Christmas 2012!

We just got back from Florida where we spent five nights with our family. It was a great trip- Toby got to come too! I took lots of pictures of our journey... 

First stop: Gainesville. Brian dropped me off at Natalie's house on Friday night where I spent the night. My mom had been there for a week doing wedding stuff with Nat. Her house was so festive for Christmas! 

Next stop: Orlando/Winter Park. My mom, Natalie and I headed to Orlando for a little shopping, and then to Winter Park to see Natalie's wedding dress! She ordered it several months ago, but I hadn't seen it in person. It just recently arrived at the shop, so we all got to see her try it on! It is GORGEOUS! She looks so beautiful in it. This is the shop where I got my dress four years ago. She even had the same consultant as I did for her fitting!  

We stopped for coffee afterwards to relax and look at pictures of the dress. :) This was my favorite part of the day.
Brian and his parents met us in Winter Park and we had a really great dinner downtown. Then we headed home to Leesburg... the "land of the watches" as I now call it. Brian's grandfather owned a jewelry shop in Leesburg where he also repaired and restored watches and clocks. There are tons and tons of watches in this house, and Brian LOVES looking at them and studying about them.. as you can see.  
Lloyd gave me this antique watch.. I just need to find a band. It's a men's watch, but it's way too small for Brian. 

Next stop: Renningers Antique Market/Flea Market in Mt. Dora. This was such a fun day! I found a few treasures here. :)

That night, Evan arrived from Asheville! Toby was excited to see him.
Christmas break falls at the very end of my marathon training which meant that I had to fit in a long run on our trip. Lloyd and Susan drove us to the Withlacoochee State Trail where I ran 14 miles and they biked. It was nice and flat- perfect for running! 
The next day was Christmas! Toby loved unwrapping his gifts! It was a fun morning! 

Lloyd's reaction when he saw the scent of the candle we gave him is "2x4." You know... to help him remember his shop when he is away from it in NC. That thing really smelled like wood! 
 Toby took his present outside to open. :)
Lloyd smoked a turkey for Christmas dinner, and Susan and I worked on making the side dishes together. It was the year of experimental recipes, as everything was gluten free. All of the food was fabulous, in my opinion, but I do believe Lloyd would disagree about the stuffing... There was debate on whether it was edible as it was a bit crunchy... There were lots of laughs! We visited some of their family friends in the area which was great, and then we headed to The Hobbit. It was good, but really long! I still want to see Les Miserables. :) 

Next stop: Ormond Beach. On our way back to Atlanta, we stopped to see John, Tiffany, and Silas. Dan and Natalie met us there too on their way back to Gainesville. We had lunch and hung out for a few hours. It was really great to be together! We missed Scott, Shelby and my parents!

 Showing us his rock collection! One rock was painted.. Silas said, "That's art!" :) 

As we were walking out to leave, we found a small snake on the driveway. Silas said, "Yep, that's definitely a baby boa constrictor!" 

We made it back late on Wednesday night, and we're heading out again for New Year's in Raleigh! I am in the process of taking down Christmas decorations. I wish they could stay up all year! 

baking with food allergies & sensitivities

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is the holiday baking! For the past three years, I have devoted entire days just to bake. I was determined this year to find recipes that would cater to my nutritional needs (i.e., gluten free, egg yolk free, soy free, etc.) but that still tasted good! With the help from a few blogs, I succeeded and would love to share my finds! 

Gluten Free Florentines
I adapted this recipe from oh she glows. I followed the recipe exactly with the exception of substituting real butter for non-dairy butter and maple syrup for brown rice syrup. I also used Enjoy Life soy free chocolate chips since these are the ONLY ones out there without soy lecithin. I love the flavor from the orange zest and the crunch from the almonds in these cookies. And they just look fancy. Always a plus. They freeze well too! 

Chocolate Walnut Squares & Peanut Butter Cups
On the left we have chocolate walnut squares. I used egg whites instead of whole eggs, and they turned out great. I also used melted coconut oil and palm sugar. They have lots of healthy ingredients but don't taste like a healthy treat... they are amazing frozen! 

