February 19, 2014

Ice storm

It's been a crazy week here in Georgia. Last Wednesday we had a national disaster level ice storm (yes, officially declared by President Obama). Our town was hit the hardest and the governor even popped in for some encouragement. A whopping 80% of the city was without power; some for four days. Thankfully, ours was only out for 30 hours, so we got off the hook pretty easy.

The week prior to the ice storm we had a good three inch snowfall. Again, not the norm around here. Anna played in the snow for the first time and it was fun and exciting for everyone. Being from New York, I'm used to the snow, but seeing things for the first time through the eyes of a child is just as magical as if I'd never felt a snowflake before.

These first pictures are from the snowfall a few weeks ago.

Now, on to the ice storm.

Our beautiful front tree practically snapped in half from the weight of the ice. Multiple trees fell in our backyard.

Beautiful from the inside; treacherous from the outside.

No power; staying warm.

Fire and a cleared mantle with candles for some warmth and light.

Staying warm.

February 16, 2014

Meal planning take two plus an awesome app

A few years ago I wrote about our method for meal planning. It was a good enough method but still involved picking out which meals to make each week and compiling a grocery list. With our family’s allergies I was having a hard time meal planning each week; it was something I looked forward to as much as the Sunday before a miserable workday.


I decided that the only way I could make cooking the slightest bit pleasant was to eliminate the planning part. So I slowly compiled a six week meal plan. Basically I have different meals planned for six weeks straight along with their coordinating grocery lists. As I find new recipes that I like I plan on expanding it even further so that I have up to eight weeks of meals, almost all different from each other (I get bored easily).


I go shopping with the girls once a week on Friday mornings. First we go to Aldi to get whatever they have in stock that we need (love that place- can’t beat a 3.19 gallon of hormone-free milk) and then get everything else at Kroger before heading home.


I have a spreadsheet on my computer and fridge with each day of the week’s meals. I also have a document on my computer with each week’s grocery list. That way, I don’t have to make one each week. I print it out and add any staples on the bottom. NO BRAINER. NO THINKING. All I have to do is check the fridge to see what is for dinner and I have everything right there in my fridge. Only shop once a week. Not bad. It is also nice because if you have a regular scheduled weekly event or work schedule, you can make your meal plan with that in mind.


In my typical OCD fashion, I went a step further and color-coordinated my grocery lists. Every Monday is ‘green’ and every Tuesday ‘red’, etc. on my spreadsheet. The ingredients for that meal are then listed in the same color on the grocery list. It makes for a colorful grocery list, but it has a major purpose. If we have something out of the ordinary planned one night like a dinner out or guests coming, I don’t have to go through the list and figure out what ingredients to cross out. I cross out all the ‘green’ ingredients or all the ‘red’ ingredients. Easy peasy. And yes, slightly OCD. Embrace it.


There are a few tricks to making it work. If you really want to shop only once a week, you must make sure all your fresh produce and meat is used towards the beginning of the week while your frozen veggies and meals that don’t spoil as quickly are used towards the end of the week. It’s not easy; sometimes a thing or too will go bad. Make sure you check the expiration dates when you buy. If this doesn’t work for you, you can also make a second run to the store mid-week to get more produce and meat.


As for repeats, we only have a few on there. These are inexpensive meals that we like (spaghetti and nachos are eaten every 3 weeks or so). As for new meals, I don’t particularly like to try new recipes but I think it’s good to do now and then, so one meal every six weeks is listed as “New Recipe”.  Like I said, as I find more recipes that we enjoy we will continue to expand the meals beyond six weeks.


There are some meal planning websites that do this kind of thing for you. However, they don’t work with allergies. Secondly, I don’t like all the meals on their list (not a fish eater though I do try to give the girls canned salmon every week for that DHA stuff ;).  They also cost a little bit of money. Either way, they don’t work for us. This takes some legwork up front but it works super well for our family. As you can see below we try to eat inexpensive meals; lots of beans, vegetables, and light on the meat when possible.


