Chocolate Chip Cookies | Vegan, Gluten Free, Sugar Free

by Chelle in


This recipe is an adaptation of Danielle Walker's Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe found in Against All Grain. Her's used almond flour, eggs, and real chocolate chips. I can't have those at the moment.  So I made a few changes. Take a look at her lovely blog! 

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Ingredients: 

1/4 cup coconut butter

1 "no egg" orgran egg

1/4 cup coconut crystals

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup gluten free flour blend

2 tablespoons coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup carob chips 

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First, preheat your oven to 350 F. Mix one "egg" and add the coconut butter. 

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Cream together coconut crystals, honey, vanilla, and egg mixture. 

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Mix together the blended flour, salt, coconut flour, baking soda and add to the egg mixture. 

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Add the carob chips! 

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Roll into little balls and press to 1/2 inch thickness and place on a greased baking sheet. 

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Bake for 8-10 minutes and then set out to cool for two minutes. 

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Enjoy! 

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Something old and Something New

by Chelle in ,


I have been feeling pretty uninspired about wardrobe and clothes lately. Normally I get really excited when the seasons change. Getting to think about what will shape the next seasons wardrobe, what will be the accent color. Will I paint my nails, and if so what color.  Most of the time it's finding new ways to wear old things, but I've been drawing a blank. 

A friend studying interior design recently told me that her professor said "You're grade will include how you present yourself during class, how you dress and carry yourself." This made me laugh, thinking back to rolling out of bed at 7:55 for my 8:00 class. Apparently - appearance has no affect your French grade... interesting... Anyway that got me thinking about personal presentation, dignity, worth and how that's reflected in the way I dress. 

How you dress yourself is like painting a picture - starting with a blank canvas. You get to inspire people with your work of art. (Pretty sure I've said that before.) Anyway thinking of a canvas helped and here's what I came up with for spring: 

Colors // Cream (after conversation with B), Black, Red, Pink, and Brown with Gold accents. 

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1. The cream shirt is a long loose flowey piece from Target. I bought two new shirts to create my spring wardrobe. I'll look for a few other pieces (mainly shoes). 

2.The black and white scarf was a 2008 H&M purchase. I bought that in France with B. She bought one for her Mom. We both still love and wear this scarf all the time. I love the pattern and it's a great accent for any outfit. 

3. Recognize these gold bracelets B? You gave them to me as a bridesmaid gift when you got married. Love them! They're my gold accents for spring! 

4. Instant Liner, Eye Liner from Clarins. Eye liner present quite the challenge. I still haven't mastered it yet, but it's a fun new look to try. I have a pinterest board dedicated to tutorials on makeup so hopefully I can nail this look as spring progresses. 

5. Opalescence Face & Blush Powder from Clarins. I love Clarins becuase 1. They're a family owned french business 2. All their products are plant based 3. When I buy foundation I get free samples like this blush and I love it! 

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1. The stripy shirt is my second spring purchase. Another Target find. Flowey, stripy, and light! 

2. Brown Bag! A friend gave this to me. Her friend lived in New York in the 60's and this purse is from that era. I love everything about it! 

3. Keds! All day every day I do love these shoes so much. This is my third pair. And I just love them!

4. Pink (Zora) and Red (Myrtle) nail polish from Julep. I love the muted pink and think there will be days for that and then days for BOLD red! Julep nail polish is great! It dries fast, it's vegan (not that I would eat it) and you can get some fun colors with their Julep Box. Joel got me a three month subscription for a gift last year. It was super fun! (Of course I forgot to cancel it so got a 6 month subscription - but no ones surprised there.) 

5. MAC Lipstick (Retro Matt Ruby Woo). I was all about dupes (which are knock off brands) but a sweet friend said, "No dupes!" and bought me this lovely red! It lasts all day and doesn't dry out my lips, so she may have had a point. 

6. Love this sent from Diptyque! I've been wearing it for the last year and it makes me so happy! It's The Do Son Eau De Parfum, " Sunny, Hazy, Creamy, indolent, seductiveness," which is of course my middle name. 

7. Gold necklace from Moorea Seal. She opened a shop in down town Seattle and you would love it. Clean, Fresh, Full of light, inspiration, and beautifulness. 

 I do have a few dream items on my list. Primarily shoes. But as I still can't decide what those will be I'm happy to kick around in my keds and soak up the sun that's been hanging around Seattle on and off the past few weeks. 


