When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ready. (?)

Last evening after dinner, I gathered up all of the shopping bags full of back-to-school supplies I'd accumulated over the previous few weeks and dumped them in the middle of the family room, with a cheerful announcement that it was time to get the new backpacks organized for next week.  Based on the reactions I got from Noah and Will, you'd think I had dropped a poisonous snake in the middle of the floor.  They recoiled from the bags, eyes wide with disgust, and the room was suddenly filled with the sounds of agonized groans and indignant shrieks.  I carried on anyway, and sat in the middle of the piles of bags where I began to open packages of new markers and scissors and glue, and to label everything with the appropriate boy's name.  Somewhere between the unzipping of a pencil case and the lacing up of a new pair of gym shoes, the boys seemed to experience a change of heart.  Noah came over and quietly began sharpening all of his and Will's new pencils, and Will, after examining the neatly organized contents of the school bag he had picked out himself, voluntarily admitted, "Okay, maybe I'm a little excited about going back to school.  But just a little."  Noah sheepishly agreed.

I completely understand that bit of eager anticipation the boys felt after setting their newly filled backpacks expectantly in the front hall to await the first day of another school year.  (I used to feel it every September as a child, too.)  Those smooth pencils, each sharpened to a perfect point and lined up neatly beside one another, and the endless sheets of crisp, lined paper filled only with open spaces, seem to hold so much promise within.  Anything is possible at this point; the pencils and paper will come to reveal whatever stories the boys choose to tell as the next year of their lives unfolds.  There will be new classrooms, new teachers, new friendships, new experiences, and many new opportunities to grow.  I wonder if the boys have any idea how many hopes and good wishes I've zipped up in those backpacks for them along with their collections of supplies.

In the coming year, I hope that the boys' incredible capacity for thought and creativity will be recognized and encouraged, so that they may be free to soar wherever their amazing minds will take them.  I wish them exciting moments of discovery about both the world and themselves, along with lots of chances for laughter, and many experiences of the kind of joyful success that comes from working hard for it and learning from mistakes.  I hope that they will nurture old friendships and develop new ones, while always having the courage to be themselves and to stand up for what they believe is good and right.  And because I know that Noah and Will must have secret hopes of their own for this coming year, I wish for them that they will listen to their hearts, which are sure to lead them to their individual happiness.

It's funny how the small, simple act of filling up new backpacks with school supplies for our children carries with it such monumental significance.  As the boys grow older, I wonder if this time of year will ever feel less poignant as we prepare for them to go out and discover still more of the world on their own....  Somehow, I don't think it will.


I wish all of your children a happy first week back at school and a year full of wonderful learning adventures.  Enjoy the long weekend!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


This week has been feeling mostly quiet and mellow so far.  The boys have been content to spend lots of time reading or just hanging out in the yard, and they often seem to be far away in thought.  I think part of this quietness comes from having had a very full and excellent summer, so no one feels the need to pack in anything else in this last week of holidays.  The other part might be because while they're not saying much about it, I think both boys are probably wondering a lot about the upcoming school year: who their teachers will be, who will be in their classes, what their new grades will be like in terms of experiences and expectations.  But just to prevent us all from falling too much into a pensive lull around here in these last free days, we had an "incident" this morning.  My heart still gets to racing every time I think about it.

Noah and Will and I all stepped outside on the deck this morning to play a game of Blokus at our patio table.  I happened to glance out at the pool in passing, and I noticed something dark floating on the surface of the water.  Large, dark-coloured maple leaves are a common finding in the pool, but I somehow knew when I saw this "thing" that it was not a leaf.  I cautiously walked closer to the pool's edge and my uneasy feeling turned to horror when I realized that it was a little mole, whose unplanned trip into the water had ended very badly.  The boys heard me gasp before I could stop myself, and when I saw them both turn their eyes on the mole and then stare sadly at its little body as they realized its fate, I knew that this was not something that I could ignore until there was someone else around who could deal with it.  No, this incident fell into the very urgent category of Something Must Be Done Immediately.

