Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Yummy GF Halloween Treat: The Chocolate Concoction

I originally thought of naming this one "The Most Amazingly Awesome Brownie-Chocolate Chip-Oreo-ish-Gooey-Deliciousness-Ever" but decided the name was a little bit long.

Anyway, Halloween is just days away and the goodies are coming out in full force right now. How about something...semi healthy? Well, gluten free and dairy free at least! I give you...the Chocolate Concoction. Someone at work made the original recipe, which can be found here, and since then I have been scheming to make it something that I and everyone else who avoids gluten or dairy, can eat. I've discovered that leaving the Oreo cookie look-a-likes in makes it impossible to be dairy free, so both versions of the recipe are below.

The good news: it's easy to make and stays moist. It took me all of maybe 15 minutes to put together and then about 30 minutes to bake. The bad news: it's indulgent, to say the least. Scrumptiously indulgent. Not that that's so bad, it's just that I have no idea how many calories is in this baby so I'm just going to round up and say a million or so. Make it for special occasions and not for, you know, breakfast, and you'll be fine. It's worth it, trust me.

The Chocolate Concoction - Gluten Free
(Re-formatted from Kevin & Amanda's original recipe)

Go to your local health foods store to find the GF products you need. I got these at Sprouts, but I'm sure Whole Foods or similar places will have them. I chose these specifically, not just for the GF option, but because baking times were similar.

- 1 box Chocolate Truffle Brownie from Gluten  Free Pantry
- 1 box Chocolate O's from Schar
- 1 bag Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix from Pamela's Products
- 1 bag Mini Chocolate Chips from Enjoy (Gluten, Dairy, Soy Free...this is not in the original recipe, but I wanted a little extra oomph)

You will need butter and egg for this as well, per the instructions on each box.

1. Layer a 13x9 inch pan with Parchment Paper to avoid everything sticking. Then lightly coat it with some butter. 

2. Mix the chocolate chip ingredients together. Optional - Add a 1/3 cup of the mini chocolate chips, if you desire.

3. Spread the cookie mix on the bottom as evenly as you can.

4. Put the Chocolate O's on top of the cookie dough.

5. Mix the brownie ingredients together and then layer over the cookie dough and Chocolate O's.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 mins. Keep an eye on it towards the end to ensure you get it just right.

7. Let cool for about 15 mins and enjoy.

The Chocolate Concoction - Gluten and Dairy Free
To ensure you get this dairy free, omit the Chocolate O's. You can replace with another gluten free, dairy free cookie if you wish, but honestly it's just as good without them. I am leaning towards it without them.

Instead of butter or margarine, substitute olive oil or coconut oil as follows:
1 tsp butter = 3/4 tsp oil
1 tbsp butter = 2 1/4 tsp oil

Follow all other steps as listed above and voila! Dairy free.

And to make it even more yummy...get yourself some GF, Dairy Free Purely Decadent Vanilla Ice Cream (made with coconut milk) and put a scoop on top. Then feel free to die and go to heaven.

More yummy recipes coming your way soon, including a Trifle recipe from my friend, Jess, and an amazing salad that I'm slightly addicted to right now.

Happy Eating Everyone!

Update---> I remade this (just with the brownie and choc chip mix) with Bob's Red Mill mixes and I think it was even better. Gluten free, but not dairy free, however, the ingredients in the Bob's brand are better.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thoughts for the Day

Thoughts on...Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the fragrance a violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. - Mark Twain

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. - Lewis B. Smedes

Thoughts on...Persistence and Success

It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer. - Albert Einstein

Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.  - Jacob A. Riis

Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.
- Hal Borland

A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her. - David Brinkley

I never failed once. It just happened to be a 2000 step process.  - Thomas Edison

Thoughts on...Being true to yourself

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you NOT to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
- Marianne Williamson

The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become. - Charles Dubois

Thoughts on...Change

Security is mostly a superstition.
It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of mean as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run, than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
- Helen Keller

When we feel stuck, going nowhere - even starting to slip backward - we may actually be backing up to get a running start.  - Dan Millman

Thoughts on...Reality

Some men see things as they are and say, "Why?" I dream of things that never were and say, "Why not?" - Robert F. Kennedy

One bright day in the middle of the night tow dead boys rose to fight. Back to back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot one another. A deaf policeman heard the noise, and saved the lives of two dead boys. If you don't believe this lie is true, ask the blind man, he saw it too.  - Author Unknown

What we call reality is an agreement that people have arrived at to make life more livable - Louise Nevelson

Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible. - M.C. Esher

Thoughts on...Courage

Courage is fear that said it's prayers. - Maya Angelou

You cannot discover new oceans, unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. - Andre Gibe

Thoughts on...Befriending your Enemies

When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you. - African Proverb

Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them? - Abraham Lincoln

Then it was a if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts,
the depths where neither sir nor desire can reach,
the person that each one is in God's eyes.
If only they could see themselves as they really are.
If only we could see each other that way,
there would be not reason for war, for hatred, for cruelty...
I suppose the big problem would be that
we would all fall down and worship each other.
- Thomas Merton

Thoughts on...Life

If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up.
 - Tae Te Ching

I heard a thousand blended notes 
While in a grove I sat reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What Man has made of Man
 - William Wordsworth

When I can look Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And take in exchange - my youth.
- Sara Teasdale

Thoughts on...Love

Love must be as much a light as it is a flame. - Henry David Thoreau

After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her.  - Mar Twain taken from Adam, in Adam's Diary

Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy, absent-minded.
Someone sober will worry about events going badly.
Let the lover be.
- Rumi

Him that I love, I wish to be free - even from me.
 - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Thoughts on...Happiness

People from another planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. - Iris Murdoch

Thoughts on...Silence

Speak only if it improves upon the silence. - Mahatma Mohandes Gandhi

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is a friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence....We need silence to be able to touch souls.  - Mother Teresa

Thoughts on...Having Enough

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need. -Vernon Howard

We don't need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.  - Donald Horban

The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. - Eric Hoffer

A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labor of other people, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving. I am strongly drawn to the simple life and am often oppresses by the feeling that I am engrossing an unnecessary amount of labor of my fellow people. I regard class differences as contrary to justice and, in the last resort, based on force. I also consider that plain living is good for everybody, physically and mentally. - Einstein

Do you have any favorite quotes?
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Native American Poem

Don't stand by my grave and weep. I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamonds glint on snow.
I'm sunlight on the the ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn's rain.
Don't stand by my grave and cry. I am not there. I did not die.
- Mary Elizabeth Frye

Photo Credit: Melia Metikos 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Skin Care on a Budget

In my last skin care post, Skin Health: What You Need to Know NOW, I went over all of the important reasons why you should use natural products on your body, why, and what can happen if you don't. I've been experimenting with some other products that I wanted to share with you.

Something to consider,when buying anything - food, skin care, dog food -  is the less ingredients, the better. This can be tricky since a lot of the all nature items are expensive. I understand how tough it can be to buy the all natural, all organic items when you're on a budget or even just living in this crazy economy. Instead of saying you can't do it at all and getting the worst of the worst stuff, I say there's a better way. There is a middle ground of good for you and affordable and I'm on the hunt for more things that fall into this area. For example, I just finished up my Hylunia products and am back to the Yes To Carrots line, which is incredibly affordable and conveniently located at Walgreens and Wal-Mart.

I found an amazing coconut lotion, by Mountain Ocean, at Bashas grocery store. Skin Trip is their coconut moisturizer and I am in love with it. Granted, I am addicted to all things coconut, but still - this stuff is great. You can also find it at Whole Foods and a few select retailers in various states.

I also found the Organix line at Wal-Mart. The jury is still out on this one. I have to give them credit for making everything smell ridiculously good. The TeaTree Mint smells just like the Thin Mint candies...but only when you're lathering up. It doesn't seem to last past that and I'm not sure I like how it makes my hair feel after. This could be my fault, though. I'm trying the TeaTree shampoo out with the Pomegranate conditioner since they both smelled good and I couldn't decide. I thought a compromise was in order! Possibly a bad idea, but we shall see. However, I tried the Cherry Blossom Ginseng Shine Spray which was true to it's word. Shiny and my hair smelled awesome all day long. So right now they get a 50/50 vote. I'll keep trying them out and crossing my fingers that I can walk around smelling like candy all day.

Lastly, I want to throw something in that's not exactly inexpensive, at all, but worth every cent. KAMA Ayurveda has an amazingly amazing product called Miraculous Beauty Fluid. It's an oil blend that you use on your face nightly. I actually got my little miracle bottle when I was in India but have been trying it out on and off ever since, testing out it's miraculous-ness, which has more than passed the test every single time.