Forgotten Spring

by Brittany


One of the best parts of a new season is planning a new wardrobe... and by new I do not mean new clothes (although I have a few things on my thrifting list to look out for) but rather new combinations of existing items. Most of my clothes used to be a-seasonal... however, since leaving Washington it is more difficult to get away with that. Both Chicago (obviously) and the East Coast have huge temperature fluctuations, and throwing a bit of LA in there, I've ended up having much more diversity in my wardrobe. Sticking to an all black (with a few white and grey neutrals thrown in) does help ease the clothes from season to season but I still find myself rediscovering items that unconsciously got pushed to the back of my closet by disuse. These photos were actually styled and taken last spring (the lingerie look familiar, Chelle?) when I was photographing the cover of your cookbook. But I just this past week rediscovered that white Italian silk tank top and it got me excited for spring... which hasn't really sprung here on the East Coast but it may be trying. Anyways, as I rediscover items I will try to shoot some more shopping-my-wardrobe spring-wear shoots.

A few things I'm looking out for while thrifting are: Platform sandals (the only way I can pull off midi dresses at my height). I like these, these and these.  Chelsea-esque boots (again with a tad more heel than the classic). I like these and these. Black leather jacket (ok these last two I've been looking for all year... not really springy but could work still). I like this one and this one.

What's on your thrifting or otherwise list?  


Vanilla Granola | Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free

by Chelle in


Making: Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free, Dairy Free Granola  

Smelling: The yummiest mix of vanilla, cinnamon, and honey

 Tasting: Earl Grey tea with coconut milk and honey

Hearing: Death Cab For Cutie iTunes Radio Station. I really love their new album, especially the song No Room in Frame. Guess who it’s about.

Reading: Cookbooks. Lots of cookbooks.

Loving: The current mix of work, time off, sunny winter days, and time to enjoy each of these. 

I’ve been working on this recipe since January. Joel and I have eaten a different version of granola each week, while I try to find the perfect sugar free, dairy free, gluten free mix of goodness that will inspire me want to leap out of bed and start the day. To be honest you’ll rarely find me leaping out of bed – regardless of the incentive. However this recipe came pretty dang close. It’s the perfect fix for my sweet tooth, which has been longing for all the  goodness of milkshakes, ice cream, and doughnut delights since cutting them out at the start of this year. The good news is I’m feeling so much better, so the no ice cream is worth it. 

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INGREDIENTS: 

3 cups of Gluten Free Oats*

1 cup of Cashews *

1 cup of Pecans*

4 Medjool Dates

¼ cup water (not pictures)

½ cup honey *

¼ coconut oil

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

1 teaspoon Vanilla

Notes on ingredients:

Gluten Free Oats – I have found a great brand at Trader Joe’s that are cheap and tasty. If you're worried about trace amounts of gluten read their explanation of how oats are made. You can also substitute in an alternative that works for you. 

Cashews and Pecans – You can use whatever type of nuts you like, I am limited in the types I can eat currently so these two are it for me.

Honey- Use local honey if at all possible. It helps prevent allergies but it needs to build up in your system before allergy season strikes! Also you can substitute for  honey for pure maple syrup. 

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Begin by preheating the oven to 200 F and lining a baking tin with wax paper. 

Next, Cut up the dates and remove the pits. Put them in a small pot with ¼ cup of water and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until dates are soft (3-5 minutes). 

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When the dates are finished put them along with the cashews, pecans, cinnamon, vanilla and half of the oats into the blender and pulse several times until the nuts appear chopped. Don’t over pulse – the mixture shouldn’t be totally blended.  Pour mixture into a bowl and set aside. 

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Bring honey and coconut oil to a boil and let simmer for a minute or two – stirring constantly. Then pour honey/coconut oil mixture into the blended oat mixture and stir until combined

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hen add the remaining dry oat. 

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You are minutes away from the most  amazing goodness. Spread the mixture evenly over your wax paper covered baking sheet and put in the oven to cook for half an hour. Stir the mixture every 10 minutes and remove from the oven when golden brown. 

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While the granola is cooking take a few minutes to tidy up. This is my least favorite part of cooking, but by the time the granola is done your kitchen is all clean. 

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Remove from the oven, let cool, and enjoy! I like mine with fresh fruit and coconut milk. Store the rest in an airtight container for up to a week. 

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They Make Me Feel I'm Falling Down

by Brittany in


making: a pretty terrible little painting

seeing: a giant pile of laundry

smelling: nothing, in a good way

tasting: burnt toast and tea (sure sign of Jesse not making my breakfast...he never burns it)

hearing: Dead Hearts by Stars... on repeat... so it's about the 57th time I've heard it this morning alone. And I still love it. I also may spontaneously say things like, " They had lights inside their eyes.... They were kids that I once knew." Jesse is utterly horrified. "It's hard to know they're out there..."

reading: The Diaries of Jane Somers by Doris Lessing... I am also stuck on her. For now, all other authors pale and none will do but her.

loving: having Fridays off... except I don't today. But in theory it's great. 

watching: The Americans is back!!!!!! So that's the most exciting. Also Broad City. And for the long cold nights we are currently plowing through It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and I just love how awful they all are and that the actual actors have this complicated web of being married to each other.... I mean, that is the sweetest dream in all the world, isn't it? Working side by side with your best friend who is also your spouse? So if you think about it that way... it's the perfect Valentine's Day show. But in no other way is that true.

anticipating: our reconnaissance trip to New York next month.... Jesse will be meeting with ad people and I will be chilling (physically and the other meaning) and we also have a complicated schedule of churches to visit. So that will be busy and exciting and cold. We went for a night walk the other day and it was just barely down to the 20s and I was a chattering mess. We are losing our Chicago edge. But we will get it back.

