Category : Uncategorized

One Mom’s Perspective on 2020

May 2020 Rest in Peace

All the Hope of a New Year…

While the most anticipated holiday of the year approaches, I find myself full of grief rather than the expected joy.  In an effort to properly walk through the process, I have been running over the events of the past year in my head, and I am paralyzed by the amount of pain, disappointment, and uncertainty caused by 2020, more specifically by COVID-19.  This year was no joke.

I can so clearly remember my family and I ringing in 2020, full of optimism, for a tide change from the recent years we had experienced.  In the early days of 2020, just on the heels of my oldest having a wonderful first year of football, my youngest found his love for basketball.  Nothing makes a mother’s heart swell like the contentment of her children.  The world seemed to be alright.

Goodbye, Sports!

Little did I know that neither football, nor basketball would be in their futures’ in 2020 and, most likely, 2021.  I know, sports are just sports and really nothing to lament about when there is so much more happening in the world.  Nevertheless, I do feel badly that they were lost in 2020.

Shortly after my youngest’s triumph in basketball, I found myself standing in front of my (first-year traditional college) students’ and daily easing their concerns about rumors of a virus that was creating increasing concerns on the other side of the world.  

In February, prior to all the birthday parades, my husband and oldest shared a miserable birthday week stricken by the “flu.”  Having heard the flu was worse this year than in the past, we self quarantined and had our groceries delivered.  I recall my child telling me that he was scared to fall asleep.  Once I fell ill, I could fully comprehend what he meant.  Strangely, my youngest, while stuck inside with us for the week too, never came down with the virus…  (Months later, when I was finally able to get the antibody test, it showed I was negative for COVID-19 antibodies.  Meh.)

Going “Remote”

Nursing our coughs and moving back into normal life, we made our way into March, my own birthday month.  By this point, rumors were becoming realities in the States.  We were making plans to “go remote” at my school, and all signs pointed to the same being true for my kiddos schools too.  

My heart ached for my students, who were all in different places.  Some went home to an entirely bored, but uncertain existence with their parents.  While others went home to places without the Internet, with things shutting down all around them, while their loved ones were getting sick. 

While I should have been worrying about whether or not they were keeping up with their work, I was worried as to whether or not they were eating, whether they were warm enough, and whether they had someone watching out for them.  Many of them were not and did not.  Some I never heard from again, after we switched to remote learning.  I still think about them and hope they were able to put enough pieces back together so that they will revisit their higher education soon.

Mom Is Everything Now

In between my frets about my students, my own children began needing me in ways I had not imagined.  In an instant, I became super mom, teacher, therapist, friend, caretaker, constant cook, as well as all the roles I previously served.  Unknowing of what the future held, daily lessons in survival became a topic of discussion.  (I know how strange this sounds now, but it’s the truth.)  We spent time outside every day classifying plants, learning how to build fires and shelters, and troubleshooting what-if scenarios.  

It became apparent rather quickly that it was the children who were suffering the most from the pandemic.  Living in the country, we don’t have a neighborhood to rely on.  We were able to have a few playdates over the summer, but they were largely outside with a select few people.  The normal sounds of summer were muted by COVID-19. 

The only solace was that we could all be outside.  Luckily, we have some property and are free to use our in-laws outdoor space too.  We spent hours exploring the property, chasing the deer around, and searching for wild raspberries and blackberries.

Temporarily transformed into a pioneer woman, I was able to find ways to “find the good” in the situation.  The slower timeline allowed for daily mile runs with my bunch.  I was also able to concentrate on teaching my children how to be more independent.   Reluctantly, my oldest learned to help take care of his younger brother.  He’s assumed a role as his mentor and confidant.  Through this year, they have developed a bond that will surely be unbreakable.  For this, I am grateful.

Goodbye, Conversations!

However, there are consequences of the pandemic.  Tragic consequences that will also have long-lasting effects on our family (and yours, no doubt). With the mandate to stay home, it became easy to wholly concentrate on life within our home.  While I made attempts to stay connected with people, it is my opinion that the death of interpersonal communication has been one of the worst side effects of COVID-19.

Twenty-twenty has been the loneliest year of my life.  While I love my family, and they me, the greatest tragedy has been the loss of general human communication.  Aside from social media, which in the throws of COVID-19 nauseated me with it’s lack of true understanding and of human decency, people largely stopped talking in 2020.  

No more idle banter while in line at the grocery store, no more co-workers popping their heads in to see you to ask how your kiddos faired in their big game, no more moms gathering to pick up their kids from school and sharing news about the community, no more waiting room conversations, no more elevator banter, no more anything.  Silence had taken the place of the conversations that bind us all together.  Without it, we lived without a community.

