Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gluten-Free book review

It’s time to indulge in a little lit crit, my friends. Specifically, a book review.

I’ve held off on doing these because, well, it’s just too easy to be snarky about them. D’you see me writing a book? Certainly not. And yet, the magpie pleasures of the literary critic is to dip into texts and pick out their favorite, glittering moments, and to speculate not-too gleefully on the shortfalls. Still.

Recently, I picked up Gluten-Free Girl’s book. She was given the book contract based on her blog, but only partly – she’s no fresh off the boat writer, but has taught writing and been writing for years. Even without knowing that, I can see the strong style and structure shaping her blog posts. I rather like her blog, and she’s got a sweet story…so I bought the book.

I’m now in the slightly awkward position of trying to review the thing without having it in front of me. It’s the cardinal lit crit sin (can’t quote revealingly from the book? tsk, tsk), but I’ve lent it out. Yup, I read it, I lent it, I made a mental list of people who would enjoy it. Must’ve been a real stinker of a book for me to do that, yes? No. 'course not.

The focus of the book is simple: listen to your body. If something is wrong, figure it out – even if it means a major lifestyle change like going gluten-free. Far too many people with celiac (like people with von Willebrands disease) go undiagnosed. Don’t be one of them. And then, once you are trying to live this new life, ignore what you can’t have, and explore the wonderfully tasty world of what you can have. Buy produce from the farmers who grow it (it really does taste better that way, and not just because you are feeling morally superior), invest in some good cookery equipment, some excellent ingredients. Oh, and if you fall in love on the way, well, check your karma for fine print about package deals. (Note: the GF-G’s love story is a really darling one.)

I was a bit disappointed, though hardly surprised to find that there’s a rather large number of recipes that just don’t fit us. When you are focussed on excellent flavors and tastes, the blend of flavors is more precise, making it harder to eliminate one flavor (butter? nuts?) and still have a good, strong whole. But I’ll be playing with her recipes regardless, and I’ll report in if anything really mouth-opening pops up. And if you are just avoiding gluten, I heartily recommend trying her recipes, not to mention her blog. Let me know what happens!

Stylistically, the book is a bathroom read, a new parent read, something you put down and pick up again. It’s just not built to be read cover-to-cover, which is just fine by me. In fact, it’s built a lot like a blog that grew into a book…funny, that. It’s constructed of shortish pieces, some discussions and some narrative, and tends to reiterate its philosophy a lot. I tried to read it straight through, and it just didn't work. When I went back and tried to read just bits, I was happier.

This is by no means a criticism of Shauna, mind you. Having just finished my first really serious writing experience, I’m now a bit shocked at how easily the editing process can pull apart the fine strands that bind a text together. (Article by committee, anyone?) It’s hard, hard, hard to knit a text seamlessly together afterwards, and frankly the process can do worse than letting the text be episodic. Shauna maintains the spirit of her blog, has some useful interludes (and I'm with her on the olive oil, if anyone is wondering), and has certainly proven why her blog's so popular. Yay for the Girl!

Finally, a small grump. This is a book written by a person without children. Shauna’s focus and attention to food is remarkable, and her joy in it is palpable. But could she keep it up, between diapers and runs to the playground? I’m very, very curious to find out.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

wearing babies and...duck!

It is a touch noisy in Boston right now. Wonder why? Good work, guys - and ya gotta love the Lester story. Nice.

Off to bed, as our town celebrates in it's own, too-liberal, too-hedumacated to get drunk and roar joyously fashion. Duck, said the Man calling from the home of a friend with cable TV. Duck - they just won the 'Series. We-el, okay. But frankly, the helicopters overhead (no, really) do seem overkill right around here.

Coming soon: I've been collecting kid moments on scraps of paper. Plus, the Man quit the Evil Empire, and is between jobs (and on COBRA). He'll be guest blogging a bit.

In the mean time, this has been sitting on a back burner.

The Eldest's new school continues to delight me - the other mothers and fathers, seeing me carrying the Toddles in this have responded with curiosity. One mum went so far as to buy one herself, and then stopped me in the parking lot to enthuse. Still, I hate to be fickle but no sooner had I bought my beloved ergo from Zina, than she turned around and introduced me to this. I think I'm a Organic Avocado sort of mama, but oh, my. They are light, they roll up into a leetle sausage, and they carry a toddler with ease. Oh yes, and there's the whole Fair Trade, supporting cottage industry thing. Ah, the heck with it - they're purty.