Here is our current 6-week meal plan. It is constantly changing as our preferences change or as we find new foods we like. Since I go shopping at Friday, the meal plan starts on Saturday because that is the day of the week where I need to use the freshest foods. You would start your meal plan on whatever night (or following night) you go shopping. I plan the grilled foods for the weekend when I know Ben will have time to grill. The fish sticks and CN (chicken nuggets) and other alternate meals for Anna are because she can’t eat what we have that night. Apart from our church’s small group which eats a weekly dinner at our home, we eat meals that Anna can eat except on Fridays. Fridays are when Ben and I eat our favorite food and give Anna something different.


Here is an example of a grocery list. This is week one’s grocery list. Each color is coordinated with the spreadsheet. I have them listed in the order you would find in Kroger (deli, produce, processed foods, meat, dairy, frozen foods, natural/health foods). I have a “circle if needed” on the bottom to make sure I don’t run out of our staples I need that week.

There you have it. Yes it takes a lot of legwork up front. But delayed gratification is definitely worth it when you never have to meal plan again!

Lastly, check out the amazing app called Fooducate. If you want to eat healthy but have no interest in finding out exactly what ingredients are bad for you (besides the obvious) then get this app. You scan the food’s barcode and it immediately labels the with a score of A through F. What could be easier? If the food isn’t up to your standards, it even gives you alternative brands that scored the highest. This app has seriously changed the way we eat. I don’t have to time to figure out what foods to buy on my own, but I do have time to scan a barcode and see its score. We try to avoid artificial flavors and colors, hydrogenated oils, unhealthy oils and tons of added sugar. Of course our budget doesn’t always allow for that but we do the best we can.


Fooducate automatically determines whether your food has a lot of sugar in it for its type of product. It isn’t always easy to tell on your own because lots of foods have natural sugar that is reflected in the sugar content. If you have nutrition or diet goals, you can include them in your food-searching, as well.


If you purchase the Plus app for $10 (lifetime subscription), it will also tell you if the food is GMO. Awesome feature. They have an allergy Plus app as well, but I’m so used to checking for allergens that I don’t need an app to do it for me. I probably wouldn’t trust it anyway!


Happy eating!

(I posted twice today so check below to see Anna's new leg!)

Here comes the butterfly leg!

Anna received her new butterfly leg! We are more than thrilled. It is so beautiful; they did a great job! They even made a designed liner to go with it.

We are also excited that Anna is finally able to move up to a more advanced foot. Her past two feet were the most basic- wood and foam- and gave her no spring to help with walking. Now she can fit into a nicer, more advanced foot (though still pretty basic compared to what she can wear in the future) that slightly bends and gives her more spring. It also looks more realistic and fits shoes perfectly. In case you don't know, while the leg is custom made in-house, feet are ordered from a prosthetics company and attached.

Here is the progression of her last three feet. Her new foot has a coating on it that slowly peels away, hence the odd coloring.


We are super excited to show off our new leg this summer! Soon we will be picking up her second leg which is identical but skin colored.

February 7, 2014

Easy. homemade.

When we first found out about Anna's garlic allergy I was pretty horrified. I knew that I would have to start making a lot of basic foods from scratch. From sauces to condiments to spice mixes to broths, very few convenience foods or shortcuts are garlic-free.

I hate to cook.

I became accustomed to creating many foods from scratch out of necessity. Italian seasoning, spaghetti sauce, chicken broth, salad dressing, and hummus. Convenience foods like frozen fish sticks and chicken nuggets. Even foods you wouldn't usually think of having garlic in them, like refried beans, I had to make from the bottom up. Other foods I had to work without because there wasn't a good homemade option that would work for us (ketchup, BBQ sauce, Worcestershire sauce, to name a few).

