Thursday, July 26, 2012

Moving on

As any autism parent can tell you, change is hard. Our kids have a hard time transitioning or doing something outside of the routine. I’m here to tell you that change is also hard for everyone else, too.

This past weekend I worked my tail off to help prepare my grandma’s house for sale. It’s been a long time coming. Grandma fell and injured herself a couple of years ago. After a stint in a rehab facility, it became clear that it was no longer a good idea for her to live by herself.  

My grandma is almost 95 and she is healthy as a horse. She is also stubborn as a mule! By God’s grace, she still has her wits about her. I can only hope and pray that I will be the same way when I am her age…if I ever get there!
Since she moved in with my aunt about 2 years ago her house has been sitting vacant. Recently she decided she was finally willing to let the house go. I imagine it was very difficult for her because there are a lot of memories there. Out of all the grandkids, I think I spent the most time there and it was like my second home when I was growing up.

Going through all of her things was exhausting. Like many people her age, she was hesitant to throw anything away that could be useful, and she surrounded herself with knickknacks and pictures. Every so often I would stop and reminisce as something jogged my memory. My cousin and I would exclaim to each other, “Do you remember this? Wow!” We would shake our heads in disbelief as we walked down memory lane. It was really cool to uncover things we had long forgotten about or never even knew existed.
The one thing that made the weekend easier was the fact that grandma is still with us. Had we been going through her things after her passing, it would have been much more difficult. I was grateful for the opportunity to clean and organize her house without grief. It was also very enjoyable to gather together a few family members and friends of the family that are scattered around and work toward a common goal.  

Since it was a sunny weekend, the house was warm and it was really stuffy from being unoccupied for so long. We opened up all the windows and doors, cranked up the music, and got our groove on well into the night. All of the neighbors must have loved our shake-your-booty-and-sing-your-heart-out renditions of songs by the Village People, Milli Vanilli, the Bangles, and others. Poor neighbors. They are probably traumatized for life. Over 2 nights, I think we got about 5 hours of sleep total. By the end, we were hobbling around covered in dust and grime and completely sore and tired.
Gram's house is the epitome of 70's chic! Don't you love the green shag and orange furniture? You should have seen this room before we stripped it clean. We removed a couple of pieces of furniture, all the pictures off the wall, the tons of dried and silk flowers, and the knickknacks from every corner and surface. By paring down the room, it's the largest we've ever seen it. Who knew there was this much space? 

My cousin, uncle and I were feeling emotional over certain things we came across and things we remembered, but we did our best to hold our emotions in check. I think we all knew that if we allowed the floodgates to open they just would not stop. I somehow managed to hold myself together while I was in the house.  

On my way back home, I crossed the bridge over the river from Portland into Vancouver and that’s when I lost it. I was a wreck off and on for the rest of that night and the next day. Lord help me when the house actually sells. She’s the only grandparent left between my husband and I, and I don’t even want to think about when she goes to be with the rest of our grandparents in heaven.   
One moment that really sticks out in my mind from that weekend is when I stopped by the neighbor’s house to chat. As it turns out, they also have 2 boys diagnosed on the autism spectrum. I found myself in their living room chatting with them about autism, educational advocacy, and other related topics. Even though my hubby was home with our boys, it was like I was right back in my element.  

Once my grandma’s house sells, I will no longer have relatives in my old hometown. But, I will have community. I will have autism family. And that makes the change a little bit easier.

Monday, July 16, 2012

You've been chopped!

Summer is a very interesting time of year for us. And by "interesting" I mean, "is it wine-thirty yet?" I might need to pull out my Pyramid of Crazy...

I have been working with the boys on a new reward schedule for our token economy system. They can earn treasure coins to pay for rewards by following a list of expected behaviors.

That's fancy talk for, "follow the rules and earn prizes!"

One of the things they can earn is time to watch a show of their choosing. If they don't want to pay coins for a show, then they are stuck watching whatever I pick. Or, they can go play elsewhere if they don't like the show I selected.