First and foremost, don't be afraid to put oil on your skin. The right blend used the right way is as close to the fountain of youth as you can get. The oils themselves are light and slightly orangish in tint, but don't worry - when you rub it in you're all good and it doesn't mess up your pillow case. I love this one because I put it on at night and wake up with a glowing, sun-kissed complexion. And Ladies, the one thing you want it delivers - smooth skin. It's awesome. I mean AWESOME. Buy it through the retail division here.

I'm trying some other items out, so I'll keep you posted. As always, enjoy your evening, value yourself and the skin you're in, and have a good night.

Any all natural products you love? 

Update---> My friend, Jess, tried out the Organix line of hair care products and came to the same conclusion I did: It makes your hair smell amazing, but unless you use a ton of it your hair wont look good. Even then it might not because it's just kind of weird. My advice it to just skip it.

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Advice from the Dalai Lama

I got this in an email the other day and thought I would share.

Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

When you lose, don't lose the lesson...

Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

Be gentle with the earth.

Spend some time alone every day.

Open your arms to change, but don't give up your values.

Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer. 

Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time.

Remember the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.

Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Paradise Found

It's been a little while since I've written, really written. I've done small posts. I managed to get out one poem. I finished some old posts that I had started, but I haven't been able to sit down and face my computer enough to really write a new one out. It occurred to me that I needed to get this one out of my system before I could move on to other things.


"For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance." 
- Kahlil Gibran

The day I dreaded all my life, that day came last month. The one person that meant more to me than anything and everything, all added up and combined, is gone. She was the one and only person I've ever blended with so completely, so fully. I wasn't the fire to her water, and she wasn't the yin to my yang - it was more than that. We didn't balance each other out because we didn't need to balance - we were balance. We flowed and melded like one person. When she was water, I was water, and when I was fire, she was fire. It required no effort, no work or practice. It just was. We just were. 

I think that thought hurts the most. This person who I shared a perfect balance with, my grandmother, is gone. 
Christmas, 2008. Striking a pose with gram.

My grandmother came from a large family with so many brothers and sisters I can't even keep track of them. She was the best cook in the family, the best gardener, the best sower and seamstress. She was the best at rocking me to sleep and making me well. She was, in every way possible, the best gramma.

She was smart. Silly and smart. Meloi - mine and my mother's combined nickname - that she accidentally gave us, long before the Brangelina's and Bennifer's of the world. She was always calling for both of us and somehow, over time, she blended the two names together. We never knew who she meant so we both answered. She was also crafty. When I wasn't hungry or I didn't want to try something she had cooked, she would say she had made that dish especially for me. This trick would get me every single time. How could I not eat what my favorite person in the whole world had made for me? It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that I finally caught on. And for almost being on this earth a century, she blended her old ways with the new ones very well. The first tattoo I ever got freaked my mother out to no end, but gramma, she loved it.

We were one in the same, and yet I just realized how alike we really were when I had to sort through her things. The quotes, the magazine cutouts of anything and everything that we thought was beautiful, that made us feel something. Coin collecting. Hot tea. Flowers in the kitchen. The color blue - her favorite color. So many things that made us who we were together, and now - now it's just me.

I waver between being completely and totally fine and a complete and total mess. The littlest things make me lose it. The pan she baked her famous chocolate cake in. The things should would write on the back of pictures. Her clothespin basket that we had to throw out because it was too old and stained and weary.  The star we put on the Christmas tree every year. Her matchstick holder. German pancakes in the giant cast iron pan. The chair in her bedroom that she'd put her sweaters and purses on at the end of the day.   The memories I've forgotten that have come flooding back to me, all by the smallest of small things.

She loved pearls, so every year for Christmas I would make it my mission to find her a new pearl necklace. It was my goal to find the most unusual ones that I could. There was one that looked like two peas in a pod, another was in the shape of an owl, and her favorite, a snowman.

Last week I was flipping through a magazine when a snowman pearl necklace appeared on the page below. It was different than the one I had already gotten her. This one was a Christmas snowman, with a black top hat and a red, jeweled scarf that curled around the pearls. Seeing it threw me for a loop. What do I do with this? Do I order it? Because I would have, I most certainly would have. But then what? Do I keep it in a box with the other ones? She would never have even worn it. It wouldn't make sense to keep it with them.  Do I wear it for her? No, no. I couldn't. That would be too hard. But how do I not order it? How do I leave it there, in the pages of the magazine, without doing the thing I would have done?

These questions played over, and over, and over - while I cried, and cried, and cried - at this tiny little thing that I would no longer be able to do for her.