 

So we got a fancy new camera for our Christmas present to each other and I am, of course, having technical troubles with getting the photos off it. So I was digging around for photos for this post... and found these... equally realistic but hilariously contrasting....photos. Even when we are stonewalling each other with our stupid phones we are evidently in love. So that's comforting.

And I want to leave you with Endre Penovác's work that was featured on This Is Colossal this week.   


If I can make a Gas Pipe Shelving Unit ... YOU CAN TOO!

by Chelle in ,


It’s an amazing feeling being totally alone but completely surrounded. I mean this in a good way – not the paralyzing lonely way that you sometimes feel in a room full of people – but more the cozy little top floor apartment where you can sit on your coach and quietly soak up the mid winter sun that has decided to appear in Seattle for a minute or two– and just be. It makes me want to live in this apartment FOREVER! 

Of course we are on the top floor so there is the advantage of not being able to hear the cacophony of shoes, feet, furniture moving, things being dropped, or cats running laps around the apartment at midnight (PENNY!) that our neighbors downstairs might hear from time to time.

There are pros and cons to apartment living. A laundry machine would be nice. But I don’t like yard work. But I would like a chicken coup one day. And a closet isn’t an ideal nursery – but I could figure out how to make it work if I needed to – but I don’t right now. And then there’s the storage.

Our apartment was built in the 1900’s. And though they did include plenty of space for storing things – I think men and women had fewer clothes because no matter how many times Joel and I pair down our closet it always seems to be full to the brim so we decided to do a little DIY apartment renovation with the help of our friends at Dunn DIY.

This was a really cool experience as I was able to take a picture I had in my mind – put it on paper, walk into a shop and get Adam – a Dunn Lumber genius-  to go over the plan, help figure out what materials we would need, order all the materials, and then have the wood cut to the exact size we’d need it in the shop. Because we were working with Dunn DIY they created a “How to make your own Gas Pipe Shelves” guide that I’ll share with you once it's published (I'll update this link asap!). 

The team came over one morning, we went over the steps and Kirstin made one unit while Joel and I made the second unit. She was just the cutest thing ever - adorable vintage style, bright red nails, so cute- and then she whips out a drill and assembles this awesome shelf unit. I was pretty impressed. 

Quirks of an old apartment - the shelf may look a little tilted and it's because the apartment floor actually is slanted. We couldn't figure out why it wasn't level until we realized - it WASN'T user error.... it was just the quirks of a 1900's apartment. 

L'Hirondelle Rouge
L'Hirondelle Rouge
L'Hirondelle Rouge


Chocolate Caramel Bars | Allergy Friendly

by Chelle in


Well it's been 13 days of no eggs, sugar, dairy, gluten, peanuts, or almond products my dear B and my oh my I don't know how you do it. The first few days were fine. And then I hosted a bridal shower. It was so much fun- but I couldn't eat most of what I made. I munched on carrots and snap peas as cheesecake, macaroons, and all sorts of goodness sat there just starting at me. 

In the middle of last week I said " JOEL we should go get HOT CAKES, they are gluten free and VEGAN," -  and also my favorite dessert in the world!" The good man said, " Yes but what about the sugar." . . . Dammit. 

Another favorite from Andria Lindquist - We love HOT CAKES so much we took engagement photos there! Yep! 

Another favorite from Andria Lindquist - We love HOT CAKES so much we took engagement photos there! Yep! 

BUT THEN I found these gems: 

I'm learning that recipes often can be altered and it's okay. I can't have almonds and this recipe calls for almonds - so NIX the almonds and sub in cashews and get ready for the most amazing chocolatey sugar free goodness you've ever had! 

Chocolate Carmel Goodness without the Ness: An adaptation of Healthier Date and Cashew Caramel Chocolate Slice  from  Nadia the Good Food Cook. A huge thank you to the lovely lady for such a delicious recipe! I've made changes based on my dietary restrictions (no almonds or walnuts). You should do the same! 

*Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free 

Ingredients

For the Crust

3/4 Cup Gluten Free Oats (I buy mine at Trader Joe's and haven't had any issues, but if you're extremely sensitive Nadia suggests substituting ground almonds) 

1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder (I didn't know this was sugar free!) 

