How I Write, or, Pulling a Blog Post Out of My…

beginnings

I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes kind of girl. The whole peeking around the curtain thing is exciting (please don’t read into that line, this is a family blog). I’m talking about the process, people. The artistic process.

Writing can be such a solitary practice. By nature it has to be, unless you’re one of those collaborators (lucky you). But for most of us hunched-over-screens-all-across-the-globe kind, it’s solo stuff. Which makes it doubly more fantastic to read behind-the-scenes about writers.

That’s probably why I’m totally enamored by this Writing Process series that I discovered over at one of my favorite blogs, via one of those “blog hops.” (WARNING: rambling sidebar happening now – I’m sorry, but I have a hard time getting behind the “hop” name, since for me it conjures up such a bizarre juxtaposition of frogs, bunnies, and 50s dances. But moving along…)

Inspired by this, “hop” I decided to write a bit about my own practice. Specifically, my blogging practice, because my fiction one varies, as you might expect. I’m more flexible and fancy free with blogging, which may or may not be a good thing.

So, here’s the thing about me:

I’ve never been much of a planner. In writing or life in general. I’m more of an instinct girl. Inspiration turns me on (again, not in that way, come on!). I feel a stirring, sense a seed (WHOA, no terrible puns unintended, I swear) and I go with it. Sometimes I fall on my face, other times I soar.

Like right now I’m thinking the above paragraph is a bit of a face plant, but I’m leaving it since time is of the essence. Which, ultimately, leads us to my biggest challenge in writing ANYTHING:

I have no time.

Seriously. Sometimes I don’t even let myself pee. Well, not until it’s a real emergency anyhow. I forget to eat, shower, and brush my teeth because I’m often too busy feeding, bathing, and brushing everyone else’s teeth (not my husband’s, just to clarify).

mom humor

Since I don’t have time to pee, I don’t have much time to do anything else.

So how do I write blog posts (let alone anything else)? Well. To clarify, when I say “no” time, I really mean extremely limited, and when it occurs, it can be interrupted at any moment. I write when Little Guy naps and Bunky’s at school. Both have to happen at the same time. I write when I have a babysitter, which is for about three hours one morning a week. I occasionally write at night after I wrestle LG into bed – but sometimes this doesn’t happen until 10pm. Not even kidding about that.

For example, right now it’s early evening and I’m writing this while Bunky takes a shower and Little Guy is dancing to the Frozen soundtrack. I’m standing in a corner of the kitchen (where I can see LG out of the corner of my eye since we live in an apartment) so he doesn’t see the computer because if he does, he’ll want to watch Frozen videos on it, or play Thomas the Train games (torture). Right now he’s asking me to help him because he’s spinning in circles and threatening to fall into the train table.

Thirty minutes later… okay, I’m back. It’s mere seconds until the bedtime bomb explodes so this will be brief. I quit earlier so I could dance with my two-year-old son to “Let it Go” while we both belted it out, in pale comparison to Idina Menzel’s version, but rather adorably if I say so myself.

Yet, you can see how the time thing is not on my side.

So, here’s what I do. Here’s the HOW.

I write in PIECES. A little here, a little there. It can take me weeks to write a post. Some days it’s all I can do to upload some photos.

What also helps is to THINK about my posts in advance. I do some of my best thinking in the shower (maybe because I’m alone?! Though not recently since LG has become a shower-addict). I think when I’m waiting for Bunky at school pick-up, when LG is falling asleep. Thinking helps. I can formulate my ideas, take notes on my phone, maybe even think out loud. Ever see a woman pushing a stroller talking out loud to HERSELF? Might be me. Some posts are written entirely in my head first.

It’s a piece-meal process that took some getting used to. In my early blogging days (as in almost 3 years ago!) I used to get a little OCD about finishing. I’d start a blog post and feel this NEED to finish it. And when forced, inevitably, to stop, I’d get upset. I quickly realized I’d have to change my ‘tude because my life was not going to be changing any time soon. Interruption is a parenting byproduct. To get upset by it is futile and exhausting. So, I got used to it. I started to expect it. Knowing it may take a dozen (more or less – this post took exactly 12!) little moments to make up one post, makes it easier to put the computer away when I have to.

