Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Vegan Chocolate Caramel Cookie Pie

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free Cookie Pie?  Yes please!!!  Also, meet my new best friend:

This stuff is crack.  If you have a Sprouts, a Whole Foods, or a local organic co-op you most likely can find it there.  It's a new product that came out just in time for this pie.  In my opinion it's just as good as sweetened condensed milk.....hello dairy-free caramels, Thai coffee, and more!!

Ok, moving on.  But seriously, dairy-free people rejoice ;)

This pie is a treat, my in a very rich, special-occasion-type, give-you-the-sugar-sweats-super-yummo treat!  I wouldn't recommend fixing this if you are on a low-sugar trend; however, you may remove the chocolate ganache layer for a less-rich dessert <3

chocolate caramel cookie pie

gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan friendly 
this pie has several easy layers- best stored in refrigerator for up to one week


(first layer)
(second layer)
(third layer)
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk
(top layer)
  • Coco-Whip 
  • Extra ganache for decoration or vegan chocolate chips/ shavings


(first layer)
  • Preheat oven to 350 F. 
  • Mix all dry ingredients together with fork, then add vanilla, butter.
  • Mix until just combined with a fork and a cookie-dough forms, add in chocolate chips.
  • Press into bottom of frozen pie crust and bake for 16 minutes.
  • While this bakes, mix the second layer:
(second layer)
  • Mix melted butter and can of sweetened condensed coconut milk.
    bubbly and crusty goodness
  • When cookie layer is done baking, remove the pie and add the condensed milk layer over top the cookie layer.
  • Sprinkle nuts, making sure they are covered by the caramel-condensed milk layer to prevent over-browning of the nuts.
  • Bake at 350 for an additional 25-30 minutes. (it should look like the picture to the left when removed from oven:)
  • Allow to set and cool for about 30 minutes while you make the third layer. 
(third layer)
  • Over a double boiler or in a heat-safe bowl over simmering pot of water, heat chocolate and coconut milk until melted and stir to make ganache.
  • Pour over set caramel layer and refrigerate until the chocolate is set.
  • When chocolate ganache layer is set, top with cool whip and extra ganache and nuts or chocolate chips if desired.
  • Refrigerate when not eating.  Can be eaten right away once chocolate is set!  

Friday, August 5, 2016

Freedom with Less

Where was I during July?  We moved...I had some medical stuff and eventually surgery...and we moved!!!  Did I mention we moved...again?  We got the notice mid-June that we *might* have to move, then our landlord told us it was for sure so we set out to find a new home.

This would be our fourth move in 14 months.  I was done!

At the time, we were living int 3700+ square feet.  It was easy to feel like we had space because our stuff did not fill it up.  However, we wanted to move closer into the city, and in the heart of South-Central Austin, that means living in less than 2,000 square feet.  Doable for sure, but not what we were used to.  I was nervous to give up all our space.  However, we had no choice so we decided to take this chance at moving to see if we could somehow swing a house we loved in our most desired, super-cute, funky Austin neighborhood.

We found this amazing, modern, small remodel in that same favorite neighborhood and decided to rent it.  The only thing holding me back was that it was 1630-ish square feet.  Less than HALF the size of our current home (granted our current home was too big, even for the 5 of us crazies).

So I did the math and thought, let's do this!  Let's cut everything by 50%!  Cut our clothes, dishes, furniture, cars....get rid of half of it.  The only thing was that we had about 2 weeks, I ended up in the hospital during that period, and we didn't know if we could make it.  David, though, was so excited at the possibility to have less stuff that he joined me in my enthusiasm for decluttering and did a ton of work!  He is also a Sensory Challenged Parent who apparently was oppressed by all our stuff.

Thankfully I didn't have my surgery until after we arrived and had a week our new home.  While I wouldn't wish surgery on anyone, it was a blessing of sorts to not have to make a lot of decisions about what we kept.  I gave my husband free reign over all the attic clutter (25++ boxes) and he narrowed them down to 5 boxes of keepsakes, mostly pictures.  He did all the goodwill runs, he did all the deciding, and honestly I thought I would hate giving up that control but it was a relief.  My inner pack-rat was screaming, "What if we need something later...What if something gets given away that I can make money off of.....What if something important to me gets lost??!!"

But my true self looooooved it!  And I truly remember only a handful of things in those 5-6 SUV full loads to goodwill.  No regrets.

So we did it.  With the help of friends we went down a ton square feet and possessions, but have gained a great walkable neighborhood, bike-able distance to David's work, a cute home that is our style, and Freedom with Less.

I've talked about how less and decluttering help me with my Sensory Challenges as well as my Kids, but I fully acknowledge that to make this jump to 50% less I had to be pushed.  Minimalism, for me, has been something I've been skirting around for a long time, something that seemed like it would bring me joy and freedom, but scary all the same.

But I jumped off the cliff (...or was pushed ;) and was set Free.  