And then I made peanut butter cups (using Enjoy Life soy free chocolate chips). Super easy with only three ingredients, and they are also fabulous as a frozen treat! 

Frosted Sugar Cookies 
Last but not least: SUGAR COOKIES. My absolute favorite Christmas treat. I had low expectations for these, considering they don't have a lot of extra flavor to compensate for the gluten free flour. I used this recipe from kumquat (one of my favorite GF blogs). Instead of making her gluten free flour mixture, I used Bob's Red Mill GF all purpose flour. I also used 3 TB egg whites instead of a whole egg. I tasted the dough, and it definitely tasted different... Not bad, but different. But after they were baked, they were SO GOOD!!! I was (and still am) SO excited. Even Brian approved. They taste just as good as regular sugar cookies to me! 

I used my normal glaze icing which is roughly: 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 TB light corn syrup, 1 TB milk. I didn't spend as much time as I normally do decorating them with different colors of icing. Instead, I just used white icing and sprinkles. 

All of these cookies are good enough to take to parties or to share with company. I wouldn't even feel the need to tell them they're gluten free because they taste so completely normal. My goal this Christmas was to make treats that were "okay" for me to eat so that I wouldn't be tempted by "not okay" options. 

tacky christmas day

Today was Tacky Christmas Day at school. The teachers and staff dressed up in tacky Christmas attire to surprise the students on the last day before Christmas break. Pam, Kristin and I borrowed sweatshirts from Mrs. Ashby- a teacher who made them herself back in the day... The ribbons on the shoulders were our favorite part!  
Here is Mrs. Ashby and the group she dressed! :) The men are wearing women's vests... 

Unfortunately, my shirt didn't last the whole day as I was thrown up on around 10:30 this morning by one of my students. I am so glad I could hold it together and not get sick myself! I'll spare you the details, but I drove straight home, cleaned up, and changed clothes before returning to work. Even though my tackiness didn't last a whole day, but it was fun while it lasted! 

Hello Christmas break! You are here at last!! 

gluten free doesn't mean ugly...

I love cake. It's my weakness. When the doctor told me to be "gluten free for life" three months ago, I felt a little pain in my heart because cake as I knew it would never be the same. I attempted to make my first gluten free cake for my birthday this year! I had experimented with other gluten free desserts, but never cake. I have to say, it wasn't bad! I actually enjoyed it! I followed my favorite white cake recipe,substituted coconut oil for canola oil, whipped up Georgetown Cupcake's buttercream frosting, and voila! It looked so cute on this mint green cake stand. Brian even approved. A birthday isn't complete without cake!

i sewed a zipper!

Without a zipper foot. Don't ask me how. What is a foot you might ask? Part of the sewing machine that I am about to learn lots about! Apparently there's a walking foot, a zipper foot.. who knew? I got a new sewing machine from my in-laws for my birthday/Christmas that came with two (much needed) sewing classes! I learned to sew a couple of years ago on Brian's grandmother's old machine, and it has opened up a whole new world of creativity. I pretty much stick to pillow covers, curtains, duvet covers, and banners... Nothing too complicated, but yesterday, I learned to sew a bag!

Julie came over on Sunday afternoon and we learned how to sew this cute little toiletries bag!

We both agreed that we could never have figured it out alone, but together, we were able to do it! We followed this tutorial that Julie found. We both sewed our first zippers and boxed our first corners. Success. It only took too hours to make one bag.. Maybe the next time it'll go quicker. I used my old sewing machine for this one, but can't wait to learn how to use my new one! 

Julie is pregnant, by the way, and as adorable as ever! 

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas

I love this time of year, and I absolutely love decorating for this season! Here' a little glimpse into our home this holiday season... 
 I painted this reindeer silhouette last weekend and hung it over our kitchen sink. Loved the way it turned out!