One mother, assigned to us as our mentor family, is also a member of the local babywearing group. She said to me, looking at the Toddles happily squirming in a back cross-carry wrap, Hmm. Maybe we should have a baby wearing event? A sort of how-to? A father heard us in passing, and called over his shoulder, Let me know what I can do to help! We'll sponsor!

Turns out he and his wife own a fantastic local toy shop, complete with a small pile of baby carrying gear. How wonderfully coincidental.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

marking time

Recently, I had a birthday.

These things sneak up on me, in part because I was busy thinking about the Toddles' birthday party (4 two-year olds plus parents plus sibs, 4 grandparents, 1 caregiver plus roommate for moral boosting, 1 craft plus many toys plus fabulously, Zina-frosted cupcakes = happy, presentless Toddle-party. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, as the Eldest likes to say.). And heavens, but that birthday of mine seems to surprise me every year. Time is fluid in the Imperfect household - think you've got a hold on it, and it will be October when your bones are still thinking about summer's warmth and hiking. But go hiking anyway - it's nice in the crispness.

Hurriedly, I made a gift list. Shelves, I wrote with the Man looming over my shoulder. Sports massage, pretty toes, gift certificate somewhere - the Man started looking ominous, grumbling about women who expect him to work all day and still be creatively gifting them at the end of it.

Okay, okay. I'll try harder.

As we squabbled amiably, the Eldest was preparing his own birthday gift to me.

Happy Birthday, Mama. I'm not allergic to chickpeas anymore...

This must be the best birthday I've had in a long, long time. Thirty sailed past me happily, a pish tush of a thing. Who could be bothered fretting over it? But this, this, this is like when his body stopped making antibodies, or inhibitors to his clotting meds. I remember the breathless fear that came with the news - fear, of course, because when you've had your head down and plodded onwards for a while, it's actually scary to hope that change is coming, or is true. So yes, fear. And breathlessness, and hope. And finally, a growing belief that it might actually be true. And still, fear - if this is true, what else might follow? What if it is taken away? Oh, but what if-if-if-if. Ah, shaddup and enjoy it, ya silly woman.

Happy Birthday, Mama. With all of the births and rebirths and evolution that one can pack into that sentence. Oh, my - it might just be true..
An Astonished Mama's Hummus

1 can of chickpeas (check that the can doesn't have things like citric acid, which is made of beets, citrus or corn - the companies often can't tell you which)
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
1/4 cup of olive oil, and more as needed
juice of 1 lemon
salt and cracked, or coarse-ground pepper to taste

Squeeze the lemon, and pour the juice into a food processor. Drain chickpeas and rinse, dumping into the same food processor.

Place a small skillet on the stove, and pour the oil into it. Warm the oil over a medium flame. Toss in garlic cloves, and sautee gently. You want them to start changing color but not really browning - the goal here is just to mellow the garlic a little. Let oil cool a bit, then pour oil and garlic into the food processor.

Puree the mixture, and add salt and pepper to it. If the dip is a little too dry for you, add a bit more oil (or lemon, if you like it lemony. I do, the Eldest doesn't.).

Optional: add parsley, scallion, red pepper flakes, green olives.

Serve with wedges of something crisp, like cucumber or apple or green pepper, and watch boys ignore your lovingly sliced veggies or soup-spoons and wide open mouths. Dang.

from joy, another gem: http://modan.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/04/queen-of-the-scottish-fairies/

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Holes in Walls

[writing from HitWGC]

People keep walking up to us and asking, Are you having a good time? How was your day? Did you have a nice day?

