humorous and heartfelt stories ~ healthy recipes made without gluten, dairy, or eggs ~ ideas for living well

My youngest son Will has an endearing little habit of filling his pockets with the many "treasures" he encounters in his daily adventures. I don't always understand the value he sees in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks can one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one is beautiful and important. His habit got me thinking about how life is just like that on a larger scale; we gather up the precious bits of our many experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you will find a little something among the stories and ideas here that you'd like to keep in your own pocket. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Doughnuts with Maple Glaze (gluten-free, vegan)

Fresh picked apples are now in season, a fact that makes the apple lovers in this house very happy. We all relish the simple fall pleasure of biting into crisp, sweet-tart fruit at some point every day, and the boys especially look forward to the special treats that apples get baked into this time of year. Because I had a fruit drawer bursting with new crop Ginger Golds and Cortlands this afternoon, I was inspired to try making some cinnamon and maple flavoured doughnuts with juicy pieces of apple nestled in them as a surprise after-school snack.  Judging by how quickly these doughnuts disappeared, I'd say the boys declare this recipe a winner!

Apple Cinnamon Doughnuts with Maple Glaze

For the doughnuts:

2 cups blanched almond flour
1 tbsp arrowroot flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp apple juice
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
half of a small apple, cored, peeled, and chopped into quarter-inch pieces

For the glaze:

2 tbsp coconut butter
2 tsp coconut oil
2 tsp pure maple syrup

plus 2 tbsp chopped, toasted pecans for sprinkling on top of the doughnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, arrowroot flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and sea salt. Whisk together the water, apple juice, maple syrup, and vanilla in a smaller bowl, and then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Stir well until a uniform dough forms.  Fold in the pieces of chopped apple.

Divide the dough into six equal parts.  Take one portion and roll it under the palm of your hand to form a log shape that is about seven inches long.  Carefully lift the log and place it into the well of a doughnut pan, joining the two ends together to form a circle.  (The log will probably break a little, but don't worry -- just smooth out the place where the ends meet and any cracks or breaks with your fingers until you have a nice looking doughnut shape in the pan.)  Repeat this process with the remaining portions of dough.

Place the filled doughnut pan in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the doughnuts cool for about 15 minutes before turning the pan over and gently releasing the doughnuts onto a wire cooling rack.  Let the doughnuts cool completely before glazing them.

To make the glaze, beat the coconut butter, coconut oil, and maple syrup in a bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until it is smooth.  Place the mixture into a piping bag with a small round tip, and pipe the glaze onto the tops of the doughnuts, zig zagging back and forth across each one. Sprinkle the toasted pecan pieces on top of the glaze and serve the delicious doughnuts to the family members who will be hovering over you waiting for one the whole time you're working.  :)

These doughnuts are not overly sweet, but still bursting with flavour thanks to the apples and a generous helping of cinnamon.  They're a perfect treat for fall afternoons!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fabulous Fall Finds: Etsy

Autumn is definitely in the air this week; there's a cool breeze now that has all of us donning an extra layer of clothing before we head outdoors, and we even had the gas fireplace turned on at home this past weekend to help warm up our chilly house.  I love this time of year because of the coziness that fall brings, with its chunky knit sweaters and scarves, apple and cinnamon spiced baked goods, and rich, deep colour palette.

I've discovered many beautiful autumn-inspired creations while browsing Etsy lately, so today I'm sharing some of my favourite handcrafted finds for the home, for work, for little ones, and for treating yourself or a special someone this season.  (Click on the caption above each item for more details.)

If you're interested in seeing what other pretty items I've been drawn to on Etsy, you can take a peek at my favourites page here any time.  

Here's to the season of crisp afternoons, steaming mugs of tea, pumpkin patch adventures, and an inspiring display of some of Mother Nature's most beautiful handiwork.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Last week I felt as though I were protesting the start of a new school year with all my might (kind of like an upset toddler screaming and kicking and flailing about, except that it was all going on inside my head instead of in the middle of a grocery store aisle).  Noah had been placed in a 7/8 split class that was a very poor fit for him academically and socially; this caused us a great deal of stress and worry in the first two days of school and resulted in a usually non-confrontational me calling the principal and compelling him to reconsider.  Will was feeling anxious about the large volume of homework he already has this year, something he's not used to at all, and I was feeling super flustered over my new morning routine of driving Noah back and forth between two schools, given that half of our city streets are currently torn up for construction and getting to the high school right now involves navigating a labyrinth of traffic cones, orange-vested workers bearing stop signs, long line-ups of cars, and a dead raccoon lying in the middle of the single available lane for good measure. (Poor little raccoon.)  I must have filled out a tree's worth of forms for the boys for school, and I pretty much needed a computer program to keep track of the intricate details of our new carpool schedule for swimming and dance practices this year.  Everything felt difficult and crazy, and I was longing desperately to go back to the just-passed days of summer holidays where things were so much calmer and simpler.