Now, Matt and I share virtually all of the responsibilities involved in raising children and keeping a home; in most ways we do not subscribe to traditional roles for women and men.  It goes unsaid, though, that each of us has become solely responsible for a few specific tasks over the years, because it's just better that way.  Dealing with poor little dead critters is one of the things that falls under Matt's jurisdiction.  I felt sorry for that wee little mole floating in the pool, but I have to say, in that moment when I realized that I had to step WAAAAYYYY outside of my comfort zone to dispose of its body (because Matt was gone to work for the day), I think I may have felt sorrier for myself.  I took a deep breath and mustered up all of my courage and headed to the garage to equip myself for the terrifying task at hand.

Thankfully the net that we have for scooping leaves and dirt out of the pool has a very long handle, so I picked that pole up at its far end and walked cautiously over to the pool's edge, where I was able to scoop the little mole up with the net and yet still be a good several feet away from it.  Knowing that there were two pairs of eyes watching my every move, I resisted the overwhelming urge I had to scream or cry or both, and walked briskly and purposefully up the hill at the back of our yard, which borders onto an empty property which is currently all torn up and under construction.  When I got to the top, I prayed that my horrible throwing skills would be sufficient for what needed to be done, and then I launched that poor little mole into a soft bed of long grass on the other side of the fence.  (I know, that sounds terrible, but I really didn't know what else I should (or would be physically able to) do with it, and I figured at least he might become food for one of the local birds of prey or one of the cats who roams the neighbourhood.  Circle of Life, and all.)  With a sick feeling in my stomach, I marched back down the hill, washed the net and put it away, and went to join the boys on the deck, where we all said how sorry we were for the poor little mole, and then quietly began our game.  I was glad that I had been able to remove that mole so that the boys wouldn't have to look at its sad little body any longer, but boy, sometimes it is really hard to be the parent.

Will came into our room in the middle of the night recently, telling Matt and I that he had had a nightmare in which 10,000 cats were in his room and they wouldn't leave.  Based on the way that little mole has been floating around in my brain all afternoon, I wouldn't be surprised if 10,000 of them showed up in my dreams tonight.  I hope they'll forgive me for launching their brother's body over the back fence....

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fresh homemade salsa

When our family first started ordering a weekly local produce box a few summers ago, one of the (many) great things Matt and I loved about it was discovering new fruits and vegetables that we had never heard of or tasted before.  One August day in that introductory summer, I eagerly opened our produce box to find these curious little green orbs with a papery covering:

Can you name this fruit?
While the boys offered their own suggestions for identifying the green things, saying they looked like "baby cabbages" or "lettuce on a circle bone thingy" (Will) and "mini pumpkins" or "something I would definitely not want to eat" (Noah), I figured I should probably do some research to find out what exactly these fruits were and what I should do with them.  A visit to the Grand River Organics website informed me that they were tomatillos, and that I could use them along with peppers and onions to make a tasty green salsa.  Because I love the vibrant colour of a red tomato salsa, I decided to create my own recipe using both the red and the green fruits, and the resulting salsa has been a big hit around here every summer since.  This salsa is fresh, flavourful, and a perfect way to take advantage of the bountiful offerings at the farmers' market this time of year.
Fresh Homemade Salsa
8 tomatillos
4 ripe tomatoes, diced (I used a mixture of the red, yellow, and orange tomatoes we got in our produce box this week, but using just red tomatoes is delicious, too.)
2 tbsp minced red onion
1 small red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, diced (You can substitute a hot pepper if you prefer.)
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
the juice of one lime, freshly squeezed
1/4 tsp sea salt
Peel the husks off the tomatillos and wash the fruit.  Place the tomatillos in a saucepan of boiling water; reduce heat to medium and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tomatillos are soft.  Drain the water from the saucepan and crush the tomatillos using a potato masher.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the diced tomatoes, red onion, bell pepper, garlic, and cilantro.  Add the crushed tomatillos to the bowl and gently stir to combine all ingredients.  Add the lime juice and sea salt to the vegetable mixture and gently stir again.
It's best if you can make this salsa a day ahead of when you want to serve it, and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavours to blend and intensify.  Serve the salsa with tortilla chips (look for a brand that has a short list of all natural ingredients), fajitas, grilled chicken, or whatever else you might enjoy.
We look forward to the arrival of the little green tomatillos in our produce box every August now.  Somehow salsa seems like a much more appropriate use for them than mini green pumpkin pie....