Nice, folks, is too small a word. Good is too flimsy an idea. Let me offer a few snapshots:

  • The chef who came up to us and said, 'So, what would you like from me?' and quietly produced enough Imperfect-friendly chocolate cupcakes (with chocolate banana frosting) for the entire camp. And a fabulous dinner of dilled roasted salmon, fried potatoes, broccoli and pasta in a red pepper sauce. Oooh. I want to take him home with me, I said to the staffer sitting with us. You'll have to get in line, she told me. Yes. I can see that.
  • The Eldest, almost catching Wee-Pee, the 800 pound fish of legend who lives in the lake. I saw Wee-Pee's gold scales, he told me. I nearly had him! (Our thanks go to the HitWGC's staffer and CFO who, seeing the Eldest dissolve at the idea of not managing to catch a fish, leaped into action and persuaded him that in fact, he had. Nearly.)
  • The staffer assigned to our family, who chose to have shabbat lunch with we Imperfects instead of with the happy crowd. (Did'ja shake your bushy tail, Lucinda? The Toddles did!)
  • The Eldest, watching in awe and terror as campers climbed the Tower. (His thumb was so deep in his mouth that it required professional extraction.) The Eldest, deciding to climb himself. He tried, got scared, and tried again - and got two or three body-lengths off the ground. I was proud that he tried, prouder yet that he tried again. Our thanks to Lou, who backed the kid up on all three decisions.
  • Me, climbing three-fourths of the way up. Good grief.
  • The Eldest at the front of the rope, helping a friend with an elbow bleed get to the top of the Tower via a 'group fly' (group lift).
  • The staffers who realized that sitting at the allergy table can be lonely, and chose to eat Imperfect cuisine with us.
  • The tree-house. The tree-house's xylophones. The tree-house's drums. The tree-house, the tree-house, the tree-house.
  • The perfect loop in our cabin, suited just right for the tricycle someone left there. Happy, happy boys.
  • The Toddles, saying 'I walk! I walk!' and trotting all the way.
  • The OK Corral, stocked nicely with latex-free but deeply funky bandaids.
  • Etc, etc, etc.

The camp psychologist said to me, I can't believe that people actually pay me to do this. And I agree. I can't believe that Hole in the Wall exists, with its attention to kid-friendly detail (the murals! the hiding critters in the woods! The three rooms of arts and crafts - one for woodshop, one for paints/woodburning/decorating, one for beading! The sliding board that lets you check if the person at the treehouse door be friend or foe), the immense supplies and resources (it was cold, so the staff pulled out a box of knitted hats and gloves for the families). The gardens. I can't believe the buckets of money it takes to run this place. And I can see the pleasure in every face: the families who are there, the people helping the families - it's unreal.

This much good-will and the ability to exercise it is, true, as things are meant to be. In a pipe dream, maybe. But, as my free market-lovin' man likes to remind me, the market will bear what it's willing to bear. So, this much good-will and ability is impossible. It's a gift, and you can see the delight and astonishment on each face as they think,

Don't you dare pinch me - this is right. This is impossible. This is what I need.

No, I'm not kidding.

Did you think I was kidding? I'll show you pinching, buddy. Oh, but I'll show you PINCHING. Right on that there bushy tail!

Monday, October 08, 2007


It's 2 in the freakin' a.m., and I'm persona non grata with the power that be at our shul. Harrumph. Apparently, my inability to show up to meetings scheduled while I'm out of the country does not sit well. Or maybe it's my inability to adopt the ruling power's opinion. Whoopsie.

But what the hey, it's 2 in the morning and my article is finally back under 4000 words and I like it for the first time in well over a month. Oh, yes, and we're off to hang with a certain Mr Paul Newman this weekend (okay, okay, we're just going to camp). Still pretty damned cool.

So bah, humbug! I'm happily trotting off to bed, nasty rewrite and dreadful committee overlords be hanged.

Gamma's Tarragon Tuna

serves 10


  • fresh tarragon: strip leaves off 3-4 stalks. Should make about 2-3 Tb.
  • 4 oz olive oil
  • .5 tsp wasabi powder, or to taste
  • 2 oz red wine vinegar
  • 1 oz lemon juice (1-2 Tb, notes the Gamma)


  • 1 c rice, uncooked. Cook it as per your instructions of choice.
    3 cans tuna (Bumblebee Prime Fillet is soy-free, notes the Gampa)
  • 1 punnet (container) grape tomatoes, or other small tomatoes. Gamma says that she prefers grape to cherry tomatoes, because they tend to be a little sweeter than cherry toms. You decide.
  • .75 c pitted, halved Kalamata olives
  • .5-.75 c dried currants
  • 2-3 Tb drained capers

Cook rice. Whisk dressing together, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Add everything else, toss and serve.

Options: add 6 oz marinated artichoke hearts (hard to find without the vague 'spices.'), replace tuna with chicken, replace rice with orzo or other teensy pasta (wheat!!), replace wasabi with mustard, do all of the above and note distinct resemblance to the original recipe, here.