Now, there are some times when I have a chunk of time – when the sitter comes and during LG’s naps. He will sleep at least an hour, maybe two, and sometimes if the stars are aligned, three (!). Something Bunky NEVER did, so I really and truly treasure and appreciate his nap times. I try to squeeze out every single minute of them. For writing. Dishes, laundry, and sadly, dinner planning often get sidelined. Sorry, but I have my priorities.

LG sweeping laundry

Yup. He’s “sweeping” the laundry.

When I have my block o’ time the best thing I can do is PLAN AHEAD. Meaning, THINK AHEAD. If I think about what I want to write about, what I’d like to accomplish – be it finishing a blog post or a scene in my novel – I am better equipped at making it happen. If I force myself NOT to go online (not for email, not for research if possible), I am more productive. If I make an effort NOT to look at my phone for vital texts (I don’t actually get vital texts, but sometimes I forget this), I get more done. When time is of the essence, you do all you can not to waste it. I spent a good decade or more putzing around the computer, with entire DAYS at my disposal, and even though my time is so incredibly limited (in comparison), I might actually be writing more. Crazy, but true.

It seems obvious in retrospect that this blog, Aliventures, should have made my Top 10+ list, but here are two great posts by this lovely UK writer who is also a mom. The first is about making the most of your writing time. Along the lines of what I wrote, but without all the rambling. Second, this inspiring post about whether to call yourself a writer when you’re not writing. I definitely could’ve benefited from reading this when I was too exhausted by new motherhood to think about writing, and feeling crappy because of it.

So, go forth and write (or not). Write in long luxurious stretches, or short choppy ones. Write while “hiding” in your kitchen, or compose gorgeous prose while you shower or go for a run. Steal a few minutes to jot down some notes when your boss isn’t around or your kids are watching TV.

Please, share your tips and tricks for getting those words to appear. Despite the chaos of life. I’d love to hear them.

 

GF Grilled Almond Butter + Banana Sandwich


ab sand 2 better

Seems so obvious in retrospect. Almond butter + banana sandwich = awesome, but add butter and a frying pan and you’ve got SUPER AWESOME.

But first, a mini sidebar:

Oh Udi’s, how we depend on love thee. But, after being toasted, which is necessary for edibility, you can taste – how can I say this nicely – a little stale? Yes. Stale, a bit stiff. Not always so awesome. Especially when you sit in a lunch box all morning. Poor sandwich. Poor Bunky who is dependent on said sandwiches.

Luckily, she adores grilled cheese, which taste perfectly lovely on Udi’s bread when grilled in copious amounts of butter. Yum. Little Guy loves them, too. But how many grilled cheeses can a kid eat? Well, a lot, fortunately. But I figured something else out. Something fantastic. I can’t even take credit for it. When my friend told me about it I smacked my head. OF COURSE. Grilled almond butter and banana = Genius!

Can you see the buttery goodness? It's no joke.

Can you see the buttery goodness? It’s no joke.

Ingredients:

  • GF bread, banana slices, almond butter (or whatever you want) + frying pan + butter

Directions:

1. You probably don’t need me to spell this out, but I will just in case. Slap a big pad of butter in your frying pan. Heat that sucker up on medium low (you really don’t want to burn the bread, ew).

2. Spread a generous amount of almond butter on a slice of gluten free bread. Cover with banana slices. Top with a second piece of bread. Place in the pan and fry it up. Then add more butter to brown the other side.

3. Slide it on a plate and DIG IN!

* Want an upgrade? Use NUTELLA instead, or a combo. Oh. My. Goodness. Seriously. It should probably be illegal.

And since posting gratuitous pictures of my kids is kind of my thing, here is a series I call, When Little Brother Attacks.