6 Dates - Pitted

1/2 Cup Raw Cashews 

Salt

6-8 Tablespoons Ghee (which is dairy free) or Coconut Oil (for vegan) - Again I get both at Trader Joe's 

Date and Cashew Caramel Filling

400 grams dried and pitted Dates

3/4 Cup boiled water 

2 Cups Cashew Nuts softened - To soften the cashews boil them in 4 cups of water for 15 minutes 

1/4 Cup Maple Syrup (the NATURAL STUFF! PURE PURE PURE) 

1/2  Cup melted Coconut Oil - this adds an amazing flavor so try not to sub! 

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract 

Chocolate Topping

150-200g Dairy Free Dark Chocolate (again it's SUGAR FREE! Who knew) 

1 Teaspoon Vegetable Oil (or another oil that won't contribute to the flavor aka a neutral oil

 

READ ALL THE WAY THROUGH BEFORE YOU START! I may or may not have snatched the crust out of the oven and had to re blend it because I forgot the dates... so do yourself a favor and read this all first. 

For the Crust

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Grease an 8x8 pan, line it with wax paper, and grease the wax paper. 

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Put oats, cocoa, salt, dates and cashews in the blender and blend until all mixed together. Add the ghee and mix until dough forms. Press the dough into the pan and place it in the oven for 15 minutes. 

Remove from oven and let it cool.

Now for the amazing caramel-ly filling that is just so so yummy! 

Put the dates and the water on the stove top and bring to a boil, stir until the water is evaporated and the dates are a fairly mushy texture. Then put the dates, cashews, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla extract and blend until smooth (this will take several minutes). Now spread this deliciousness over the crust and refrigerate for 4 hours. Or freeze for two hours. 

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Now get your double boiler. Don't have one? I don't either. So then get your pot and a bowl that fits in the top. Put water in the bottom and then put on a high heat. Put broken pieces of chocolate and oil in the top and stir continuously until it melts. 

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Spread the chocolate over the carmel and put it back in the fridge for 20 minutes. If it's not quite hard enough return to the fridge freezer for a little longer. I left mine in the freezer for 2 hours and it was perfect! 

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Lime Green to Black and Cream

by Chelle


L'Hirondelle Rouge
L'Hirondelle Rouge

For some time now the lime green walls in our apartment's bathroom have slowly been eating away at my soul. So last week in a fit of new year fervor I decided to give the little room a french twist and do cream walls with a black trim. I love the outcome and feel so happy each time I walk into this little parisian dream. However I will say - I'm not a detailed / methodical person so the final product was a little more drippy than I'd like to have hoped. But .... I'm still pretty pleased! 

L'Hirondelle Rouge
L'Hirondelle Rouge

And who knew rosemary could be so pretty 

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2015!!

by Chelle in


A favorite picture from 2014 taken on a camping trip during the summer. 

A favorite picture from 2014 taken on a camping trip during the summer. 

This post will deal with Depression, IBS, MTHFR, Eating Disorders, Dietary Restrictions, Chronic UTI’s ( Urinary Tract Infections) and a New Year full exciting changes! It's a longer than normal, wordy post but I hope some of you find it helpful. 

It’s one of my favorite times of year, full of fresh starts, blank pages and hope. A new addition to my New Year’s routine of resolutions is starting small and building up. Most of the time I start with a list of ten things and by the end of the first week of January have given up on them all and feel like I’m drowning in a puddle of despair because nothing has changed. So baby steps it is. This post is one of those steps. 

I’ve been looking forward and dreading this blog post for a long time. Typically I tend to be aloof when it comes to things I consider personal and private. I don’t like to be an open book. . . or blog for that matter… But over the past several years B and I have each had our own health struggles and one of the things that has helped us both is other people sharing what they’ve learnt through conversations, blogs, or books. 

At the start of 2015 I want to tell you where I’m at, how I got here and where I hope to be in the next few months. I want to share this with you because typing “blood in urine,” into Google on your smartphone while you’re on vacation in another country is a less than ideal.

Before I share my story I want you to understand two things

1.     I am in the middle of all this now and don’t fully understand it all

2.     I’m not a doctor and most of the progress I’ve seen has been accomplished by working with medical professionals – which has at times been extremely discouraging, difficult, and embarrassing – but has been hugely helpful.

IBS and Disordered Eating //

Since I was small I’ve dealt with GI issues and severe headaches. In high school I was diagnosed with IBS and given pain meds. I was told it was stress related and something that would come and go and I had little control over it other than avoiding combinations of stressful situations and greasy foods. Many things would trigger upset stomachs followed by hours of sitting in the bathroom and – honestly I’d rather not go into details but you get the idea - or there would be blinding headaches that were similarly linked to stress and IBS. 

