Adventures in Gluten (and Sugar) Freedom from a southern blogger chick!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mudbugs, cookbooks, and a pink baseball bat

We are back in Milledgeville, some 2300 miles the wiser, and our road-trip Christmas was really kinda cool. We didn't have too many incidents, the traffic was decent, and Santa found Jeffrey all the way in Plano, Texas.

Here are some of my favorite parts of the trip, and some pictures.

Christmas Dinner and presents with Papa and Mary:

We went to Atlanta first to spend time with my Dad and Mary. We had a wonderful dinner at Woodfire Grill (my favorite place) and opened lots of cool presents afterward. The time was wonderful, precious, and a great way to start the holidays.
Papa and Mary are in the second picture down there.

First stop: Dinner with Dave Dave and Angelicious:

Dave Davies is one of my closest friends, and his son Graham is one of Jeffrey's closest friends. We bonded when we were doctoral students in the 1990s and needed a lot of PPDs (poor poor dears). We stopped in Hattiesburg on the way to Houston and had dinner with Dave, Graham and Angela (Dave's wife and my new BFF). It was too short a visit, but we had a great time. Jeffrey got to spend the night with Graham, too. BONUS all around. I didn't take pictures, but I did see Dave in his running shorts.

The story of the Christmas cookies:

My sweet husband Randy planned a little surprise for me at our first stop in Houston. We were visiting his (now my) dear friends Paula and Bob Clemens, and their kids TIm and Katie for two night. While I'm crazy about Bob, this is mostly about Paula. She and I bonded at our wedding, and I was looking forward to seeing her again. Randy, though, had mentioned how sad it was that I wouldn't get any of her spectacular Christmas cookies. Paula has the baking gene, you know...

So a few weeks ago, Randy emailed Paula and asked her if she might consider trying to make me some GF Sugar Cookies. And Paula, being the love that she is, said sure. He sent the recipe and she went shopping for the GF ingredients. As she told me, "Randy knows me well enough to know he could ask, and he also knew I'd do it." So Paula went on a GF adventure -- she did everything she could do make her kitchen GF for me to eat it (including buying Pamela's Pancake Mix and letting me cook them -- she's a smart cook!) And dinner was totally GF too. AND we made Chocolate Chip Cookies with the leftover Pamela's mix, and they were delicious, too (I have some left). We had a great time with them. Too short.

But the Christmas cookies were the best. I almost cried when I saw them! Just for me. THAT is what I call a friend.

And they gave me Bette Hagman book for a Christmas present! One I didn't have!

The story of the pink baseball bat:

The award for the COOLEST Christmas present this year goes to my sweet husband, Randy, who gave me a pink baseball bat from a backup catcher with the Braves, no. 8, Bryan Pena. Now why a pink bat? On Mother's Day, MLB players use pink bats and sell them, and the money goes to breast cancer research. I made an offhand comment in WalMart in the summer that I wanted a REAL pink bat, not some fake WalMart bat, and viola, my husband bought me a bat. IN JULY. And shipped it in a box to Texas to surprise me.

Made up for the fact that I somehow got glutened on Christmas day.

A visit with the Smith Sisters and a trip to Snider Plaza and Penzeys:

All I really wanted for Christmas was a chance to shop at Penzeys and at my favorite store in Snider Plaza, Flavors from Afar is a great little food store, and I asked Randy for a shopping spree there. I bought a bag full of goodies, had a great lunch at The Half Shell, and mostly enjoyed the lovely company of Jess and Lindsey Smith. Jess is Ethel to my Lucy. We had a great time trying the hand cream in the health food store, but mostly, it was great to see her and hug her neck and sing "Down in Louisiana, we have a Cajun Christmas." Because it always comes back to the Steel Mags. (P.S. I only spent $51 in Penzeys.) Oh, and I got to meet Randy's high school friend Barry Bragg -- heard such good things over the years, happy now to know him.

Great Sushi with the family:

There was a cajun crawfish roll, made with CORNSTARCH not flour, and which was delicious. And we had a great time with Reagan, Chris, Nick and Emily. And Jeffrey had a beer.

