles .

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4.Pumpkin snicker doodle cookies. These turned out amazing. I made them for our Tuesday night small group and had Luke take the leftovers to work. When he brought the cookie bin home that night there was nothing but crumbs left. I’ll take that as a compliment. I got the base recipe from highheelsandgrills.com.

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I made three small changes to this recipe: One I added a pack of dry pumpkin pie pudding mix. Two I didn’t flatten out the cookies before baking. And three I used brown sugar to coat the outside instead of white. This made these snicker doodles crispy on the outside and just the right chewy softness on the inside. (If you can’t find the pumpkin pie pudding mix you can alway use vanilla.)

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5. Pumpkin brittle. This was also my first year to try pumpkin brittle and to be honest my experiment didn’t work out the way I had hoped. My candied brittle mixture had great flavor but I ended up with a green pumpkin seed filled blob instead of crunchy brittle. But this will not discourage me from trying again next year. Speaking of next year when I do make it I will probably be using eatsybitsydaisy.com‘s recipe which is an amazing mock See’s candy peanut brittle recipe.

What about you?  Do you have more fall pumpkin flavors headed your way? Anyone out there anticipating pumpkin pie for  Thanksgiving ?

Why I am Tree-nut Free: Part 2

So I left off Why I am tree-nut free: Part 1  with saying that my experiences with my tree-nut allergy are different as an adult then as child.  As I have traveled to other countries and discovered more foods and languages, I have come across new and different challenges.

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During college I had the privilege of traveling out of the country several times. On my first trip out of the states (beyond a brief bit in Canada) I didn’t have too many problems with my allergies.  But my choir trip to Italy on the other hand was a whole different story. If you  know anything about Italian dessert and baked goods then you’ll know they enjoy their pistachios, hazelnuts, and walnuts.

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lemon gelato on the Island of Capri

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My first encounter was a gelato stand in Venice in which they did not use separate scoopers for each flavor. I got pistachio and hazelnut oil in my nut-free gleato. From then on if we wanted a frozen treat I was cautious to only go to vendors with separate scoopers for each flavor. Since tree-nuts are such a large portion of desserts there is no one easily translated generic name for them as in English. Each tree-but has a different unqiue name.  Although English was widely spoken in Italy some places we visited I was not able to clearly ask about the more traditional baked goods many of which were coated, rolled, covered, or filled with tree-nuts. One night after celebrating with a local Italian choir  I found what I thought was a safe chocolate wafer cookie. It didn’t take long for me to realize it was nutella rather than chocolate. My mouth broke out into welts/sores. Of course I had benadryl with me but it was still not a fun experience.

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baked goods from Lucca Italy

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Like Italy, on my semester-abroad I discovered tree-nuts were common in many foods in the Middle East. In fact we went often to a store-front around the corner from our flat in Cairo to get candied, salted, or chocolate covered nuts ( of course I got peanuts). But these types of store-fronts are found all over the Middle East alongside bulk spices and candies in bazaars or souks.

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When we visited Syria we went to what is supposedly the oldest ice cream stand in old Damascus. Here you order ice cream then it is carried down an assembly line being las of all dipped in fresh chopped nuts. I wanted the ice cream but was unsure how to communicate I didn’t want the tree-nuts. I knew some arabic but was limited. I knew that generally “mish” was meant “without” so I tried to communicated “mish” while shaking my hands and head. The man laughed but some how got my gestures and I got nut-free ice cream.  At the same time I also laughed because I remembered that “mish-mish” actually means “apricot”. I am glad he was able to determine by context I wasn’t asking for apricots.

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For some people allergies go away with adulthood or start up like my allergy to Barley (for more see Why I am barley-free Part One ).  What I have found with my tree-nut allergy is that I can now detect how my body reacts differently to each type of tree-nut. In a very limited amount (such as heath bar/toffee, or oil) I can ingest almond or coconut with little to no reaction. But hazelnuts, as I mentioned earlier, will give me welts on the inside of my mount. Walnuts will make my stomach cramp and if I eat too many can give me hives. Whereas cashews are the one tree-nut my body is unwilling to digest-once it hits my stomach it forces itself right up again.

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I found this out the hard way several times. Most recently was at an Indian restaurant when visiting Corning NY a year ago. We were looking for a place to live and decided to eat at a Indian restaurant in town, our meals were good but I took a sample of one of Luke’s dishes only to find out, not long after, it had cashews in it.

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So what does that look like for me now? I am cautious, read labels, ask questions, and I am more than use to refusing delicious looking food. It doesn’t bother me usually as much as it bothers the one who made the food. As we approach the holidays I will probably have to turn down desserts, stuffing or other sides dishes, some salads, and possibly green beans if they are topped with almond slivers. My solution ,when I am not eating with family, is to volunteer to bring a dish I know normally would have tree-nuts in so I get to eat it.

Do you have any allergies, food restrictions, or strong food preferences?

How do you get around not eating what you can’t/don’t want to during the holidays?

How do you handle your allergies or food restrictions when traveling especially out of the country?