When I was little, before I even knew what death was, I knew that if it took her I would lose her forever, and that was something I dreaded. I would leave her house crying, often, as just a toddler, just a teenager, just a young girl who couldn't bear one day without her grandmother. One time my grandparents went on vacation without us to Arkansas to visit the rest of the family. We were always, always together and not having her with me was killing me and my little 7 year old self. It wasn't that she was on vacation and I wasn't, or that she was with my cousins instead of me. It was that she wasn't with me and I wasn't with her. I didn't care how or when or why, I just didn't want to be apart from her. The thought of never seeing her again, of losing her completely, was too much for me.

I never actually stopped feeling that way. It's always been there. My whole life I feel like I've been preparing myself for that moment. I imagined every possible scenario and in all of them it was so incredibly unbearable that I was certain I would either die too, or at least pass out for a good long time. It was surprising to me that neither one happened. That I was the strong one who ended up making the decisions and pulling my mom through. In fact, of the millions of ways I've dreaded and daydreamed this, nothing happened like I imagined. I'm still surprised, still waiting to fall apart so completely that no one can put me back together. I've just started believing that that won't happen after all.

I feel calm, but hollow. Alone, yet embraced. Bad that I can laugh when I feel like I should just want to cry all the time. Happy that she knew this about me - that she knew I would be a complete and total mess and somehow, somehow she made it so I wouldn't be. I feel capable and confident that since she was with me in all things while she was alive, she will be with me in all things now. 

Still, there are moments where I doubt myself.  It's funny how you know things when people are alive, but when they die you question everything. Like did she know just how much I loved her? Even though I told her every day, all my life, did she really know? Yet, how much she loved me - this I can see so clearly. I always knew, always, but it's everywhere, all around me, all around her house with her pictures and little journalings and my school papers that she saved. She saved everything, everything I've ever done. Even the tags from Christmas presents I have given her over the years have been saved. Every little "I love you, Gramma" item was safely put away as a treasured keepsake.  I think I became used to this, to her keeping all of these things around her house, but seeing it all, seeing it so clearly for the first time without actually being able to say the words to her anymore, that is the piece which hurts the most. 

I've kept myself busy mostly until now, when I've run out of steam.  When it was time for me to come home from her house I went on vacation far, far away where I temporarily forgot about everything. Except of course that I didn't, not entirely. I just pushed it away for a while. And while I was back home I kept myself busy, day and night. I cleaned my gramma's entire house, top to bottom, in three days. I went through every file, looked at every picture, opened every drawer. 

Towards the end of my cleaning spree something kind of magical happened. I was cleaning up the guest room and saw a box under the bed. Due to my enormous terror of spiders lurking pretty much everywhere, I had my mom grab it and pull it out. I went about my business cleaning until my mom walked back in holding a sign.

A sign that I had wanted for years now, but had never bought.

A sign that I had long ago circled in a magazine that I must have left at her house.

A sign my grandmother had secretly purchased and hid, from me and herself even, forgotten under the bed.

A sign that said, "Paradise Found."

I always knew she would be there for me during this, when I would ironically need her here with me the most. That she would somehow let me know that everything was going to be alright after this happened. And here it is, my sign. In more than one way. A message that says she is right where she is supposed to be and that she is always thinking of me, always with me.

I couldn't have asked for anything better.

"Loved you then, love you still. Always have, always will."

I love you, gramma.

Thank you to all my friends and family who have been here for me and my mom during this time. Everything you've done, every phone call and letter and card and thought, has been appreciated. We love you all.

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Dexter, anyone?

My friend just shared this with me last night and I LOVE it. If you're a Dexter fan, you'll get a kick out of this.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Go He Said

Every so often I get an Anthropologie magazine in the mail filled with beautiful, artistic, and unique creations. The store itself is breathtaking in a way. It's not the clothes or what they sell (especially since they're a fortune). It's the art and architecture within the store itself. It's the displays and designs on the walls. There is something warm and fuzzy and just plain homey about the store that always makes me want to go in with a hot cup of tea and wonder, relax, see what they've come up with now.

In the new magazine I just got it had this poem on the first cover. This is one of those warm, fuzzy feelings the store gives me and another reminder of why I love wandering there.

Go he said,
Until rock gives way to sea, gives way to
Salt and air and the elements all - 
Until feet touch land that creaks, melts and sighs.
Rippling, crashing, splitting beneath you,
Its tired arms open to the cold of night - 
Everything frozen, everything hushed.
And then, with eyes at rest, look closely.
Closer still.
And in that moment, you will find me - 
Indeed you will see.

Do you have a place you go, where you feel safe, warm, and at home?

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