IMG_3432

IMG_3431

Fun times. Little Guy is so sweet and cuddly, but he’s also a mixed martial arts star in training. My dad has big plans for him.

As for my girl, she is an artist and a budding writer. She’s always loved art, but now that she’s learning to write, she’s making books. How perfect is that?!

spring flowers

Spring flowers, please hurry! We’re so over winter.

Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.

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10 Awesome Writing Blogs


They make one of these for everything, don't they?

There’s one of these for everything, right?

This is a writing post, clearly. But before I get to my list of awesome blogs, an aside:

Recently, I went out of my (solitary, antisocial, hiding-in-a-dark-corner) comfort zone and went on an audition. I know, insane. But there’s this national event called, Listen To Your Mother, and it features 12 essayists reading their work aloud on Mother’s Day. This is a stretch for me for two major reasons: one, I’m primarily a fiction writer (with the exception of what I write on this blog, of course) and two, I rarely have the occasion to read my work aloud. Not to mention in front of a huge audience.

The essay, in case you’re curious, compares my mother’s labor toward death, which I witnessed, to my own labor with Bunky. Two entirely different things, you’d think, but more like flip sides of a coin.

Me and my mom circa 77.

Well. The good news is that I mustered up my courage and auditioned. Even better, I reworked an unfinished piece and polished it up nice and pretty-like. The not as good news is I didn’t make the cut. They had over 70 auditions and only 12 spots. Plus, the essays need to tell a story of sorts, and perhaps mine didn’t fit in. Who knows. In any case, I’m proud that I gave it a shot. I plan on submitting the piece to other places and maybe it will find a home after all. Truthfully, I’d rather have it published and read by others than read it aloud in front of an audience.

Because most of us writers are not actually performers (though I’m sure some are). We tend to come from a more solitary stock, the kind that skulks in the back of bookstores and hunkers down in front of computers. But there are moments when we need help, and thank goodness for the Internet, because it is FILLED with free advice.

On the flip side, since we’re talking about flip sides, it’s very easy to get buried beneath TOO much free advice – the good and the bad. It helps to first find the writing blogs that you like, that speak to your style, and then keep track of them on something like bloglovin (you can even follow me on it).

Now hang on, don’t go running off yet. Be careful not to follow too many blogs, because you may find yourself reading a whole lot about writing, but not writing so much. OR, trying to incorporate too much of other people’s advice into your work. My friend and fellow blogger, Kath, wrote a post about this, and other writing challenges, here, check it out. She’s a fab writer and illustrator whose site I often turn to for both insight and advice (and this is why I’ve added her as my 11th awesome blog!)

Getting back on topic here, the key is finding balance – read only the blogs you love, then filter through the individual posts, taking in ONLY what you need. Ignore the rest. This is the tricky part because once you start reading, you may think, oh crap I have to change everything about my story/novel/essay. It can really mess with your brain. My advice is try not to over think and go with your gut instead. No one is an expert on your WORK except you. Sure, other blogs can help you hone your craft and perfect certain techniques, but only you know what your story, novel, poem, or essay needs.

This baby knows where it's at.

This baby knows where it’s at.

And now finally, here are the 10 writing blogs I’ve been perusing lately to help inspire me as I toil through my novel revision rewrite. Maybe a few will appeal to you. But if not, don’t worry. Just find the ones that do. (And then tell me about them!)

