Gluten Free Product Review Round-up

Earlier this month we spent our anniversary family-style at our country house upstate, and unlike the last trip (Easter weekend began with sun AND ended with snow!) this was summery without a spec of precipitation. It was filled with fun outdoor activities like lake swimming, sand castle building, marshmallow roasting, salamander catching (and releasing), and of course eating.

kids at lake

Red salamanders at the house and lots of green ones at the lake.

Red salamanders at the house and lots of green ones at the lake.

The eating part is surprisingly easy since the gluten free section at the local Peck’s grocery store is AWESOME! Seriously, it’s better than our grocery in Brooklyn. This makes our trips a lot easier knowing we can pick up a complete stash of Udi’s products, plus cookies, crackers, cake mixes, and more instead of packing our usual fridge/freezer/pantry arsenal.

I found a couple of new items that my family loved and I want to share here. I rarely do product reviews, but I should do more because there’s nothing worse than spending a zillion dollars on a dry meh GF cookie or a weird rubbery wrap.

scary face

Am I right?! (Gotta love Photo Booth.)

Have I mentioned how sad I am about gluten free bread lately? [sidebar alert] As much as I love Udi’s and am eternally grateful for their brand, I can’t handle how crumbly and hole-y the bread can be. It’s gotten to the point where I feel bad about giving it to my kids, especially Little Guy who is particularly sensitive to stale tasting bread. Maybe poor Bunky is used to it after all these years. Sigh.

Recently we tried Glutino White Bread, and it is SOFT, seriously insanely soft. You don’t even have to toast it! Less healthy than the whole grain Udi’s, sure, but you know, sometimes you need to be able to chew your sandwich without gagging.

Glutino_Bread_White_Sandwich-250x250

So, that was sort of an unofficial review, and now for the rest from our upstate stash…

Udi’s Gluten Free Flour Tortilla Wraps 

After years of eating quesadillas (practically a food group around here) on stiff yellow circles also known as store bought corn tortillas, I discovered these beauties.

The bread might not always be awesome, but these wraps totally are!

They are enormous and soft GF flour tortillas (they also sell smaller ones). Oh, Udi’s, I know I just bad talked your bread, but you nailed these. I used them for our regular shredded cheddar quesadillas, but also for a sweet breakfast tortilla (!) which tasted like a thick crepe, using our new favorite White Chocolate Peanut Butter and sliced banana. OMG! Unfortunately, I haven’t found these in Brooklyn yet (!) but the next time we go upstate, I’m stocking up.

Even a paper plate can't cheapen the experience.

Even a paper plate can’t cheapen the experience.

Next up…

Maple Grove Farms Gluten Free Pancake and Waffle Mix

maple grove farms gf mix

Speaking of breakfast, have you tried this mix? If not, you should give it a try because it’s awesome. Plus, there’s NO added sugar, which is not necessarily true for other mixes (Bisquick, I’m talking to you). It’s super easy to make either pancakes or waffles and both have been successful for us. I used to like making my own homemade pancakes, and still do on occasion, but it’s also nice to have the convenience of a mix, especially when your kids wake you up before dawn.

Now, no trip to the country would be complete without copious amounts of Haagen Dazs ice cream. A moment of props to HD – want to know how many ingredients are in their traditional vanilla? FIVE. Cream, sugar, skim milk, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Nothing fake, no “natural flavor” scams, nothing. Just real food.

Normally we eat it in a bowl because GF cones are not always easy to come by… except upstate where they sell these awesome ones:

Joy Gluten Free Sugar Cones

Isn't my cone model adorable?!

Isn’t my cone model adorable?!

These GF sugar cones are really tasty! They also make gluten free cake cones, by the way. One day we’ll give those a try. In the meantime, the sugar cones are rad. We all really enjoyed eating them all filled up with drippy vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The only caveat is that they leak at the bottom, but you can use your finger as a stopper, ha, or better yet melt some chocolate down there. Oh, yeah.

bunky and cone

Eating outside makes ice cream taste even better, don’t you think?

Everything outside is better in the summer. Salamander catching included.

kids and salamander

Have you had any fantastic gluten free finds lately? If so, bring it on in comments. I can always use some new ideas. And let me know if you try any of my suggestions. We GFers have to stick together, you know?