I’d go to doctors and get different tests done. Colonoscopies, stool tests, blood tests. But no one ever tested for allergies. I’d ask for them but often times didn’t feel heard. During this time I developed an eating disorder. It was never a conscious choice, simply because things made me sick and I never knew what they were going to be.  But it wasn't just that. It was also a huge control thing. The more out of control things felt, school, life, health, finances, the more I’d control eating. I went to a nutritionist and asked her to do an allergy test. She told me symptoms of anorexia were very similar to IBS and in order to do an accurate test I’d need to gain 10 lbs. She gave me a meal plan that included yogurt, bread, and eggs (as you read on you’ll find out all these things make me sick.) So I left feeling unheard, crazy, and irritated.

Depression //

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since high school. Two years ago my doctor advised me to take anti depressants and start seeing a counselor. I am so thankful for both of these things – and honestly believe everyone should been in counseling at some point. As far as the meds go, that’s a personal choice and one I fought for years. But for this season they’ve been very helpful.

Chronic UTI’s //

In May of this year I got married to my lovely husband. A month after being married we were on a trip with our friends in Canada when I walked into a bathroom and started peeing blood. I began to panic and could feel my body shaking. Googling “blood in urine,” never goes well – when I came back to the table (we’d been getting drinks with friends) Joel could tell I was upset. We went up to our hotel room and after some online reading decided it was a UTI. When we got home I went to the doctors, took a UTI test, found out that’s what it was and began a course of antibiotics.

This became a regular occurrence and every 3-5 weeks I would have a UTI. 4 UTI’s later I ended up in the ER after waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweats freaking out. The amazing doctor there looked over my chart and was appalled that I’d been put on 3 different antibiotics and no one had followed up or found it concerning that I was having recurring UTI’s- apparently 3 in a year is excessive. He put me on a new super strong antibiotic and sent me to a Urologists. I didn't know what a urologist was. Hint: they mainly see men. 

I saw a urologists several days later who told me I had honeymoonitis and could expect the UTI’s to continue for the next 6 months. He was a very nice man and made me feel less crazy and embarassed about the whole thing. He prescribed more antibiotics- these ones I would need to take everyday for the foreseeable future.

Sure enough the UTI’s continued. I was missing work and getting every cold that came around in addition to UTI’s. A typical month consisted of feeling fine for a week, getting a cold or some other illness for a week, my period for a week, followed by a UTI – or basically feeling semi-okay one week out of the month.

I’d pretty much given up hope in doctors and was done seeing specialists but decided I would give a naturopath a try in one final effort to figure things out.

I walked into the office and two hours later had finished talking through my medical history . My doctor had listened, asked questions and taken extensive notes. She then slowly talked me through what we would do.She did a blood panel to test for things like thyroid and anemia (I’d had these in the past), a blood test for food sensitivities, a blood test for something called MTHFR which I’d never heard of, and talked me through next steps.

We started out with the basics: Fish Oil, Multi-Vitamins, Vitamin D, and Probiotics. We also added a urinary tract soothing tea, all natural cranberry juice, lots of water, Uristatin, and D-mannose - all natural remedies to fight / and help heal the urinary tract from UTI’s. (Blog post on all this to follow). 

I was back at the doctors two weeks later with the worst UTI yet. I was in a lot of pain and feeling pretty stupid, as I’d neglected to take any of the vitamins or even pick up the tea. She put me on antibiotics  and didn’t scold but encouraged me to try to be disciplined and when I left I went strait to the pharmacy and picked up the tea.

Several weeks later we got the results of my blood work back. I had one genetic mutation from the MTHFR test the A1298C one. People with this experience a lot of GI issues and …. DEPRESSION! We got the food test back. I was sensitive to dairy, gluten, eggs, sugar, peanuts, and almonds. (Remember that nutritionist... yea.) As my doctor talked me through this she said “ I didn’t know how I was going to tell someone who struggles with an eating disorder that they had to cut out a ton of different foods, but let’s look at it this way look at all the things you can eat.” I just felt relief – things were starting to at least make sense and I was feeling less crazy. For so long I had felt like I was just making a big deal out of nothing and that I just needed to toughen up.

This was in November. Joel and I decided we’d start the food elimination in January after all the Holidays – Joel is going to do this with me, which is amazing! He’s been so loving to me through this whole series of events and never once made me feel like I was a burden – something I consistently was tempted to believe.

So why did I share on this on the blog? Well because as I’ve been dealing with this I’ve had so many conversations where ladies I know are struggling with the same things in different capacities. As I start eliminating and learning to plan meals, cook, be disciplined, and hopefully begin to experience some healthy changes I want to share that. Also as silly as it may sound so many resources look clinical and not pretty at all – and having a pretty place to put all these things will really help me and hopefully help some of you.

B can tell you more about her story / health. She has different things. But we both want to create something that is beautiful, helpful, and enjoyable for those of you who may be dealing with any number of these things.