In no particular order…

10 AWESOME WRITING BLOGS

  • Helping Writers Become Authors … gotta love this blog name, and it happens to have some fantastic advice
  • Live Write Thrive … great posts on technique and grammar, plus a wealth of info in the archives, check out her older series, The Heart of Your Story
  • Fiction University (formerly, The Other Side of the Story) … insightful and practical posts by a fantasy writer, but the info is universal and spot on
  • Terrible Minds … do you enjoy acerbic humor and foul language as much as I do? If yes, then look no further, the advice isn’t shabby either (actually, it’s pretty stellar)
  • The Write Practice … where the other blogs are more advice driven, this is action driven with writing prompts and practice ideas
  • Moody Writing … another fab name, right? Solid advice and eye catching images may get you in the mood (couldn’t resist, sorry)
  • Write to Done … a place to go for inspiration and advice, plus writing prompts
  • Goins, Writer … this Goins character writes posts that are practical and inspirational
  • Writers Helping Writers … resources and hints from the authors of the Thesaurus series
  • A Design So Vast … not a writing blog per say, but this woman’s posts often blow my mind, turning the seemingly mundane into magic and inspiring me to do the same
  • * I know I’ve already hit 10, but I must add Minuscule Moments of Inspiration … the blogger I referenced earlier, whose writing and camaraderie I respect so much

There you have it. But this is only the tip of the iceberg of awesome writing blogs, so PLEASE share in comments about all the blogs I’m missing. Can’t wait to add them to my queue.

Gluten Free Gnocchi with Tomato Cream Sauce

Scroll down for a poorly lit photo of gnocchi, but first, here’s Little Guy looking pensive and adorable. He’s wearing more clothes than usual (believe it or not): a pair of Thomas the Train underwear and his Buzzy Bee costume. Most of this winter he’s been naked and peeing on the floor. Oh, I mean, potty training. The only thing worse than pee on the floor is… well, you get the idea.

Buzzy bee

We spent Bunky’s winter break upstate and I rediscovered my love for snow. It was the first time I had a chance to “play” with B outside. Most of this winter and last I’ve been (hiding) inside with Little Guy, and secretly relieved to do so, because I hate being cold. But in 40+ degree weather with PERFECT snow packing/sculpting conditions, it was awesome. We also busted out the sleds, and I might have had more fun than Bunky.

Too bad a snow avalanche from the roof decapitated our girl in the night. But we made more.

Too bad a snow avalanche from the roof decapitated our snow girl in the night. But we made more.

Now, moving along to food. I brought about ten bags of edible supplies upstate – including a package of gluten free gnocchi and made it with left over smashed up meatloaf muffins mixed with Rao’s marinara sauce. It was great, but so is this tomato cream sauce. Mmm, cream sauce. You really want to get in there with a fork, don’t you?


gf gnocchi yum

Okay maybe not, but wait until you try it. Creamy and rich, but not overpowering. Super easy to make, this tomato cream sauce is a dream.

I use Farbella gnocchi that my local grocer carries, but you can use any GF brand or make your own. I did once and it was surprisingly easy. But it IS labor intensive with all the squishing together the dough and freezing it and THEN boiling it, so if I can buy a bag, even an overpriced(ish) one, I will. Because that’s the kind of girl I am.

The best thing about gnocchi? Besides the delightful flavor? Boils in 2 minutes. Yup. Crazy. So when you’re making this meal, don’t get over excited like me and throw it in first, before you make the sauce, otherwise it will get all squished and stuck together while it waits. Might as well cook the sauce first, putting water on to boil midway through, and then boil the suckers when the sauce is done. Voila, dinner is served! (Side dish not included.)

Creamy Tomato Sauce 

Based loosely on this recipe. *Use for gnocchi or any pasta you’d like*

Note: These measurements can be adjusted to your particular tastes. For example, like garlic? Use more. Want to serve more than 2-3 folks? I suggest you double it. Enjoy the cream-aliciousness of heavy cream, or perhaps you don’t? Adjust accordingly.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 1 can of 14.5 ounce diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste (optional)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream (OR, you can sub in a few tablespoons of whole milk)

Directions:

1. Heat a saucepan on medium and melt the butter, then add the minced garlic. Cook about one minute until fragrant.

2. Add the diced tomatoes, and possibly the tomato paste (totally not necessary, just bonus flavor). Stir and then simmer for about 10 minutes, more if you double the batch, until the sauce is slightly reduced and it smells gooood.

3. Remove from heat and CAREFULLY puree, using an immersion blender (if you happen to have one) or a food processor. It doesn’t have to be perfectly blended, just a texture you enjoy.

