Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Years Eve - 2013

It is the last day of 2013 and I am back to the blog!  I had a really nice holiday and I hope that you all did as well!

For this very last day of the year, I'm going to look back and reflect with gratefulness on a few items that just come to mind this morning:

Living a Gluten Free Lifestyle:
For the majority of this year, my family and I have been leading a gluten free lifestyle.  It has broadened my horizon's in the kitchen and I'm no longer afraid to bake bread or try to convert a recipe.  I'm hoping to share more of my GF kitchen success on this blog in 2014.  It does not have to be scary or strange.  Sometimes, I will admit, it is complicated but knowing others to discuss things with helps.  That leads me to two of my new friends that I met in 2014, Anneke and Donia.  We are frequent fliers over at the Gluten Free on a Shoestring blog and realized that we all live really close to each other.  We started conversing via email and share our GF woes and successes in the kitchen.  It has been a god send to be able to bounce things off of other people and get ideas and technique tips that I may never have tried before.  We hope to all meet in January for a weekend of GF fun!

Good Friends & Family:
I'm always so grateful for my wonderful friends (as noted above - 2 new ones this year!!).  I like making new ones and connecting with old ones.  Which reminds me of that old Girl Scout song, "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other's gold."  Though we are all so busy, I do try to make connections with my friends as much as I can.  Email, texting, and video chat has made that so much easier.  In fact this year, my sister-in-law and niece joined us for Christmas Eve present opening via face-time.  They could see all of us and we could see them perfectly.  We even had #1 and #2 stand up on either side of the computer screen as my niece was held up for a "cousins" photo.  It was super cute and something we could have never done before without the technology that we have.

I think people take this for granted, I really do.  I often reminisce about the '80's and the primitive electronics and technology we had.  We are so lucky today and I'm so grateful for the laptop, tablet, digital camera, scanner/printer, DVR, cable, the oodles of software on these hardware objects, and so on that I use on a daily basis.  Though sometimes it gets in the way, it really makes my life so much easier.

Thew, #1, & #2
These three people will always be the number one priority in my life and I feel that this year we have grown closer as a family unit.  We have taken many trips together, have family game nights, enjoyed going to the movies, baking cookies, reading exciting adventures, and just hanging out together.   We all truly enjoy each other's company and love each other dearly - I will be eternally grateful for this and their presence in my life forever!

What things from 2013 are at the top of your mind today on this New Year's Eve?  Please leave a comment and let us know!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Happy Holidays!!!

So, I've done it again, I've over planned, over committed, over done it this holiday season.  Due to my completely delusional accurate account of time (yes, there are only 8 days until the big gifting 2 day free for all), I am super behind in all of my life including this blog and some things have got to be crossed off my list so that I can keep my sanity.  For now, one of the crossed off items is the blog - I'm doing this, so I can get my kids gifts wrapped and a few cookies baked, while still working full time and carting everyone around to activities and such this week.

I came to this conclusion after reading a magazine article in Savvy (a MN publication) about where you saw yourself on January 1st.  I thought for a moment and saw myself as a relaxed and happy person.  The next step is to figure out, how do you get there.  Make a list of the items you want to do, determine what has to be done and cross the rest off.  With that, the blog did not make my "MUST DO" list, but don't worry - so many other things did not make the list either. So I'll apologize to everyone that I usually bake homemade gifts for too - but I want a healthier holiday this year.  I'll be back hopefully the week of December 30th, so please stay tuned.   

Be safe and most importantly, make your 'must do' list and visualize yourself in the new year. You will be all that more serene for it. A happy holiday to you and yours!!!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Recipe: Iced Peppermint Mocha

Note:  I'm traveling the rest of this week for work, so I'm posting this a day early!! Enjoy!

You already know that I love iced coffee drinks.  They are the bomb!  I also try to stay away from the coffee chains because they can really wreak havoc on my budget.  So instead, I thought why not give these new 'off the shelf' coffee products now popping up all over our grocery stores a chance?  I am in love with mocha's as I just think coffee needs chocolate to taste good - Period. And now that it is the holiday season, I have ditched my pumpkin obsession for all things peppermint!  It is so wonderfully delicious. That's where Starbuck's Via (R) Peppermint Mocha comes into play.

I've actually had a package of this product in my pantry for some time now and I just never really knew what to do with it.  Then it hit me.  I must make my own Iced Peppermint Mocha - but not in the traditional sense. I wanted it icy and delectable.  Viola!  The Iced Peppermint Mocha recipe was created.  I hope you love it as much as I do!

Iced Peppermint Mocha
Serves 1

1 packet Starbucks Via (R) Peppermint Mocha
1 C Milk (I used coconut, but virtually any non flavored milk can be used here)
1 packet sweetener (I used a stevia/sugar blend - you can use more or less to taste)
Ice cubes

1. Fill your magic bullet glass, 1/2 way with ice cubes.
2. Pour in one cup of milk.
3. Sprinkle in the packet of Starbucks Via (R) Peppermint mocha and sweetener packet.
4. Completely blend until you hear that there are no ice chunks left.
5. Sip with a straw and enjoy!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013 Holiday Favorite Things

A lot of the blogs I follow publish a favorite things and most of them even give all of the items in their favorite things away.  Isn't that awesome?  I however am just starting out, so this year it's just a listing of my top items and hopefully in years to come I'll be sending out a care package to one of my readers with all of the items listed!  Below is a picture of each of my favorite items and under that is a brief description of the item and where you can find them.  Cheers and happy holidays to you all!

1. Kiss Me Tonight by Philosophy is by far one of my most favorite things this holiday season. I slather it on right before I go to bed at night and it keeps my lips so nice and soft.  It is a must have for your bed side table.  I purchased this directly from philosophy.com and right now they are offering 30% of your order - I think it's time to stock up!
2. Gluten Free on a Shoestring's Bakes Bread book.  It has revolutionized the dry crumbly gluten free bread making of your past.  Please purchase this book for all of those GF peeps in your life - they will love you for it. I promise!  It's full color and a wonderful read with lots of tips and tricks.  I got mine on Amazon.com but barnesandnoble.com has it too.
3. Hershey's peppermint bark bells are by far my most favorite new holiday candy this year. The bottom of the bell is a scrumptious dark chocolate while the top of the bell is peppermint white chocolate with crunchy and festive non-perils decorating it through out. SO YUMMY!  I've only seen these at Target, which is ok by me because they have a cartwheel coupon deal going on now so you can save 5% off!  I don't know if they are solely there but I can't even find them on Hershey's site, so off to Target you must go (or they are online too)!!!
4. The World's Softest Socks.  That is all there is to be said.  They are divine and keep your tootsies warm in this chilly weather.  They are the cheapest at Costco where you can get a package of 3 pairs for $9.99 - they are a steal and are completely gone as soon as they come in stock, so run there today!
5. Bath & Body Works Limoncello Soap and Lotion is about the most lemony hand soap and lotion you can find out in the market right now.  I'm so glad I wandered in there this past month.  I have found that most of the shops at the mall have the soap but the online store is sold out!  It is the exact opposite for the hand lotion - all of the stores are sold out but it is available online. I stocked up because I never want to be without this - ever!!!  Check 'em out online or in the stores.
6. Origami Owl holiday charms in a classic bling locket.  I recently went to my first Origami Owl party and purchased a locket with some other charms and then I saw the holiday ones - be still my beating heart - they are so cute!!! So I stocked up and got them all!  Find an Origami Owl stylist on their website to help you out.  These are great for holiday gifts.  The best part is that they come in a small chinese take out container and come with a silk fortune cookie holder to keep them in.  Love this!!

Good luck this holiday season, there are only 15 shopping days left - it was a short one this year but hopefully my favorite things have given you some ideas for those still left on your list.

Until next time....

J.K. Sasse

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Holiday Giveaways!!!

It's that time of year!!!  Tons of blogs are posting giveaways because they just love us so much.  Here are a few that I've found that I wanted to share with you all today.  Enjoy!!!

