Thursday, October 27, 2011

Caramel Frosting

I have some frosting to share that will rock your world.  I'm not kidding you.

Step 1: Make cupcakes.  Any flavor will do.  I've tried it on both pumpkin cupcakes and vanilla with chocolate chips.  Equally delicious.

Step 2: Make the most delicious salted caramel frosting EVER!

Yes, I said salted caramel.  You can thank me by sending me samples of the goodness you create with it.  I'll eat it in the front lawn to prevent my house from getting contaminated with crumbs or my jealousy that you get to bake with flours full of gluten.  And because some of my beloved readers have to avoid dairy, I've included what to use to indulge in this treat free from cow.  You're welcome.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks butter or 1 cup palm shortening
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
In a pan, stir together sugar and water.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Let it boil WITHOUT TOUCHING IT until it turns a dark amber color.  Sorry I yelled at you, you just don't want to disturb caramel while it is coming into all it's glory.  It messes it up.  Do you need some pictures to help you with this step?  Here you go.  See, I told you I love you all.

Before (when you are allowed to stir it)

The color you're shooting for

 Be patient and let it get nice and lovely colored.  If you take it off too soon it won't taste like caramel.  Slowly add your cream and vanilla into your caramel.  Don't do it the other way around.  Trust me.  You will end up with a ball of hardened caramel floating in your heavy cream.  Stir it until it's nice and smooth.  Then transfer it to a separate bowl to cool for about 10-15 minutes.

Resist the urge to taste test it several times.  Just once will suffice.

With your mixer, beat the living daylights out of your two sticks of softened butter and salt.  For real.  Don't just beat them until they are mixed together, really do it for about 5 minutes.  You want to beat air into your butter, that's what will make it all smooth and amazingly delicious and fluffy.  Then add your powdered sugar one cup at a time.  Again, beat it a lot.

Once your caramel has cooled, pour it into your frosting and beat it on high until it's really well incorporated.  If you were too antsy and did this before your caramel was cool, you now have melted butter on your hands.  Melted butter does not equal delicious frosting.

Your end result

Put your frosting in a ziplock bag and cut a little piece of the bottom corner off.  Swirl your frosting onto your cupcakes.  I promise it's easier to do this way then to try to spread it on with a spatula.  And it looks so much prettier!  You family will be so impressed.  That is unless you plan on hiding them on top of the fridge to eat during naptime only.  You will receive no judgment from me on that one.

I made this particular batch to take to a dinner with friends.  I then realized I had already boxed up my cupcake transporter (yes, I have such a thing), and had to go digging through a box to get it out.  Thankfully, I label my boxes.  My little helpers thought this part was all kinds of fun.

I'm not sure what Evelyn is doing with her face there.

Then I had to proceed to pack a dinner for Evelyn to take with us.  I opened her lunchbox knowing that she had told me not to worry because she had already packed it.  Disturbing much?

Let's take an inventory...

  • 2 teacups = not weird
  • horses to play with = totally expected
  • a doll's leg....wait...what?!?!  Who packs a leg in their lunch box!!  Strange-ola child. 
On that note, go make some cupcakes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Explaining Evelyn: Part 1 - How We Got the Diagnosis of Celiac Disease

I can't tell you how many emails and messages I have typed out to friends, family, and random strangers desperate for help or answers explaining how we came to discover that Evelyn has Celiac Disease.  I love helping people and answering these questions.  I really do.  But typing it over and over does get a bit tedious and I have two crazies running around my house to tend to.  So this post is a long time in coming.

Evelyn was a plump baby.  She was 7 lbs. at birth, 12 lbs. at 2 months, and 14 lbs. at 4 months.  Growing was not an issue for her.  Me consuming dairy would upset her tummy, but otherwise she was happy and healthy.

Clearly, gaining weight was not a problem area.

This didn't last long though.  We introduced solid food around 7 months, and by 9 months she started having problems.  Her first signs were that she stopped gaining weight and her poop never got normal.  This is going to be more graphic than you probably care to read over your breakfast, but I get asked to clarify what I mean by normal, so here goes.  We cloth diaper.  You can't throw solid food poop in your washing machine, you have to plop it in the toilet.  When kiddos first start solid food, that's a messy proposition.  I have a spatula in the bathroom reserved for this purpose only.  After a few months though, their poop should get more solid and be able to just be shaken off into the toilet.  This NEVER happened with Evelyn.  Ever.  Yuck.

We still thought that dairy may be the issue, but weren't really sure.