This past weekend, Noah had the rare and fascinating experience of watching a real live baby turtle hatch from an egg.  He had been playing basketball in the school yard with some friends, and one boy mentioned that there were turtle eggs nearing maturity by a creek near his home.  The boys rode their bikes there and were lucky enough to witness the emergence of a tiny turtle from its cracked shell. Noah took a picture of the brand new little creature with his phone and excitedly brought the photo home to show Matt and Will and me.  We all marveled at the wonder of the beginning of life, a phenomenon that happens countless times over each and every day in the world, yet somehow never seems to lose its magic.

This week I've gained a better perspective on September and all of its strangeness; the month is a hopeful beginning of its own.  There are signs everywhere that it is time to move on:  the leaves are already changing colour on some of the trees that line our street, and the cool evening breeze whispers autumn as it rushes by.  Though it may seem safer and more comfortable to stay within the peaceful haven of summer's shell, the ever-spinning world outside it beckons us, promising new discoveries and new joys if we can persevere through the challenges of the unfamiliar.  This week I'm embracing what is happening now instead of looking longingly behind us.  I'm finding ways to make the new reality feel good for us, and I'm excited about the growing that a bustling year will allow each of us to do.  Even though these chances for a fresh start happen over and over again as August turns to September each year, I want to remember always to see the magic in them.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A time for everything

Will has grown up in many ways since I first started this blog and named it Pocketfuls in honour of his pocket-stuffing habit.  However, there is one thing Matt and I continue to find in Will's shorts or jeans on a very regular basis:  his dirty socks from earlier in the day, wadded up into little balls and pushed into the bottom corners of his front pockets once he gets tired of wearing them.  Despite the fact that we have told him a million times over that his socks don't get clean when they go through the washing machine that way, for Will, pockets are the most practical (and the least labour-intensive) way of dealing with dirty socks.  And so we all continue to argue and be exasperated over the pocket/sock situation, with each of us determined to prove our position on it is the right one.

One night earlier this week, I took Will to the dance studio where he takes hip hop (and this year, also jazz) classes so that he could be fitted for his new shoes.  (Can I just say that I never expected either of my boys to express an interest in the activity I loved so much growing up, and that seeing Will's still small feet in a sleek black pair of jazz shoes made my heart do a little dance of its own?)  It was a warm evening, and Will was wearing bare feet in flip flops when we entered the studio's waiting area, a fact which the studio staff member noticed as she gathered up some shoe samples for Will to try on.  She then produced one of those shoe store style nylon sockettes and attempted to pass it to my son.

"I hate to do this to you, Will," she said apologetically, "but I like to keep the shoes fresh and clean.  Have you ever worn pantyhose before?"

Will took an alarmed glance at that wimpy little sockette, and then his face lit up like a Christmas tree bulb as a sudden realization hit him.

"No! I have SOCKS!", he declared triumphantly, grinning from ear to ear as he reached into his front shorts pockets with both hands and produced a sad looking, scrunched up cotton wad from each of them, which he then proceeded to put on his feet so he could try on the shoes.

The Bible and a Pete Seeger song tell us there is a time for everything.  Leave it to Will to prove that there is even a time for having already-worn socks stuffed into your shorts pockets.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

I remember his first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday.  He was wearing a blue-and-white striped shirt, his sweet little wire-framed glasses, a backpack that looked almost as big as he was, and a shy but confident smile as I walked with him to the bus stop just a few doors down from our house.  His small legs had to take big strides to navigate the steps of the yellow bus that stopped and opened its doors to greet him.  I watched anxiously from the sidewalk as he carefully chose a seat and arranged himself in it, and then the bus doors closed and he was pulling away from me, off to a new and exciting place where I could not be there to protect him and his gentle heart.  Despite the fact that the biggest new challenges would be his to face, I was the one fighting back tears that afternoon.