Gluten Free on a Shoestring Big Give Away
If you haven't heard, Nicole Hunn has just published another book.  It is the holy grail of all gluten free bread books called Gluten Free On A Shoestring Bakes Bread and it is a must have for your gluten free library.  I have already received my copy and have been pouring over it.  I will warn you that you'll need some specialty ingredients so please check out her post about what to get before the book arrives (I did not and now I'm waiting impatiently for everything to get here) and also her big give away in which she will be rewarding someone with a state of the art kitchen aid mixer and a Brod and Taylor bread proofer.  I have both a kitchen aid mixer and Brod & Taylor proofer. Both are must haves for your gluten free bread baking - not 100% essential, but they will make your life so much easier.  If we pre-order and order an additional 500 from the publish date of the giveaway, one winner will get a personal day of baking with Nicole.  So go and get your bread book today!! 
Give away ends: December 10, 2013.

Our Best Bites: Our Favorite Things Give Away
Sara from Our Best Bites has listed her favorite holiday items for a give away.  I think you still have time as they have not closed the comments nor announced a winner.  The box will contain all of her fav things right now from fuzzy socks to candies and candles.  Check it out!!
Give Away Ends: ANY DAY NOW! so GO!

UPDATE:  New give away posted today for Kate's favorite things.

Skinny Mom's Gift Guide Give Away
Yep - you read that correct there are more than one and you can enter to win on all of them.  To be clear there are 12 in total including the following: a pet prize, technical prize, home prize, food prize, jewelry prize, baby prize, fitness prize, kitchen prize, women's prize, men's prize, beauty prize, and an awesome wellness prize.  You can enter multiple times for each prize by liking the products on Facebook, following on twitter, entering zip codes, answering random questions, or following skinny mom on Pinterest.  It does take some time to get through all of them but won't it be worth it? Each prize pack is just overflowing with goodies!!!
Give Away Ends: December 15, 2015

Daily Bites: Simple & Crisp Give Away
This is give away highlights Simple & Crisp Dried Fruits.  They are really amazing looking so head on over and read the post.  All you have to do is leave a comment with what you like to bring to holiday parties to share along with liking both daily bites and Simple & Crisp on Facebook and leaving comments that you did so. 
Give Away Ends: December 5, 2013 - SO GO!

Now these are just from some of the sites that I follow regularly. I just googled "holiday blog give aways" and tons of things returned. I think I'll spend some time today entering these just for the fun of it!   Good luck to us all!!!

Until next time...
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Review: The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

I picked up the first two books in the divergent series (3 books in total) last summer, they were Divergent and Insurgent.  This whole dystopian phase is going pretty strong right now and frankly it is right up my alley.  I loved the Hunger Game and Matched Series.  Then there is of course the new show Revolution on NBC. I just can't get enough of this stuff, so it was natural when I saw this on the shelf at Target to throw it into my cart. At last this fall the third and final book of the series Allegiant came out and it was flying off the shelves (of my Target anyway). I finally got my hands on it and was very pleased with the results. 

Before I get into the story too much, I have to comment on the writing style. It is a young adult novel as the first two books in the series are told by the main character, Beatrice, aka "Tris", a young girl embarking on her life after the choosing ceremony in a dystopian society - which in a way is a little bit like the whole "sorting hat" deal from Harry Potter, but who's keeping track?  The third novel in the series is told by two voices, Tris and Tobias, also known as "Four", who is the leading young man in all three books.  This was an interesting way to take the final book of the series and even though I enjoyed the content of this trilogy, I think that Ms. Roth could have done a better job with the writing style in the third book.  Tris and Four are so much a like that at many times, I forgot who was speaking.  There wasn't a different dialect that separated them or even much of a thought process at times.  This made it very difficult to follow and I'm an experienced reader.  I wonder how the younger crowd kept up with it.  In my opinion, to date the best person to write in this fashion is Chris Bohjalian.  I've read a few of his books and this is his favorite method of writing therefore he is spot on.  I can always tell who is narrating in the chapter in his books and without much thought about it.  Frankly that is how books like this are supposed to be written.  Check his out if you enjoyed this method of writing.  With all of this said, I believe these are Ms. Roth's first books to be published as she started the series while still a college student - kudos to her!

As a nod to the overall series, I did enjoy all three books and felt like they all contained content that served the story and plot.  Most importantly, I wanted to read them - all of them through to the end - which is unlike my feelings toward the Hunger Games where I thought the third book was misplaced and very difficult to read.  All three of the Divergent books fit together and the story unfolds in each one with the third one wrapping it all up but not in a weird or out of place fashion.  The flow is great and the character profiles build in each one.  Ms. Roth is not afraid to take risks throughout the books which I also really enjoy. I feel today that too many authors are writing just to please readers and book sales - but for some reason I did not feel like this series did that.  She had a definite outcome for her story and characters and she committed to it.  Her blog actually addresses this as many readers were upset with the ending - I however thought it was spot on.

I hate reviews or Wikipedia that essentially tell you the story or have spoilers in them, so I'll just tell you that the characters are strong, it is a new-ish take on a dystopian novel, and a superb read.  Please take the time to buy or check these books out from the library, you will not be disappointed.

If you are one of those types who would rather see the movie than the book, then you will not be disappointed.  Right now, the Divergent movie is set to release in March 2014.  I am a little bit worried about the actress selection for Tris, however.  Shailene Woodley is best known for her performance on The Secret Life of an American Teenager (ABC Family).  Yes, I watched the show - it was a total teenage train wreck and it was on ABC Family which is a fav network of mine.  Shailene was ok but not worthy of a strong, kick ass leading character in my mind, we'll see how it pans out. Theo James on the other hand looks like he'll make a great Four.  I'm excited to see how it turns out next spring!!!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks 2013

Today is the day that I try to slow down and remember how truly lucky I am.  Even though it's Thanksgiving and everyone says what they are thankful for, I wonder how many people put their money where their mouths are?  I know for one that I do not entirely enough - I try but I can do better.  Below is a list of the things I am thankful for and what I can do better to make sure I am thankful for them for many years to come.

I am thankful for....

My Health:  I am overweight and I have been my entire life.  I came out at 10lbs 11oz and as far as I know I've never been skinny without extreme dieting or other health issues going on.  With all of that said, I'm relatively healthy.  I do have thyroid issues and hormone issues but neither of these are caused by being overweight - that I'm aware of.  With that said, I am so grateful that I do have my good health and I'm committed to getting to a healthy weight.  I've already lost 62lbs from my highest weight (without being pregnant) and I've started working out - walking and jogging mostly.  I am going to go to the YMCA on Friday and start a membership.  It is $1 to join and the month of December is FREE!  I've already scouted the classes that I would want to take and have a plan in place.  I'm very excited to add this to my workout schedule.  I'm also committing to eating more fruits and veggies - something that is super hard for me to do. I  want to know why it is so hard and just get to it.  It is after all the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle.

My Family:  My husband and my children are my everything.  I am so grateful that we all have and love each other.  Even though everyone gets on my nerves at times - they are a true blessing.  I didn't date much in high school (because I was practically related to everyone!) and in college I was so focused on my school work that I just didn't get around to it - I know, lame, right?  So when I met my husband after going on many many 1st dates with random losers, it was like the heavens opened up and a gift was hand delivered to me.  Eleven and a half years later and we are still going strong!  I love him so much and he does so much for me and our kids.  Our kids were blessings that you just never sure will be bestowed upon you and even though they've given us a run for our money in several different ways, I wouldn't trade them for the world.  They are the best children ever and I'm not just saying that so they'll take care of me when I'm old and gray! I want to be more there more for them.  I want to slow down and take more time just to "be" with them.  They deserve it.

My Job and Our Income:  This spans just so many things that I am grateful for.  Both my husband and I have been employed our entire working lives. Yes there have been layoffs along the way, but nothing that lasted over a couple of months and that a severance didn't cover.  We are so lucky to have the jobs and careers that we do so we can support our family free from worry.  I also am so happy that I can use my income to help others.  I donate to a wide variety of funds (you can tell by how much mail I get from random organizations) each year and also am teaching my children to do this by donating gifts at Christmas time to Toys for Tots and non-perishable food items to the food shelf all year long.  These are tangible items that they help me shop for or collect in our home so they can actually see the giving happening.  When they are older with jobs, even though their incomes will be small, I will teach them that the more they give, the more they will have.  We are just so lucky!