She was also a horrible sleeper.  Horrible.  She was up multiple times a night, every night.

Evelyn around 18 months, considerable loss of chunk-ola-ness.

On a trip up to Iowa when Evelyn was around 18 months old is when the real search began.  I knew something was off.  Most people tried to convince me otherwise because I was an obsessive new mom and was presumably over reacting.  I also hadn't gotten to sleep through the night on a regular basis for a year and a half, so there is some delirium to be considered too.  But, I KNEW something was not right with my babe. 

She broke out in a HORRIBLE blistering rash.  She could hardly sit.  I thought it was the diapers because at that time was when the whole Pampers Dry Max mess was going on.  Looking back, it wasn't the diapers.  On this trip was the first time I let her have processed wheat products.  White bread.  Pancakes.  Etc.  Before then, at home, she had only had grain products from whole wheat that I had ground myself.  I know, if you didn't think I was a crazy crunchy lady before, I officially labeled myself now.  Moving on...

When we got back home, the rash started to heal, but was still not pretty.  So I took her to our naturopath to have her look at it and figure out what to do.  She looked at it and said, that's food related.  I figured it might be dairy since she had also drank milk on this trip and we don't at home usually and because that had been an issue for her in the past.  So we had a ALCAT food sensitivities test done.  It came back with a TON of foods on it (no dairy though).  I was supposed to take her off of almost everything she ever ate.  That lasted all of 2 weeks and then my poor little skinny babe needed more food.  So we started putting foods back in with no reaction.  The only food that for sure gave us a reaction was sunflower.  So we kept her off that, but returned to eating everything else normally.  We returned to only letting her eat fresh ground wheat products though.

We then took her to our regular doctor and had an allergy panel done.  It came back without the slightest trace of any allergies.  Not even remotely elevated levels of antibodies.  I figured that dairy would show up on there and that was where the rash was maybe from.  So now we were confused.  Maybe it was the diapers???

Then came one Sunday at church.  We always had her bring her own snack to church.  This Sunday though she got a hold of another child's goldfish cracker.  Later that day the rash returned. 

Sad, sad, blistery rash.  :(

Along with the rash came some extreme Evelyn symptoms.  No sleep.  Crazy, crazy meltdowns over EVERYTHING.  Sobbing over everything you told her to do.  I have video of her thrashing around on the floor completely out of control after a gluten exposure screaming at the top of her lungs and being totally unresponsive to any attempts to calm her down.  This was happening multiple times a day and for hours (literally) in the middle of the night.

We now assumed that gluten was the culprit.  And sure enough, every time she got gluten exposure, she got the rash.  So we stopped feeding her gluten, obviously.  But, I'm an obsessive researcher and wanted to figure out why gluten was giving her such a horrible rash.  And why once she was off of it she started gaining weight, as in a POUND A MONTH!

Insert really poorly made graph of Evelyn's weight, but you get the idea.

This led me to pictures of dermatitis herpepteformis.  This is essentially a rash that is caused by gluten that is only present in people who have Celiac Disease.  It only shows up in about 10% of Celiaces though.  NOT a diagnosis I wanted, but one that I felt we needed to explore since Celiac Disease is a whole different ballgame than a gluten sensitivity.  

I can't get it to not be this weird size, but here's what she looked like at about 22 months.  Skinny limbs, bloated belly. 

So we had some genetic testing done when she was 27ish months old (I know, I hate when people use months after the age of 2, but it makes it easier to think in months with this stuff for me) and found out that Evelyn does in fact carry the Celiac gene.  Now, gene does not equal Celiac disease.  It just means you have the ability to develop Celiac Disease.

So we found a pediatric gastroenterologist at our local children's hospital who specializes in Celiac Disease.  We hauled ourselves in there with growth charts, pictures of rashes, food logs...the whole spiel.  
Now, let me backtrack with a little info.  The gold standard of diagnosing Celiac Disease goes something like this.
  • Show symptoms
  • Have blood test done to test for TtG antibodies
  • If antibodies are present then eat gluten every day for 6-8 weeks
  • Go under general anesthesia and have a scope and biopsy done of your intestines
  • Look for damage in the biopsy to positively diagnose with Celiac
She looked at the pictures and the data and said, I think she has Celiac.   She had three different dermatologists look at: a pediatric dermatologist at the hospital, the head of dermatology for the affliated adult hospital, and the top dermatologist in the country who deals with dermatitis herpeteformis.  They all independently came back with the answer that the rash they were looking at was indeed DH.  Because of this, her recommendation was to NOT do the extensive testing and put such a tiny body through all that. 