4. Then add the cream and simmer for about 5 minutes.

That’s it! You’re done. Slide the gnocchi into the sauce, stir, and enjoy. Top with grated parm, if you’d like. We sure do.

Oh yeah, you know you want some.

Oh yeah, you know you want some of this.

Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.

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Lemon Chicken with Garlicky Green Beans

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Not my photography, obviously.
Credit, Real Simple magazine.

I’ll get to that lovely chicken dish in a moment, but first, some words about my photography skills, or lack thereof. See Exhibit A.

Exhibit A

gnocchi

Sorry gnocchi. You’re better than this.

Farabella is a fantastic brand of pasta that comes from Italy (bonus) and has many gluten free options, including the sadly photographed gnocchi above (recipe for the sauce coming soon). It’s unfortunate that I have yet to capture it  properly. Sigh. Maybe one day I’ll make it for lunch on a sunny day and you can see it in all its glory.

Until then, there’s this utilitarian but super tasty one pot dinner…

Lemon Chicken with Garlicky Green Beans and Red Potatoes

What it looks like at my house. On a very fancy paper plate.

Looks can be deceiving. Don’t judge. Please.

This is an old standby that I’ve been using ever since I cut out the recipe from Real Simple magazine more than a decade ago. It’s a keeper, clearly. Chicken breasts rest atop lemon slices, all tucked in with green beans and red potatoes, swirled with olive oil and lots of garlic. All it takes is a cutting board, one big bowl for tossing, a serving dish, and voila! I am a sucker for a good one pot (or dish) meal.

The original recipe uses bone-in chicken breasts, but lately I’ve been making it with boneless breasts, which cooks up faster, and is still very juicy. Something magical happens to the lemon slices on the bottom when they get all caramelized and sticky. Yum.

Lemon Chicken with Garlicky Green Beans, slightly adapted from Real Simple, whose food photography is just a hair better than mine (ha)

Yes, using 2x because it's that pretty.

Yes, using 2x because it’s that pretty.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 lemons, 1 thinly sliced, 1 juiced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 pound trimmed green beans
  • about 8 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 4 chicken breasts (boneless, or bone-in with skin, about 3 1/4 lbs)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F for boneless, 450°F for bone-in. Coat a large baking dish or cast-iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Arrange the lemon slices in a single layer in the bottom of the dish or skillet.

2. In a large bowl, combine the remaining oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper; add the green beans and toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the green beans and arrange them on top of the lemon slices. Add the potatoes to the same olive-oil mixture and toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, arrange the potatoes along the edges of the dish or skillet on top of the green beans. Place the chicken in the same bowl with the olive-oil mixture and coat thoroughly. Place the chicken, skin-side up (if bone-in), in the dish or skillet. Pour any of the remaining olive-oil mixture over the chicken.

My husband begged me not to post raw chicken pics, but this may help you with arrangement.

My husband begged me not to post raw chicken pics, but this may help you with arrangement.

3. Roast for about 40 minutes for boneless breasts, 50 minutes for bone-in. Remove the chicken from the dish or skillet, after checking first that it is cooked through. Then place the beans and potatoes back in oven for 10 minutes more or until the potatoes are tender.

4. Place a chicken breast on each of 4 serving plates; divide the green beans and potatoes equally.

Enjoy! We do. And then make someone else do the dishes. Even one pot meals add up.

Do you have any fabulous one pot meals? If so, please share! I could use a few more. 

Happy Chinese Gluten New Year

I have about a million things to tell you, but no time to do it. Between getting back on my play date game (which I was never on, apparently) and researching play schools for Little Guy (which he says have to be “blue”), I have had about zero time to update.

Fancy play date picnic.

What snacks look like when I’m on my play date A game. Of course this only happened once.