 

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.

gf friday badge

Gluten Free Buckwheat Noodle Stir Fry + a Slice of Country

It’s November, already. I know I’m not the only one caught totally off guard by the insanely fast passage of time this autumn. I’ve heard the rumbling on other blogs. I know it’s super boring and redundant to talk about how fast time goes by, but seriously, it feels like Bunky started kindergarten about three seconds ago, and now Halloween is over, Little Guy’s 2nd birthday was over a week ago (!) and Thanksgiving is a stone’s throw away. I’m behind on posts and pretty much everything else.

How I'm feeling lately.

I can relate to how this guy feels.

But, instead of throwing up my hands and giving up (my usual m.o.), I am going to take some deep cleansing breaths (trying) and go one post at a time. First up, our awesome pre-Halloween trip to the country and a super yum buckwheat noodle stir fry recipe.

Important note from the author: I totally understand if you feel the need to scroll past the ridiculous amount of pictures of my kids and the photogenic country background and get right to the recipe. All I ask is that you look at this one before you go.

indian corn

I mean, really. How does nature make this stuff up?

Okay, so here we go. A few weeks ago we drove up to the country for what might be my favorite time of the year (well, besides summer at the lake, of course). Besides everything looking so golden hued and gorgeous with all the fall foliage, there is THIS:

Cunningham Farms Corn Maze

Cunningham Farms

Cunningham Farms is a lovely little farm in Bethel, NY. (Bethel is the location for the original Woodstock concert, btw, with a trippy museum to boot.) We stumbled upon their pumpkin patch and corn maze last year and loved it. This is a picture of Bunky in October 2012 giving her famous double thumbs up (highest level of praise).

farm thumbs up with hay bale

And now, one year older. (Same fleece, ha.)

Bunky on hay bales

They added some cool new features like an obstacle course, giant chess board, and Bunky’s absolute favorite, panning for gems. The kid is super into crystals and rocks. I mean, who isn’t?

obstacle course

chess board

Bunky loved "finding" gems.

Bunky finding “gems” with her dad.

I loved the corn maze, which I skipped last year because I didn’t feel like carrying Leo.

corn maze kids

Of course, I still ended up lugging him around most of the way, but with a face like this, how could I resist?

Little Guy close up

Look at the sky. It was a perfect mix of clouds and sun.

Look at the sky. It was a perfect fall mix of clouds and sun.

There was a tractor, because of course.

tractor

The Indian corn was a huge hit all around.

candy corn

Little Guy loved his so much he fell asleep holding it later that day. No joke. He also used it as a “phone” on the ride home.

corn nap

A real life nap. Not staged.

I feel like the corn was more colorful than I remember, each kernel so shiny and vibrant. Or maybe I just never really saw it before. My mom used to love Indian corn and every autumn we’d have some hanging on our door. I used to think she was a little silly for getting so excited about it, and now here I am. There are so many things I wish I could tell her she was right about. Corn is the least of it, you know?

She would’ve loved these guys, obvs.

Bunky thief

little guy thief

She also would have loved this blog. I think she would have been surprised about the recipes since I had never been much of a cook. My claim to fame as a post college graduate was that I made edible scrambled eggs and rocking rice krispie treats. No joke. It wasn’t until I met my husband at the ripe old age of 26 (yes, I thought I was old then – HILARIOUS, right?!) that I began to learn. Looking back, I’m pretty sure it was his master plan to teach me how to cook and then conveniently hand over the tongs.

Well. I’ve come along way from those early days. For years I relied on recipes, strictly. I felt like if I strayed from a recipe even in the most minor of ways, it would end in disaster and chaos. Not unlike how I live my life, ha. Oh, the metaphors one can come up with on such little sleep. Anyway. It’s only very recently that I feel brave enough to go out on my own, to combine recipes, to leave out (seemingly!) key ingredients, to swap things out, to PLAY. I still keep it safe, as I don’t have any free time to experiment for whimsy’s sake. I’ve got a picky family to feed, you know?

So, the recipe I came up with works in several key ways for me and my people:

1. It’s HEALTHY, but covertly so (6-8 grams of protein per noodle serving!)

2. I can switch up the veggies depending on what I’ve got hanging around.

3. It is super flavorful (which is saying a lot given my spice averse family).

4. (Perhaps most importantly) It’s FAST and EASY.