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Nutty banana chocolate birthday cake (gluten, dairy, and egg free)

For years now, Matt and I have jokingly referred to the period of time between mid-August and mid-September as "the season of cake".  Three of the four birthdays in our little family fall within this time period, and because I believe each birthday person deserves to have a favourite treat baked just for him or her to celebrate, it happens that we eat a lot of cake during that month.  When we made significant changes to our family's diet to accommodate my and Will's newly discovered food sensitivities, at first I wondered how on earth I was going to continue our "season of cake" tradition without using wheat flour, or milk, or eggs, or refined white sugar (which are pretty much the main ingredients of most homemade cakes).  Thankfully, some research uncovered many promising sounding recipes for special occasion cakes that didn't use any of those ingredients, and with a sense of adventure and a bit of experimenting, I've learned to easily bake delicious birthday cakes that our whole family can enjoy.  The added bonus of needing to change the way I bake cakes is that the ones I make these days have less sweetener and more nutritious ingredients than the white flour based cakes I used to make, so we can feel a little better about our indulgences this time of year!

Yesterday was Matt's birthday, and to celebrate, I baked this moist and flavourful nutty banana chocolate cake, a slightly modified version of a cake in Elana Amsterdam's The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook.  (If you're looking for other good cake recipes, as well as delicious ideas for frostings, I highly recommend Elana's cookbooks as well as her website.)

Nutty Banana Chocolate Birthday Cake

For the cake:

3 cups blanched almond flour
3 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup very ripe bananas (approximately 2-3 bananas), mashed

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease a bundt pan with grapeseed oil.
In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, arrowroot powder, salt, and baking soda.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the grapeseed oil, agave nectar, water, and vanilla extract.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined.  Fold in the mashed bananas.  Scoop the batter into the prepared cake pan.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.  Let the cake cool, then remove it from the pan and place it on a cake plate.

For the chocolate topping (This was my own creation!):

1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate (I use Endangered Species Supreme Dark Chocolate, which is 72% cocoa)
1/4 cup natural almond butter

Melt the chopped dark chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the almond butter.  Immediately spoon the melted chocolate and almond butter topping over the top of the cake, using the back of the spoon to smooth the mixture out and encourage it to drip down the sides of the cake.  To serve, add candles and a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday to You", then slice the cake, place the pieces on plates, and add a little scoop of Vanilla Coconut Bliss for each person. 

I have often used this same recipe to make cupcakes for Will's birthday, or to send with Will when he is invited to a friend's party and needs a treat that will be safe for him to eat.  To make cupcakes, line a muffin tin with paper cups before pouring in the batter, and reduce the baking time to approximately 30 minutes. (Again, test with a toothpick to see if they're done.)

Seeing the smiles of appreciation on the faces of everyone who eats this cake, whether they have food sensitivities or not, suggests that it definitely makes birthdays happy!  I know it makes me happy to be able to keep baking cakes to show the ones I love I think they're really special.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I just spent the past three nights and four days at home, completely alone, all by myself.  I can honestly say that this has never before happened in the eleven years since I've had children, so it's been a pretty big deal for me.  A few months ago, we had made plans for all four of us to go up to Matt's parents' house this particular weekend, like we do every summer.  But then when I started thinking about it again a few weeks ago, it dawned on me that sending my guys up there on their own would provide me with a rare and wonderful opportunity to have a big stretch of time to myself, and in an uncharacteristic moment of selfishness, I decided to take it.  (See, this is what turning 40 in a few weeks does to you; it makes you suddenly realize that it's okay, on occasion, to make choices that are completely self-serving!) 