I’ll write some more detailed posts about supplements etc. and flush out some of the things I’ve shared above as this year goes on – also see the MTHFR page for more details about that. Please share your thoughts and experiences below! That’s why this post is up – so you know you’re not the only one!

 

Resources //

The Emily Program - A resource for those dealing with eating disorders. I've not personally used this resource but have heard great things. 

"At The Emily Program, we combine our evidence-based treatment with personalized holistic care. We’ve found that effective eating disorder treatment requires awareness of the genetic, biological, psychological, social, and cultural impacts on each client." 

*Suicide Prevention Life Line - 1-800-273-8255

*Whenever talking about depression it can be hard to think about - don't deal with it alone! Okay! 

 


The little star that...

by Chelle


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Hello B! We are getting so excited for Christmas here in our cozy apartment. We got our tree the day after Thanksgiving just down the street at Top Banana. I greatly admire those individuals who tromp out into the wilderness, all bundled up toting their own axe, to find just the right tree - but I enjoy the safety of a tree lot, complete with helpful men to assist me in  finding the most aromaticly Christmasy smelling tree around. We found this gem - a grand fir. It has a delightful citrusy pine sort of smell. There are little bubbles of sap on the trunk and if you press on them every few days they release the most wonderful smell that fills up the apartment for the whole day. 

After a few discussions Joel and I decided we'd like to use a star as our tree topper - rather than an angel. It's a pretty big decision if you think about it. I mean I grew up with an angel on our tree. But we both liked the star so I decided to make one. 

Here you have the results. I am too embarrassed of this little starts "how to" process to create a guide. I'll just say wire, wire cutters, and 5 minutes resulted in this little droopy creation. I was set to keep working to create a masteripieve but when I went to toss this "practice" star away I couldn't help thinking " The little star that couldn't." And that made me sad. And then it made me think, "Well technically we are all little stars that can't at some point," and then I kept going down a long winding trail of symbolic thought which I am still in the midst of. But all that to say sometimes I'm a little star that can't and I don't want to just be tossed out in the rubbish. So here you have our little start that couldn't proudly adorning the top of our tree. 


Danish Pepper Cookies

by Brittany in


1 1/2 cup almond flour

(for you, Chelle, use 1/4 starch and 3/4 rice flour)

1/2 cup organic shortening

1/2 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cardamon 

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream together the flour, shortening and honey. Add the rest of the ingredients and roll into balls, pat flattish and bake at 350! The star of this show is really the white pepper... We are putting it in everything these days. You don't notice it until after you swallow but then it sticks with you and warms you all the way to your toes. The perfect winter spice!

I added a chocolate sauce that I've been making for everything lately... a dab of shortening, about a fourth cup of cocoa powder, a generous squeeze of honey, a splash of vanilla, and little pile of fresh zested ginger. If you don't want to harden the chocolate in the refrigerator (I had to) you can add cocoa butter instead of the shortening. I got a chunk this week and I'm hoping to make some sugar free chocolate chips. I'll let you know when I figure it out! 

We haven't been posting much because late October to mid January is a very busy time for both of us... Chelle's birthday is the end of October, then mine is a week later in November, then we had our buddy Callie's wedding and since then it's been holidays! Lots of pine needles, fairy lights, paper snipping, spools of string, and cooking with warming spices and whiskey. I just found a whole ton of pictures of all the to-dos so those will be up soon!


Dusk Edging Out the Light

by Brittany


Summer light here in Virginia and also in LA and in the South of France has this counter-intuitive dimness to it... I think it could be due to the humidity here in Virginia but that is not present in those other two places that I'm familiar with.... but both Southern California and the South of France have the opposite of humidity... the summer dustiness. Also there's smog. But ultimately the dimness I'm talking about is an inside dimness... we instinctively draw the curtains and pull the blinds to protect our shelters from the heat and that ensuing dimness is what is seared on my summer mind.

(I was just skimming through old posts and realized that nearly every other post of mine is about light... I do actually think about other topics... sometimes... I think...)

In fall my blinds grow dusty... and my windows are thrown open with abandon. The light is clear --nearly translucent...achingly bright and steady. Then just like that it is gone... and then you realize it had actually been dispersing steadily for some time... when you finally notice that you are sitting in darkness it seems like the darkness shattered that pure Northern light, but in reality it had been slowly seeping through the cracks in the light. There were a hundred little signs of dusk but the light was so caressing and harmless (unlike the beating heat of summer) we were lulled to sleep by our own tasks and the thrill of it. It really is a northern thing, I think... in fact... this fall light here is really what most of my Washington home's light is like even in the summer. I am aching to find out what the northern light is like in Scandinavia. We toyed with the idea of Christmas in Stockholm because tickets there were cheaper then tickets home but we compromised with January in Washington. Maybe next summer we'll sell all we own again and backpack Northern Europe again... Or maybe we'll move west... but certainly North! 