Unlimited Food, Shelter, Clothes, and Warmth:  So many people do not have these basic necessities.  I've never had to budget our grocery shopping bill and do not know what it is like to have to choose between fresh fruit and laundry detergent OR worse yet, between food and heat.  Due to my grateful item above, myself and my family have always been covered on all of these fronts and for that I am eternally grateful.  So grateful that when I was at Wal-Mart last week, I saw a young mother with 4 children: 2 girls ages 5&4, a little boy who was just about 2, and a infant little girl - not even 1 yet.  It was about 20 degrees out with a -5 wind-chill.  Pretty cold.  They did not have coats, hats, or mittens.  The infant was dressed in a summer outfit and was covered with a worn thin blanket and the little boy had a short sleeve shirt on with shorts.  The rest of them had long pants, long shirts, and hoodies at least - but not enough to keep that kind of cold out.  My heart broke when I was watching them in line in front of me.  It wasn't until they were out of sight (yep they left the store that way) that I realized, I could buy them winter gear!  I hurried the cashier up who told me that they had just moved here and ran out to the parking lot.  I looked and looked but they were already gone.  I was so ashamed that I didn't stop her before she left the building.  I could have really helped and it pained me that I didn't have the courage to do this small task.  I have never known the cold like those children did that night and for that I am so grateful.  I am going to try to be brave and follow my heart in these situations.  I want to make a difference.

Our Support System:  This will be my last item for today as I plan on continuing this on Christmas Day and New Years Day.  I am so grateful for the support system that my family and I have.  Of course we still have our parents living (except for my mother) and my husband's parents are so good to us.  They take the kids any time they need us to and they are loving and giving - we all adore them.  We have good friends in our community who I know will be at our side.  My daughter (#1) has a friend from early days in daycare that I am very close with and they are a great support to me especially when it comes to having kids, navigating the school system, and other types of kid activities, etc....  We have met some amazing families through our Girl Scout troop that would be there for us in a blink of an eye if anything should happen to either of us or I just needed someone to talk to.  We also have fantastic friends that we've had since childhood.  My husband bowls with a friend from grade school and new friend (that he's now known for 10 years) and I know both of those men would be here for us if needed.  I have a dear friend from all the way back to 2nd grade who is always on the ready for me.  She is a true kindred spirit and I love her dearly.  I also know deep down in my heart that our neighbors and remaining community would rally for us as well. I've seen them do it as tragedy strikes our small-ish town.  They band together to help in a heroic fashion, it truly is amazing and that makes me feel like people here in our little space of the universe are really great people.  For all of these folks, thank you for always being there!  As for me, I want to make sure that people see me as someone that they can turn to for help, support, or a simple chat.  I want to be a part of your support system and I will make it a goal to let them know this.

That's it for today!  I am grateful for so many more things but for now these are the top items that I ponder on a daily basis and thank God for them.  We are truly blessed!  How are you blessed?  What are you grateful today on this bountiful Thanksgiving 2013?

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Recipe: Gluten Free Roasted Pears and Cranberries

My Weight Watcher leader gave me this recipe off the top of her head as we were prepping for Thanksgiving. She said it was the best cranberry dish she has ever eaten and since I'm not a huge fan of cranberries (or fruit in general - GASP, I know, right?), I thought, I should give it a try to see if it would change my mind and my eating habits (meaning - girl, you need to eat more fruit!). Originally she said the recipe had a cup of brown sugar and a stick (1/2 cup) of butter or something ridiculous like that. She lightened it up a bit and I put a tad back more in because it is all just fruit for cripes sake. I figure it's a win/win situation here - two kinds of fruit and little bit of fat and sweetness added.  The best thing about this recipe is that it is naturally gluten free! Yahoo!

All you need to do is cut up the pears and pour on the brown sugar/butter mixture.

Roast 'em until they are browning and bubbling.  Then add in your cranberries.  I used these because they are readily available right now and are super delicious -make sure you rinse them well!

Once everything is all roasted together it comes out looking like this!

Roasted Pears and Cranberries

3 Tbs. butter (or light butter)
3 Tbs. light brown sugar - packed
6 Pears - variety of colors, shapes and sizes
12oz bag of Cranberries - rinsed thoroughly

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Core and slice the pears leaving the skins on (you can peel them if you want but the skins give great color and a health component.)
3. Place sliced pears on a cookie sheet that is lined with non-stick aluminum (you can substitute this with regular foil and cooking spray.)
4. Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in the light brown sugar until completely incorporated.
5. Drizzle the butter/sugar mixture over the pears and place the pan in hot oven.  Roast for 30 minutes or until the pears start to brown.
6. Remove the pan from the oven and add the washed cranberries to the pan - toss completely to make sure the cranberries are coated with the pan juices.
7. Return the pan to the oven and continue to roast 10-15 minutes until the cranberries are soft and they have popped. Don't worry, they do not pop like popcorn so it will not go all over your oven.
8. Pour pan contents into a large serving bowl and toss thoroughly.
9. This can be served warm or cold.  The kids liked it with a dollop of whipped cream.


Until Next Time,
J.K. Sasse

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Blog Name and Identity

So this week, I was doing some research on how to get more traffic to my little blog and found out that I am indexed on Google but not on Bing.  And don't ya know you need to be indexed on BOTH.  Uh, ok.  What I did find is that there are other people called "The Sassy Lady". With really nice logos and long time blogs. Well, crap. 

I just started this blog a couple of months ago and I'm not really married to the name, so I guess I could change it up but man that is a lot to ask for.  Since my last name is Sasse (the e is silent), it just seemed fun to make a pun out of "Sassy".  However, I'm not really sure I'm a "Sassy Lady".  My idea of a fun night is sitting at home on the couch trying to catch up with my DVR'd shows.  Exciting, eh?  Not exactly Sassy though my personality is pretty sassy and anyone I know will tell you that immediately, so that is why I went with it.

Now, that I'm a whole 2 months in, I'm not sure it fits what I write about or me.  I'm all over the map, kids, recipes, PSAs, crafts (it's coming - I promise!), etc... so maybe something that fits that is better.  The big question is, do I keep the "Sassy" part or leave it out?  I also know how important it is to build a brand, so you can't really just switch every six months and hope to find a following or a brand.  This is going to be hard - I want this to encompass who I am and who I might be.  I'm hoping not only to share with the world on this blog but to find myself a little bit.  I know that sounds so 90's new age, but it's true and heck, I was only in my teens and early 20's in the 90's so I was just trying to survive let alone 'find myself'.  I guess I'll just need to start from scratch and brainstorm (or storyboard for those of you really up on it all).... hmmm.... let's see what I've come up with so far:

Chronicles: I really like this word and for some reason, it just jumped out at me recently.  So if take that to the next level what could I do with it?

Sassy Chronicles: This is good, still has the Sassy, but maybe it's too simple?

J.K. Sasse Chronicles:  Seems kind of long winded and who the heck is J.K anyways?  Is this person just trying to copy J.K. Rowling?  Could this help with web searches though?  Anyone who searches for J.K. Rowling may end up getting my site too - that would not be unfortunate.

Sasse Chronicles:  This at least uses my real last name and people will say "sassy" when they read this no matter how many times I would correct them - that's cool, it gets my name and the sassy across.

Mommy Chronicles:  Yea I'm a mom but that is not all that I am.  I'm so many things, and I'm not sure I'm just trying to reach a 'mommy' crowd, know what I mean?  I'm pretty sure this one's already taken by at least 100 or so Moms.

The Working Mom Chronicles:  Again, yes I'm a working mom, but is that all I am.  I'm pretty sure that it's not and what happens when my kids are out of the house?  How do I keep up that mirage?

The Chronicles: Like I'm the only chronicle out there - yeah, sure.  Delusional party of one.  I'm also pretty sure this one is taken but some big wig somewhere.