I'll admit I felt sad and a little guilty when I watched my three sweet guys drive off without me on Saturday morning.  There may have even been a few tears after they drove out of sight.  But that didn't last long, because I had lots to accomplish and no time to waste!  For the first 48 hours I felt this overwhelming urge to be productive, like I had to have something concrete to show for these days I had taken away from my family.  I was up and at 'em before 7 am, constantly moving, and checking things off the long to-do list I had made for myself at a furious pace.  (I know.  I seriously don't understand what's wrong with me, either.)  I cleaned my whole house from top to bottom, washed, dried and folded laundry, ran errands, took care of paperwork, and did some jobs out in the yard.  I completely emptied out both of the boys' closets (which was a pretty risky undertaking when I was home alone, considering the high likelihood that I could have been buried alive in the massive piles of random stuff they had accumulated in there, and no one would have come looking for me!), got rid of some things, and neatly put the rest of it back.  I made more lists for tasks I needed to deal with later, and then I went to bed feeling satisfied but totally wiped out.

By the third day, I had had enough of that kind of nonsense.  The realization that I was home ALONE and could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted finally started to sink in, and I slowly began to unwind.  I sat with a hot cup of tea in a sunny chair in the living room first thing in the morning, taking time to wake up gradually.  I went for a long, refreshing walk on some trails near our house without wearing a watch, so I couldn't know what time it was.  I did some shopping for myself, and browsed leisurely in favourite stores instead of running through the mall in a mad, purposeful dash like I often do.  I took the time to make meals that I would really enjoy, and ate them outside in the warm sunshine with crickets and cheerful chickadees to keep me company.  I even read a novel, which is one of my favourite pastimes but one I frequently put off because so often when I start a book, I feel compelled not to put it down until it's finished.  I realized this weekend that if I wanted to read a whole book in one sitting, I could.  The second half of my days alone left me feeling calm, and rejuvenated, and ready to enjoy the remaining days of summer vacation with my boys.  This is something every mom should have the chance to experience.

I will be incredibly happy when I see the familiar and much loved faces of my three guys walk through our front door later today.  I missed them, and it will be really nice to have a house filled with their chatter and laughter once again.  I will also make a point, though, not to wait another eleven years before I take an opportunity for some more wonderful time to myself.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Late August

I've been blissfully ignoring the back-to-school advertising for several weeks, but there is now no escaping the subtle signs in nature that change is in the air.  The temperatures are feeling a little cooler this week, and I'm starting to notice how much earlier the evening sky begins to succumb to dusk these days.  Sometimes I feel like the little critters in our backyard who are so in tune with the shifting seasons, who sense deep within what's happening in nature, whose instincts compel them to do what they need to be ready for what's coming next.  These end of summer changes make me restless, and make my heart and mind feel pulled in multiple directions from one moment to the next.

Late August always fills me with anticipation, with optimistic wondering about what the return to school and activities and a more structured life will bring for all of us in the coming seasons.  It urges me to get everything organized to make things go smoothly in the months when free time will seem much harder to come by.  (Maybe this will seem crazy, but I have to admit that filling new backpacks with new, neatly packed pencil cases and bright, clean gym shoes, and filling the freezer with baked goods for school snacks is oddly satisfying.) But I also feel a deep yearning to be able to relive the many wonderful moments of our summer, to hold on to the family and old friends we've had a chance to be reunited with, to grasp the days filled with laughter and time spent all together and never let them go.  I guess this is what makes us humans different from the little critters in the backyard:  we have the capacity for the bittersweet realization that there is no going back, that with every day we live we leave favourite moments behind, and that those memories, as lovely as they are to have, will sometimes tug at our hearts and make us long to return to days already gone by.