Here are just a small bit of the many blessings Minimizing has brought me:

  • I'm more productive.  I realize that I dreaded running an errand or doing work because I couldn't find anything I needed!  Mail run?...I don't remember where that blasted letter is I'm supposed to run to the mail boxes?!  School shopping?...I can't find that list the teacher sent home OR the school supplies I hoarded away in the Fall.  I mean, I could eventually find those things, but the process of finding them caused me so much stress and frustration.
  • I feel soooo much calmer.  Look at all that negative space in that area above.  I still have decor and my style, but so much less of it makes for some soothing negative space.  Does that area get filled with kiddos doing karate kicks?  Sure ;)  But negative space can be calming to the eyes and the mind and I have found that I crave it!
  • My house is actually clean.  Do you know how many times I cleaned 3700+ square feet by myself?  Twice I cleaned the whole house at one time.  Yes, that's twice in seven months!  I might have had the energy to clean a room here and there, but four bathrooms and all those bedrooms and all the hardwoods...overwhelms me right now to think about it.  We have lived here just a couple short weeks and I cleaned the whole house by myself yesterday and I wasn't winded afterwards :)  So much time saved cleaning everything!

What about you?  Have you recently minimized and felt like it gave you more mental/physical/emotional/some other kind of freedom?

And guess what???!!!!  I, along with a lifetime friend, have started a Podcast on Minimalism, Living Intentionally, and Freedom with Less!  We're two moms and if this whole minimalism thing interests you and you don't know where to start, give us a listen.  You can find us over at The Practical Minimalists site or in IG @thepracticalminimalists <3

Looking forward to sharing more with you about how we live with less and the joy that has come along with that!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Allergen Friendly Austin, Texas

This is the second in a series of allergen-friendly spots in different U.S. cities.  Whether it's GF/CF, Vegan, Nut-free, there are some spots to love in some of America's great cities.  Check out Allergen Friendly New York City here.

Keep Austin Weird...and gluten-free ;)

Austin is Home
Austin, Texas is our current home, and perhaps, it's the best city in the world for our dietary lifestyle.  I absolutely love it here and you can find all sorts of local spots catering to different needs.  If you're on Instagram, you can search hashtags like #austinvegan and find thousands of vegan-friendly places and pics!

To my surprise, gluten-free dining out here has been a total dream!  I have dozens of places I love, but for now I will share my tops.  Maybe this post will become an "Allergen Friendly Austin 1.0".
Enjoying a book at Thai Fresh along with a Yummy Almond Milk Latte with a GF/ Vegan Carrot Whoopie Pie!

My Top Absolute Favorite Restaurant of All Time: Thai Fresh

I came to Austin only once before we moved here for good.  It was two years ago, and somehow I magically found this place.  I immediately called David and said, "What city on earth has a farm-to-table gluten-free Thai restaurant combined with a gluten-free, vegan friendly bakery, ice cream shop, and coffee house??  We are moving here someday."  I was joking, but as soon as we knew we were moving, I knew our first eat out adventure would be Thai Fresh.  The kids love the rich ice cream (I mean they have gluten-free/vegan waffle cones!!) and I love the charm.  And hat's off to Thai Fresh for recently trying something new to bridge the wage gap between the front and back of the house.  You can either sit down like a nice restaurant or grab something to go from the coffee/ice cream/ pastry area, but no need to tip as their food is priced to eliminate that.  They take care of their employees and it shows in the food and the service!
I recommend the Pad Thai with grass-fed beef or chicken, the drunken noodles, the coconut soup (all are gluten and dairy free), the gf/df/ef cinnamon roll bread, and most of the ice cream flavors (coconut base, not a tree nut), in a gf/df/ef waffle cone of course ;)

Burger Joints

Whether the chain-types like In-and-Out, or local chains like P.Terry's, Austin has some good burger options.  Our two favorite ones, however, are:
  • Hat Creek, gluten-free buns are available and they also have paleo-friendly chicken nuggets for the kids (egg-free too!).  These restaurants (several throughout Austin) all have a fun playground for the kids.  This place is one of our top meet-up spots!
  • Wholly Cow offers grass-fed burgers with GF buns and is super yum.  It's also in a convenience store so you can get some local kombucha and some yummy local snacks while you wait for your burger!
  • Salt Lick BBQ- not a burger joint, but a meat-lovers delight!  All their BBQ sauces are gluten free- and if you don't get the bread with your meal (or dessert) your whole meal will be gluten free!  We usually eat outside and get the family style combo meal, which is all you can eat!  This was Braylen's face when we told him we were getting a giant plate of meat ;)  This boy loves meat!
Outdoors at Salt Lick Driftwood

Vegan and Gluten Free Austin

There are several places that offer Vegan/ GF goods from restaurants to bakeries.  Since we mainly eat GF/CF and some of us are egg-free, we love these types of places in Austin.  Better Bites Bakery is a bit outside the city but their items are sold in Whole Foods stores and local places.  Their bakery is worth a visit if you are in town.  I got all the kid's birthday cakes from them.  They are also nut-free (and top 8 free!) too so that works for our two with almond allergies!
Braylen's Birthday cake with Better-Bites Mostess Cupcakes!
And our favorite vegan restaurant is Counter Culture.  I highly recommend the BBQ Cauliflower pizza and the Mac-N-Cheeze.  This place has comfort food and raw, vegan dishes.  I like the raw pad Thai and David likes the more comfort dishes.  They also have really good dessert specials and juices and teas.
BBQ Cali Pizza with Raw Pad Thai at Counter Culture patio

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Stuff and Space

Our Hope St. Home with Dream by Ashley Woodson Bailey 
If you know me, you would never think to call me "A Minimalist".  Because I'm so not.