Gluten Free Chronicles:  Yes, we are gluten free, but again, this does not define me or what I'm about.  Maybe some day it will or could, we'll see.

Crazy Chronicles:  Well, I'm definitely a little goofy and things do get crazy around here.  It's also fun, but will people think this is a mental health blog?

The Everything Chronicles:  I like this - kind of like an everything bagel.  Which by the way I just tried the everything GF crackers by Vans -super yummy, but I digress.  This is a pretty cool name and doesn't limit me to just one thing.  There is of course already the "Chronicles of Everything" written by a 23 year old Australian.  Which kind of baffles me - how at 23 can you know everything or even chronicle it?  Stop it mean old lady - just stop it.

The Chronicles for All that is Good:  This alone is just way too long!  I'll have to come with an acronym and who wants that?

The Nothing Chronicles: This is an antonym of everything but it just seems so negative.

Chronicles of Sasse:  Which essentially is like the one above, just reworded.  I'm not sure that I'm a fan of the "Chronicles of" wording.....

Wanna Be Chronicles: I am a wanna be or want to be of so many things - but again, maybe too negative.  People also might start thinking my name is Wanna Be.  Not good.

Chronicles of a Jack (or Jill) of all Trades:  Wow - another long winded title.  Enough said.

The Chronicles of All:  This is a little too broad I think and a little 'out there'.

Suburban Chronicles:  Since I'm not a Pioneer Woman, I was wondering what type of regional woman am I.  I guess I'm a suburbanite.  Though technically we are even further out than that but not really rural either.  I'm not feeling this.

What do you think?  If anyone is reading this, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

I'm not sure if I'll settle on something soon but I'm committed to changing in the next few months and getting more of a real site set up.  Stay tuned....

Until next time...
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

PSA: Coping with a Child Tonsillectomy

There is never a good time to talk about your child having to undergo surgery.  It just down right stinks and it's super scary.  Our little guy, lovingly called #2 on this blog, has had four surgeries in his first 4 years of life.  It never got any easier and I hated every minute of it but it clearly improved the quality of his life, so we went for it. 

Today, I'll speak about the third surgery that he had when he was 3 - the tonsillectomy.  I'm hoping that I can prepare you for what is coming and how to deal with the situation.  Please note however that I am not a medical professional.  You should talk to your Ear, Nose, and Throat physician (ENT) and primary care physician (PCP) about any outstanding questions or issues that you may have prior to the surgery.

#2's story goes like this.  He had chronic ear infections as an infant (starting at 4 months) most likely due to the horrid reflux he endured and being in a daycare center where he picked up many viruses and infections.  By the time he was 8 months old, he had complete hearing loss therefore his first surgery was to put in ear tubes.  This helped tremendously with his hearing- yahoo!  But it had already impacted his development (another post on this coming in the new year - I promise!).  We were doing pretty well, but he continued to have chronic sinus infections through the spring so we went to a children's ENT who recommended having his adenoids removed at 15 months but not the tonsils as tonsillectomies are very difficult on small children due to the possibility of blood draining down their throat and at this age they do not have the cognitive skills to deal with it.  Bleh.  That sounds gross, dangerous, and we were not that desperate so we did not push it.  Honestly, things went pretty well too for most of the next year and a half.  Yes he was sick, but it wasn't anything super detrimental or chronic. 

After #2 turned three years old, we planned our first family trip - on an airplane!! - to Las Vegas for my sister-in-law's wedding.  We were all so excited about it.  The day before we were to leave, #2 started acting a little strange and vomited at dinner.  Hmmm, interesting.  But he seemed fine so we got up early the next day and headed out.  I brought snacks for breakfast and he refused to eat anything except a $7 cheese stick I purchased at a snack stand.  Ok, this was not good but he still seemed pretty ok.  We flew to Vegas with no issues.  Another red flag was when we were enroute to the SIL's house and #2 fell asleep in the car.  He never.ever.ever. falls asleep in the car.  I said to my husband, "this is either a miracle, or he is sick."

He tossed and turned all night and snored like a freight train but we were used to that - he's always snored his entire life - even as an infant.  He woke up with completely crusted closed shut eyes - so immediately, I was relieved, thank god - it's just pink eye.  After we finally found a Dr. that would take children (Vegas - you are very scary in this respect), we found out that he had either strep or tonsillitis as well and the Dr. wouldn't even take a throat culture because he said, "those things are HUGE!"  Once he was on meds, he started to get better and was on the mend. Thankfully his ENT check up was scheduled for when we got back, so there wasn't much else we could do, so we hit the strip like any normal parents with children in Vegas would do.  The rest of our vacation was great!

Fast forward to this ENT appointment after we get back.  I'm not sure what I was expecting but the minute he looked in #2's mouth and exclaimed, "WHOA!" I knew that we were in for it.  Yes, he confirmed that he needed to get his tonsils out.  They were very large and most likely was impacting his sleep, mood, and overall health.  Great.  Here we go!

Thankfully we were able to schedule the procedure to take place in just two weeks.  I was so thankful for this and that's when I started combing the internet and asking people I knew who had kids that had gone through this before for advice.  What do we do? how do we handle this? I will try to outline the best I can how in order to help you manage through this so it is the least disruptive to your family - again remember I am not a medical professional so please run all suggestions by your ENT or PCP.

Scheduling The Procedure
  • Make sure to schedule your procedure as early in the morning as you can.  They are not allowed to eat or drink beforehand so you will not want to have them starving all day and begging for food before the surgery. This will just amplify the stress for everyone.
  • Ensure the surgery scheduler gives you all the Pre-Operative (pre-op) information and the pre op form for your PCP to fill out.
  • If you are working parents, schedule the surgery for a Friday.  This way you'll have all day Friday and the weekend to recover.  This will minimize your time off from work.
  • Also note, if your child is under 5 years old, they will ask you to prepare for an overnight stay due the young age of the patient.
Prior To The Procedure
  • Schedule and go to your pre-op appointment.  There are different guidelines for each procedure and hospital so please follow the instructions that you got when you scheduled the surgery (the surgery scheduler should give this to you).  Also do not worry about getting into your PCP for this.  They save appointments just for this, so you can get this accomplished during the time allowed.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.  If you do, most likely they will not allow the procedure to take place.
  • Pre-register with the hospital. This is painless and super easy. Our hospital called us and it took all of 5 minutes.  This means you do not have to go through all of this when you get there which saves time for you.
  • Do your research.  Google the procedure, jot down the questions you have for the ENT and do not be shy about it.  This is your child and you need to be aware of everything that is a possibility from after care to pharmaceuticals that they can have post surgery including dosage and options for break through pain.
  • Schedule care for other children for the night before and/or afterwards the procedure.  #1 stayed overnight the night before the procedure at a friends house and they took her to daycare for us since their child attended the same one.  This was a huge stress relief for us.  You need to put all of your attention into the child who is having the surgery and you do not want to wake up other kids to leave at the crack of dawn if you don't have to.
  • Back an overnight bag.  As noted above we were told that since #2 was under the age of 5 that we should expect to stay the night due the seriousness of the surgery and his young age.  Make sure to include their favorite blankee or stuffed animal. This always helps with cuddling afterwards.
  • Make it fun!  We let #2 pick out new slippers and jammies that he could wear.  We also purchased an after surgery toy for him to keep him happy and busy while we stayed at the hospital.
  • Bring toys and activities.  You do not want to have a bored kid in the hospital so make sure to pack an activity bag for those long hospital hours.
  • Keep the child hydrated up until the liquid cut off time.  They always say that staying hydrated is the best medicine for speedy recoveries and I believe 'em!
  • Bring snacks and stuff for yourself.  Unless you want to eat hospital food or junk from the vending machine this is a good idea to keep you going.
  • Bring books, magazines or other things to keep yourself occupied.  This surgery is not long but the last thing you want to do is to just sit there worrying.  This will also help fill time afterwards as well.
  • Bring food your know your kid will like. I made sure to bring apple juice and other beverages that I knew #2 preferred just in case.  We did not need to use it but we were prepared.
  • Bring all medicine or other items you need to generally care for your child.  Most likely the hospital will not have them if you need specialty items.
  • Follow all pre-op instructions regarding medications that the child should not have before hand and food/liquid intake.
  • Set up child's room with post op items (see below).  This may have to take place if you are super busy with multiple children or doing this on your own.  You'll want to make sure you are available for your child when you get home instead of setting up his/her room.
  • Ensure you have the "ok" post op foods in your home like juice, popsicles, Jell-O, etc... This should have been sent home with your pre-op information.  You'll want to be prepared for when you all come home from the hospital.
  • Let your child go in their jammies and put in a movie on the way there if you have this capability.  This was the least disruptive for us and kept #2 calm for the ride into the hospital.
At The Procedure
  • Make sure to arrive on time so you can check in smoothly.  This should only take a few minutes since you pre-registered.
  • Have your questions ready for the surgeon/ENT.  They should come out and meet with you prior to the surgery - ours answered every single question we had and didn't bat an eyelash at our long list.
  • Here is when you get to ask about post operative medication.  Make sure you talk about what kind of pain medication the ENT will prescribe and the dosing.  Ask about the maximum dosing and the minimum dosing.  Ask about how long they should be on the max dose of meds and if you can supplement with anything if there is break through pain.  Do not be shy!  This is your child and the number 1 rule post op is staying ahead of the pain.  Once you get behind it, it will be a nightmare for everyone.
  • Also ask about any side effects to the pain medications.  Some are constipating so you might need to use a stool softener - make sure you run all of this by your ENT before giving anything to your child.
  • Help your child through any questions that may come up.  We had someone come in and ask #2 what flavor of sleeping medicine he wanted.  This was pretty exciting for him.  Make sure to help answer any questions that any of the staff had.  We had great nurses so it was easy for us.
  • Prepare to meet with the anesthesiologist.  The anesthesiologist that will be working with your child should come into the room before hand and meet with you.  They will ask you questions about your child's history with going under and/or any family history with it.  Again we had a great anesthesiologist who answered all of our questions and kept us at ease for the procedure.
  • Ask if you can be brought back to see your child through the meds to put him to sleep.  This was SUPER hard for me. I just could not do it without crying or being upset, so my husband went.  Thank God he was of the right mind to go hold him and kiss him as they put him under - it is important that they know everything is going to be ok.  If you are going to cry or freak out then this is not the job for you.  You want your child to remain calm and peaceful during this time.
  • Ask if you can be in the room post op room when they are waking up.  Our hospital generally did not allow this, however #2 started asking me for this so I was allowed to go back.  Once I knew everything was ok, I had no issues rushing to his side and cuddling him!!