I made these trees when I was sick one weekend a few months ago. I bought the supplies last year, but never got around to making them until this year!
I adore this little bird... he makes me so happy.
 Another tree in the bathroom
Every year we watch Home Alone and eat pizza while decorating our Christmas tree. It's one of my favorite traditions!
 Brown paper packages tied up with strings...

 The wreath on the inside of our front door.. didn't make it, got it at Target a few years ago.
 And the wreath on the outside of our door. I made this one!
So that's pretty much the bulk of it! I want December to last forever! 


I feel like I blinked and November happened. I honestly had to go look at the calendar just now to remember what we did. A lot of running is what happened. This marathon training is so time consuming! I've been training since the end of July, and we have eight more weeks to go until the race. One of my biggest accomplishments thus far was running 16 miles last Saturday with Ginna. 

I've also been spending a lot of time meal planning and exploring a new way of eating. After three years of feeling yucky and doctors telling me everything was fine, I finally got some answers. It turns out I have a gluten intolerance and several food sensitivities including soy (soy is in everything!!), egg yolk, canola, sunflower, black beans, quinoa, artichoke, the list goes on... When the doctor told me "you should be gluten free for life," I was a little devastated. I knew my love for baking would have to change. I have been determined to find equally tasty gluten-free recipes, and I have done so successfully! I have been gluten free for almost three months and have also managed to stay away from the foods I'm sensitive to. Traveling and eating out has been a little tricky.. Salads are usually a good choice, but almost all salad dressings either have canola oil or soybean oil in them, so I have learned to go without. It's worth it though because I feel SO MUCH better. I don't have headaches, extreme exhaustion or the other symptoms I used to have. I'm thankful for so many gluten-free options out there! I am determined to find a GF sugar cookie recipe for Christmas! 

Last weekend, I had the privilege of going to the ASHA convention! This is the national conference for speech pathologists and audiologists. It was held in Atlanta this year, so I jumped at the opportunity to go. It was three full days sessions on topics ranging from selective mutism to pediatric swallowing to dysarthria. I get a little dorky about speech pathology when I'm surrounded by other SLPs.. I even bought a mouth puppet to help my students see correct tongue placement for the /r/ sound. It's pretty awesome. 
One of the highlights was hearing Jeri Logemann, the author of my swallowing disorders text book in grad school. I also got to hear one of my old professors from App and one of my sister's current professors at UF. During the conference, I purchased an iPad to use in therapy!  I went to two sessions about apps to download and how to use it successfully in therapy sessions. It has completely changed my life. The options are endless, and the kids are fascinated by it. It's especially great for some of my lower functioning kids who are nonverbal. It has given me a new excitement for my job! I love it!! 

And then we had Thanksgiving break. I picked my mom up from the airport on Monday, and then my dad arrived on Wednesday. Mom's birthday was on Thanksgiving day, so we had pumpkin pancakes (this recipe is AMAZING!) to celebrate, and then headed to Boone! 
 We took a walk at Bass Lake...
 Walked around downtown Blowing Rock...
And then ate Thanksgiving dinner at The Dan'l Boone Inn. The meal was nothing compared to what we would have cooked ourselves (Brian and Dad thought it was great!), but it was easy and required no prep or clean up. It was fun to spend some time back in our old town.

After a little shopping and brunch at Melanie's on Saturday, we headed to Oak Ridge to stay with the Clements. I got to meet Ginna and Jeff's new pup, Leia! She is the sweetest dog ever. Look at that sweet face!!
We got to spend some time with Seth, Katie, Alden, and Blythe that night. It was refreshing to be with old friends. Seth made Ginna sit in a chair and hold pumpkins. It's as if nothing has changed.

The Neel, Clement, Day, Parker clan...
 And the parents!
We drove back to Atlanta on Saturday night, and Dad left on Sunday. My mom flew out on Monday night. While Brian and I were at work on Monday, she folded all of our laundry, changed the sheets on the guest bed, took care of Toby, made homemade soup, and cleaned the kitchen. It was so wonderful to walk into a clean house with the smell of soup on the stove and my mom there to greet me. It's been a fast month, but I'm thankful for so much.