I am the person who always takes home leftovers just in case, even though 79% of the time I forget about them.
I usually have at least 4 beverages scattered throughout the house at any given time: 1 tea mug, a large glass of water, a non-water drink, and the water I get when I can't find the first water.
My kids artwork is kept far too long because someday I might want to frame it (yes, I've even already taken a picture of it with my phone).
I have several projects going around the same time.  Always.
I still have notes from high school best friends and old boyfriends.  (yes, I am 33 and I have been married for 10 years!)
Our Hope St. Kitchen I designed with the help of good 'ole IKEA and a custom ETSY shop

So, I never thought I would fit into this Minimalist Paradigm.  In fact, I like keeping things just in case.  Every six months to a year, I actually can dig around and happen to find that one random item, like a single hole puncher or the tiny screw driver for the tiny toy batteries, and think, "Aha!  I knew I kept this for a reason."  And every six months or so I'm trying to find that hard-to-find random item and I can't (it's not anywhere!) so I go out and buy it instead- adding to all the stuff.

But lately, I've been feeling that something has changed within me...something is not the same...

I've talked a bit about my sensory challenges.  I talk a lot with moms and online about sensory issues/ sensitivities/ sensory rich activities for input/ etc.  We parents deal with all the sensory stuff too, just like our kids do.  One of my main issues is visual clutter, and that is why this post is filled with lovely simple photos of my spaces I have created in all our many homes to try to deal with the rest of the clutter in the home that oppressed me.
An inherited couch and smattering of other items we have inherited and bought in our Memphis Home.  The other side of this pictured room had a stack of boxes, I think :)
We have just found out some interesting news that we will have to move....again.  Our third move in 14 months, our family's fourth home in 14 months!!  Each move over the last year has been on-to-the-next-better thing.  I have loved all of our homes, but we accumulated So. Much. Stuff along the way.

When my mother passed away in 2013, we inherited all of her things.  Many items were my childhood things that she kept because she was a woman who kept things.  It was sweet to see what all she had kept and cherished of mine and other friends and family through the years.  Growing up, I thought that was what you were supposed to do: keep all the things.  All the reminders of the wedding showers for that friend of the family, all the party favors from birthdays, all the art projects, all the christmas cards, all the pictures, all the memories...right?  (Right about now I'm picturing my sister-in-law, Sarah [world class at only keeping the essentials], cringing!)
I'm wondering if memories can be stored, though, in my head.  I'm wondering if it might be time to let go of the last of the things I have been holding on to of my mother's things.  And if I'm being completely honest, the 15-20 boxes of her and my childhood things--I truly have no clue what is in them unless I go into the attic to find out!  If I can't remember what is in them, can't I let them go?!

When we moved to Memphis, we bought our home fully furnished.  We moved from 1600 square feet to 3300 square feet and we thought we needed things to fill the space.  Our previous homeowner had nice things, so we kept many of those things.  When we decided to move to Austin, though, we pared down a bit because we wanted to fit it all in one moving truck to save money.  We sold some and thought we were in a good spot with the amount of stuff we possessed.  

Our Austin home is 3700 square feet.  I thought when we got to Austin with just one truck's worth of stuff and even more space, we would feel even more at peace and relaxed...We had this great, aesthetically pleasing home, wouldn't we all be happiest here?

What happened was that we filled this home up in 6 short months with too much for my brain.  Half of it looks like the picture below, and half of it looks like a lot of places for tiny piles of clutter to hide.  Too many dishes (I own four different sets), too many craft supplies (and too many stickers to get stuck in my vacuum), too many stacks of paper (oh elementary school, you fill my life with way too much paper things).
The home we are leaving behind in a few short weeks on our next adventure!
We asked the kids what house they liked best (out of the three we have lived in the past year).  I thought they were going to say the one we are in now.  They didn't have to think and said, "The Hope St. house".  The 1600 square foot home in Marietta, GA, our smallest one so far.  I think they felt cozy there, they felt secure.  It was small, but we didn't have all the stuff we have now.  

Here in 3700 square feet they tend to just stick to the kitchen or their bedrooms anyways!  But the kitchen and the bedrooms are always so very crowded and cluttered with things, tiny things.  They don't even have very much in the way of toy sets, but after each playtime their rooms are so filled with trinket clutter, like they need to fill all the space with something.  It almost seems like more space invites them to fill it with something...too much space is unsettling and needs to be inhabited?  I gave away seven dress up purses for this very reason, always being filled with nicknacks, tiny things....sticky things.  We keep donating the kids' stuff and they keep finding more and more things to fill the space!

So what if it's not about just less stuff but more space, but what if it's about less stuff and LESS space?

These are the questions I'm pondering.  If you have downsized or headed towards minimalism in any form, I would love to hear from you!
Can mental clarity be better gained with less space?  The freedom from all the things?
What if less stuff means more mental space no matter the square feet?
What if the kids had less space AND less stuff to deal with?  Would that be better for their tiny burdened brains and my big burdened one?  
Less space and less stuff.  We don't know where we will be end of July, but we are thinking it might be somewhere with less of everything!  I'll keep you posted :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Allergen Friendly New York City

In honor of Summer, I've decided to start a little series on great allergen-friendly spots in the cities we have lived in or visited. If you are a family who deals with food allergens and traveling to New York, Atlanta, Austin, Memphis, Nashville or San Diego this summer...this series is for you! Will post links as I add cities!

Allergen Friendly NEW YORK, NY

If I'm being honest, this city was not in my top 10 to visit, but when it came time that I needed some serious one-on-one time with my oldest, we took a trip here as it was her most coveted spot to see in all America.  She was not disappointed, and I ended up falling a little bit in love with NY City's charm.