Post Procedure
  • After the surgery, the ENT/surgeon will come out and talk to you about how it went.  Make sure you ask him/her any outstanding questions that you missed before and talk about when you need to make the next appoint for a check up. They should also tell you the number to call if you should have any issues after you bring your child home.  They want to help so make sure to get all of this information.
  • Ask what it will take to be discharged.  The ENT/surgeon does not wait around but they do leave instructions on the minimum criteria the patient must meet before your child can be discharged.  We had to drink so much and be eating - which #2 did both of these items the same day and we got to go home!!!
  • Ensure that your child is getting the full amount of pain meds at the shortest interval that the ENT/surgeon will allow.  The number rule to a child tonsillectomy is staying ahead of the pain!
  • Fill the pain medication and any other prescriptions before you leave the hospital.  This is super important as you do not want to waste time with your local pharmacy that we all know takes five hours to fill an aspirin.  Each hospital should have a pharmacy on site that you can fill your prescriptions.
  • Be prepared for lots of cuddling and TV time.  I don't know why but being in the hospital slows time down to a crawl.  I do not understand this phenomenon.  But it's a great time to spend some 1:1 time with the patient before having to go home to other kids and responsibilities.
  • Once you are discharged, plan to go directly home.  Make sure you have the discharge instructions and have everything on hand to keep your child hydrated.
  • Before you leave, make sure you note the last time that your child received their pain medication in your log (a small notebook or sheets of paper - just have something to write it all down in).    The number rule to a child tonsillectomy is staying ahead of the pain!
Being Comfortable At Home
  • Once you are home ensure that you have a pain medication log (see above before leaving the hospital).  I kept a small notebook with the last time that #2 received pain meds in the hospital and then wrote down the next time that he was due to receive meds.  This again was the maximum dosage at the earliest time available.   The number rule to a child tonsillectomy is staying ahead of the pain! DO NOT MISS A DOSE!
  •  Keep the log on hand at all times and ensure all adults caring for your child know about it.  It is essential to keep ahead of the pain and by now I sound like a broken record but if you do not do this, your child's recovery will be very painful.
  • In order to keep on track with the meds, set up your child's room so that you can sleep with them. Since #2 was so small, I wanted to make sure that I was with him for the first few nights of sleep to ensure he didn't have any issues. I set up an air mattress in his room for me along with an alarm clock that I would set for his next medication dosage.  Yes, this will seem like you have an infant again, but believe me - You want to keep ahead of the pain!
  • Keep the sleeping room moist.  Set up a cool air humidifier in your child's room to ensure that his passages and throat remain moist and hydrated.
  • Pack a cooler with beverages for middle of the night sipping.  Every time I woke #2 up for his pain meds, I also made him drink some cool water or juice to ensure that his throat was staying super moist.
  • Push the liquids during the day - again keep the throat as moist as possible.
  • Note that your child will have super bad breath.  This is from the cauterization of the wound.  It is gross and will not be pleasant. Keeping it moist helps - believe me.
  • If your child is feeling up to it, let them have soft solid foods like ice cream, Jell-O, and puddings.  Also, feel free to let them have Popsicles, fudgsicles, etc...
  • If they are feeling really well (this means you are doing a great job staying ahead of the pain - good job!), then you may want to try some soft but more solid foods like scrambled eggs, watermelon and possibly other fruits like peeled grapes, over cooked mac-n-cheese (which sounds gross but it's super soft), room temp oatmeal, room temp cream of wheat.  Make sure the food is room temp or cooler.  You do not want to burn or aggravate that healing throat.
  • Play it by ear for when to introduce other foods.  We did such a good job with the pain control that #2 was demanding regular food by day 3.  We took it easy and introduced some 'new' foods (cut up lunch meat, more fruits and soft veggies) but he wasn't eating anything crunchy  or foods that could scrape his throat (toast, chips, cold cereals, etc..) until at least day 5. We only offered it in small amounts to see how he would do with it.  Just remember, to take it slow.
  • Plan on being super low key and staying around home for the first 3-4 days of recovery.  This will ensure a controlled environment that you can keep moist, you'll have the pain meds and log handy as well as beverages and foods that your child can eat.
Other Recovery Items
  • Determine when to send your child back to daycare.  We had our surgery on a Monday so we stayed home the entire week, but honestly, he was probably ready to go back by day 4 or so.  He was doing so great because we stayed ahead of the pain and frankly he was getting bored with us. As long as your daycare is on board with giving the pain meds as directed by you and can offer the types of foods the your child is up to eating, then it should be fine to go back.
  • Weaning off pain meds is an important topic and something you may want to discuss with your ENT/surgeon or PCP.  We gave #2 the full dosage of pain meds for quite some time and after 4-5 days we started spreading the dosages out to see what would happen and if he could tolerate it. Again this is where your pain med log will come in very handy.  This will also allow life to get back to normal, which will help with everyone's mood!
  • We were weaned off pain meds completely by the end of the second week - I think it was around day 12 or 13 but every child will be different, so  you need to assess your situation.
  • If you do not keep ahead of the pain you're going to have to use the additional medications for break out pain.  Make sure you add this to your pain med log just like everything else. 
  • Unfortunately if you do not stay ahead of the pain your child most likely will not want to eat or drink which will not keep the throat moist and it may also cause constipation.
This was a lot of information and honestly, take it all with a grain of salt because I tend to go super overboard on this type of stuff but there was no way that I wanted to see my baby in pain. I had heard horror stories from friends and read a few on the Internet too.  That was sooooo not going to happen on my watch.  If I leave you with anything from this entire blog post it should be this:

Keep it moist and stay ahead of the pain!!!