We don't watch all that much TV in our home because we can't afford cable. We rely on things like Hulu and Netflix and we have our PC hooked up to the big TV in our family room so that we can stream shows over the internet for free. Well, it's free except for the exorbitant cost of high-speed internet!

One of the shows I have recently rediscovered courtesy of the internet is Chopped, from the Food Network. I love this show! I figured it was somewhat educational for me in learning about ingredients and food preparation, and it didn't seem to have anything offensive that would be bad for the boys.

As it turns out, the boys love this show! They are glued to the TV when I turn it on. So much so, that they do something miraculous: They sit still. The entire time. I know. Miracle!  

If you've never seen the show, a group of 4 chefs come on the show to compete for $10,000. They have to go through 3 rounds - appetizer, entree, and dessert. With each round, their dishes are judged by an esteemed panel of chefs/culinary giants, and then one chef is "chopped" and does not move forward to the next round. Depending on the course, they have 20-30 minutes to create an amazing dish that must feature all of the ingredients revealed in a black mystery basket. The chefs open up the basket and the clock starts ticking away the few minutes they have to execute their brilliance.

Some of the ingredients the show comes up with, and the combinations of those ingredients, are truly insane. I mean it. I've seen things like candied fennel seeds (that look that sprinkles on steroids) for use in an entree. They come up with the most unlikely pairings of ingredients that have no relation to each other in any way.

One dish can include things like: chicken kidneys, sea beans, popcorn, and star fruit. I don't know. I'm trying to think of ingredients I have seen them use... Crazy stuff!

"Chefs, open your basket! Your time starts now!"

Really? And, what the heck are sea beans anyway? How exactly do you prepare chicken kidneys? Ewww...

So, my boys, the little script memorizers that they are, absorb everything about the show while it's on. Prince Charming can actually do a Ted Allen impression. It's the funniest thing ever to hear him interject things he's heard from the show when I'm cooking.

In fact, we were out having dinner at a restaurant and Prince Charming was reading the menu. Titan and I were ordering an appetizer and Prince Charming piped up and asked, "Is that an 'on ray'?" Puzzled, Titan and I looked at each other trying to figure out what he was talking about.

Then it hit me. Not "on ray." Enree. He's trying to say "entree!" He is figuring out that at a restaurant you can order an appetizer, entree and dessert. Just like Chopped!

Smart boy.

The next day, we were hanging out at home doing nothing in particular. The boys were playing in the same room. When this happens, it can spell trouble very quickly. Monkey did something that Prince Charming didn't like and he was getting agitated and escalating his behavior. All of a sudden, he angrily glares at Monkey and I hear him yell:

"You've been chopped! Grrrrr!"

Well, I guess Prince Charming figured out how to turn a Food Network show into a way he can fight with his brother. It was so priceless, I could barely stifle my laughter.

Now, that is scripting in all of its glory. And it was pretty awesome.       

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Fun with a box!

I bought Titan custom golf clubs last Christmas, because not only is he freakishly tall, he plays left-handed! He finally broke in his clubs last month. What was leftover was this enormously long box. As I think most everyone knows, boxes make the BEST toys! The boys took turns crawling inside, standing inside, scooting in and laying down, etc. Prince Charming actually loved the box so much he wanted to sleep in it. He found a blanket and made it into a pillow and then crawled inside and hung out quietly in there for a little while that afternoon. He enjoyed it immensely and later insisted that Titan and I allow him to put the box in his room so he could sleep in it that night. We did...and he did. :-) 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Preach it, Holly!

After being away from the computer most of yesterday, I found a quiet moment to check back in on all things social media. In my news feeds I immediately saw a lot of chatter from my autism friends about Holly Robinson Peete and 50 Cent. As they are both quite famous for very different reasons, I was intrigued and read on.

On Twitter, 50 Cent had apparently insulted someone that tweeted him by telling this person that he looked autistic. This ignorant quip had the ill-intended effect of the "R" word. Then, 50 Cent followed it up with another comment mentioning special ed. Of course, I was disgusted.

But, I gotta tell ya something. Autism parents are a fiesty bunch! As I was reading about this fiasco, I was thinking about how I could write a very spirited blog post without making him want to get a restraining order against me.