New York is full of great places that offer dairy/egg-free, vegan, gluten free's easy to find places here to accommodate your dietary needs; however, finding them can be a bit challenging!  Here's a good starting point for your visit <3

Gluten-Free Bakeries

Erin McKenna's Bakery
This lovely little spot is also Vegan, Soy-free, and Refined Sugar-free as well.  So. Many. Different. Yummy baked goods!!  We enjoyed the oregano bagel with vegan butter- this was my fav, and I instagram-ed it.  But you also don't want to miss the apple churros, donuts, and cupcake options, which we also partook in.  It's a small storefront, but look for the cute teal and pink retro stuff in the window and you won't miss it.  We took the subway to Delancey St station, got out and walked two blocks West on Broome St.  There is also a little park in the median if you keep going a block and a half West on Broome.  We enjoyed our treats there and people watched.
Alisa in front of Erin McKenna's Bakery

Tu-Lu's Gluten Free Bakery
This place is not all-vegan, so there are some GF options that contain dairy or eggs, but we had super yummy Pumpkin loaf that was GF/CF, and had the best GF/Vegan glazed donuts here!  We actually ate two donuts each because they were so light and fluffy and we needed extra walking around energy ;)  Didn't take a picture here, but the vibe was sort of the same as Erin McKenna's- cute pink and white small store front on E 11th St near 4th Ave.  There wasn't a subway stop super close by, but we enjoyed seeing more of this area of the city.  There were some older, beautiful churches near here for a sight-seeing detour.
Hu Kitchen for Paleo Baked Goods
This place was where we split an amazing paleo meal.  Highly recommend the wild meatloaf and any of the veggie sides!  Also the chicken quinoa soup was amazing here.  We also had the best paleo (so naturally gluten and dairy free! but so many of their baked goods are also nut free here, which is refreshing for a paleo place and Alisa cannot have almonds!) carrot cake and pudding here.  Their paleo-friendly baked good and dessert section was extensive!

Gluten-Free Asian Food

We tried a couple places, but if you are staying in Midtown or near Central Park, Lili's 57 was super good!  They had a decent choice of sushi, Thai food, and traditional Chinese food.  We had dairy-free bubble tea and I enjoyed great GF drunken noodles from their GF specific menu.  Request one when you go in. The meal was light and not too heavy, but we definitely could have just shared one Bubble Tea as those were kind of on the sweet side.

Chelsea Market

This place had a ton of restaurants inside, plus super fun shopping, so this is a must!  Also, it's near The High Line, which we enjoyed touring despite the crowds on a Sat afternoon.  We at at Los Tacos No.1 and had some amazing tacos on corn tortillas.  (FYI: they don't do cheese on tacos, but the guacamole here does have dairy so we didn't get that, but they do have a sign warning you so we knew not to order it)

Rockin' Raw Restaurant

This place was a total last minute decision.  We has just seen Wicked and were going to stop somewhere close, but Alisa was really in the mood for a milk-shake and this place has 10 different vegan milkshake options!  So we headed downtown to this elegant place.  It only seats 22 people, but it's such a hidden gem!  Everything is gluten-free, soy-free, organic, vegan, and veggie packed!  They have a huge list of raw desserts and AMAZING jambalaya (it is warmed a bit).  Also would highly recommend the Buffalo Mushroom Poppers.  The vegan milks and milkshakes have a choice of almond or coconut bases, so if you can't do nuts, you can still get dessert or enjoy some hot chocolate.
Our waitress was the sweetest.  Only one server per shift so expect to sit and relax a bit!

Best Burger In New York!

Bareburger is an all Organic burger joint and has several locations in NYC.  We loved the decor inside too- super fun portraits of humans with farm animal heads and muted pastels.  I heart muted pastels ;)  Bareburger has plenty of options for healthy low-sugar drinks, gluten-free buns, and collard wraps for bun-less.  They have everything clearly marked on their extensive menu.  If we go back to NYC soon, I will definitely visit a Bareburger!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What is is like to be a Sensory-Challenged Parent?

It's so much easier to talk about the things our children deal with, right?  I can tell you about my kids' sensory areas; I know what restaurants to avoid because they can't handle the loudness or the smells; I know what gets them dis-regulated and I know what kinds of activities they seek out to regulate themselves because I watch them, observe and study them to help them the best I can.

But me?  What about Mom's sensory processing issues?  What gets me dis-regulated?

A few years ago, instead of just making it from one loud play date to the next messy craft time, I decided to take a look at my sensory profile and see what kinds of things I'm sensitive to.  I knew I didn't like certain things, but I didn't exactly know why.  One day, I took a Sensory Profile test at a training I went to, and it was eye opening!

If you were to do a search for "sensory processing 'anything'" you would find thousands of results for sites about children, but few for what adults go through.  Guess what?  We all have sensitivities, a Sensory Profile, so to speak.  We all have a small level to a large problem of some sensory stuff going on with ourselves.

I'm going to share with you some of things about me and my "Sensory Profile" as a parent...know that you are not alone if things bother you, if you can't deal, or if your environment makes you feel a little twitchy sometimes :)

Must Have Quiet...or Quiet-er

How do you handle crowds, loud restaurants, or concerts?  How about if several noises are going off at once- a car alarm, a dog barking, the timer on the oven, several people talking all while the TV is on.  If this sounds like your worst nightmare, then you are like me, a mom who is a bit auditory defensive.
My three children all love to sing.  They are precious when they sing all sorts of made up songs and have that cute falsetto thing that kids do when they are trying to sing pretty.  My heart loves it; however, my poor ears cannot take it.  At all.  My Mia will say to her brother this exact phrase...often, "Bubs, you know that hurts mom's ears and makes her feel crazy!"  That sweet Bubs cannot handle going more than a few minutes without an outburst of sound, singing, or nonsense noises for his own sensory reasons.  Oh my ears, though, when he does that, it feels like 100 needles stabbing me in my eardrum!  My head gets stuffy, my shoulders tense and I just want to escape.