In my spare time (i.e. LG’s naps) I’m attempting to edit my novel AND take an online real estate course. By the time LG passes out at 10pm (yes, because of the long and vitally important naps) my brain is completely zapped. I’m lucky if I can stay up long enough to watch the last season of Breaking Bad, which I’m woefully behind on (no spoilers please) and gives me nightmares. I kind of wish I never started the show. It’s like a train wreck, and I can’t look away even though I really want to. At least there’s Jesse.

One of the many stretches of the show's imagination.

One of the show’s many far fetched concepts.

Anyway… another thing that kept me and my brain busy recently was Bunky’s first class trip of the year, which happened to be a celebration of Chinese New Year… at a Chinese restaurant. UGH. Sure, they have rice noodles. But most are doused in GLUTEN. I kind of freaked about this for a while. Why do class trips have to be food related? And not just food related, but completely food focused. What about kids with food restrictions, life threatening allergies, celiac? Why not take the kids to a museum or an indoor play space? But no. It had to be Chinese food.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to Lilli and Loo, the only GF chinese I've heard of.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to Lilli and Loo, which apparently has great GF options.

I had planned on making Bunky a similar menu including lo mein, but ended up giving her leftover baked ziti (always better the second day, B says and it’s true), chicken noodle soup, and GF fried rice similar to this recipe. Dessert was Turkey Hill Vanilla (GF – I called ahead and checked online), so at least I didn’t have to worry about that. Or so I thought. More on that in a bit. Here’s a clue:

Ours was not GF, obvs.

Ours was not gluten free, obvs.

Backtracking a bit, when my husband and I first heard about this trip, we were both angry and deflated. Angry about the concept, deflated that our kid might feel left out – again. We debated about not sending her to school that day. We considered giving her a choice. But neither felt right. She’d definitely feel left out if she didn’t go, right? And I don’t want her to think opting out is the automatic response

Food related activities and celebrations will be part of her life forever, and she has to learn how to navigate them, not hide from them. But I realize now how important it is that I don’t hide from them. That I teach her how she can enjoy these events. That they may be challenging at times, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid them.

Homemade brown fried rice is way healthier anyhow.

Homemade fried rice is way healthier anyhow.

And so I worked my butt off to make the trip a success, to help her feel included, amid all the oohs and ahhs over the fragrant egg rolls, fried wontons, shrimp dumplings, lo mein, and fried rice.

Sometimes being GF can feel a little lonesome.

Sometimes being GF can feel a little lonesome.

I used my best British accent when serving her our food, grabbed a soup bowl and spoon before they could gluten-ize it, and kept an eye out for flying crumbs and roving gluten-y fingers. The kids are her table were sweet, and I kept an eye out for their needs as well, but mostly my attention was on Bunky. It paid off. She had fun, I think.

She ate everything I brought, and we donated some extra soup to a friend.

She ate everything I brought, and then we donated some extra soup to a grateful friend.

I feel like I was pretty chill during the whole thing, except for one teensy weensy moment at the very end when the waiters brought out trays of gluten free vanilla ice cream in plastic cups… with gluten fortune cookies on top. I might have said, “Oh shit” but I’m not sure. I leapt out of my seat and asked for a plain ice cream. One waiter tried to pry the cookie off and hand the cup to me, but I said no.

Luckily, I had packed some Lucy’s allergy free cookies in my bag, just in case. So while Bunky waited for her uncontaminated ice cream, she happily munched on a cookie. Then I used the rest of the cookies to make her a gluten free ice cream sandwich. Score.

Lucys-Cookies1

Loving the new Snack and Go combo packs!

She was also thrilled with my stop at the local Hello Kitty store. (Oh holy moly, the store was AWESOME.)

I easily could have bought way, way more.

I easily could have bought way, way more cute stuff.

All in all, it was a success. Not every event will go so seamlessly, but it’s nice that this first one did.

Up next (as in tomorrow) – first sleepover. Say WHAT?!

(Luckily my sweet little homebody will be coming home in the evening. At least that gets me out of figuring out breakfast. Geez.)

Hopefully soon I’ll be able to work on the recipe posts currently simmering in my brain. There’s GF gnocchi (not homemade), one pot dinners, and Risi Bisi, a rice cooker dream.