This nostalgic feeling will wax and wane.  When August turns to September and then October, the little ache will be replaced with the joys of autumn:  weekend trips to apple orchards, walks on sidewalks strewn with crunchy leaves, cozy sweaters, warm drinks and comfort foods.  We will fill our days with different kinds of wonderful moments, and fully embrace the adventures that a new school year will bring.  The key for me today is to try to be neither clinging too much to the recent past nor leaping too far ahead of myself as this season of fun and relaxation winds down.  Right now, the summer sun still shines; how very lucky I am to be able to turn my face towards it and soak up every last ray.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Eleven (for Noah)

I'm always careful with what I share about you in this space.  Whenever you inspire me to write about you (which is often, because you're such a remarkable boy), I share the posts with you before the rest of the world, so you can tell me if you feel alright about me hitting "publish".  I realize that as you grow older, you want more privacy, and I respect that.  I'm sensitive to what you might find embarrassing to have written about you in a place where others can read it.  I hope you don't mind though, if today, on your 11th birthday, I just go ahead and tell the world about the many wonderful qualities that make you special and make me so very proud to be your mom.

Your deep intelligence and curiosity never cease to fill me with wonder and amazement, Noah.  I love that I can sit with you for long periods of time and have fascinating conversations where we ponder complicated ideas, ask difficult questions, and remark on the incredible, while you share really interesting facts with me that I never knew before.  I love your maturity and knowing without a doubt that I can always trust you (as was evident just last week when I left you at home alone for awhile, and when I returned, I found you sitting quietly at the dining room table, completely engrossed in the personal challenge of using every last Bananagram tile in a single grouping of words).  You're a kind and loving family member, a gentle spirit with a good heart who often offers to help out (and who responds to our requests for help around the house with only the occasional minimal grumbling!).  I'm so inspired by your dedication to your many pursuits, your great determination to try your hardest and your ability to be successful in so much of what you do.  Your positive attitude and your willingness to try new things (well, okay, maybe not foods, but other things!) allow you to constantly find new opportunities to grow into someone even more wonderful, and your delightful sense of humour keeps you (and us) laughing all the way.

When you were in kindergarten, your teacher (who also thought you were amazing) told me that you were four going on forty.  She was right.  Your wisdom and maturity, your deep insight and well-spoken words make it easy for me to think sometimes that you're already all grown up.  And yet, when I poke my head into your room at night to look at you before I go to bed, I still somehow see a sweet and beautiful little boy.  I hope you'll never grow up too much to want to hear just how much your mom loves you.

Happy 11th birthday, Noah.  I hope you enjoy a wonderful day and a happy year full of making your dreams come true.  xo

Monday, August 13, 2012

Colourful rice paper wraps with cashew-lime dipping sauce

My summertime lunch staple is usually some kind of veggie-laden salad with protein:  spinach salad with hard-boiled eggs, mixed greens with avocado and leftover grilled chicken or fish, colourful quinoa salad, black bean salad.  Every now and then, though, I get a desire for something a little different than the usual (though I still want it to be easy, fresh, and delicious, and of course, gluten and dairy-free).  These rice paper wraps do the trick nicely.  Made with grilled chicken, baby spinach, sweet red pepper, and mango, and served with a flavourful cashew-lime dipping sauce, the vibrant wraps look lovely and make a very healthy and satisfying midday meal.

Colourful Rice Paper Wraps with Cashew-Lime Dipping Sauce  (serves 2)

For the wraps:

6 round sheets of rice paper (available in the international foods section of the grocery store)
a shallow pan of warm water
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced into long, thin strips
a large handful of baby spinach leaves
1 sweet red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 ripe mango, peeled and cut ito thin strips

For the dipping sauce
(This recipe is based on a very similar one in The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre.)

3 tbsp cashew butter (you could also use peanut or almond butter)
the juice of one lime, freshly squeezed
2 tbsp coconut milk
1 tsp tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
1 tsp agave nectar
1 small clove of garlic, crushed

To make the dipping sauce, whisk all six ingredients together in a small mixing bowl until smooth.  Divide sauce into two small serving bowls and set aside.