That same little boy turned thirteen just a few weeks ago.  He shared his birthday with the wedding festivities of his uncle and aunt, and I loved that he loved being surrounded by family to celebrate his milestone day. We played a practical joke on him with his gift, apologetically presenting him first with an old, beat up used phone and telling him the smart new one he had been wishing for for months (his first cell phone ever) was out of stock.  After flashing us a brief, crestfallen look, he realized we had spoofed him and he heartily laughed over it like the good-natured kid he is.  He found joy in having doting young cousins following him around for a few days, and he carried one of them on his shoulders when she grew tired of walking on a hike through trails and fields.

Yesterday I walked with that boy and his brother to the school where he is now beginning his Grade 8 year. As I waited with other parents for the first-day welcome assembly in the gym, I felt a funny wobble in my heart with the sudden realization that he would now be one of the young teens huddled in groups socializing by the school walls that I had walked by every year since his early days of school.  I noticed he and his friends all seemed to have grown by leaps and bounds over the short summer months, as if they were determined to lay claim to their new "big fish" status.  Those sweet little faces I remember from just a few years ago seem to have all but disappeared.

And yet...

This morning I drove Noah to the high school for math class for the first time.  He wore a uniform shirt that is big on him to allow for all of the growing he's sure to do in the coming months, and a backpack that looked like it might topple him over, loaded to the hilt as it was with all of the things he needs for two separate school experiences.  He seemed so small to me as I watched him walk into the crowd of older teens milling about the school's front doors.  It's such a giant step he's taken with this mature decision to accelerate, but if he was feeling any doubts or nervousness today, he didn't show it.  He was calm and confident and his face was lit up with a genuine smile as we drove towards the building and this next stage of his life.  It was me who had to wear sunglasses to hide the tears welling up in my eyes as I told him how incredibly proud I am of him.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rustic Peach Pie (gluten-free, vegan)

Ahh, the last weekend of summer holidays -- how is it possible that we're here already?  Those feelings of wistfulness associated with the realization that our leisurely days together are coming to an end keep creeping into all of our hearts today; it's hard to say goodbye to what has been a wonderful summer. But there is some excitement and an eagerness to discover the new adventures September will bring all of us, too, as we fill backpacks with school supplies, organize new schedules, and imagine what we will learn and become through our upcoming experiences.  I find these transitional times of year always seem to hum with promise.

We've been enjoying these last few official days of  freedom with shenanigans in the yard and pool and family barbecues together featuring some of our favourite summertime foods.  Yesterday we spent a really nice afternoon and evening here at home with Matt's brother Nick and his wife Krista, whose lovely (and fun!) wedding we attended just a couple of weeks ago.  Because I had a basket of beautiful, ripe peaches sitting on the counter in the morning, I decided to make rustic peach pie for everyone for dessert, and it was a perfect finish to the dinner Matt cooked on the grill.  This sweet treat is quite easy to make, but impressive in flavour!

Rustic Peach Pie

For the crust:

2 cups blanched almond flour
1 tbsp arrowroot flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp water

For the filling:

6 good-sized peaches, peeled and thinly sliced*
1 tbsp arrowroot flour (you may need a little more if your peaches are especially juicy)

+ 1 tsp coconut sugar for sprinkling on the crust

*To easily remove the skin from the peaches, plunge them into a pot of boiling water for a few seconds, then remove them and plunge them immediately into a bowl of ice cold water.  The skins will then simply peel away as you rub them under your thumbs.

In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, arrowroot flour, cinnamon, sea salt, and baking soda.  

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and water until well combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until you achieve a uniform ball of dough.  Place the dough in the freezer to chill for approximately 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F.  Prepare the filling by placing the sliced peaches in a mixing bowl and sprinkling them with the arrowroot flour.  Stir the peaches gently until the arrowroot flour is well incorporated.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a flat work surface.  Place the chilled dough on the paper, then place another piece of parchment paper over top and roll out the dough.  You should end up with a circle about 12 inches wide; the pastry will be thin and the edges will be uneven.  Remove the top piece of parchment paper and then transfer the bottom piece and the rolled out pastry to a baking sheet.

Tumble the peach mixture into the centre of the pastry, leaving about a one and a half inch border of crust all the way around.  Gently lift the parchment paper all the way around the circle to fold the edges of the crust over, just to cover the edge of the fruit.  (The centre of the pie should not be covered.)  If the pastry breaks at all, simply smooth it back together with your fingers, as the dough will be quite sticky and easy to repair.