Until next time...
J.K. Sasse

P.S. I will keep this updated as I remember helpful tips!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Blog Review: Our Best Bites

Today's post is a blog review of the following blog: www.ourbestbites.com.  I found out about this blog through a very round about way.  Remember, I was pretty new to the blogging world, so I didn't really know what was out there (this is really embarrassing actually because it was only a couple of years ago that this was the case!!!) - in fact, I received the first Our Best Bites cookbook from a dear friend of mine before I figured out that these girls had a blog.  What you say?  I know, completely silly of me.  The reason that this is so absurd, is that their little empire started with this blog of theirs so that they could share recipes with family and friends.  It has grown into a very beautiful site and two hard cover cookbooks along with several other lucrative food reporting and styling gigs.  They might even have a big announcement coming up that they previewed earlier this week.  Go check it out!

The "girls" that I reference above are two Mormon girls who knew each other through the Mormon grapevine and met on the internet.  Sara and Kate are their names and they are the cutest little things you will have ever set eyes on.  They are not shy about sharing moments that they've had with their husbands or kids, which is one of the many reasons why I have gravitated towards their blog - it is super entertaining. They usually post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  If we are lucky they'll through in something special like a giveaway or contest on one of their 'off' days.

Another reason that I like this blog so much is the content.  It is not just recipes that grace the pages of this blog - though it does contain a lot of them.  They also include crafts, printables, tips & tutorials (gardening, canning, taking trips with small kids, etc....), as well as decorating, gift, and entertaining ideas.  It really is a one stop shop for your basic down home family needs. 

Some of my favorite posts are the seasonal crafts and decorating ideas.  I instantly fell in love with the birthday balloon wreath and actually successfully created it myself. I have had many compliments on it and we hang it on our front door for every family member's birthday (see below).  They also post holiday menu ideas along with recipes which I have used on various occasions to put a little fun into our meals.  This year it inspired my Halloween menu which consisted of pumpkin grilled cheese, bloody spider web soup with spider croutons (inspired by spider web dip) and monster mouths (inspired by monster jaws). Even if you do not use their ideas as they are posted, it is sure to get your creative juices going so you can fit it into what you have on hand, like I did.

Here's proof - that I actually did make that wreath - isn't it awesome???:

The photos on this site have grown as the girls have grown in their styling skills.  I appreciate the step by step photos, for those of us a little less naturally inclined and need to "see" what is happening.  I especially like their end product photos for pinning.  They are beautiful.  The other photo I like seeing at the end of each post is that of each author.  It helps me put a writing to the face and I just like it.  I know that makes me a little bit strange because they have photos of themselves all over the place, but I think by now, but it is what it is, my friends.

There are some gluten free recipes on the blog, but the majority of them are not gluten free.  This is actually ok with me. I have successfully translated several of their recipes into gluten free ones with little trouble.  Some of them are the sugar cookies - we used the dough for cut outs last Christmas which were to die for and the regular rolls recipe, which also tasted quite good.  They posted a quick roll recipe this week that I plan on converting soon, so when I post it, I'll make sure to pay respects to these guys and their great recipes.

I am excited to share with you my rating for the Our Best Bites blog, take a look below using my scale of 1 - 10 (where 1 is the worstie, worst, worst, and 10 is the bestie, best, best):

Photos: 8
Writing Style: 10
Quality of Posts: 9
Frequency of Posts: 8
Overall Rating: 9

Please go and check out the Our Best Bites blog if you haven't already - you will not be sorry - I PROMISE!

Until next time.....
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Recipe: Iced Vanilla Pumpkin Spice Latte

I love food made with pumpkin and everything that has to do with pumpkin.  Muffins, pies, cookies, bars, scones, risotto - whatever it is, I'm bound to love it.  So, when of course everyone got all excited for the pumpkin lattes that were out this season, I thought, you know what? I have avoided all coffee shops for some time and I really want to keep it that way, so why not remake this yourself.  There are tons of recipes on Pinterest, so I went to check them out.  It seems like every blogger and their brother has written about this but to be honest, I found their recipes to have a lot of ingredients for something way too simple.  They also served more than one person, and honestly, who else is going to drink this but me?  So I needed to come up with a one person only recipe. Also, I prefer my coffee beverages cold, not hot, so I had to switch that up too. Naturally I turned to a staple in my fridge, the new International Delight "Light" Iced Coffee beverages (pictured below).  My very favorite is the Mocha - but I didn't have that on hand, so I used the Vanilla version for this recipe.  I'm sure you could use any of the three and get something pretty terrific!

Iced Vanilla Pumpkin Spice Latte
Serves One

1 C. International Delight Iced Coffee in Vanilla Light flavor
             (or any other type of coffee beverage you might want to try.)
2 Tbs. Pumpkin Puree
             (pure pumpkin NOT pumpkin pie mix.)
2 packets or more to taste of artificial sweetener
             (I used sweet-n-low packets.)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1. Measure all of the ingredients into a blender, magic bullet, or whatever it is you use to process smoothies.
2. Blend well.
3. Pour into a glass over ice and sip with a straw.


Until Next Time,
J.K. Sasse

P.S. Please note, that I am not affiliated with International Delight at all and they have not paid me for this recipe or my review of their products.  This is my own recipe and my personal opinions.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Note About Blogging

So here I am starting a new blog (almost two whole months strong - yahoo!) and I was like, I want to review blogs and give out ratings and scoring and all that jazz.  I want to just tell people which blogs to go to and which ones not to.  I'll throw in some other stuff like a few recipes, PSAs, Friday Freebies, and crap like that just to keep it interesting, but I can never commit myself to being just one kind of blog, YKWIM (ya, know what I mean)?  It will be so fun, to just write about all of this stuff and never really commit or care.  Just fly by the seat of my pants as words just beg to be written from my overstuffed mind.

Can we say, delusional party of one?  This blogging crap is a lot harder than people think. I never remember to take pictures of the food I'm making or writing about and quite honestly - that is the best part about food posts and recipe blogs.  When I do take a picture my kitchen looks like a bomb hit it and there is not one single clean surface in which I can do this or for it to look beautiful.  I wonder how these bloggers are so together and tidy all the time?  Maybe, I think, I'll do a better job, if I can finally get my formal dining room put together and I would always have a clean space to set up for a photo shoot?  That is on the priority list after finishing the basement  - ourselves.  That's when the maniacal laughing starts because I think I might go bonkers first.

We have lived in our home for just over 2 years now and we have been able to replace the outdoor light fixtures and front door hardware plus put in our landscaping - but just a portion of it because we are not ready to commit to an outdoor living space.  Oh and wait, I'm almost finished decorating the foyer.  Uh-hem. Yep, just the foyer. I'm almost done though. This week, I should finish the antique dresser that I'm refinishing and put it into it's designated spot (I bought it and started that project in July).  I took a trip to IKEA to purchase some decorating items that I had in mind for that guy plus an awesome mirror that I'm not sure will match but I hope it fits in somewhere.  Then I'll have to scour Pinterest or the internet for ideas because I am so challenged when it comes to decorating. 

So I think you get the picture here. I have a little bit of analysis paralysis when it comes to do doing things like this. This blog will also help me get me going a little bit and stop being such a pansy about it but I'm beginning to think that I need more of an outlined schedule then just, "Hey I'm starting a blog and I'm going to post on Tuesdays and Thursdays with some Fridays thrown in when I feel like it."  When Monday rolls around, I'm a tad stressed out.  What am I going to write about this week, what is finished? Do I have any pictures for it? The answer is always, no by the way.  How can I become more successful and still stay on track?  How do these people do it while working a full time job, raising a family, and having a life while keeping the DVR below 50% full?  Come one people - how in the heck are you doing it?

I have been a project manager for the majority of my career, so you would think that I should have this down to a science.  Um, not so much.  Though I do have the anxiety that goes with it - knowing that I should have a plan and post ready to go when say, I need a vacation or something happens to one of the kids or god forbid, myself!  Nothing set up - nothing.