The story of my cool brother-in-law Ron and his awesome presents:

I have married into a great family, and I had a great time with them all this Christmas -- they were great to Jeffrey and me, and we are lucky to have such a wonderful family.

But a big shoutout goes to my crazy brother-in-law Ron, who buys absolutely the most amazing Christmas presents. LAST year he bought the Ralph Gizburg Eros magazines that have sparked my research. THAT was just too cool. He also knows of my old cookbook collection, and he always sends me old cookbooks he finds at estate sales and bookstores. My collection has grown with some remarkable cookbooks. He also buys me stuff with Ginger in the title -- soap, a B movie poster that is framed in the Tampa house, a DVD this Christmas. Cool. When I had surgery, he sent me an antique cookbook (and a GF Bette Hagmann one) to read and relax with. He's that kind of thoughtful.

But this year, he outdid himself -- He got me FIVE Bette Hagman gluten free cookbooks, and another for good measure. I am in GF Cookbook heaven. He will never know how much I appreciate this -- Not only is this something I need, it's something I wanted and will use. He takes my situation very seriously, and I appreciate that. I am working on a great birthday present for him, but it will be tough to top his presents.

Another thing I absolutely love about him is he will go into a food store and wander. We spent about an hour in Central Market, and he bought an orange cauliflower. Why? Because he'd never had one. I like that kinda foodie thinking.

The story of 14 minutes with Carolyn and Kerry Moore:

Carolyn and Kerry Moore are two of the most wonderful people in the world, and they are friends I cherish from Monroe. Carolyn was there for me on day in Kiroli Park when doctoral studies had me about to crack. She is that kind of friend. I love her dearly, and her husband Kerry is a wonderful man.

We were lucky they were in Dallas on the way to Frisco, and we saw them for 14 minutes at the Half Price Books coffee house. I could have stood there and hugged Carolyn for all those 14 minutes. I hope they will come see us in Tampa. They loved meeting Randy. And they couldn't believe Jeffrey. I remember when Kerry tried to baptize Jeffrey in the coin fountain outside the Morrison's Cafeteria in Pecanland Mall.....

And that night, we got to meet up with two more of Randy's high school friends, Bret and Angie Carroll and Rocky and Joanne Willett. While it was a delight to meet Bret and Angie and see Rocky and Joanne again, I got glutened that night at the WORST Mexican restaurant I've ever been to in my life.

The story of my visit with my sister Betty:

I have mentioned before that I have four "adopted" sisters -- Susan Goggins (aka the author Raven Hart), Janet Richardson, Angelita Ellis in Belize, and Betty Swanson in Monroe, Louisiana. Betty is the associate pastor (The Rev. Betty Swanson, thank you) at Lea Joyner Memorial Methodist Church in Monroe,.

Her son Raymond is my son Jeffrey's best friend (he has two -- Raymond and Graham Davies, mentioned above -- and he saw both of them on this trip. Glorious reunions for Jeffrey).

Anyway, Betty and I share a special, special bond. We hugged and both screamed out at the same time, "I can't believe you're here!" Betty is undergoing treatment for breast cancer now, and I wish I could have been there for her -- I wish I could be there NOW for her. But she is never far from my thoughts, and always in my prayers. We visited all afternoon and evening, and ended up in Target shopping. Just like old times...may it not be so long til the next visit. And I got to see her wonderful daughter Amanda, and especially her husband Ray. He's pretty great! LOVE them all. It was like old times, only better :-)

Last but not least, MUDBUGS:

I had great boiled crawfish twice on this trip. The first five pounds was at the Boudin House in Breaux Bridge and the second was the Cypress Inn in Monroe (our former home. Also the first place I ate dinner in Monroe when I interviewed therein 1992). I don't miss much about Louisiana -- I miss Betty, I miss Carolyn, I miss my church Lea Joyner, and I MISS CRAWFISH. And I also miss a good local Mardi Gras celebration.... But I had my fill of the spicy red crawfish -- even if the second batch did have a bit too much MSG for my sensitive system. They were all yummy.

I know this was quite a travelogue, but it really was a trip for which to be thankful. I don't know if I have the energy to do it again any time soon....but it was a blast.