Here’s the secret: awesome gluten free soba noodles.

king soba

I used King Soba Sweet Potato Buckwheat for this recipe, but their Pumpkin Ginger Brown Rice noodles are great, too. They are organic, gluten free, and super healthy. You can cook them up and add them to soup (which we did for Bunky who is anti-stir fry for some strange reason) or make this…

stir fry

Please don’t judge a book by its cover. Or my recipe by this photo.

Gluten Free Buckwheat Noodle Stir Fry (with chicken or all veggie)

Adapted from this recipe and this one, too.

Ingredients (for the sauce):

For the sauce:
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger minced or thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of rice vinegar

For the rest:

  • 1 complete package of gluten free King Soba noodles (comes in batches of 3 but each is about one serving, according to my family)*
  • 2 teaspoons of canola oil
  • 1 broccoli crown, separated into bite sized pieces
  • carrots (we used pre-shredded from the store, or 2-3 carrots shredded or sliced)
  • 2-3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips or thinly sliced (omit and use cubed tofu if you’d like)
  • 1/2 bunch of kale, deveined and chopped

* We also cooked up a package of plain rice noodles and used both cause we are noodle people.

Directions:

1. Mix all sauce ingredients into a small bowl. Set aside

2. Boil water for noodles. Cook as directed on the package. Set aside when done.

Gray noodles look gross, but they taste good.

Gray noodles look gross, but they taste good.

3. Meanwhile, heat oil in the pan on medium. Add broccoli, cook for a few minutes and then add carrots. After a minute or two add the chicken and cook until almost cooked through.

(Sidebar: I had taken a picture of the raw chicken happily nestled inside a circle of veggies, but my husband nearly threw up when he saw it and told me to delete it. So I did. Thanks, honey. Probably a good call.)

Add kale. Cook for a few minutes until wilted down.

stir fry chicken and veg

4. Now add sauce. Stir everything together and cook for a few minutes more on low heat.

5. Finally, add noodles and stir to combine or serve over noodles. Your call.

stir fry gf

It looks like I served this version over rice, ha! Works just as well, but with less protein power than buckwheat soba.

Some day I’ll manage to take pictures during daylight hours and not seconds before starving people are waiting to eat. Until then, they’ll look like the one above. Sorry.

I leave you with this final photo from Cunningham Farms. Yup, this guy was back.

See you next year, suckers.

See you next year, suckers.

What I Learned in the Country

country house drivewayIt’s been a whirlwind summer, truly. When I said my posts would be sporadic, I didn’t realize a more accurate term would be non-existent. But it’s not all that surprising considering this very un-mathematical equation:

No school + not much camp + minimal babysitting hours + 2 kids = NO free time

I can barely compose a decent email these days. That said, I somehow managed my FIRST ever guest post! Okay, fine. The truth is I wrote it before school let out, but still.

Check out “My Momtourage” post at Stephanie Sprenger and Jessica Smock’s awesome collaboration, The HerStories Project, which is their collection of tales all about friendship and new motherhood.

Back to summer, we’ve been enjoying ourselves (minus the tantrums and sweaty walks home from the playground). But the best part by far has been the two weeks spent at our country house in Sullivan County, New York.

The timing was perfect since we may have missed the NASTIEST, sweatiest (+ smelliest) NYC weather (so far), by complete and utter chance. It was hot in the country, but not unbearable. And, there was this lake:

lake family

We were lucky enough to have 2 sets of friends visit us while we were there. One family came all the way from South Korea! Not just to see us, obvs, but still it was great that they dedicated some of their annual trip to hang out.

I could easily go on in annoying detail about our daily activities, but instead I decided on a List. I love lists. You wouldn’t know it from this blog where I tend to babble via paragraphs, but lists are very big for me. Sadly, they are usually very boring To Do lists, or worse, grocery shopping lists, but this one is way more exciting. Um, I hope. And here it is, in no particular order:

What I Learned in the Country 

I’m really, really, afraid of bears. I think I spotted one in the woods moments after we arrived, but I’m hoping all my clapping and loud whooping noises scared it away. It certainly scared my husband.