To make the wraps, begin by laying a clean, dampened dish towel on your work surface with the shallow pan of water beside it.  Place one of the rice paper rounds into the pan of water and let it sit for approximately ten seconds, or until the paper is soft and pliable.  Carefully remove the rice paper from the water and lay it flat on the dampened dish towel.  Place several strips of grilled chicken, a small bunch of baby spinach leaves, and several strips of each of the sweet red pepper and mango in the center of the rice paper.  Fold the bottom of the rice paper up and over the filling, then fold each side of the rice paper in to the middle and roll the whole thing up tightly.  Place finished roll on a plate and cover it with another clean, dampened dish towel to keep it moist.  Repeat this process for the remaining rice paper rounds and fillings, until you have six completed rolls.

To serve the wraps, remove the dampened dish towel, cut each wrap in half cross-wise, and arrange the halves on two plates with a small bowl of dipping sauce on each one.


Friday, August 10, 2012


I've been meaning to come here to write something for over a day now, as it never feels right to me to leave this space silent for too long.  Every idea that's formed in my mind as a possible subject, though, has been dismissed almost as quickly as it appeared;  my brain hasn't seemed very interested in thinking any of those ideas through or searching frantically for the right words to express them before they vanished into thin air.  This is a strange thing for me because my mind always seems to want to think and search and plan and figure and make itself heard, even if it's only on little pieces of paper with random half-sentences scribbled on them, waiting to be woven into something bigger.  I'm realizing suddenly that this is what is must feel like to let go and relax.  I like it.

This summer has been a truly wonderful one for me so far.  I have been healthy, and happy, and enjoying almost every moment I've been spending with my boys and the family and friends with whom we've had the chance to visit.  I think back to last summer, when I was sick, and exhausted, and completely overwhelmed with anxiety, and I am so grateful for the difference, for the changing seasons and the passage of time that allow situations and people to move on and become something else.  I'm grateful not in the sense of simply thinking, "Thank goodness I'm not there anymore", but in a deeper sense of realizing how much work I've put into getting myself to a different place over the past year (and how much help I've had along the way), how much better I now understand myself, how much I feel I've grown.  I've come to realize that while we can't always control what happens to us, it is up to us to choose how we react to our experiences; those choices can make all the difference.

This summer I am surrounded by sunshine, partly because sometimes time does heal wounds, but also because my experiences last summer, and my eventual decision to learn how to let go of my fears and try and live more in the moment, have made me stronger and wiser.  They've made me more able to accept difficulty and change as things that are okay to welcome in life, because they can lead us to find beautiful places we never knew existed.  In hindsight, I'm somehow glad for the gray skies of last July and all the struggles in the months that followed; they have allowed this summer's skies to reflect an exquisitely lovely shade of blue.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

Little brown paper bag

When I was a kid around Noah's age, I would sometimes get to ride my bike to the corner store near my house in the summer.  I went with a little pile of loose change jingling cheerfully in my pocket, and a sense of anticipation that made me pedal as quickly as I could.  Once I arrived at the store, I would stand deep in thought before the rows of brightly coloured penny candy, trying to decide which tiny treats to choose and how many of each one to buy.  It was always very satisfying to emerge from the store with a little folded-down brown paper bag of carefully selected loot, and to head home where I could savour the sweet goodies throughout the afternoon.

I was reminded of this childhood experience the other day when Noah asked me if he could take apart his old bike so he could have some springs to use for an invention he had been working on in his brain.  I told him his bike would probably be a great source for invention parts, but that it might be better to look at a hardware store and pick out the specific items he was looking for, because the springs in his bike didn't sound like the kind of springs he needed.  I think a lightbulb went off in Noah's head when I mentioned that a hardware store would have a "parts" section;  he grinned from ear to ear and had a far-away look in his eyes.  I imagine in his mind, he was standing before boxes and bins of various thing-a-ma-jigs much like a kid in a candy store, thinking carefully about which ones would be most satisfying to carry out in a little brown paper bag and then enjoy for the rest of the afternoon.