Much love, and Here's to the happy holidays!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Home, Safe.

I will fill in more in the next day or two. But we're home in MIlledgeville, tired, but safe.

Much love, with tales to tell,

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hit the road, Jack....

That's how I feel right now. We're packing tonight for a trip to Texas for the holidays. Randy, Jeffrey and I head out tomorrow after Jeffrey's Christmas party. We have a few more errands to do, and a little more packing, but we should be done and ready to haul tomorrow.

Let's just all hope it fits in the car!

Jeffrey is trying to bring every monster truck and every DVD he owns (who cares about the clothes). He's in three small suitcases PLUS his enormous backpack. Most of that will go on the back seat with him. He'll have to make do.. Randy and I are in TWO suitcases, one an overnight, one a big one. PLUS we have three large bags of presents (One for Jeffrey, Two for Miller family). PLUS I'm packing a cooler with cold packs and GF goodies, just in case I find myself in a pickle. OH, and the old fart drug case.

And Randy, Jeffrey and I will go rolling down the highway...someone pack the bungee cords and duct tape. I have a feeling we're gonna need them at least a couple of times this trip.

Much of this is to say I am going to be on hiatus from my blog until I get back from the trip (unless something miraculous and bloggable happens). Here is what I want to say:
•I wish you all peace on earth, many joyful moments, and plates of GF goodies for the holiday. Merry Christmas. Remember the real reason for the season, ok?
•Jenn Hill Watson, my dear former student, is going to give birth any day now (see that full moon coming on? I'm tellin ya...Dec. 23, but Joy might be right with the 21st). At any rate, keep Jenn, Danny, and baby Tyler Reed in your good thoughts and prayers for safe delivery.
•Happy First Christmas to my adopted sweet grandbaby Hendley Caroline Boucek, and Happy Second Christmas to that beautiful Addison Grace Peterson. And Rachel, I hope the twins have a delightful Christmas -- this one will be really big for you!
•To all my GF blogger buddies, and youse knows whose you is, HAPPY GF Christmas. I might get to meet another one of you (I Hope). Who says great cookies can't be GF? And there are always pecans, right Stevie?

So that's a wrap....Much love, Merry Christmas, and if you see me on the highway to gluten freedom, be sure to wave and say HOWDY! I'll see ya when I get back.
Much love,

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A cookie roundup for the non baker (A Sunday Blessing)

Today's 9 days til Christmas blog is dedicated to my friends with the baking gene, which, say it all together, sadly, I lack. I am not posting recipes right now, but you'll find directions to them here.

Last night, we got home from Indiana, and I finally, carefully, opened my care package of cookies from Melanie in Indy. I didn't open it at the hotel (I was kinda mad. My favorite movie was on TV - It's a Wonderful Life - but Randy didn't really want to watch it all AND he made fun of my favorite scene. And instead of standing up for myself or going to the lobby, I was a mean old baby and sulked. I was SURE I told him before he married me I need to see it all this time of year. At least twice.)

I carefully carried the cookies through security (checked first, ready to check them in case I couldn't take them home) and then brought them carefully on the plane. I put them under my seat. They were 14K gold to me.

We finally got home around 5 p.m. and had to fetch Jeffrey and get dinner. Pouring rain, etc. Dampened my mood. Everything was so demanding. I was ready for a break.

Back from dinner, I sat myself in the big chair and I smiled prettily at Randy (ok, I tried) as I opened the box bearing my Christmas goodie treats. It was TIME, Daddy. It was TIME. I mentioned to sweet, understanding Randy that these were MINE since he could get treats anywhere.

I lifted the box lid. Glory hallelujah! I had cookies fit for a queen.

Melanie had already told me there were GF brownie bites in there, so I handed one of those to Randy because I'm nicer than I look. And then I ate:
A turtle
Two Snowballs
A Magic Cookie Bar
Three little trees.
A pecan tassie

And there are some left!

Words cannot express how much I appreciated the cookies themselves, and the gesture behind them. Melanie, thank you again!

If you're looking for some good cookie recipes, go to The turtles are near the top, and there are two cookie posts at least!