When I was little I asked my dad what the most beautiful direction was... and he said West because it sounds soft and yearning but at the same time the direction of the unknown and adventure... I think North has a similar yearning sound to it, but the stronger starting consonant also suits the slight chill of temperature and demeanor. We had (and have) nice conversations.  


On Turning 26 . . . and why I like gifts

by Chelle


1-3 Brother and Sister-in-law bought me a terrarium. I got to assemble it myself. So fun. I'd been secretly wanting one for ages but felt that they were a bit too trendy. But oh how I love this one! 

4. An Anthropologie candle from Tori. It smells like summer mornings and has the most beautiful little note on the top. I love it especially because I am petrified of the dark. So I'll keep on trying to think of the stars in those moments of blinding fear before I can switch on a light. 

5. Sweet pearl necklace from Mom

6. Hat and shirt from Mr. Man - my he has wonderful taste. 

7. A ring from Dad. Sweet story here. When I was 21 he was deployed but sent me money to buy a ring. Several years ago when I cut my hand I went to the ER and the ring was lost amidst the cotton swabs and stitches. So this year I got to choose a ring to replace that one. It's an emerald because we're in the emerald city. And gold because I think I like gold these days. 

I'll be honest, 26 is the first year I've been afraid of my age. It feels like the slippery slope of Miss to Ma'am and right into the grave. Yes, yes it's me dramatic as ever. But I had a good chat with Joel the night before the dreaded post mid twenties on the brink of late twenties event. He, par his usual optimistic attitude, told me to be excited and happy. I curled up into a tighter ball feeling like this could somehow stop the march of time. 

But the next day I woke up and it felt like just another day. Except there were presents. And though I'll deny it if you ask me straight to my face... I love presents. I love finding them, buying them, wrapping them, giving them, and yes getting them! 

So at 26 I decided to revel in the day. Here are a few photos of some of the lovely gifts. I'll share my thoughts on the importance of giving gifts later. But this is a frivolous joyful post about the special times we get to celebrate and how thankful I am for people I love and getting to celebrate another year! 


Cardamon Honey Rose Cake

by Brittany in


This is a sweetly unassuming cake... until you take a bite and it hits you with its heady sweetness and spiciness. It's best with black coffee and maybe a dollop of sheep yogurt (the tanginess offsets the richness perfectly!) 

Anyways, we have a lot of birthdays coming up... Chelle's is next week and so are both my parents. I wish I could make this for you all... but this will have to do! Besides, this is more an everyday kind of cake. Or maybe a birthday breakfast cake? Yes. 

3 eggs, separated

2 cups almond flour

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup honey, or to taste

1 1/2 tablespoons rosewater

1 teaspoon cardamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Begin beating the egg whites while combining all other ingredients in a separate mixing bowl, except for the vinegar. When oven is heated to 350 and the springform pan is oiled and the bottom is lined with parchment paper and the whites are good and stiff, fold the vinegar and whites into the batter as fast and as gently as you can (the faster you are the more height you will get). Drizzle some extra honey in a criss cross pattern over the top of the cake and slide in the oven. Bake it until it is not jiggly in the center. 

note: the picture is from an earlier rendition so the honey drizzle is not there... trust me the pre bake drizzle looks as beautiful as it tastes!


You Want To Travel With Him

by Brittany


It was dusk, outside Union Station in Portland, Oregon. We had been dating for less than a month and saw each other once a week, usually meeting in the middle between Cannon Beach and Tacoma or Seattle, which was Portland. Sometimes we would go all the way to the other, but after one harrowing drive when I deciding I couldn't miss our once a week meeting even though my fever was so high I was hallucinating (You remember this, Chelle? You kept coming into my room and playing B.O.B. and dancing for me.... or maybe that was part of the hallucinations....) but I decided not to mention that to Jesse and drove all the way to Cannon Beach. I really don't remember much of that drive. And on the way back I fell asleep at the wheel and miraculously only hit a curb and blew out my tire. At 3am. Right after I got off the freeway at Mercer. Anyways... I think I mostly took the train to Portland or he came to me after that. 

Which brings me back to the train station at dusk. That was where he first told me he loved me. And I promptly cried. See that face up there? That is the face of a very patient, and persistent man. For the next three months (which doesn't seem that long but you have to understand, they were all long distance months and we were married less then a year from the day we met) he faithfully said 'I love you' in a thousand different ways every single day. No really, this guy set an alarm for himself for the wee hours of every single night just so he could send me a novel of a text that I would wake up to. Just to prove how much he loved me. They didn't simply say I love you... Oh no. That would be far to mundane for my guy.   

“Soon you will have more milk crates than all the other girls!”