How do you handle non GF friendly events and outings? Do you bring your own food, eat beforehand, or skip it all together? If your kid has celiac or a gluten intolerance, how do you help him or her feel included?

Gluten Free Philadelphia Family Style

When Little Guy was just five months old, we went to Philadelphia for a long weekend. This was just a month after we FLEW to Florida to see my husband’s grandparents. The ironic thing is that this was both kids’ first flights – Bunky at age almost 4, Little Guy 4 months. 

My baby asleep on me en route to Florida.

LG asleep on me en route to Florida.

Looking back, I’m amazed at our bold travel plans with a picky and GF toddler (she was not yet four) and an infant, considering we didn’t leave our home for about a year after Bunky as born. Then again, let’s not forget about colic. Enough said.

Anyway, we had such a great time in Philadelphia that first time, we decided to go again over Bunky’s recent holiday break. One of the reasons we love Philly so much, besides the awesome Please Touch Me children’s museum, which now has a GF menu in their cafe, yay!

Hanging out with the birds by the clothesline.

Hanging out with the birds by the clothesline.

Playing some serious doctor.

Playing some serious doctor.

Little Guy, too. He really loves babies.

Little Guy really loves babies.

… and the Franklin Institute (I just love that giant beating heart), is because the city is literally crawling with gluten free dining options. There’s even a place to get a gluten free Philly Cheesesteak, because of course.

All that positive stuff said, let me be honest here – it’s HARD traveling away from home with a celiac kiddo and a GF family. Partly because we had to rely almost entirely on take-out – something we RARELY do at home. One thing I would do differently next time is find a hotel with a kitchenette. We had a fridge in our room, which helped a lot, but it wasn’t enough. Maybe because I didn’t bring enough food.

Sure, I packed cheese (2 types), a loaf of Udi’s bread, bags of pretzels (3 kinds), Pirate’s Booty (2 bags), apples, bananas, grapes, pouches of toddler food, nuts, dried cranberries, raisins (yogurt covered and plain), cereal (Honey Puffins and Koala Crisp), almond butter, and more stuff I can’t recall.

I packed about double this.

I packed at least double this. amount

I’m laughing as I type this because about ten seconds ago I genuinely believed that I didn’t bring enough, and yet – YET – clearly, there is NEVER enough. I forgot hummus and Temptee cream cheese (oh the horror! Bunky is not a fan of the city’s own brand), plus we ran out of fruit very fast. The fact is, when you have no way to cook anything, your packed stash disappears quickly. Maybe next time we’ll hit a grocery store mid way through, but that would’ve been a bit crazy considering we were only away for three days.

Thankfully there was a Starbucks in the lobby, and even though I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts girl at heart, I would have perished without my morning coffee, and they also sold fruit, yogurt, and travel size Rice Chex. Score!

I’d like to say my husband and I handled the food stress gracefully. That we laughed off Bunky’s refusal to eat eggs (eggs!?!? the only GF food on the hotel breakfast menu besides yogurt and fruit) and the fact that we were all starving by lunchtime and had to rush back to the hotel for LG’s nap while simultaneously trying to Google map the nearest GF pizza place. All this during a BLIZZARD. Plus arctic temperatures.

So, no, we didn’t handle it gracefully. Have I ever mentioned my husband’s genetic disposition to extreme grumpiness and borderline personality disorder when hungry?

angry face square

This is an understatement.

Have I ever mentioned mine?

Things took a grim turn the second night. Little Guy’s nap was extra late, and by the time he woke it was dark and the weather was a mess. After exhausting our research abilities and snapping at each other, my husband decided to order room service for us (which we tried to make GF, but I wouldn’t bet on it) and the kids ate scraps. Ha. Leftover pizza and our own food stash, but still, it was not ideal.

We survived though, and along the way found some new favorite GF places, plus revisited (several times) Franklin Fountain, an adorable and delicious old-fashioned ice cream shop. Yes, we ate ice cream in ten degree weather. Inside, though, which makes it okay.