I couldn't do this post today without noting the holiday contributions of four of my bestest blogger buddies:

My dear Gluten-Free Steve (love HIM!) has awesome cookies linked from David's site. Anything made with a York Peppermint Patty is good by me! (I am Peppermint Patty in Charlie Brown. That's me.)

And my Southern Blogger chick buddy, Carrie, the Ginger Lemon Girl -- cookie roundup there! Big hugs to my southern sister in gluten freedom!

And my Texas buddy Cassandra, who is amazing (and whom I hope to meet next week when we're in Dallas), well, she has all kinds of goodies on her blog.
She has some great ideas for last-minute homemade gifts! (big hug to you and those cute little boys!)

Sweet Kate of Gluten free Gobsmacked has naked men on her site! OK, cookie men. And the greatest candy. I love it. Check it out. (xoxo chickie)

And a special shoutout to my friend Alexsandra who was going to COMMISSION me some cookies! Her blog is so inspirational -- it makes me think. I love it!

So that's it. I did a roundup of cookie roundups. It's the closest as I'm going to get to posting a recipe. But you can count on me for improvision. I'll save that for tomorrow or Tuesday.

Much love, minus the baking gene,

Friday, December 14, 2007

Blogger buddies and care packages

We're still in Indianapolis, but I wanted to write and tell a special story.

One of my blogger friends, Melanie of The Gluti Girls, lives here in Indy. When she found out we were passing within a MILE of her house, she suggested a safe place to eat dinner. I suggested we dine together.

Melanie didn't feel great, but she sent her lovely husband Steve to the restaurant WITH A BOX OF COOKIES FOR ME! She knows I am missing the baking gene because she reads here...BUT anyway, Steve showed up with cookies and asked if he could join us for dinner. We were delighted to dine with hiim -- the place was very nice, and I don't anticipate any reaction.
We had a great time chatting and getting to know each other.

After dinner, Steve called and Melanie was feeling OK, so we rode over and got to sit around her lovely kitchen table, and we met her cute puppies and talked Gluten free food. I meant to take a picture for the blog with the cell phone camera, but we got so caught up in talking...time got away and we had to run. The rental car was due back at 8 p.m.

We're heading home tomorrow, and I'm kinda sad. I would have loved to have crashed the big party :-). I would have at least gone over and helped you chopped veggies and Velveta, Melanie.

You know, we're lucky out here in the GF blogosphere. We make friends. We share stories. Our lives become richer. Georgia's not nearly so far away from Indiana out here in the blog roll.

And when we're very lucky, we get care packages with GF cookies!

Much love,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

GF Pizza = manna from heaven

My sweet husband did some research and found a GF Pizza in Bloomington, Indiana for me.

Lennie's =

I am bowing to you, chef Fred Manion. You created GF crust that is so tasty, no one would know it was GF. WONDEFUL STUFF. We had ours with two kinds of sausage and mushroom.

YUM. I was in heaven. First pizza in about six months.

Also, I am bowing in the direction of the Grant Street Inn, which was so gracious in making sure the breakfast buffet offerings were GF for me. I had a delish egg dish, homemade hashbrowns, and bacon. YUM. And while they have more those who ingest gluten, it was lovely all the same. It's a beautiful (and reasonably priced) B&B just blocks from the IU campus (where we're doing research).

I met a lovely woman and her IU student daughter -- LSS her husband was diagnosed with CD just last week, so I told her about the blog, the blogroll, and the CD forum. If she comes by here, HI again, and I wish you good luck in your life conversion! Just holla if you need anything.

Much love. Did I mention it's cold in Indiana? Damn....

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Eating Out is Risky

I've been eating at home now for about five months, eating out so rarely that I've had very few incidents of glutening.

But Saturday night, I had the mother of all glutening. In addition to all the gastric distress, headache, aches, you GF friends know, I got a rash this time. A big one. It hit my feet, hands, arms and knees. I am still itching from it. It has made me blisterty and scraped all over, and it's really kind of nasty. I feel like a puppy dog with fleas.

From a GF standpoint (as this is a blog about GF issues) though, the big problem with my being glutened was -- it was at a restaurant with a dedicated GF menu! A GFRAP association place. I got glutened (again) at PF Chang's.

