This year is shaping up to be a high-alert year for our family. Every time we think a return to "normal" is around the corner, another crisis or emotional shocker hits us. Everyone has times like that, for sure...those days or weeks that keep you from your usual (even if hectic) life. When life just becomes getting through the moments instead of enjoying most of them.
So. Another post not directly about food today, with my apologies. In fact, this is a post (with that paragraph above saved in the archives) from my draft folder that dates back to almost this time of year in 2016! At that point, both sides of our family had gone through some traumatic events, and I was just scheduled for open heart surgery. Not necessarily an upbeat spring.
Unfortunately, it looks like I'm facing another open heart surgery much sooner than anyone hoped. That means I've had a fair share of "garden of Gethsemane" moments this Lent. And I'm still walking around the house eating things (like almonds and cherries and broccoli)---not meals---for lunch or even dinner some days. So, apparently I still have some physical challenges, and (I hope) mental growth, ahead.
In 2016, I treated surgery and other people's trauma as problems that I could help solve. Problems are like puzzles, and I love solving those; finding answers and solutions when people are in need is one way I help. And sometimes, it works beautifully. For example, treating my daughters' allergies as puzzles in the kitchen led to an entirely new approach in the kitchen and a new hobby for me, not to mention fun family time with my kids.
In 2018, I've already learned this Lent that some problems are not for me to solve. Or are not solve-able. Instead I'm finding that standing by someone through a problem or trauma, and letting people stand with me in mine, is also a gift. A challenging one for me, for sure---to not fix things, and to let others in when I'm not 100%. But I have started finding joy in connections, and sometimes in the simplicity of accepting imperfect solutions. At the beginning of the year, I had grand plans: to work nearly full time, to put pen to paper with my recipes so the kids would have a safe cookbook, to be that great role model, to be normal (in my world that means "not a patient"). Now, I'm facing another health upheaval that reminds me: I'm not perfect or "fixed"; the trick isn't to find joy by having no problems but to find and share the joy in the problems. If I'm going all religious here, I'd say it's to be transfigured by our problems into a source of joy despite them.
Also in 2018, and related to that no-problems goal, I felt like I had a happy balance in my life: work, fun, family...peace, creativity, activity. I like calm, and home. But I've had a few weeks of crazy unscheduled stuff. And it's been terrifically fun, experiences I would never have wanted to miss. I'm not a risk taker; I seem to be passing that trait or habit on to at least one of my kids, too. Risks in my world are simple things, like travel and lifting, and it's hard to see the point of taking them when the prep work is so great. But shaking up my calm balance can be so rewarding. Lent lesson #2, I suppose---those connections with others are what it's all about, even when they're scary or outside my comfort zone.
Plane travel, preschooler wrestling, baby carrying. Simple things that stress my brain more than they should.
Building Meals Back Up From Basics
I had the chance to metro into the city (instead of drive in) and visit an old friend this week. He happens to have been dealing with food-related problems (including but not only celiac) for more than a decade...much longer than trendy foods have been available. We met at a cafe, both got drinks, and both pulled out our own meals. He's the first person who didn't start off asking me whether X food is okay for 20 minutes. And it was refreshing to just sit and catch up with a friend who didn't mind my beef jerky while we swapped stories and pictures of kids. Riding a metro train back home gave me plenty of time to pore over not just his advice but also his experiences, going through this seemingly alone years ago. We're not alone, though it's hard to remember to put ourselves out there to share and connect.
I also started keeping a notebook in my kitchen this year. At first, the goal was to write out the recipes I make so that I can get them posted here, printed into books, sold online, and on and on. I think I'm again being reminded of how small I am and how large and unneeded those goals are right now, though. At this point, I need to simply put what works each day in that book. From there, eventually, I'll get to build up new creations. Right now I just need to stay nourished without losing the joy. This week, that book has things like "snacks: dried cherries, slivered almonds, roasted edamame mix" but also more elaborate entries like "dinner success: halved poblanos stuffed with meatball mix of 93/7, sprinkles of potato starch, garlic, parsley, seasoned salt, sage; drizzled in olive oil and vegetable broth. combined with parboiled brown rice." Because we have to start somewhere, right?
So, here's to another week of making it work, of hoping that each day I can do something to help someone, and myself, find joy. Even through troubles, not after they're gone.
And maybe I'll actually have recipes and research, from that little kitchen notebook, by April. ;-)
Free time. So fleeting, so hard to squeeze in. I'm more jack-of-all-trades than expert in any one hobby or topic. There's always much talk about work-life balance, but I have been thinking about life-life balance.
With older kids, routine work loads, and a year without enormous health or other challenges, my family and I have been having so much fun together, from swimming to skating to travel. It's been a real joy! I've found, though, that I struggled to make an effort to enjoy my own interests regularly when I found myself with time alone.
Example: Blogging weekly! I did it for a year, so this shouldn't be a challenge. But I find myself either baking, or writing, or reading, or knitting, or playing piano. What a first-world problem to have, I know. :-)
Last week, I had the chance to work on my family's 100+-year-old Italian mandolin. It's not a valuable antique, but it is a personal family treasure. While I'm devoting all of my energy to non-food joy (finishing the gluing and staining this week, I hope), here are some photos of the start and the work in progress.