Now that she is a little older, Anna has been able to handle small amounts of garlic in her diet as her winter clothing protects her skin from breaking out and turning into sores. I thought I would be really excited to go out and buy all these foods I've been missing out on, and I was ... but then I wasn't. I found that many of the alternatives were quite unhealthy and bland. I decided it was just as easy to continue to make some of them from scratch. Here are some of the yummy ones I keep going back to. These are the foods whose alternative store-bought versions are often loaded with extra sugar and hydrogenated oil and are significantly more expensive. These are super easy and quick even for someone to hates to cook.

Here are some of my favorites:

Salad Dressing: I can't believe I've spent so much time buying unhealthy bottles full of junk when the simple, homemade stuff is so much better. I discovered from a friend that half and half oil and balsamic vinegar was as good (and a whole lot healthier) than the salad dressings I was using. I purchased a handy salad dressing pourer that has measurements on the outside and allows you to shake and pour it (see product here. You can get a small version at Bed Bath and Beyond for $7 with a coupon).

Spaghetti sauce: Make your own without sugar and a whole lot cheaper. I make a huge batch and freeze them in individual containers. I use 3 28oz cans of plain crushed tomatoes. Mix in some olive oil and lots of spices: 2T each of oregano, basil, parsley, and some thyme and salt and pepper. Try mixing in shredded carrots, grated zucchini, or the crumbled tips of broccoli to give it an extra nutritional oomph.

Chicken broth: Cooking a whole chicken in the crockpot and simmering, saving, and freezing the broth is a much healthier, sodium-conscious alternative to cans of (expensive) chicken broth. Oh, and it tastes soo much better. You can especially notice a difference in soups.

Hummus: this is so easy to make. You only need four ingredients: chickpeas (1 can), tahini paste (1.5 T), lemon juice (3T) and olive oil (2T). The trick is to run all the ingredients except the chickpeas through the food processor until smooth, and then process in the chickpeas. No garlic, additives, and no spending $4 on a container of hummus. You can add anything you want to it- roasted red peppers, garlic (if that floats your boat), spices, etc.

Refried beans: We eat a lot of beans but the only kind Anna isn't allergic to are pinto and kidney beans. Refried beans always contain garlic in them, so we had to make our own. We puree a can of pinto beans with a little bit of water until smooth. Easy and yummy. Great texture. Once I saw how unhealthy true refried beans at the store were, I was willing to take that extra step to make my own. They are great for making nachos, quesadillas, or burritos. We usually opt for beans over beef for our protein in Mexican food.

Chicken nuggets and fish sticks: It's a bit more work than the above foods, but you cut into strips or chunks your tilapia or chicken, roll them in mayonnaise with a little bit of lemon juice, and then roll them in breadcrumbs. Cook in the oven at 400 until crispy, let cool, and divide into freezer bags. I put one kids size meal in one sandwich bag and then load those all up into big freezer bags. I take out one serving size and pop them into the toaster oven for 10 minutes to warm up.

February 6, 2014

Little Star

Recently Anna was asked to be in a commercial for the clinic where she gets her prostheses made and of course, we said yes! Anything we can do to help our wonderful clinic is truly a pleasure. We had fun doing this little spot and it has been cute to see people from around town say that they saw Anna on TV.

More and more I forget that Anna has only one leg. It used to be at the forefront all the time. Now, it's more of an afterthought. There is something about winter that makes you forget completely about it. Anna has had virtually no issues with her prosthesis this time around; it has been effortless. We are very thankful for this because we know seasons of ease and difficulty come and go. With the weather warming up soon and the beaches and pools coming into play, we know we will become more 'aware' of her difference ('aware' in the sense that we will think more about it because others will notice it and remind us).

I hear from a lot from parents with kids who have fibular hemimelia and I want to continue to write about this part of our lives. It is such a huge part, though not the main part, of our family's story. We are learning how to incorporate it into our lives and create our new normal.

I love and hate that word.


It's such a loaded word. Two years ago I would have burst into tears thinking about that word. Now, it almost makes me chuckle. I've realized how overrated normal really is. How much life and deep joy there is in the abnormal.

I don't feel like I'm missing anything; I feel like I've been given everything.