How does this affect my Mom-Behavior?  I want to Shut. It. Down.  I want to do whatever it takes to make the noises stop.  I will try to parent the loudness out of them.  But, of course, that doesn't work...again, their own sensory issues are at play.  Sometimes my head hurts just trying to police all of them trying to talk to me at once.  I know they all need me; I know they all need attention.  But sometimes it feels like juggling too many spike-covered balls at once and I cannot deal.

Instead of trying to get better at the juggling, which I spent many days striving to do, I simply get what I need by stepping away.  I have also been known to plug my own ears with my fingers and steal my kids noise-reducing ear muffs! (It's not always mature, but it gets the job done.  Sometimes gives us all a good laugh!)

Need to Eliminate All The Clutter!

There is a reason that I spend thirty minutes deciding on the right hotel when going on vacation.  I don't do a lot of patterns, too many bright colors, and I cannot relax in a sea of floral prints.  I used to think I was too picky about aesthetics.  Then I realized, when I took the sensory profile, that I scored high for visual plane and vestibular sensitivities.

Now, for me, the whiter, the more peaceful; the simpler the better!  I finally get to live in a home where it's mostly light neutrals, muted accents, and spacious enough that our small amount of stuff makes it seem like clutter cannot happen.  But with three small people, and if I'm being honest, some messy adults :), papers are here, there, and everywhere, pencil shavings, wrappers, clothes in every room!, everyone's stuff all up on our bed, just so many little tiny things all over the place!!  I handle it well until I don't; then I go a bit cray cray.

When the house feels like it's closing in on me and I get overwhelmed by the clutter, it can hurt right behind my eyes and I have to go to a happy place when my kids bring home and unload their back packs full of papers and miscellaneous sticky things.  I don't do heights and I don't do over-loaded visual planes.  My ideal Instagram feed is a bunch of white squares with neutral things on them...sometimes just scrolling through IG gives me that pressure behind my eyes.  I love seeing peoples' stories and lovely pictures, but after a while it's too much visually.  I still use my finger every now and then when I read too.  Yes, I am 33.  These can be signs of a visual sensitivity- not visual impairment, like needing glasses- but a sensitivity with processing what you see.  The vestibular and propreoceptive senses, the ones that senses where you are in space and in motion, play into this as I sometimes feel like my cluttered home is an obstacle course I am bound to fail.. and many times do.

So when there are tiny things everywhere, like crumbs, or small pieces of paper (don't get me started on messy crafts with pipe cleaner bits and paint cups everywhere!), my brain kind of freaks out.  It's the most satisfying thing to vacuum for me.  I do it almost every day.  I may not do laundry but once a month, but I will vacuum!  Clutter for me, isn't just an annoyance, it hurts!  If I absolutely have to get work done I will throw a white blanket over four loads of un-put-away laundry on the couch so it's less visually stimulating!  If there are a lot of kid things in the floor I will shove them all in one pile so it feels like I can move around.  I have found ways to limit how this distracts me.

If the visual planes in my life are clear, bright, and un-cluttered, then my Mom-Behavior is great!  But my kids know that there are times when we all have to clean All The Things, and they are sort of used to it now.  We have made it a routine for the last few months to do this on Fridays before we have some sort of Shabbat and celebrate a Day of Rest on Saturday.  They still complain a bit, but they also now know that I'm a more pleasant Mom when it all gets clean and clear!

How about you?  Do you think you might have any sensory issues as a parent?  The Sensory Profile is a Clinical Assessment so there is nothing comparable available online.  However, I suggest reading Carol Kranowitz "The Out of Sync Child" link in my Resource Page under Sensory Ideas.  It has helpful questionnaires used for children, but also you can see for yourself some things you may have done as a child or put the questions into more adult terms. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What is it like to be a parent of children with sensory challenges?

In my brain, I carry around a catalogue of snippets of comments and conversations I've had with teachers, caregivers, relatives, all of whom have wanted the very best for my child, but simply were not aware of sensory issues.  In case you have ever felt alone as a parent of a sensory-challenged child, let me share with you some classic conversation gems.

If you have ever been one of these sweet people that have stopped me or my children, please know that I value you and completely understand where you were coming from!  I, myself, have had these thoughts before at some point about someone else's children, I'm sure.  Parents I gave dirty looks to when I was 17 and saw your child in Target, I'm SO sorry!  This is not about blame, but about shedding some light onto what it's like to be the parent of a child with special needs or sensory issues.

"Oh, ma'am, your children need to stop climbing on that."

This one is usually said in wherever there are lines or places of waiting.  Many kids who struggle to organize their little body's senses will seek out whole-body stimulating or organizing behaviors.  This, in plain English, is really just a lot of wiggling, climbing, constant movement, or perhaps the opposite- avoidant behaviors, screams when touched, won't set foot in a crowded store if you offered all the candy and gum in the world.  Typical stuff ;)
So naturally do my children climb that if you were to try to parent that behavior out of them, it would be just as effective as trying to parent them to not breathe.  It simply wouldn't work.
we used to have a no climbing on furniture rule....