I haven't abandoned the kitchen entirely...just the documentation. Some of my recent successes:
In a clockwise circle: Mel's veggie sauce (before puree), sweet potato brownies, cherry brown bread, free-from snack mix, unsliced brown bread, my favorite scones (now GF), dairy-free artichoke dip, Sicilian-style mackerel meatballs...and a centerpiece of homemade veggie nachos (with real cheese snuck in while kids were on playdates!)
I'm bound to return to writing down my kitchen efforts as soon as I am done with my obsessive focus on this gorgeous instrument! Until then, have a great week everyone.
My family and I made it through a fun but overly hectic December---multiple orchestra performances and solo recitals, amazing school projects and group music jams, and mostly positive kitchen experiences. We followed that up with a really lovely holiday break: multiple museums, plenty of time at the House of Musical Traditions "petting" instruments I could blow my budget on in a day, and lots of fun movies and games with my two double-digit--aged kids. I couldn't have asked for much more!
What I didn't do was spend any planning time on work or fun-blogging. :-) So I'm starting the new year out with a pretty traditional approach: putting my resolutions in writing:
Continue swimming, lifting, and rowing
In 2017, I joined the IronHeart Foundation Triple Crown Challenge to extend my exercise and health routine beyond completion of cardiac rehab. I met the goals of 100 days, 100 hours, and 100 miles of exercise. I loved the motivation, the flexibility, and the cost (free!).
In 2018, I plan to continue that motivation on my own time with the Achievement app. It's a program that connects to other apps and rewards you with points when you meet health goals. Eventually, you cash in the points. My biggest hurdle here will be that I'm too low tech to get started: I don't have any devices (or their apps), like FitBit, to connect yet! My cardiologist will be thrilled if I meet this goal, though, because he's been asking me for years to upgrade from my analog-like pedometer. :-)
Continue rosary walks
Even before heart surgery, I was a huge proponent of walking as one of the best cardio exercises. It's free, easier on joints than running, accessible to all ages and ranges of health, and can be done anywhere---even in place. During cardiac rehab, I walked daily; after recovery, I was thrilled with the places I could go! Hills? No problem! Bags of groceries or books? Didn't even slow me down.
My challenge? Walking, by itself, is just a tad too boring. I don't 100% enjoy walking and talking, and, ideally, I like to have a destination. To keep my walks going after rehab, I combined them with my daily rosary. Calming, productive, peaceful, quick enough to fit into any day.
In 2018, I want to continue these walks. They clear my head, and they get me out of the house on busy work-from-home days that blow by. The rosary walks are nice, but short. My goal is to extend them by adding in a podcast or two afterward. I've never managed to get into podcasts, though I'd like to and have a long list of ones to try. Popping in ear buds and walking to the library seems like a great way to keep me walking this year.
Organize a blog and media calendar
Right. This one will be a challenge, not because I can't plan but because I LOVE to plan, to the exclusion of implementing the plan.
In 2017, I learned more than I could imagine about online media: scheduling blog posts, calculating nutritional content, tweeting and replying to tweets, posting to facebook in different locations, adjusting photo sizes and uploading in different places, sharing and labeling pins, joining link-ups (who knew?!), designing my own infographics and PDFs, and so much more. I also learned something surprising: I truly enjoy this online community! The steep learning curve (especially for a devoted Luddite like me) to interact online was more worthwhile than I could have imagined. I am continually inspired and impressed by others' kindness, creativity, openness, and generosity. It's been an unexpected blessing to connect with people around the world, to learn from them and to share experiences.
In 2018, I want to get away from my haphazard approach to these interactions. Right now, I fit them in around work and family schedules. Although this blog isn't a part of my business, per se, it is an important part of my week, and devoting time to it just makes sense. In particular, I'd love---at a minimum---to coordinate scheduled, prewritten blog posts with tweets and other shares, to figure out Tailwind for pinning, to set aside dedicated time to write thoughtful yet focused posts, and to have a real editorial calendar.
I may have set my aspirations too high. This list doesn't even include my fun goals, like learning a new instrument, or at least playing the one I do know (piano) every week. Oh, and the knitting goals...don't get me started. It wouldn't be a January without outsized resolutions and optimism, though, right?
And it wouldn't be a good food blog if I didn't add some sort of recipe! This one has been tested a few times already and went up just before the Christmas holiday on Bloglovin' and Freedible. The chocolate peppermint bread is free from wheat, dairy (milk and milk products), eggs, peanut, tree nuts, seeds, soy, and preservatives. If you are celiac, this is gluten free, too (it's not necessarily 100% gluten free from my kitchen, though; we're still using rye flour in shared bowls and pans...for now).
Check out the downloadable version, also indexed here on the blog:
Linked to my first FreeFromFridays of 2018
If you've followed the blog in 2017, you might notice that this recipe and its download file are derived from my holiday strawberry bread. The new recipe incorporates some gluten-free truths I learned so far, either from others or the hard way (sadly trashing first try recipes), including use of lower cooking times, different amounts of liquid, and measurement by weight instead of by cup scoops.
