Frond Memories

palm-frondYesterday we drove down the coast for a bittersweet day trip to Santa Barbara. We went to say farewell to my sister and brother-in-law who are moving back East in a few days time, and to squeeze in some precious memory-making with my grandparents. I guess it’s par for the course with this stage of life, but I find myself thinking about time a lot more than I used to. Not so much the tangible ticking of a second-hand on a clock, but the precious fleeting moments we call life. And memory. Memories that we collect to hold all these moments close.

After my grandmother’s stroke this past Christmastime, her Alzheimer’s really started to set in. It has been heartbreaking to see dementia cause her to worry and becomes paranoid about things that should not cause her fear. Her short-term memory is deteriorating quickly and because of this she repeats herself almost constantly; forgetting that she just told us something, and therefore retelling it to us over and over.

We know that we don’t have forever, but for now, we are thankful that she still has a good grip on her long-term memory. She is soothed through storytelling, and we do our best to help keep her spirits up by asking her to share her memories from the past. Memories about holding her grandchildren for the first time, of funny antics from my childhood, and further back…meeting my grandfather for the first time (on the boardwalk in New Jersey), silly recollections from her first year as a newlywed, and as a new mother so many years ago. But most of all, stories about love. Love is the common theme that weaves together the tapestry of her memories; brightening so many of the shadows cast by her disease.

Despite the aches and pains of age, and the changing landscape of her mind, she still has love. So for now, I feel truly lucky to be able to listen as an ocean’s worth of loving memories washes over her…even if that means hearing the same stories on repeat…like a tide washing the shore clean again and again. These times we spend together now, will become the memories that I may one day be reciting to my future grandchildren. Memories of love. They are treasures to me, far more precious than any other.

I hope you will have a weekend full of beauty and memory making ahead of you. xo Ez

5 Unexpected Things that Can Contain Gluten

5-hidden-sources-of-glutenSince my daughter’s diagnosis with Celiac Disease a few years ago, we’ve been on a steep learning curve; navigating our way through a life without gluten. Whether you forego gluten by personal choice or health necessity, I figured that for any of those of you who may be new to the world of eating gluten-free, that it could possibly come in handy if I shared a few unexpected places where I’ve often found gluten to be lurking. I’d love for you to help me add to this list or share your favorite gluten-free foods in the comment section. I’m always keen to learn about new tasty things to try.

5 Unexpected Things that Can Contain Gluten

  • Beer / Liquor | I’ve never been much of a beer connoisseur, so this one hasn’t been too hard to pass up on. However it is a food item that is commonly used in cooking / baking, so it’s good to be aware of just the same. There are grain-free alcohol options available, so if you’re bummed about missing out, you can go ahead and turn that frown upside-down.
  • Vanilla extract / Baking extracts | I’ve read conflicting opinions regarding whether the gluten used in the alcohol used to create vanilla / baking extracts is neutralized during the distillation process. To be on the safe side, I always purchase extracts that are labeled as gluten-free.
  • Sweeteners | Barley Malt (also seen as malt extract) is a big culprit (you’ll find it in a lot of chocolate bars). It is very easy to overlook if you’re not prepared to keep a lookout for it. Special note: maltodextrin is considered to be gluten-free (despite having the word malt in its name)
  • Soy Sauce | Growing up, we had a bottle of soy sauce on our dining room table instead of a salt shaker. So it came as quite a surprise to me to discover that our old standby is traditionally made using wheat. Thankfully there are wheat-free / gluten-free varieties available…so keep a lookout for those if you’re a fan like we are.
  • Toiletries / Detergents / Household Cleaners | Non-food items have few standards in place to ensure that they are labeled clearly when they contain gluten. I did find this very helpfully compiled list of Company Statements Regarding Gluten that you may want to look over if you or someone you know has a severe gluten sensitivity or Celiac. It didn’t even occur to me that non-edible products could be a problem until my daughter developed a mystery rash after I laundered her clothing in traditional Tide detergent. I made the switch to Method detergent shortly thereafter and have used both Method and Mrs. Myers on our clothing with no ill effects ever since (their products are better for the environment too…so that’s a bonus).

Of course, when in doubt, contacting a company for specific allergen information is always recommended. Most companies are more than happy to make sure that you are making a safe purchase for your family. I hope this little list helps. Here’s to your health!

Image from Antique Farm House™ (a really cool site coincidently)

Wandering

wandering-7311My mother has an incredible green thumb. She could plant an oasis in the middle of the Sahara Desert with her eyes closed. Sadly, the same can not be said about me…but it’s not for want of trying. My latest plant project is this gorgeous purple/green gem that my daughter and I found in our local hardware store. I had no idea what it was even called, until a few helpful plant identifiers came to the rescue over on Instagram. Apparent “Lila” (that’s our plant’s name) is a Wandering Jew, and is supposedly “fairly easy to care for.”

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Lila reminds me of the sort of hanging plants that my mom filled our home with when I was small. The kind that can sprout new plants after you soak their clippings in water (we always had jars full of rooting plant stems on our windowsills when I was little), so I’m going to clip a few and see what happens. If nothing else, I can enjoy the nostalgia that I’ll feel every time I see them on my countertop.

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I hesitate to be overly-optimistic, but Lila’s lasted almost two whole weeks and still looks great! This might be a new record for me! Fingers crossed (especially for her sake) that my cursed brown thumb is turning a mottled green. Time will tell.

In the meantime, if you’ve been gifted with the ability to keep plants alive, I’d love any suggestions that you might have on helping this one thrive. She currently resides near a window with filtered/indirect sun, and I’m watering her once a week. Does that sound right?

Oh Cats!

we-cant-have-nice-thingsSo this is what our couch looks like (both arms)! I don’t even know what to say!

catch-scratch-couchSeriously though…I could use your help! Do any of you know of any great ways to keep a cat from mangling the furniture at every possible moment? We trim her nails regularly, play with her often, and have scratch pads and posts galore (which she does use). We’ve tried repellent sprays, and even aluminum foil at one point (that was a cute look), but despite our best efforts, every day our couch is steadily being shredded into ribbons. Buying a kevlar couch isn’t really an option…so if you know of a solution (no declawing), I’d love to hear your suggestions! Thanks in advance!

These Words – No.1

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“to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face,
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.” — Ellen Bass

these-words-no1-2 These words — by Ellen Bass / first spotted here. Photography by me.