"Can you use your inside voice, dear?"

No, actually Dear cannot use her inside voice, so so sorry.  Auditory processing difficulty can often look like a child who gets incredibly irritable when they are surprised by a noise that you or I wouldn't even think was very loud.  Fire engines and ambulance sirens can be Threat Level Midnight! But it also can look like a child who hears every single little sound- that pen that someone dropped while filling out their check two lanes over, the whir of the florescent lights, the beeps of the cash register, the voices of every single person all coming into their little brain like separate stories being read aloud to them all at once.  So to drown a bit of it out, or to hear her own voice Dear will yell-talk to you until the cows come home.  Taking in ALL that input, and trying to restrain her voice would be like you trying to thread a needle while you are running a crowded marathon!  I have tried enough exasperated times, when we are out and this is happening, to constantly remind her and practice her "inside voice".  Eventually, after the 17th loud public conversation, my face must show how tired I am and I see that creeping expression of shame enter that sweet 7 year old face.  No.  I just can't keep doing it.  I have decided that I'm just going to let her yell-talk.  Sorry world, if you are in a restaurant with us, I invite you to join our conversation as you probably will hear it from any seat in the house ;)!
[no child was exposed to excessive noise for this photo...she was enjoying the acting, although this is pretty spot on ;) ]

"Can't you just listen and behave?"

Ok, I'm guilty of saying this one myself....often.  It's hard for many to understand just how difficult it is for children- children who hear everything or who don't know how to feel their body or who can't stand how intense it feels to get touched- to simply listen to one stimulus.  That is what one voice is in their world- a tiny stimulus amidst 1000s of other things, all going on at once.  When my children don't listen to me 9 times out of 10 it's because they had several other things their brain was telling them to "listen to" at the same time.  My small voice cannot compete with that.

Yes, sometimes my kids are kids.  They are choosing to test limits and are seeing what they can get away with.  Sometimes they don't want to do something so they don't do it.  It's not entirely a sensory game.  But here's the thing- it's just that so, so much of the time they are trying, really, really hard, in their very complicated little world to do what is expected of them, to please us, to do the right thing! 

So if you have heard these things, or comments in a similar vein directed at you or your kiddos, or if you have said them yourself, I'm right there with you friend!

If you see kids like mine out at the store, your neighborhood, or in a classroom near you, know that they are really, really is their mom and dad!

If you think your child may have some difficulty with sensory processing, I would consult with an Occupational Therapist near you.  Many children who are adopted or fostered have experienced many risk factors that have impacted their brains ability to process sensory information: a difficult birth, mom had difficulty during pregnancy, early medial treatment, attachment trauma, abuse, and neglect all lead to some level of sensory difficulties!  Also, I'm continually updating my Resources Page where there is a Sensory Ideas section so check back often! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Banana Ice Cream Pie

From here on out, unless I'm telling you a story, I'm just going to forgo the pre-recipe bloggy bits and give you the goods straight away.  I never, ever read the blog posts with recipes in them (sorry fellow bloggers- I know you worked hard on those words!!)  All my recipes will be gluten free and mostly vegan as well for baked goods so you can count on that too.

Since I know you just want to know the recipe, I'll just be posting pics and recipe details going you go! <3

Banana Ice Cream Pie

vegan, gluten-free, can be nut free if omit walnuts
Easy Prep and ready to eat within 30 min-1 hour, No Bake


For the Crust:
  • 2 cups gluten free quick oats
  • 1/2 cup dairy free butter (I use Earth Balance)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup walnuts 
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
For the Ice Cream Filling:
  • 1/2 pint (1 cup) vanilla ice cream of choice (I use Luna and Larry's Vanilla Island
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk
  • 3 bananas, not over-ripe, one set apart and sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted
  • 1 container of dairy-free cool whip (I use So Delicious Cocowhip)


For the Crust:
  • Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until a dough-like ball forms.
  • Press into a 9" glass pie pan and freeze until ready to fill.
For the Filling:
  • Slice one of the three bananas and toss in some lemon juice.
  • Blend remaining ingredients (minus the coconut oil and the whip topping) together until smooth.
  • Slowly add the melted coconut oil in, while blending on low.
  • Place sliced bananas on the bottom of the frozen pie crust.
  • Pour the filling into the pie crust.
  • Let the filling set for about 30 minutes in Freezer, then spoon the coconut whipped topping onto the pie.
  • Store in the freezer until ready to eat.  It's best when thawed for about 15 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

On Depression and Anxiety

I hadn't thought about delving into my Season of Depression publicly before, but it happens to be National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week.  So why not?

Happy National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week!  An oxymoron if there ever was one ;)

Depression, Anxiety, Recovering from a Trauma, big or small...we all deal with this. In some form or another we all have experienced a time or are currently living through a time when The Fear and The Grief and The Overwhelm seem so so Strong!  For me, when my children first came home, we went from zero to three kids...instantly. 
I felt like I wasn't ever going to come out of the pit of The Overwhelm and Anxiety was my constant companion whispering new fears each day.  My adjustment went from survival to numbness to anxiety and into deep grief, and would cycle through again.  I no longer have the DSM codes memorized, but I'm pretty sure I qualified for a Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode (don't worry psych majors, it was without psychotic features of course ;).

I don't believe that these emotions, or what caused them, or even that time, were a "gift" or a "blessing in disguise".  But I am beginning to believe that the underpinnings of my anxiety have been Fuel and Fire for creative uprisings...the exciting things I have gotten to do, the people I have gotten to meet. And the future things I will get to do that will bring me Joy and Fulfillment. 