“Let’s blow up the center of the earth so Seattle and Chicago are nearer.”

Or things like assignments for the day: find the coolest thing you can for 50 cents and tell me all about it when we talk tonight. (I think I found a cigar box of old matchbooks at a garage sale.)

“Thanks…” I would reply to the I love yous at the end of phone calls… Chilling, I know.

So this went on for a few months until, finally, I came and visited him in Chicago. And I was pretty sick. And his friends called me the mute cause I was in a lot of pain and didn’t know anyone but Jesse. But there was this one afternoon and a windmill. And I suddenly knew I loved him back. For real. And probably had for awhile (surprise! This is the first Jesse’s hearing of that! But I actually didn’t know for sure… cause I was a bit afraid… anyways).

All this to say, that afternoon was a sunny one in mid October, so this is a bit of an anniversary of our mutual love.

There we are ridiculously happy on a Sunday afternoon... four years later. I have no idea why Jesse's face looks like that. It reminds me of my brother Rhodri's "princess" face. A remarkable resemblance. Here are a few other tries:



an ordinary day

by Chelle


 

making: Well, a blog post. And before that dinner. And before that money. By working. Which we have to do. Which limits my ability to make the things I'd love to make. But that's okay. 

seeing:  The West Wing Season Two. I told Joel I didn't want to watch it. But then we watched The Newsroom.  They have the same director - Aaron Sorkin. And I mean two week and we're on season two. So I suppose I like it.  To be fair I was sick last week - that's prime power through several seasons on Netflix TV times. 

tasting:  Rachelle style nations. That means goat cheese and no spice. Poor Joel. But at least I try to like mexican food. 

hearing:  The rain. It was the first rainy fall day and my shoes were soaked during lunch time when I ran out for a few minutes. 

feeling:   So sleepy. But so happy to be at home. It's warm and cozy and I can't wait for you to see the place 

reading:  I'm flipping through Quantity Cookery by Nola Treat and Lenore Richards, a goodwill find from last week. It was first published in 1922. I found the 1949 version. I've linked to a free kindle copy on Amazon. It's full of charts, weights, and ratios. It opens with the following:

Well-balanced and appropriate menus are necessary to the success of any establishment serving food. Given the best of raw materials and the most competent cooks, the institutional manager will fail to please his patrons if his menus show lack of careful planning. On the other hand, successful menu planning is not especially difficult. Like any other art it requires careful study and observance of a few simple rules...

1. The nature of the institution; its purpose; the character of its patronage.
2. Dietetic principles.
3. The necessity for constant variety in the food choices offered.
4. Temperature, weather, season and holidays.
5. The limitations imposed by equipment, the number and skill of the employees, the range of cost, the leftovers and the speed of service.

I always get overwhelmed by cooking for large groups of people so I bought this book to learn. I thought it was just large crowds but it's for restaurants. But that's besides the point. 

So these nachos:

Your choice of meat (pulled pork or chicken)  

Chips 

Goat Cheese 

Cilantro

Tomatoes

Salsa (Trader Joe's Corn and Chile Salsa

Avocados (chopped into chunks)  

1 can of Black Beans

1 can of Corn 

Get a cookie sheet and cover it with foil. Lay chips out and sprinkle meat, beans, corn, tomatoes, and goat cheese over the chips. Place in the oven on broil for 10 minutes but keep an eye on them, they cook fast. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with avocados and cilantro. Serve with sour cream and salsa. 

 

 


A Laundry Day in our Life

by Brittany


1. a very attractive man helping me with (doing) my laundry 2. a meal so good I had to stop halfway and take a picture so I wouldn't forget. Also there is a beauty in food in the process of being enjoyed. Meatballs, cucumber salad, cherry tomatoes and a plop of mustard. 3. just before I join him in the loft. 4. local video store 5. local bar 6. Jesse watching the Seahawks (who is this man??? thankfully not a regular occurrence) and me entertaining myself with the camera timer. 7. us together at the laundromat. It's such a photogenic laundromat.


Flakey paint is half the charm

by Chelle


Looking around the apartment and seeing so many things to fix. But it's a rental. So out goes the to do  list and instead we redefine charm.

Charm is a key lime pie bathroom with cracks in the ceiling and blurred lines of white and green trim. Charm is a kitchen with seven coats of paint, the bottom three happen to be lead based so don't think about sanding. Charm is an old rag wrapped around a pipe that sweats. Don't worry it was designed that way to keep things cool - before that fridge was installed. Charm is etched into the wooden floorboards in thick black marks. 

Charm is a little apartment in Seattle with big windows and lots of light. Charm is a wall full of old books and a comfy corner to sit and read. Charm is chicken soup boiling on the stove while rain drops trickle down the window. And charm is drawing the curtains, turning the lights on, and listening to a fall soundtrack while we sit, and write, and plan, and be.