However, I saw that Holly Robinson Peete was leading the charge. I read her letter to 50 Cent and I have to say that she did a first rate, bang up job. I could not have written it any better myself! She was appropriate, informed and powerful. It's all the more reason to like her!

Holly, thank you from the bottom of my heart for representing the autism community so well. It is efforts like these that can help make change in the hearts of people everywhere.

To read the letter Holly Robinson Peete wrote to 50 Cent, click here.

To read a post from Lisa Ackerman of TACA about this, click here.

To read a post about the incident over at Strollerderby, click here.

Oh, and if by some miracle 50 Cent is reading this post, I have something I'd like to share with you...

50, this is what autism looks like in my boys. And, if I do say so myself, it looks damn handsome.

Photography by Dana Napoleon

Rant complete.

Happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 2, 2012

GFCF Pound Cake with Chocolate Ganache

I was on a quest over the weekend to find a new GFCF chocolate cake recipe. I remembered that I still had some fresh berries in the fridge. So, in my quest to make a cake with both chocolate and raspberries (2 of my favorite ingredients!), I came across a recipe from Gluten Free Easily that I knew I had to try. 

I’ve been dying to make a dairy-free chocolate ganache, and I knew this would be a perfect cake for it. I made a few tweaks to the pound cake recipe and gave it a shot. It came out pefect. OMG. Perfect. I wanted to eat it all by myself!
I swear to you that this cake does not taste gluten-free. At all. In fact, it tastes like a buttery, tender, moist, sweet, slightly vanilla madeleine cookie. It’s the best pound cake I have ever made, even from the days before we worried about wheat and butter. Now that’s saying something!  
I knew I couldn’t wait to share the recipe with you, my dear readers, so I’m up very late typing this up for you. I have a feeling you’ll be very glad I did!
The original recipe can be found here, but please note that the recipe I am including below reflects the changes I made to it. As an added bonus, I am also including my recipe for chocolate ganache so you have the option of serving the cake the way I did.  

GFCF Pound Cake

2  1/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
1  1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1  1/4 tsp sea salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)
1  1/2 tsp baking powder, aluminum and gluten-free
3/4 cup sunflower oil (or safflower oil, melted coconut oil, etc.)
1  1/2 cups organic sugar (I sifted mine to make sure there were no clumps)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp applesauce
2 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract (I used my homemade extract I created with rum)
3 large organic eggs
2/3 cup full-fat organic coconut milk, whisked smooth (I used canned Thai Kitchen brand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in bowl and set aside.
In stand mixer bowl add oil and mix in sugar, vinegar, applesauce, and vanilla extract. Add eggs one at a time, stirring in-between. Add milk and mix 2 minutes. Gradually add dry ingredients and mix well.
Pour batter into greased loaf pans. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.

The shiny glisten is the crunchy caramelization of the sugar.

You can see that it's airy and intact, and not super dense
and crumby like most GF cakes.

Dairy-Free Chocolate Ganache

This recipe is perfect for using up the rest of the coconut milk leftover from the can that you used for the pound cake recipe. It actually makes a little bit more than you need for the pound cake, but this just gives you a reason to go heavy on the chocolate ganache. And, that’s never a bad thing! If there’s anything leftover, you’ve got ganache for another treat. It will keep in the fridge, but I doubt it will be there long!

1 cup full-fat organic coconut milk         
2 cups (or slightly more!) semi-sweet chopped dairy-free chocolate or chocolate chips (such as Ener-G brand)
optional:  1/2 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, whisk together the coconut milk and chocolate chips over low to medium low heat. Stir until the mixture is fully incorporated and the chocolate is melted, taking care to not scorch the chocolate. If you prefer, add in vanilla extract. The ganache will be smooth and shiny when done.

Pour the ganache over the cake and as it cools, it will firm up. Instead of pouring the ganache over the top of the cake, I opted to slice the cake and pour it over the individual slices. In our family, more chocolate is better!
Gorgeous, isn't it? It tastes as good as it looks!

Happy baking! Let me know how your pound cake and chocolate ganache turns out!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...