So with that, we had our diagnosis.

When I have a chance...Part 2 - How our lives changed and what it means for our family

Monday, October 24, 2011

Renovation Goes On, and On, and On...

You get two posts in one day.  It's because I love you all.

This weekend was a work time at the new house.  A bunch of family came down to help out.  A special shout out to the un-pictured Aunt Mary who played with my children all weekend long.

I spent all my time painting.  It's my new favorite hobby that I will never, ever want to do ever again after this house is done.  Seriously.  It's a good thing I love the colors because I'm not sure I will ever be up to repainting it.

My mom rocked the power washer on the front porch.  

My dad and the shop vac became best friends and he prepped the floors for carpet by cleaning them and pulling out hundreds of staples.

Note: the attic is now yellow and much less cave-like.

Jon became an overnight expert in plaster repair.  Which is good, because otherwise our guests would have chunks of wall falling on them while they slept.

In other news...

My felt food store has grown by popular demand to include a veggie set.  I will try to get some better pictures of the pieces soon because they are darling in person.  

I also am working on an order that requested a custom grocery bag.  I'm loving it!

Also coming soon as a regular in the shop are chicken drumsticks and french fries!

Pumpkin Patch

One of my fondest memories of time with my Grandma Evelyn includes going to an apple orchard in Fort Dodge.  We got to pick out pumpkins, apple goodies, and old-fashioned candy sticks.  So spending a day at the pumpkin patch holds a special place in my heart.

Last year we started a family tradition of going to a local pumpkin patch.  We've been to two different ones now, but I have yet to pick one that I want to keep returning to.  And seriously, what is the deal down here with charging insane amounts of money just to get in and then charging additional for activities.  Craziness people.  Ugh.  Whatever.

So here was our trip.

Pumpkin patch requirement: Getting to go out and pick your own pumpkins off the vine.

We stocked up on carving pumpkins and some pie pumpkins to steam and freeze pumpkin puree.  You should never buy canned pumpkin this time of year or until your stockpile in the freezer runs out.  That sounded really bossy.  So think of it as just a suggestion. 

I'm squinting horribly in this picture.  I had sunglasses on, but Scott accidentally made fun of them.  I put them on in the car on the way there and he started saying, "Oh, you found your ...."  And then his comment went bad.  ""  See they weren't mine.  They were my moms and they had sparkles on them.  Scott doesn't appreciate the cuteness of sunglasses with sparkles on them.  He didn't mean for it to come out that way, but I give him a hard time about it anyway.  I'm just nice like that.


Getting so tall, and clearly an accurate measurement when wearing boots and not standing up straight.  Have you noticed Evelyn's odd habit?  She fiddles with her belly button.  It's her version of sucking her thumb.  I've decided not to make a deal out of it yet, but at some point it may need to stop.

Highlight of the trip for me?  Seeing Scott squeeze into the Pumpkin Express.  All kinds of fabulous.

Bella found a gourd.  She carried it the entire day and still carries it all over the house.  It's not allowed to be decoration, it's clearly her lovey.

You knew we couldn't leave without some horse riding for Evelyn.  

She had this crazy, focused look on her face the entire time.  We could NOT get her to smile.  Which is odd because, hello, she loves horses more than people I'm pretty sure.  She talks about it like she had a blast, but I think the reality of being on a horse by herself was a bit scarier than she thought it would be.  You never know when those ponies walking in a circle are going to get all crazy on you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Family Photos

Thank you Adrienne!  You did a beautiful job despite my children's unwillingness to comply with having their picture taken.

Scott let me know that my outfit made me look like I belonged in a Jordache commercial.  

He then pulled one up on You Tube and lo and behold, there I was. 

It's decided that God made her so cute so that I can look at pictures like this and regain calm at the end of the day.

The oh so serious, Bella.

The quilt was a handmade wedding gift from my Grandma Doris.

So we sat on it in the middle of a street.  That's normal....right?

I'm in public.  In skinny jeans.  It's some kind of miracle that I never thought would happen.

Belle really wanted her picture taken some more.  Can't you tell?

Thanks for loving your 80's rockstar so well, babe.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Welcome Fall

Attempts to be more intentional about my time with my children has led to some fun times of play and exploring.

I love how these pictures show off Belle's sweet spirit.

Evelyn built a nest of fallen leaves.

She decided that Belle was her baby bird.

Then of course, Evelyn took over the camera.  I'm pretty impressed.  I only had to delete 140 pictures off the camera to get these 4.