I wrote them a strongly worded email (twice in six months) and explains my horror that this could happen. I would understand it at Ruby Tuesday's (which doesn't try) or Applebees, but Chang's? Dedicated GF menu. CLUELESS kitchen? Waitstaff? I don't know.

What did surprise me was that I got both an email and a phone call from the store's lead management. He promised me a letter to tell me what he was going to do at the store. And he offered me a refund. I thought that was nice. I didn't want that, mind you, but he did offer me what I DID want most -- a promise he'd work on the kitchen at the Tampa PF Chang's. If it helps ONE know.

But it got me thinking: When we get glutened by a GF Menu, is anything safe? I don't hardly know what to trust.

I don't know how to feel right now. We're on the road next week for 11 days, and I'll be away from my GF kitchen. I'm truly scared of how I'm going to feel. Right now, I feel horrible.

On the cookie front: I was really wanting some holiday cookies, and I found some decent GF offerings in Tampa. Pamela's Anise Almond and Chocolate Biscotti are wonderful. I could see easily dipping them in some chocolate to make them more festive, but the anise ones tasted like those my Dad and Mama used to make. And Enjoy Life Snickerdoodles! Not my Mama's recipe, but a lovely cinnamon flavor. I loved them! They could be wonderful warmed up for company with some ice cream.

If I don't blog in the next couple days, it's because we're in Bloomington, Indiana at the Kinsey (yes THAT Kinsey) institute library doing research. Randy has found a GF Pizza Place in Bloomington, and we're staying at a B&B that knows what GF means. It's a start...

Happy week.
Much love, Ging

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A most wonderful season (A Sunday Blessing)

I know it's Saturday, but tomorrow is as booked a today! I'm in Tampa (a month with Randy! YAY) and we've been visiting friends and shopping for family for Christmas.

It's good to be home. That is my blessing right now. I miss Jeffrey but soon we'll all be reunited.

Mostly, though, I've been eating out, shopping, and playing with my honey. YAY.

Yesterday was Randy's office party, and it was so nice. He told them about my GF issues, and they went out of their way to get me a piece of grilled chicken, plus I had veggies and a salad, too. And three Chicken Wings. Did you know that Original Buffalo Wings from Anchor Bar in Buffalo are sold by mailorder on a cold pack? AND they're GF? I called them and asked. They don't flour them before frying, and there's no gluten in the sauce (they read it to me on the phone). You can get 50 wings sent to your door for $90 -- if you're into the authentic, it sounds like a lot of fun. And they were SO GOOD.

Last night I had a GF moment of joy -- thai food. Spring rolls made with rice paper (no wheat or soy sauce) and then pad thai with seafood (no flour or soy sauce. I also tasted Randy's satay and curry. YUM. That the place was willing to check ingredients for me made me happy, and I didn't get a bit sick that I could tell. I ate way too much, though. Then we made a Stein Mart run and went to Tuesday Morning AND Borders.

It was surreal today. It was 90 degrees and people were in shorts and flip flops. We should have put the top down (I got the Mustang cleaned up for Randy for a Christmas present). But we had fun. First we went to the Ybor City Market, and I did buy some honey. It is locally produced AND honestly, it was so distinctive. I could TASTE the difference in the seasons. Yum. Then we did a little GF shopping. I discovered Pamela's Anise flavored biscotti -- anise cookies are a staple in my family at Christmas. This might soothe that urge. And Snickerdoodles! I hope they're good.

We went to the mall (more surreal) Where I saw people in red and green tank tops. OK! And Santa flip flops. I won't say what we've bought, since I think some of our family reads my blog. But we're almost done. We have a lot to do these next couple weeks, that's for sure, so we need to get the shopping done.

We're also enjoying time with our friends. We are having dinner with Larry tonight (he was a reader at our wedding) and visiting with Tim and Robin tomorrow. Monday I get to see Andrew Aidan Humphrey (baby son of Uncle Buck to the Colonnade friends)and I can't wait to hold this little fella. I love it. He's one of Randy's former students. I don't think Randy is going to be an Aggie (adopted grandpa) like I always want to be an Aggie. Partly, I'm guessing, because he went to Texas.