We cannot control what happens to us, but we can dive deeper into seeing our True Selves and valuing Who We Are.  I'm also beginning to understand depression is our TRUTH that the world needs to see and acknowledge, validate and help us bear.  For me, I didn't begin to see relief at the end of the tunnel until I excavated and admitted hard truths to Trusted Others in my life.

So often Depression and Anxiety are birthed from a Lack or Denial of Truth:

The true us...Who are we?
The truth of what happened...Have we experienced trauma and no one has heard it fully?  Do we keep pushing it away?
The hard questions we don't want to ask....What if we are lacking?  What if we were responsible?  What does this grief mean about me?
The people we don't know how to reconcile with....What if we had obvious pain, yet others refused to acknowledge our pain, or even acknowledge us!

And yet, so often Depression and Anxiety reveal Truth

Some Hard Truths of My Depression the I have discovered along the way:
I was not a "Good Mom"
I was not a "Good Wife"
I couldn't rescue well and be their Rescue
I couldn't heal them fully and be their Healer
I was not all the things I wanted to be for them and for myself
I didn't really know who I was yet

The Easy Truth of My Depression, however, or what I'm leaning into now, is discovering this:
I am Eryn Jones.  I have a true self that is valuable, in spite of how well I can or don't use my gifts.  I have inherent value as a person.  I'm unique.  
Also, I'm just like you!  I experience shame, grief, loss, anger, sadness, fear, and the whole ray of emotions common to us humans. 

So Dear Friend, if you are in one of these times, have experienced loss, or are living in the middle of An Overwhelm, I want you to know you are not alone What if these things, these things that result from hard times, traumas, and loss, these feelings that feel like they might over-take us, what if they can't be "stronger" than us if we join forces?  What if these feelings, these emotions, happen not in order to, but for the possibility of us to experience more Freedom?  The Freedom that comes when we Overcome and use these emotions to our gain?  The Freedom that comes when we Speak these things to Another and the feelings feel a little... well, less? 

Today, let's live those truths, shall we?  Let's discover and live Who We Are, you and me, separate from all the things we can and cannot do!  Lets acknowledge these hard feelings we have to Someone Safe.   Let's say to a friend who is having a hard time, "Me, too! I know how you feel!"   Let's embrace both our common humanity and our individuality.  We all have a little bit of depression and anxiety in us.   Some of us live with it Full Blown, and others of us live with it in pieces, short moments.
This is my "Me Too" to all of you.  And may you also feel a little lighter today as you share and lean into the pain and the Truth that is Yours and yours alone <3

Monday, April 25, 2016

You Do Not Have to Be Good

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.....

Mary Oliver, from the poem "The Wild Geese"

I have written about Self Care in the past, right?  When talking with other moms I like to soap-box and wax eloquently on this topic.  Yet, it has always been hard for me to do self care!  Perhaps it has been because I have understood Self Care, but not Self Compassion.  For the first time in my adult life I'm beginning to understand that there is such a thing as the Mystery of Self Compassion.
Do you sit and think sometimes that there is such a thing as a "Good Mother"?  Do you spend a large amount of your day trying to figure out ways to achieve the belief that you are included in the rare breed of that title: Good Mom?  Not sure?  Try saying to yourself: "Eryn (your name, not mine;), you are a Good Mom!"

How did that feel?

I'm learning how to sit with that.  To be with that statement, letting it seep into the pores a bit.  But the first time I heard it from another person I cringed.  The first time I said it to myself my body had a reaction- like, "Nuh uh!  That's not truth you crazy!"

What is it about that word that makes it so cringe-worthy?  Good.  You are Good.  Good Mom.  Good Friend.  Good Person.

I think there is an opposing force that we don't ever want to talk about.
This Thing will keep us striving for doing better, trying and trying, hoping against rationale that our circumstances will change and maybe then we will feel better This thing loves to show up the minute things don't go well or according to plan.  This thing, this silent epidemic, will keep us judging each other, then cycling back around to harshly judging ourselves, then back to judging other mothers and women with Comparison; the spiral continues.
It's not just a "bad feeling"; it's a Bad Being type of Thing.

This Thing is called Shame.
Shame is a lie that roots itself so deeply inside that we don't recognize It Is A Lie, like a Cancer that our body doesn't acknowledge so it begins to attack it's true self.  We don't know what is Good or Bad in us when we feel Shame come on.  We don't know what to do or How to be.  We can cope with it, survive with it, but cannot overcome it alone.

So here is my proposition for us women, mothers, friends, daughters, sisters:  Let's stand together against Shame!  Here is the thing about Shame, it's Achilles heel:  It cannot stand to be spoken.