Sprinkle the edges of the pastry and the peach filled centre with coconut sugar, then place the pie in the preheated oven.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.  

This peach pie is delicious served slightly warm with a scoop of vanilla coconut milk ice cream on top.  We all agreed it was just the thing to help us bid a fond farewell to those wonderful, relaxed summer evenings for now.

This post is linked to Gluten-Free Wednesdays.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Worth Keeping In Your Pockets -- August 2014

Hello there!  Things have been all crickets around here lately, I know....  I hadn't really intended on taking a mid-summer break from writing, but the draw of the sunshine and the pool and the very enjoyable company of two funny, interesting boys has been too much to resist lately.  I've become a little brain-lazy over the past few weeks, which admittedly has actually been a nice change from my usual status of brain-overdrive!  But just to let you know that I haven't completely disappeared, I thought I'd pop in today and share some summery things with you in an August edition of Worth Keeping In Your Pockets.  I hope you've all been enjoying a wonderful summer just as we have been.

Grilled Corn on the Cob:  We are loving the bounty of fresh summer produce available this time of year, both from our own backyard garden and from the local farmers' market.  Everything just tastes so good! We've been lugging home bags full of ears of corn in recent weeks and preparing them in the most delicious way:  by grilling them on the barbecue.  If you've never grilled corn before, it's very simple:  husk the corn, brush it all over with a little olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt and pepper to taste, then place it on a grill that's been preheated to medium-high heat.  Grill it for ten minutes, turning the corn every two minutes or so to cook it evenly on all sides.  There will be no pots to wash afterwards, and the corn is tender-crisp and bursting with flavour when it's cooked this way!

Boyhood:  Matt and I saw the touching and true-to-life film Boyhood at a local theatre this weekend and we were both so glad we did.  It chronicles the everyday yet significant moments in the life of a boy and his family as he grows from a six year old to a high school graduate. The really remarkable aspect of the movie is that it was actually filmed over a twelve year period, so viewers are watching the same boy grow up for real before their eyes.  Boyhood really drives home just how quickly childhood passes; I left the theatre feeling wistful and wishing that I could slow the passage of time and the growing up of my own boys, one of whom turns thirteen this week.  (Thirteen!!!)  If this film is playing in a theatre near you this summer, it is well worth seeing.

Lavender:  We have lavender plants all over the place in our gardens; Matt and I both love breathing in its pretty and calming scent as we walk by.  I'd like to have a reminder of this simple summer pleasure during the cold, snowy months, so I've cut fresh stalks of lavender to hang in the house to dry. I plan to use the dried flowers to make lavender sachets to tuck into clothes drawers or under pillows this fall, and to mix with oats or epsom salts for a soothing soak in the tub.  Maybe you might like to remember to do this with your lavender, too!

Wind Chimes:  I've got my eye on this whimsical set of spoon fish wind chimes from Etsy as a lovely late-summer addition to our backyard garden.  The artist has made such clever use of old spoons in this piece, and the smiling faces and sweet sounds of the little fish are sure to brighten up a quiet corner of the yard. I've been finding many unique and useful things while browsing Etsy lately; if you're interested, you can find my favourites list here.

Stationary Bottle Opener:  It's always nice to enjoy cold beverages outdoors during the months of summer relaxing and entertaining, and this great little gadget makes it easy to find a bottle opener whenever you need one.  If you mount this cast iron stationary bottle opener on your deck or on a convenient wall indoors or out, you can open bottles effortlessly.  I gave one of these to my dad and we now have one of our own as well -- it's such a simple thing but a really great idea!

A Handwritten Note:  We're still in full-on summer mode here, but we can't deny that a new school year will be here in only a few more weeks.  We've been reading through a large package of information that arrived from the high school for Noah, and we soon need to go and purchase his school uniform for the first time. The idea of starting high school courses has Noah feeling excited and a little nervous, too, so it was a really nice surprise for him last week when he received a handwritten postcard from the principal of his high school telling him they were looking forward to seeing him in September.  The personal note made him feel noticed and welcomed.  In an age where electronic communication is faster, easier, and almost always the preferred method, I think it's good for all of us to remember that sometimes a good old-fashioned handwritten note can really make someone's day.

That's all for now!  I'll be back again soon...  Enjoy these last few weeks of August and the beautiful summer weather while it lasts.  :)