I also was reading that you really need to start getting to know other bloggers, so you can have guest posters while you are out. Which I think is really cool, but I'm also kind of nervous about it.  I'm so new to this and haven't really found my niche yet. I  also don't have a very cool looking blog. It's standard and out of the box, so I haven't really been marketing it that much.  I guess these are both things I need to get on "the list" when I have a predefined schedule up and running.

So last night I high tailed it to Target (or Tar-jay to some) and bought a small planner with a calendar and a to-do list for each month.  I'm going to really start planning around here.  Maybe then I'll have time to get this thing looking real spiffy..... but I wouldn't hold your breath!  Happy Thursday!!

Until Next Time,
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Homemade Gluten Free Sausage

I really like breakfast foods which is kind of ironic, because I've been eating the same breakfast for almost two years and if I don't have it for breakfast, I have it for lunch of dinner.  I have to have it every day.  Basically it is an egg white sandwich with gluten free bread that I make from scratch, fried egg whites, and American cheese.  This is a good basic sandwich but some days I just need a little added boost to it.  Sometimes I add slices of crispy turkey bacon and other days, I throw in a sausage patty.  This is not any ordinary sausage patty.  It is a homemade, gluten free, super flavorful turkey sausage patty.  It is so lovely and divine.  My whole family loves it so now I'm sharing it with you.

I usually buy the large packages of 93/7 ground turkey at our local Sam's Club and make up a bunch of these and then freeze them for our use for as long as they last.  We eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Sometimes I will make these into crumbles to use on pizza or in an egg bake or just scrambled eggs. It is a versatile recipe that you can use for all of your sausage needs.

Homemade Gluten Free Sausage
Makes 15-20 sausage patties

2.5lbs Lean Ground Turkey
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp onion powder
3 heaping tsp sage
2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (you can use up to 1/2 tsp depending on the level of heat you like)

1. In a small bowl, measure all of the dry spice ingredients and mix well.
2. Put the ground turkey in a large mixing bowl.
3. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the ground turkey and mix well.  Use your hand to mix the spices completely into the meat.  You want it to be fully incorporated with no dry spice spots through out.
4. Heat a griddle or frying pan with med-high to high heat.
5. Form the meat mixture into small-medium balls and then squish into a patty form. 
6. Put the patties into the hot frying pan or griddle and fry until cooked completely through.

I hope that you love these as much as we do - Enjoy!

Until Next Time,
J.K. Sasse

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to One and All!

Today is probably my favorite holiday of the whole year.  We decorate our house modestly, though I'm thinking I may amp it up next year (I say this every year) because there is just so much cool stuff out there.  I cruise Pinterest and pin tons of decorating ideas.  There are just so many ways to decorate and I love them all.  We do run into a bit of a cramp with a child's birthday during the month so we have to decorate after that is all put away - hence why the 'amping up' never happens I think. Regardless, the kids love playing with the decorations that we put out for at least a few weeks before we transition to the next holiday.  Their favorites this year have been the ghost and bat pillows and the plastic pumpkin treat buckets.

We also took a trip to the pumpkin patch and purchased over 40lbs of pumpkins.  Yep, you read that correctly - FORTY PLUS POUNDS!  We spent Monday night carving the guts out of those pumpkins - a good time was had by all.  Thankfully this year I remembered to bring the pumpkins inside more than 24 hours in advance so they could warm up and we weren't freezing our little fingers off.  Frost bite from pumpkin guts is something I never hope to experience - though I think I've come close.  Alas this trick worked!  The pumpkin goo was warm and toasty and it was so much easier to carve as well.  Both my husband and I were very happy with the results.  We will light candles in our pumpkins tonight and put them out on our front step to welcome all of our trick or treaters!

I also planned a very special dinner menu before we headed out for our trick or treating. We will be having jack-o-lantern grilled cheese sandwiches (grilled cheese sandwiches cut out with a pumpkin cookie cutter - I also drew on eyes, a nose, and a mouth with balsamic vinegar), bloody spider soup (tomato soup with a yogurt web), and monster chompers (apples slices held together with peanut butter with marshmallow teeth).  This is a change up from what we usually have.  Honest to Pete for the last eight years (I'm so sorry #1!) we have had mummy dogs (hotdogs wrapped up with crescent dough with mustard eyes), witches coins (carrot cut into circles), monster blood (ketchup), and tombstone tots (tator tots).  Last year, #1 was not excited at all with my special menu and was like, "oh no, not again."  So that's when I decided I needed to switch it up.  I sure hope they like it.  If you need some Halloween dining ideas, please check this site out - I get a lot of inspiration from these girls: our best bites Halloween food.

After dinner, the kids get all loaded up with their warm clothes first and then get their costumes on. Unfortunately we live in an area where Halloween is super cold and to avoid not having full viewing pleasure of our costumes, we put long underwear and jackets underneath our costumes.  Thankfully this year, it was pretty easy to do this with both of the kids costumes.  Some years - I'm having princess flashbacks - it was much more difficult.  I usually end up taking the kids out around the neighborhood so I can get some exercise and to monitor their manners while Thew stays home to answer the door which he thoroughly loves (I'm not 100% sure about that statement actually.)  Sometimes he terrorizes the kids that come to the door but I think both parties think that it's kind of fun.  Who knows, everyone has their role and we all do them very well.

When we get home, but only after trick or treating at our own house, the kids will dump out their candy and oogle over it all.  #1 will immediately start sorting it because I'm sure she has to report the next day in school how many of each kind she received.  I really love that about teachers, because it's not like we just were out all night and then we have to do homework when we get home - thanks guys!  #2 will just stare and then start asking how many he can have before he goes to bed.  If there are any new candies, I'll make sure to nab them so I can check them out first.  We wouldn't want our kids to get any bad candy, now would we?  Of course we expect all of their loot before anyone can have a bite, thank you freak-a-zoids from the 80's with your razor blades and poisons.  We end up throwing some out each year but then the rest goes to work with Thew.  Ever notice how office people end up eating all that crap within minutes?  It's amazing to me.

After putting the kids to bed with dreams of snickers, M&Ms, and Reese's peanut butter cups in their heads, I'll plop down on the couch and enjoy some Halloween TV of my own.  Oh what a beautiful time we will have had!

I'll report any updates on Friday!

Until Next Time,
J.K. Sasse

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

9th Birthday: A Love Letter to My Daughter

Before October is officially over, I wanted to make sure I posted this love letter to my daughter who turned nine this month.

Dear #1,

You are nine years old!!! I can't believe it.  I remember clearly the day you were born.  I was exhausted from your birth as it was a doozy but so excited for you to be here.  You were super small (3lbs 7 oz) but 100% perfect.  I loved you from the minute that I heard your cry, for you see I didn't get to hold you until the day after you were born.  You were 6 weeks early and we did not plan on your early arrival.  The medical staff wanted to make sure that you were stable before we could hold you and when I did, my love for you grew one hundred times over.

Now, you are a thriving third grader.   You are over 50lbs with long lanky limbs, delicate fingers, vivid blue eyes, blondie-blonde-blonde hair, and beautiful dark long lashes.   You are sweet, kind, generous, loving, shy and outgoing at the same time, strong, lively, and brave.  You are a good daughter, a loving big sister, and a fantastic friend.

You are super duper smart and work so hard at your school assignments.  You bring home the best school grades and report cards, we are so proud of you. Besides that, your teachers and friends adore you - what is there not to love??

I enjoy watching you be very active in many activities, like swimming, cheer, dance, softball, and Girl Scouts.  You have blossomed into a little athlete and enjoy being with your special group of friends.  You are so lucky to have this group of friends always at your side.  They are all very nice girls and I hope you are all BFFs for a very long time!

There have been times over the years that I have wanted to jump in and solve all of your problems but have realized that you handle things pretty well.  You are mature and wise beyond your years and you think through situations with a kind heart even though what you receive in return is not the same all of the time.  I know all of this is a learning experience for you yet it is still hard for me to watch. I want to protect you forever because you'll always be my little girl.  I know deep down you need to experience these things like the bully girl who claims to be your friend but tries to intimidate you and others into doing what she always wants to do.  I know I need to step back and let you experience life - the ups and the downs. It will make you a better person and ready for the world but not for another 9 years - because up until then you are all mine girlie!!!