To stand against Shame is to Speak it.
Tell your story..."yours and I will tell you mine".
Let's tell one another, "You do not have to be good!"
You are Good.
You do not have to earn anything by "walk(ing) through the desert on your knees for a hundred miles, repenting"!!
You cannot earn Who You Are

{Now here is where I would insert the following question: "Well you have no idea what I said yesterday to my idea how I clue how mean I was to my husband last night....What if my actions are not good??!?......How can I be good when I do these things??....This is madness talking!  Shut. It. DOWN!"}

In response to this doubter (usually me!) I would say this:  
It. Doesn't. Matter.
I have done that before too. (Hear me!  Yes you... whatever you just thought in your head, I'm sure I have done that before too!)
I have felt that way before too.
Repairing is truly powerful.  And I know you repair well.  Repairing is where the Good Stuff is anyways.
Actions do not define you.  You are youWho you are is who you are.  Valuable, Precious, Destined, Special, The Only You.
The formula for doing things better and feeling better is simply Self Compassion.
The way to get to Self Compassion is to tell your Shame to your trusted people.
Speak your Shame and watch it die.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Super Yum Blueberry Muffins, gluten-free and vegan

Ok, so I know the "super yum" may seem excessive.  Not so!  This new GF flour blend that I just started using from Young Living is off the chain!!  Do people still say that?  Well I do ;)  I have enjoyed baking again after a long drought of not making anything and this flour is why!

It's Non-GMO, no preservatives, the seeds are carefully curated for the 5 flour blend, and it contains ancient grains.  I really like the flavor of it better than any other GF brand I have tasted thus far.  It's a Pancake and Waffle mix, but I have been using it for biscuits and other baking.  You know those nights you come home and you are so tired you cannot remember how to cook?  I have been using this flour to save some meals:  these muffins + chicken sausage + a thrown together salad, some chicken broth with some dollops of this thrown in for chicken + dumplings, or even pancakes for dinner!

Do you know about the giveaway that includes this flour, one of my favorite sensory books from my Resource Page, and a CNS supporting oil called Valor?  Head over to my Instagram page for a chance to win this!  If you want it now, you can get started with Young Living here.  Or you can email me at pumpkinspantry (at) gmail (dot) com and we can chat :)
Fun Giveaway with this flour over on Pumpkin's Pantry Instagram   
Many long-term readers will know that I used to bake professionally.  That means I went to Culinary School, was trained in classic French baking techniques.  Which also means working with gluten flours, dairy, and eggs, all of which we no longer eat in our home due to kids' and adult's food sensitivities/allergies.  So basically all my culinary knowledge had to be re-learned :) 
What I love about this flour is that it contains a balance of 5 different flours when combined makes for a highly structural flour (gluten=structure in baking).  This is why I would recommend it:  It tastes great while not crumbling ;)  And if you are a frequent gluten-free baker, that is a big deal!
check out that not-crumbliness ;)
Would love to hear from any of you if you have tried this flour blend and what you like about it!

Super Yum Blueberry Muffins

gluten-free, vegan friendly, nut-free, corn-free....basically most of the "frees" :)
Makes: 12 muffins


  • 1 cup organic blueberries, I used frozen
  • 1 1/2 cups (180g) Gluten-Free Pancake & Waffle Mix from Young Living
  • 1/2 (60 g) cup potato starch or tapioca starch, plus 1 Tbsp extra, set aside
  • 1/2 Tbsp aluminum-free Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp egg replacer (my new favorite is Neat Egg)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar, or other granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free butter substitute or coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup dairy-free yogurt, I use coconut milk yogurt (can sub full-fat coconut milk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar)


  • Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  • Mix the blueberries and 1 T starch in a bowl until the blueberries are all coated.
  • Mix the 6 dry ingredients (flour- salt) in a bowl, whisking all dry ingredients together.
  • Melt butter if needed and add both the butter/oil and yogurt to the dry ingredients and combine well with spatula
  • Using an ice cream scoop or spatula, scoop into greased muffin tin- Yields 12 Large Muffins.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Detox Sweetheart Smoothie

Hey friends!  Wondering why I haven't been posting as much here lately?  I have been hanging out a lot on Instagram- that's why!  Follow me @pumpkinspantry for even more recipes and resources.  Also working on updating the Resources page and merging it with recipes to make everything easy to find!

If you have been following me on IG, you know that I am doing a cleanse/ detox of sorts.  I'm not following a specific plan and I will be posting on it soon, but like all things for our individual health- it is my personal plan and may not work well for everyone!  It is comprehensive and has been tweaked over several years of researching what is best for my body.  But I do feel like I have gleaned some universal things that I want to share so be looking for that soon.  I feel terrific and am 9 days in!

Part of my detox plan is no sugar, meaning no sugar of any type (honey, turbinado, coconut sugar, maple syrup- nothin!).  So today's recipe is helping me have a little something sweet, is full of antioxidants, and is still within my cleansing limits!  It's adapted from my Big Pink Smoothie recipe from a few years back.  Enjoy it this month as it is perfect for the lovely month of February <3.

Detox Sweetheart Smoothie

serves 1-2 people


  • 1 1/2 cups non-dairy yogurt, divided (I used home-made coconut milk yogurt in mine)
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste, divided
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh cherries (I use a mix of frozen tart cherries and fresh org. rainier cherries)
  • 1 cup frozen beets (yes beets ;) you can find them in the freezer section all cut up and ready to go!)
  • 3 drops lime vitality from Young Living (or regular lime essential oil or juice of 1/2 lime)
  • frozen banana to sweeten- optional


  • In high powered blender, like Vitamix, mix half the yogurt, cherries, beets, and 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste until completely blended and smooth, stir in lime essential oil at the end.
  • Empty into container.  Then mix the remaining yogurt, 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, and a handful of ice or frozen banana if using instead of ice.  If you want the bottom part to be purely white, then mix this first and switch these two steps- I wanted it to be a light pink so I just mixed it in the Vitamix after I emptied out my other mixture.
  • Place into glasses with heaviest mixture on bottom and enjoy with stainless straws!

Powered by Blogger.
Blogger Template By Designer Blogs