Freshly picked berries and peas taste best right off the vine.

fresh peas

Food tastes better when eaten outside (and with wine).

centerpiece

How peaceful it is to look up at the sky through a sunny maze of leaves while lying on a blanket under a tree.

Freshly picked flowers can last weeks. They’re so pretty, and super fun to pick.

fresh picked flowers

This one’s super obvious, but how good are roasted marshmallows?! And even better with good pals.

roasting mellows with pals

How wonderful it is to have dear friends who you can not see for two years and yet fall right back into a rhythm together.

lake long shot

Who knew lacrosse could be so much fun? And don’t even get me started on wiffle ball. Seriously.

lacross sillies

Kids don’t need so many toys. Not when a real tea pot is available.

tea time

Turns out baby pools and fancy sprinklers are also overrated. A garden hose works just fine, especially when a toddler is aiming at his mom and big sister.

I had no idea I was such a lake person. And a digging trenches in the sand at the lake person. So much more satisfying than at the beach where holes refill with every breath of the tide.

little guy and the lake

Farms come in all sizes and my daughter can’t walk without complaining whether it’s only 2 or 40 acres. However she did LOVE feeding the chickens and ducks.

root and roost farm

Root and Roost farm: 2 acres of farming goodness

Pigs can’t sweat. And they smell. No wonder they’re misunderstood.

pig big

Some turkeys are so ugly they’re beautiful.

turkey

I’m a city girl, mostly, but the country is growing on me. (Except for the whole bear thing.)

Wild daisies in our backyard.

These wild daisies grow in our backyard.

My daughter might be more country than I thought.

gardening girl

Her flower picking outfit.

Her perfect flower picking outfit.

And my son might be more sporty than I thought, especially coming from such unsporty parents (with the exception of wiffle ball).

little guy lacrosse

To be perfectly honest, the idea of two weeks holed up in an isolated country house with my nutty kids kind of terrified me, and a few moments were a bit touch and go, but mostly, it was wonderful. What a gift this house is to our family.

Spring is in the (Country) House + Ramps

We returned to our country house this past weekend to celebrate my husband’s birthday, which was on Monday. He and Bunky are just a week apart. My two (crazy) Tauruses. Stubborn as bulls, but loyal as anything. (Have you read Molly’s astrological post on her blog, Sprue Story? Hilarious and spot on.) Since opening up the house to renters via Home Away, we have been pleasantly surprised by how popular it has been. So popular that we have to take advantage of the open weekends. This was the perfect opportunity.

Sharing a rocker on the porch. So sweet until it wasn't.

Sharing a rocker on the porch.
So sweet until it wasn’t.

Spring is a little delayed in Sullivan County, especially up top of the winding gravel road that leads to our home. The small green leaves that had daintily dotted the tree lined highways grew more sparse the higher we ascended, similar to how the snow lay thicker in the winter, but the warm weather and cerulean blue skies couldn’t have been more perfect.

blue sky house

Side view of the house.
Isn’t that sky insane?

We didn’t make any plans beyond a trip to the farmer’s market, which is a lesson we learned in the fall, and instead made it our goal to enjoy some quality relaxation surrounded by nature. Too bad the kids and bugs had other ideas.

The kid part is obvious. I knew things wouldn’t be all zen with a spirited preschooler and a banshee screaming toddler – Little Guy’s latest trick when frustrated. But the bug thing threw my husband for a loop, perhaps because he is one sweet tasting dude. According to the bugs. (Hey, this is a family blog.) Fortunately the mornings and early afternoons were bug free, as it seems the bugs (unlike my kids) like to sleep in. So we had plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors. Fortunately there was cable TV, which we don’t have in Brooklyn, to take care of the buggy afternoons. Let’s just say Bunky and Little Guy got quite comfortable on the couch.

tv boy

Literally, first thing he did was go for the remote. I blame it on his sister.

I’m making it sound like we hid indoors, which is not entirely true. Just on Saturday during my husband’s “Project.” My husband likes projects. Loves them. Like, this country house? It’s a nesting doll of projects, dozens of them all squeezed inside his brain. This weekend’s birthday project was on a smaller scale (unlike the drainage ditch he built a few weeks ago). He wanted to create a picturesque spot for the fancy (read: pricey) fire pit he bought. Shockingly, he finished it in less than a day.