As I look out our window, I see the grapefruit tree hanging with tons of beautiful pink grapefruit. We'll be picking those Tuesday morning to take on the trip and give out here and in between. They're looking good. SO are my two lemons.

I miss my Tampa home, its stores and its shopping, when I'm not here. I have fun these last two days.

Much love and happy holidays! This is part of it, right?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Makin' Christmas

We had the office Christmas party, and I took my admin class out to lunch today. Tomorrow's my official last day of school for the year. Tonight, I made Christmas presents for my co-workers.

Things are really LEAN this year, more so than the last 10 years. With the hospital bills, etc. I am really streteched to the limit.

So I decided to make my Famous Jambalaya Mix for everyone. People have liked it in the past -- one friend asked for a big jar of it. So it is tried and true. I guess I've been making it for about seven years now!

I thought I'd share the recipe if you were in the mood for a hostess gift (I bought little airtight buckets at the Dollar Tree for mine) or a neighbor present. I'll also include the instructions.

Jammin' Jambalaya Mix (P.S. Naturally GF)
(per batch)

1.5 cups of long grain plain rice (NOT Minute Rice)
1 heaping T. dried onion
I heaping T. dried parsley
1 heaping T. dried green or red peppers (not hot peppers) (I used a red pepper/garlic mix)
1 heaping T. dried boullion powder (I use a GF tomato blend but beef or chicken is also good)
Optional 1 bay leaf
1/2 T. dried celery leaves (not salt or seed)
1 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/8 t. dried cayenne or red pepper flakes (hot stuff)

Mix the above in a tightly sealed container.


The enclosed container has close to 2 cups of rice mixture. You can divide it in half for two meals, or make one extra grande sized pot of jambalaya. One scant cup of the mix will serve 3-4 people. The whole thing will serve 6-8 people.

In a heavy bottomed Dutch over, brown the meats of your choice in olive oil. You can use cubed boneless chicken or turkey breast, sliced smoked sausage (even andouille if you're being authentic), or chopped or cubed ham. You can use whole cut up chicken pieces, leftover turkey, or even pork cubes. Figure six-eight oz. of meat per person. (So you might brown two chicken breasts with a package of smoked sausage for 3-4 people).

Brown the meat and leave it in the bottom of the pan. Add rice mix. Remember, one cup of the rice mix will serve three - four people; the entire container will serve between 6-8.

Stir rice mixture with meat to release spices and soften rice. When rice is well coated and sizzling, add TWO CUPS of water per cup of rice and a full can (14.5 oz) diced cut tomates with juice. If you don't like chunky tomatoes, add a 14 oz can of tomato sauce. If you're a snob about tomato in Jambalaya, add another cup of water. We can debate this later.

Bring mix to a boil and reduce to low heat and simmer til rice is soft and jambalaya is thick. It will take about 20 minutes. (I have a trick I use with rice. I fold two sheets of paper towers and put them under the lid (over the right) so the rice steams. Be careful not to let the paper towel catch on fire, but this is a great method for fluffy rice.)

If the jambalaya is too mild for you, season with hot sauce.


I enclosed little bottles of hot sauce for the friends at work who like hot sauce. I am hoping they'll like it. If you try it, I hope you'll like it too. I keep it on hand for Jeffrey -- he loves Jumbo Liar.

I hope you have a great day!

Much love,

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Students to be proud of (A Sunday Blessing)

Around here we're swamped with the end of the semester woes. I'm trying hard to get in the holiday spirit, but it's hard this year -- post surgery, I'm still feeling the pinch of doctor and hospital bills. It's going to be a LEAN and handmade holiday, for sure.

But I get a good, warm feeling when I think about the work of two of my class, and I wanted to take time out to say something about my PR and Admin Class, and especially my PR Writing Class.

One Tuesday, my PR Admin class put together a world-class Relay For Life Kickoff. The planned, pitched, fundraised, worked, and executed this even, which was attended by more than 100 community leaders.

The best part? The even was free of charge to the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life in Baldwin County. In turn, we made a contribution of more than $800 (cash and in kind) toward the fight against cancer.