The strawberry bread has the same free-from ingredients (except wheat). If you aren't wheat free, I suggest giving that recipe a try first. It's moist and yummy with any type of fruit or veggie!
If you are visiting my site and blog, or social media accounts, for the first time at the end of 2017: Welcome!
This is a quick post, just to say that I mostly met my challenge goal of blogging and/or media chatting every week in 2017...until the winter holidays, when I realized:
1) how much time I (love to) spend holiday prepping
2) how lucky I am to have such amazing kids and wonderful husband
3) how time consuming it is to rework a diet---again---during holiday treat fests.
So, I haven't disappeared permanently, but I have decided to take the winter 2017 holiday time loosely off media and purposefully low-tech at home. So far, it's been delightful. And I'm even taking off much of my professional work at the end of 2017, so I should be ready to be full-on in 2018. My challenge goal for food/blog/media hobbying+writing in 2018?
Having a true schedule and plan for content, recipes, and FYIs to share and maintaining some kind of coordination across all of these techy platforms. And maybe printing paper cookbooks, because sometimes I like low-tech better. ;-)
If you're interested in some recipes that are tried and true for your holiday baking, check out my Kitchen Adventures and Cookie Chemistry books, in particular, on Amazon (or search the titles on iTunes if you're an Apple user).
Until 2018, wishing you all warmth, joy, and love---and delicious #freefrom foods,
Today is the 1-year anniversary of my open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve and check out a growing aneurysm (left that one in there, unfortunately). Looking back, it's been the most amazing year! I knew surgery was needed, but I didn't realize how much I'd slid and given up until I had a healthy heart again---healthier than it ever was, actually, since I was born with a bad valve.
I still have over a week with my family before we all return to Fall routines of school, orchestra, work travel, softball, and more. This week, instead of a proper blog post, here's a collage of all of the fun places and experiences we had this summer---actually, these are JUST in August!
Photos are from hikes along Bluemont Junction, Potomac Overlook, and the C&O Great Falls trails, the National Zoo, swim days and berry picking days with friends, and a weekend in the Shenandoah.
I'm so very glad to be here, and I'm even glad to be reworking our foods yet again as allergies in our house change. I've learned a lot from being a heart patient and from having OHS. One thing I'm going to remember to hold on to:
Always say yes to (allergy-safe) cake.
I've been away from posting and media for a couple of weeks. After all of this time getting comfortable with allergy-friendly recipes, we are adding more restrictions: no yeast, poultry (maybe all types, maybe just chicken), or wheat (notice, not gluten).
When a medical condition is diagnosed, patients usually need some time to absorb the news and adapt---to regroup. It's a normal adjustment period, when expectations are reset and new habits are started, but normal doesn't mean it isn't scary!
In these early weeks, writing out recipes is the last thing on my mind. Instead, I'm just trying to keep a nutritional balance while I explore different products, ingredients, flavor combinations. Brown rice and lean sausage, a salmon and celery salad, a sweet pineapple sheet cake, and some oat and almond flour pancakes have been fairly successful meal and treat attempts so far. (Plus I threw in another loaf of zucchini raisin bread, with a nearly perfected wheat flour recipe---coming soon!---for the kids.)
Despite all of my family's allergies, I consider us very fortunate. We haven't had to cope with severe physical or mental impairments, or bigger health crises like cancers. Removing or replacing a food (even an entire group or subgroup) isn't without its challenges, for sure, but it's bounce-back-able. That's even truer because of the enormous online support system.
This latest hibernation and reset was a bit different than our first foray into food allergy living: Unlike my daughter, who has anaphylactic reactions to many top allergens, I can be around mine, and around wheat in particular. Rather than have the entire family adjust to the allergy, I can adapt my meal safely from theirs.
That means I'm not eliminating all of my wheat-based treats, snacks, and breads. But I am going to have to get creative to make some of my own safe options. I also don't want to eliminate all gluten just because of a wheat allergy---why remove healthful ingredients and limit my diet even more?
As I add this journey to our well-tread dairy/egg/nut-free path, I'll be sure to include the resources and tips I start to rely on in my coming blog posts. And I'll grow my family cookbook even more, in a direction that I never expected.
If you have any great resources for cooking and baking without wheat---but with other gluten or non-gluten sources like oats, barley, and bean flours, I'd love to hear your ideas!
Hi, I'm Nicole.
ABOUT THE BLOG
An apothecary is a person or a place. Either one implies healing and relates to pharmacy in its truest sense, as a source of treatment and advice.
This blog is my way of uniting my pharmacy training with my efforts to provide a healthy and safe lifestyle for my family. In true apothecary form, I research and prescribe alternative ingredients that work just right in each specific recipe, and I would like to share the results with anyone who needs help making their own family’s kitchen allergy safe and heart healthy.
I made the 2017 Top-40 Food Allergy blogs!
Nicole Van Hoey's books on Goodreads
Bakery Bites: Breads and Treats Without Dairy, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, or Soy
ratings: 1 (avg rating 5.00)
Kitchen Adventures With Multiple Food Allergies: A Recipe Collection for Celebrations Without Dairy, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Seeds, or Soy