This is me talking to my husband, right now: “Honey, you were right. Okay?!” I’m not so great at admitting I’m wrong, but I told him I’d be thrilled to do so if in fact he actually finished his project on time. Which he did. And it looks pretty awesome.

fire pit rocks

Little Guy is REALLY into rocks.

Little Guy is REALLY into rocks.

family fire pit

The next day was the local farmer’s market (nearly an hour’s drive away) which was extra special because of the Ramps Festival. What are ramps, some of you may wonder? Well, if you’re a foodie you already know cause they are like the shit to talk about and cook with in early spring. But they aren’t really that fancy in person. They are wild leeks, or as wikipedia says, “an early spring vegetable with a garlic odor and onion flavor.”

Don’t get me wrong, they are GOOD. But before this weekend, I thought they were just another pretentious ingredient at hip Brooklyn eateries – which they may well be, but they are also growing in our backyard! Seriously! My husband got all Little House on the Prairie on us and dug some up with a shovel and presented them to me like a bouquet. Check out his food photography. It’s no joke.

ramps on deck

After chatting with the very nice woman at the farmer’s market whose small stand WAS the Ramps Festival, I had a good idea of how to prepare them. A little internet research confirmed what she advised, which was to keep it simple.

You can eat the leaves and the bulbs (once you cut off the tip of the root). But first it’s kind of important to make sure you’re actually eating ramps and not lilies of the valley, which they closely resemble and are POISONOUS. My husband was like, oh no these are definitely ramps. But I decided to do my own research, just in case. I found this great article which has a very thorough description (with photos) about what those other less edible plants look like, along with some recipe advice.

After reading it I felt pretty sure I wasn’t going to kill myself, but I kept sniffing the leaves and the bulbs, just in case. Fortunately the whole house smelled like an onion, which is a dead giveaway (no pun intended) since the bulbs of lilies of the valley have no offensive odor. Here is my own little ramp tutorial:

Preparation

Wash your ramps in warm water and then cut the tip off the root. Similar to the green onions they resemble, there is a thin clear membrane over the stalk. Just peel it down. It should come off pretty easily. Chop those suckers up, but keep the white bulb pieces separate from the green leaves since they cook at different rates.

Method

I sauteed mine in butter and olive oil. You could do one or the other, but this time being indecisive worked in my favor. Just start with the white bulbs first because they will take a bit longer to cook. Saute them for about a minute or so before adding the chopped green leaves. Stir and and cook together on medium low for another minute or so until wilted down.

Ramptastic

I ate mine straight out of the bowl and they were warm, fragrant, and delicious. Way more subtle than onions, a bit sweeter than leeks. Even my husband who stays away from anything in the onion family stared longingly at my bowl because they smelled that good. He tried two small pieces and declared them amazing.

It wouldn’t have been hard to eat the entire bowl, but I didn’t want to get a ramp overload, so I forced myself to save half. The next day I made myself a ramptastic lunch by frying up two eggs and tossing it in a bowl with my leftover ramps and some basmati rice. A sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a dash of red pepper flakes and I was in ramp heaven. I would have taken a picture but I was too busy eating. And watching repeats of NCIS. Little Guy was napping and Bunky was out with her dad. Ah, bliss…

Other highlights of our trip included a sweetly serious discussion with Bunky about her dolls, Ariel and Sleeping Beauty, who she told me were getting married. Then she asked with a touch of concern, can two girls get married? And I was like YUP. She was very happy about this and told me all about their wedding cake.

lady loveThen there was LOTS of strawberry, vanilla, and cherry vanilla ice cream. We love Haagen Dazs, gluten free and natural. Our local supermarket even had gluten free wafer cones! Insane! We ate the entire package and Little Guy had his first cone. He had no problem with the licking part, but was a little confused about what to do with the cone. So I ate it for him. One of the benefits of being someone’s mom.

He prefers to drink his ice cream dregs from a bowl.

He prefers drinking his ice cream dregs from a bowl.