I am so proud of the Newtwork!

But my Pr Writing Class, "The Girls Gone Wild (in PR Writing,) well, I have to say, they make me smile. I knew they had hearts of gold when I had my surgery a few weeks ago, but they've really shown their generosity.

They were also involved in the Relay kickoff, writing cancer survivor stories for the Baldwin Bulletin and also contributing to the script for the survivor slide show. One of the class, Lauren Edwards, was especially touched by her survivor, an 8-year-old named Hannah Layfield. Hannah is the Honorary Chair for the 2008 Relay For Life. She's a cutie, with an older brother who protects her, and a mama and daddy who would (and have) done anything for her.

Lauren had the idea we should make a Christmas basket for the family, and the class jumped on it. In just a couple of days, these 14 girls have FILLED this basket with toys, games, candy, gift cards, and MONEY for the family. They are digging deep, asking their friends and family for contributions, and on Tuesday, we'll assemble this basket for delivery.

They even talked our class client, a local photographer, into donating a family portrait. How wonderful!

I know people say a lot of things about the shallowness of college students today, but you won't see it in these two classes! By and large, they are generous, thoughtful young adults, and I"m proud to know them. I'm proud to teach them.

They make my heart smile, and I hope they'll make yours smile, too. THEY remember the reason for the season!

I may be poor in the checkbook right now, but I"m infinitely RICH in those I know and love.

Much love to my students!
Ging (AKA Dr. Carter Miller)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The baking gene

Some people are great bakers, but somehow, I was born without the baking gene.

My mother, well, she was a great baker. She made cakes all the time -- chocolate pound cakes, fresh apple cakes, sour cream pound cakes, and Snickerdoodles and cheese straws. Snickerdoodles. Jeffrey loves them. I'll never forget, my Mom made Jeffrey a batch of Snickerdoodles not long before she died. He kept them in the bottom of the freezer for years, in a sense keeping her alive, I guess.

And her cheese straws. Flour, Rice Krispies, Grated Cheese, Butter, and Cayenne pepper. Not much, but I could sure mess them up. I NEVER made them the way she did. I miss those things.

I think there are two reasons I'm a lousy baker. 1. I'm not precise with measurements, which is required when you bake. 2. I'm not patient with doughs and baking. I am not one who will bake seven batches of cookies from a big bowl of dough.

I do OK with pies (can't make a crust for anything, though) and I do OK with some cookie-like things that don't require precise measurements, like oatmeal no bakes and date nut balls.

But I was born without the baking gene. I can cook about anything, but I just can't bake.

This deficiency in my character was made clear today when I had to watch my cooking doppleganger, Paula Deen, make cookie after cookie on her show. She did make one cookie with oats -- I have certified GF oats -- but this cookie was one that required three kinds of sugar, and two kinds of chips, and all that. Nope. No Patience. And Sandra Lee. Is there a way to make a semi-homemade gluten free cookie? I don't think so, scooter.

I do have one bag of a mix that is supposed to make cookies, and I am hanging on to it, just in case a spirit moves me.

So now, 'tis the season for cookies, and now that I am gluten free, I don't have the same resources for my once-a-year cookie fix. There's a great bakery here in Milledgeville, Ryals, and I'll miss buying their cookie basket there. And in Tampa, there are all kinds of possibilities for cookies -- Wright's Gourmet House, Alessi Bakery, random bake sales.

I know I have Pamela's packaged cookies and the Trader Joe's Ginger Snaps, but somehow, they're just not the same.

What I want more than anything is a plate full of homemade GF sugar cookies, with a little of sprinkled sugar on top. Or maybe, just for Jeffrey, some GF Snickerdoodles. I'm going to have to move through a season of holidays at friends and relatives houses from here to Texas and back with no chance of cookies.

If you want to read about the joys of gluten-free baking, I'm not your girl. Go to The Gluti Girls site, or Gluten Free Girl (the links are on the sidebar). They've got recipes, plans, and tips. I'm envious. I'll live vicariously through them.

But bake? Not I!

Bah, Humbug.

Much love, Ging