I love how the long, carefree days of summer give the boys so much time for thinking and dreaming, for questioning and creating.  Over the past several weeks I have had countless fascinating conversations with both Noah and Will, and have often paused to wonder and smile for a moment after stumbling upon some project one of them has been working on in the house or yard.  I've seen Will quietly lying on his bed after an action-filled afternoon outside, punching digits into his calculator with a serious face and carefully studying the various patterns that emerge when using different number combinations.  I've discovered a diorama of sorts in his bookshelf, where he re-created a scene of Olympic athletes jumping hurdles using Lego figures and Geronimo Stilton novels. 

The other day I found an ingenious "trap" Will had set on the wooden play structure in the yard by strategically using a lacrosse stick, a kooshie ball, and three ring frisbees.

(I was afraid to ask him whom or what he was intending to "trap", but I did get him to explain how the trap works:  the wind created from the motion of swinging causes the frisbees to rotate, which in turn rotates the handle of the lacrosse stick, which then dumps the kooshie ball on the unsuspecting swinger's head.  Pretty clever!)

I've sat, completely enthralled, on the edge of Noah's bed at night listening to him try to explain to me how his brain thinks of ideas so quickly and in such complex ways sometimes that he can't quite articulate them fast enough verbally or on paper, and how he's trying to invent a technology that could read brain signals and project them instantly onto a screen so he and others could see these amazing ideas as they formed, before they were lost somewhere. And just this past Friday, I shook my head in disbelief as I watched both boys (who waited "in agony" for a week and a half for our new pool to be filled and ready for swimming) spend only ten minutes in the water the afternoon we first jumped in, and then another thirty minutes on the pool deck figuring out 1001 unique uses for their various water toys.

I love that I'm able to be a part of the boys' wonderful summer lives, when they have hours of free time to delve into the bottomless little brown paper bags that are their minds and continually find something new and exciting.  Their discoveries are sweeter to me than all the little penny candies in the world.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer fruit crisp (gluten and dairy free)

The baskets and baskets of plump, juicy peaches have been calling me at the market lately.  So have the pints of blueberries that are just bursting with flavour.  And when I bring the two beautiful fruits home and set them on my counter, they call to me to bake something delicious with them.  I listened to them today and created this summery, not-too-sweet peach and blueberry crisp; it was so simple to make and the result was so good that I need not say anything more about it.  Just make one yourself and you'll see.  :)

Peach Blueberry Crisp
(inspired by several fruit crisp recipes in Elana Amsterdam's Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook)

For the fruit filling:

1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blueberries
4 - 5 peaches, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup unsweetened, pure apple juice
2 tbsp arrowroot powder

For the crisp topping:

1 cup blanched almond flour
1 cup pure, gluten-free oats
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 F. 

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the apple juice and arrowroot powder until well-combined.

Peel and slice peaches. (To peel peaches easily, plunge them into a pot of boiling water for a few seconds, then remove them with a slotted spoon and place them immediately into a bowl of icy cold water.  The skins will then come off effortlessly when you rub them gently with your thumbs.)  Add peaches and blueberries to apple juice mixture and stir gently to coat the fruit.  Pour fruit mixture into an 8x8 inch glass baking dish or a deep pie plate.

Combine the almond flour, oats, sea salt and cinnamon in a mixing bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together melted coconut oil, vanilla and maple syrup.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until mixture is blended and crumbly.  Sprinkle the topping over the fruit in the baking dish and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake crisp uncovered for another 20-30 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and fruit juices are bubbling at the edges.  Let the crumble cool for 30 minutes, then serve warm, topped with a little scoop of dairy-free vanilla Coconut Bliss (or real vanilla ice cream if a dairy sensitivity is not an issue).

Summer in a bowl.  Delicious!