You are growing into such a wonderful young lady. I am proud to be your mother and am so proud of you in many ways. You have exceed my expectations of having a daughter and I love you more than infinity! 

I love you with all of my heart,

P.S. Next year you'll be in double digits - what will we do then!!!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Freebie: Two Halloween Shows You'll Want To See!

Last week, I let you know about the Halloween children's show: "Toy Story of TERROR!" and while I was researching additional airing times for that one, I found two out that the Smurfs and the Grinch have great Halloween shows too. Who knew, Cindy Lou Hoo?

Sunday, October 27 on ABC Family:
ABC Family premiere of "Dr. Seuss' Halloween is Grinch Night" (7:00 -7:30 AM ET/PT)
Television premiere of "The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow" (7:30 - 8:00 AM ET/PT)

Both of them are on in the morning on a Sunday and frankly at a time before I want to be getting everyone up so I will be DVRing these two.  Since I could not find any other air times for this I wanted to tell you before they aired.  I have not seen either of these shows therefore I cannot give you a review but hey - this is a Friday Freebie so score for you.  Set your DVR and watch them later on - I'm sure your kids will thank you!

Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gee Eff- Part 2: Why My Family Went Gluten Free

Last week I gave you all the low-down on why I had to go gluten free.  This week, I'm going to explain why the whole family went gluten free and how we did it.
So now that I was terrorized by the fact that I could no longer eat bread, I decided to half heartedly go gluten free.  You know, mostly at home eating gluten free but when I went out into the world, it was a free for all including gluten!  By doing this, I relied on grocery store shelf products that were gluten free and didn't make anything from scratch - mostly because gluten free (GF) bread is readily available on the shelf or freezer.  My favorite is actually the Schar White Bread - it costs just about $6.00 a loaf and lasts me roughly a week.  Yep, I was spending $24 a month just on bread that I ate for breakfast.  This did not include the crackers, rolls, and other breads that I was buying too. Most of them were three times what regular gluten laden products cost. At the time, I didn't really care though because it was just me and the cost was not that significant.
Then that fall (I found out about me in the summer), #2 was chronically sick with infection after infection.  It was crazy especially since he just had his tonsils out and I did not expect this at all.  I had already taken him to an allergist and every single test had come back negative.  At this point I felt my only option was Nutritional Response Testing (NRT).  We had done this with him as a baby to see if he was not tolerating his formula and other baby foods but didn't really have any luck since he was so young.  The process is also a tad iffy to me, even to this day.  They have you hold on to a vile of the item they are testing against you and then see how your muscles reflex to it. With children they have to be held by an adult and have the test done through the adult. This just seems so wacky to me and unreliable.  I did it anyway because we were desperate for our little guy to be well.  Every single vile tested negative except for.... wait for it.... WHEAT!
At this point our entire household went gluten free since now half of the family had to live gluten free. I threw out tons of open packages of gluten laden food and started replacing it with only gluten free foods, but that quickly started to rack up to some pretty significant dough (no pun intended) now that I was buying for four and not just one.  I knew that if we were going to be gluten free long term that I was going to have to start making stuff myself and from scratch.  This is when I turned to amazon and started researching cookbooks.  I bought a ton and to start used Bob's Red Mill gluten free flour products. 
It was a rocky start. I have tried tons of on the market loaves of bread all at several dollars a pop and the only one that is remotely ok to me is Schar white bread even though it was not whole grain. I just used my last loaf and I swear I'm going to tackle a bread recipe this week that will be our standby - even if it kills me (UPDATE: I tried this week and was successful! YEA ME!).  Thank god, Auntie Annie's brand offers GF mac-n-cheeses that the whole family will eat - straight from a box.  Otherwise, I make all of our home goods like cookies. donuts, cupcakes, cakes, etc..  all homemade - you name it, I make it all from scratch, including rolls, pizza crusts, and so much more.  Yep, it takes a lot of planning and more time to do this but isn't our health really important? 

The worst part about it all was that we went 100% gluten free in our household the first part of December.  That meant that I needed to come up with a gluten free Christmas menu that would knock everyone's socks off.  I had my work cut out for me. The cookbook that I naturally turned to was Gluten-Free on a Shoestring, by Nicole Hunn.  It literally had everything in it that I needed to make our Christmas day dinner 100% GF all in one cookbook and the ingredients weren't completely wacky.  I made GF rolls, gravy, chocolate skillet cake, stuffing, and even green bean casserole.  It all turned out great.  After a successful meal and an entire day spent in the kitchen making it, I announced to the family and our guests that everything was gluten free.  They exclaimed, "Oh but surely the cake wasn't, it was so good."  Yes people, it was and eating gluten free doesn't mean you are destined to a life of eating food that tastes like crap. It just isn't so!
As a little side track - just this month, I made 5 dozen cupcakes for #1's birthday parties:  1 dozen white, 1 dozen yellow, and 3 dozen chocolate with Nutella cloud frosting - they were to die for and everyone loved them.  For my daughter's last cheer practice, I made pumpkin spice chocolate chip cupcakes with vanilla bean frosting.  Again, they were a huge hit and people could not believe they were gluten free.  They all were and they all tasted great because GF food tastes great when you take the time and energy to make it correctly.
Any way, back to the original tale..... At this time, the only person 100% gluten free all of the time was #2.  He didn't have a spec of it unless it was an accident somewhere and they didn't know about his lifestyle.  I was still eating gluten when I was out and about.  Then in early winter of the following year, I was retested.  My thyroid antibodies had come down significantly (by 100pts).  It dawned on me that if this happened just by cutting out gluten at home, think of what it would be if I did it 100%????  That is when I went 100% gluten free - inside and outside of the home.  It has not been the easiest to say the least but we either bring our GF foods with us to the restaurant or we get creative with the menu. 
One point I do want to make about us is that we do not watch cross contamination very well.  True celiacs, cannot eat food that was touched by a gluten food, fried in the same fryer as gluten food, or created with the same dishes, pots, pans or utensils that have touched gluten.  For these people, it is a true life threatening allergy.  #2 and I just have intolerances, so to be honest, I just have not been that great about the whole cross contamination issue and we seem to be doing ok.  In fact, both of our health's have improved drastically.
Going gluten free has been the best thing that our family has done.  Besides improving my health - I have more energy, I sleep better, my skin is better, etc... I have not checked my thyroid antibodies in a while, but I'm almost sure they are way lower than they have been in years. As far as #2 goes, people have commented on the fact that he no longer has super dark circles under his eyes and generally looks great.  Our dentists have raved about the health of our gums for both us and we have different dentists.  This is not a coincidence.  It is fact. 
Will we keep this up long term?  For me the answer is yes.  As I get older I know it will only get worse, so there is no going back. Technically, they say that #2's future NRT tests could come back negative for wheat and then he can start eating it again, but I think - will he start to get sick again?  will it be a few years and then he has to go GF again?  I don't know, so for now, we are sticking to GF eating for the both of us.  Obviously we have some genetic deal going on here and if he can do it now while he is a kid, it will be so much easier as he gets older because he'll already like naturally gluten free foods like fruits, veggies, dairy, and lean proteins.  There are so many GF pastas out there that he can turn to and even bread.  Though I do have visions of sending him to college with a mini freezer full of all his GF foods so he doesn't have to come home every weekend and get some of my stash.  I laugh at myself for thinking about this as he is on 4.5 years old.  I have plenty of other obstacles to hurdle first like b-day parties, sleepovers, and camp.  I know we'll make it through even though it will be hard at first and who knows, by then his college campus may already offer all gluten free options. Gluten free living has come a long way in a few short years, so I can't even imagine what it will be like in 13 years from now!
More to come on being GF.  I have many blog and cookbook reviews to help you navigate as well as some recipes up my sleeve to help you out with your GF cooking and baking.
Until next time,
J.K. Sasse

P.S.  Happy 40th Birthday to my bestie!!!  You know who you are!