Below is a list of the GF places that worked for us. There are about a bazillion more, which you can glimpse here.

[A quick disclaimer: Though I called ahead and checked the GF status of the following places, this is not a 100% guarantee that they will be safe for you, so you may want to do your own double checking.]

Giorgio On Pine … They have a gluten free menu and when my husband spoke to the chef during our first visit, she was well versed in gluten free safety and celiac disease. We felt very comfortable ordering from there. But not eating there, since it’s too nice and intimate of a place to bring two kids under five (in our opinion). Besides, one of our sweetest memories from our last trip was eating Giorgio on Pine’s pasta on the windowsill of our hotel room. So we did it again.

Window service. Freezing but fun.

Window service. Freezing but fun.

The pasta we ordered was Schar, and you can’t go wrong with that, but Bunky was not a big fan of the pizza, made with Still Riding brand dough. It was fine, but nothing compared to the pizza from…

Slice (oh my god, seriously delicious) … This might have been some of the BEST gluten free pizza I’ve ever had. No joke. I would totally be their best customer if they opened up a shop in Brooklyn. (Please, please!) It also passed Bunky’s very strict approval process. Phew!

Franklin Fountain … We went here twice in arctic temperatures to eat ice cream. Do I need to say more?

Thumbs up to vanilla shakes with lots of vanilla bean bits.

Thumbs up to vanilla shakes and ice cream with lots of vanilla bean bits.

This is what LG looked like waking from his nap.

This is LG wondering, where is my take-out chocolate shake?

Oh yeah, the chocolate shake was a big hit.

Now, that’s the way to wake up from a nap.

Well, yes, I do. They also opened a brand new vanilla for Bunky AND disinfected their ice cream scoop BEFORE making hers. Awesome. Plus, the employees wear these cute old-fashioned caps and aprons. Plus, they sell lots of old-fashioned candy.

Xochitl … This adorable little Mexican restaurant in Old City, Society Hill has great ambiance and delicious food. Oh, and fantastic margaritas. Thank goodness we went at 5:30 and were the first table, because Little Guy was climbing all over me and using his outside voice. But our waitress was SO nice and helpful, not only about the GF menu (pretty much everything was GF!) but also with my kids. I really can’t say enough how much I appreciate when wait staff is genuinely loving towards children.

Soy Cafe … This place seriously SAVED our lives on our way out of Philly. We were all hungry and cranky (shocking) plus a little bit sad to be leaving the city of brotherly love. Our food stash was seriously compromised. As in gone. We told a not very pleased Bunky we were getting eggs at a cool sounding place called, Green Eggs Cafe, but when we arrived there was a line out the door. Crap, we had forgotten it was Sunday. As parents of a celiac kid we had completely forgotten about the existence of brunch (so sad). Doh. My husband pulled the car over and I happened to glance out the window and saw this:

soy cafe

I just had a feeling we were golden. Soy practically means gluten free, right? Well, in this case it did! They have a hugely extensive menu filled with fresh juices, smoothies, salads, veggies, hummus, eggs, wraps, soups (including GF miso, yum!), plus gluten free muffins (banana chip, I mean, really how did they know?!) and hot chocolate, which I had promised the kids. I HIGHLY recommend dropping by if you ever find yourself in the area. The online reviews are all raves, too, so it wasn’t just a case of dire desperation. Soy Cafe truly rocks!

Now, you can’t hit everything, especially not in only three days. We didn’t get to Taffet’s this time (formerly Totes Bakery) which has a FANTASTIC stash of breads, baked goods and specialty GF foods, or to Pasanos’s, which sells delicious sounding Italian sandwiches on GF rolls (purchased from their neighbor, Taffet’s). Or the vegan bakery, Sweet Freedom, or about a dozen other places that sounded great.

Fortunately, there’s always next year.

Have you been to Philly recently? What are your favorite GF places there?