Note: I apologize for the formatting. Blogger has decided to double-space everything without asking me first. Sigh. Somehow this makes me think of the Toddles...


Want some dessert to go with that? We've been playing with this Enjoy Life cookie crust:

I'd advise a fairly dry pie filling - apple pie seems to work well.
Best with a dryish or fairly solid pie. EL suggests pumpkin or pecan - my gooey apple pie was too gooey for it.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

and for now, a tip o' the hat

From the Eldest, I bring you an East meets Middle East moment: the rally kipa.

The Man was talking baseball (a rare occurrence, I assure you), and mentioned the rally cap. The Eldest asked, the Man explained, and the Eldest looked thoughtful. Suddenly, the child's face cleared: he wasn't wearing a ball cap, but he was wearing something on his head: a kipa, or yarmulke.

And so the rally kipa was born.

Go 'Sox!

Okay, okay, so it's not entirely apolitical. But it's pretty close...how about them Mets?

Note to the suspicious: the kid's not giving you the finger. He's pointing the index finger at his rally kipa, and the middle one is raised coincidentally. Unless you are a Yankees fan, in which case I'm not so sure.

Monday, October 01, 2007

a sad, sad shake of the head

Hey, Cameron - how's this for the next-up cause?

Start here, and then see here or here... Nah. Too infuriating, and too far north. Or mostly too infuriating (which doesn't mean it's unfair, mind you, or a bad verdict - just infuriating).

Let's try this instead:

Dear President Bush,

thank you for vetoing SCHIP, a.k.a HR 976, a.k.a the State Childrens Health Insurance Program. I appreciate your choosing to prioritize the budget over insurance for children. I think that budgets are important, and here at the Imperfect household we think about them a lot. We think about the $500,000 that it took to keep the Eldest alive and healthy in his first 18-24 months of life. We think about the expensive food that we buy for our kids, because they can't eat highly processed options. (And, at the risk of spoiling this lovely, lightly sarcastic tone I've got going, we think a little about the Farm Bill and why those processed foods are cheaper than ours. Hunh.) And we think about the jobs we take, the choices we make in order to make our monthly mortgage payments, to retain our insurance and to generally be responsible citizens.

Clearly, it is more important that we resist the Democrats' mincing progress to state-run insurance than we insure those uninsured kids. Hell, their parents are probably just throwing away the cash they'd otherwise spend on insurance. And frankly, I wouldn't be willing to spend an extra 61 cents on my daily pack of cigarettes to pay for a sneaky, political move like getting kids healthcare. Nah.

That's what the ER is for, right?

Mama Imperfect

Now, if you disagree with me, feel free to express yourself in the comments section. Or, try writing here, if you have a child with hemophilia, or here http://www.house.gov/writerep/ and here http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm if you do not. Because, frankly, this is absurd.

Note of explanation for the Canadians: most US insurance is private, but there are some state-run programs for the uninsured, and specifically for children with medical disabilities. Hemophilia is one of those disabilities. However, if you are above poverty level, you have to pay some large premiums to get and keep that insurance. We Imperfects had a state run insurance for the Eldest for a while, and it was impressively expensive. Without insurance, there's not only the problem of getting medical care, but also once you've been uninsured for a bit you can be effectively uninsurable, thanks to a 'preexisting condition.' So the price for having a medical condition and not having coverage can be horrific.

Again, let me remind you: the Eldest's medication alone costs nearly $2,000-2,500 per week. Assuming I'm allowed to shop around for the lowest price, which insurers don't always let you, and pharmacies don't always want to tell you. No, really.

And now, a slightly random array of links.

On the food allergy side of things, I found this promise of a Food Allergy Carnival: http://www.checkmytag.com/2007/10/join-me-for-food-allergy-blog-carnival.html

and Rational Jenn takes a moment to mourn the passing of the inventor of Benadryl: http://rationaljenn.blogspot.com/2007/10/inventor-of-benadryl.html

And this rather fun blog - my thanks to joy for this one: http://blanktop.blogspot.com/ I especially enjoyed his pirate-speak!
Coming Up: a tale of the toddles, Gamma's Tuna-Rice Salad, and NO POLITICS. For at least one post.