I also made my husband some of these delicious fudge brownie cookies (also found in our local market, so cool) and chocolate chex mix, his new favorite treat. Which is convenient because it’s SO easy. A recipe will come soon, though you probably know it already. I think we’re a little late to the chocolate covered Chex party.

Yes, that's a llama in the background.

Yes, that’s a llama.

Since our house is all booked up through June, we won’t be going again until July. Plenty of time for my husband to dream up some more projects.

Safe Travels: Avoiding Bears and Gluten

Let’s talk about safety. First priority in the country – avoid being mistaken for an animal. Especially during hunting season.

Which is why we bought these lovely neon hats. The pumpkin is wearing it, which takes away from its extreme orange-ness, but believe me when I say no animal in the woods is this color.

Our big pumpkin will not get shot.

Bunky also has a fantastically bright magenta coat which no creature in nature shares, so I’m pretty sure she’ll be safe. In addition to her orange hat.

The place we bought the hats a few weeks ago is an enormous Home Depot-sized outdoors store called, Gander Mountain. In addition to guns, fishing poles, cozy looking hunting shelters, and many (creepy) mounted animal carcasses, they also sell hiking and snow boots, which is what we were there to buy.

Usually I spend most of our money on overpriced GF groceries, but this time I got to splurge on some quality snow boots. I almost bought ones called, Joan of Arctic, and probably should have because of the name (and better price), but decided on a more expensive pair, Cate of Alexandria. Who is that? No clue. That should’ve tipped me off, but vanity got the better of me and I got these Sorel boots instead. For the record, they were not as expensive as listed on the site, but still. Oh well. At least my feet and legs will be warm and fantastic looking. Bunky got cool boots too, for a much more reasonable amount.

Pink and black checked boots.

After this longer than intended stop, we were all starving. We BOOFed (bring our own food) of course, but to be honest, how many Udi’s sandwiches can one family eat? Especially outside on a damp cold day in a parking lot which happens to overlook a Perkin’s Pancake restaurant. I have to admit feeling a twinge of sadness at not having the option to pop into a place like that for a warm meal. But there are no, or very few, safe options for us. Until a GF diner opens – entrepreneurs take note – it’s Udi’s on the road for us.

Lately there hasn’t been much going on in the nearby towns during our country weekends. We had been spoiled early on since our visits coincided with fun events like a Halloween festival, pumpkin picking, cider mills, and craft fairs.

Bunky bowling with a pumpkin. And yes, those are toilet paper ghosts.

The truth is I think we need to stop trying to find “stuff” to do, and simply enjoy the house and nearby nature spots. Have I mentioned that driving anywhere in the country takes forever? Not cool with two kiddos. Unless they are sleeping, they are not exactly what you’d call amiable passengers.

In front of the falls at the cider mill. Lovely, right? The ride there – not so lovely.

That weekend we ended up finding a sweet little country store where I bought vanilla bean soaked peaches – yum. Both Bunky and Little Guy rejected what I thought would be a sweet treat.  Now the whole jar is mine, all mine!

B reading a book to LG at breakfast after rejected peach tasting.

Their loss is my gain. I’ve been enjoying them diced in my oatmeal with a dash of maple syrup.

Every Sunday there is a lovely farmer’s market by the river (in the warmer months) and indoors during winter. But it’s a good 45 minute drive from our house. We went once and it was great, but I can’t see going regularly unless we’re in the area for something else.

Our farmer’s market bounty a few weeks ago.

Ultimately, Bunky is happiest hanging out at the river with her dad, collecting rocks and exploring. There is no need to drive searching for something “to do” when we can walk outside our door, or drive a little ways down the road to the river and make stone towers.

I mean, isn’t that why we bought a house in the country? We don’t need to track down events. Our girl is thrilled to stack rocks, look for newts under logs, and soar through the air on her homemade swing.

As we move deeper into December, and closer to winter, we’re hoping for more snow so we can enjoy some easy and fun play right outside our front door. Snow in the city quickly becomes slushy and stained (let’s not talk about with what). Country snow means clean snow, with potential for forts and snow angels.

The other great thing about winter? Hibernation. Though we haven’t seen any bears, and nor have our neighbors apparently, it’s nice to know the ones that might be around are hunkered down for the season.

I still might wear my orange hat, though. Just in case.