Exacerbated by the dull updates on social media, the “me” mentality entirely took over in 2020, and the mandated silence put a nail in the coffin of interpersonal communication. 

Back To School

It seemed like there was some hope, at the close of summer, when my children returned to “school.”  They were sentenced to an every other day situation, where only half of their original population would be present.  It was said that they’d make do; all the kids had to make sacrifices.  It was a good opportunity for the children to make new friends.  However, “making” friends is quite challenging, even for the most outgoing, while donning a face mask all day AND having to stay 6 feet apart from each other all day long.  

There have been many occasions when I ask myself, if it would just be better for them to stay home, while the world figures itself out.  I see how lonely my kiddos are too.  It’s just not fair to them, to keep them all apart like this.  

You know, before 2020, I had started to notice a change in my college students.  They largely seemed less sure of themselves than my previous students.  They self-disclosed social anxiety to me at an alarming rate. 

Now, as a mother, I try to see into my children’s future.  How will their cohorts look someday?  How much anxiety will they need to overcome?  Will they be able to establish relationships and find full existences?

I’m not sure, but I do know that it matters.  Interpersonal communication matters.  Idle chitchat matters.  Being part of a larger community matters.  At the end of September, shortly after my kids returned to school, I found out how much it truly matters in the most trying of ways.

My Mom

My mother got sick.  She lives in Florida, and she had been complaining of an ailing stomach for a few weeks.  She went to the ER and found out she had a mass on her pancreas.  Back and forth she went over the coming months to be poked and prodded by doctors who were trying to determine her condition.  Some days it was cancer, and others it was benign.  Week after week, she spent days in the hospitals (yes, there were many hospitals and each doctor had something different to say).  Her pain increased; her anxiety went through the roof; she couldn’t eat (it was too painful); and she was not allowed to have visitors.  Finally, they agreed.  It was pancreatic cancer.  (Don’t look it up.  It’s terrible reading.)

Each day, I prepared as if I were going to jump on a plane and fly down to see her.  However, because of COVID, I was in a tough spot.  If I were to have gone down to see her, I would’ve needed to quarantine for two weeks in Florida, before I could personally see her.  What sense would that make?  I settled on staying put and relying on talking on the phone with her daily.  Eventually, she was prescribed to have one of the strongest courses of chemotherapy that exists.  

At the start of December, she was admitted to the hospital for her first and last round of chemotherapy.  She left the hospital on the Friday of that week, and was admitted to another hospital the following Monday, because the chemicals made her so sick.

This was the one and only time that I flew in 2020.  I wished it had been for pleasure, but it was not.  The airport was weird.  For just a few weeks before Christmas, it was empty.  Everyone wore face masks and stood 6 feet apart.  Once on the plane, each person had a set of seats for themselves.  It was quiet and strange. 

It was lonely.  Apart from my family, only one friend knew where I was.  I couldn’t bare to post something on social media about it and endure a mile-long comment list of prayer hands from people who don’t really care.  Also, let’s be real here.  They don’t pray either, most of them anyway.   (Now you know my true feelings of 🙏🏻 prayer hands, 🙏🏻 and why I do not post them in your comments.  If you’d like to pray for my mother, please do.  I love a real sentiment, but meaningless emojis, well, they are another story…) 

Thankfully, after a few days in Florida, I was able to see my mother, but it took some doing to make it happen.  There’s nothing quite like seeing someone in person.  It doesn’t solve all the world’s problems, but it reminds us that we are not alone on this planet and this journey.  Upon my departure, my mother was in a far better place than when I arrived.  She continues to improve every day.

Christmas Came and Went

Of course, soon after, I made my way home in time to spend Christmas with my husband and kids.  It was what it was, not extraordinary, but it was comfortable and nice to have something else to point our attention to.  

What it didn’t have was others.  There were no holiday gatherings to catch up on how people are.  There were no fancy nights out to celebrate another year around the sun.  Bland messages on cards and on social media were about all we could hope for.  This holiday season left 2020 in very much the same way as it came in: alone.

So, as I prepare to say goodbye to the year, the only thing I can do is to hope.  I hope that 2021 challenges me to do better and to be better than I am today.  I hope I never forget how lonely this year has been, so I will be a better friend and community member.  I hope our children will be stronger because of this year, and that they will learn they can survive adversity.

More selfishly, I hope sports come back in 2021.  I miss the laughter; I miss the people; and quite frankly, I miss a bit of FUN!


I hope the future holds something better than what you had to offer.     

Ultimate Gluten Free Carrot Cake

***** Much like most blogs, this blog contains affiliate links. I do not mention products that I don’t personally consume (or give to my family).  For more information, please visit my Privacy Policy page. Thanks for reading  *****

Two and a half years ago, my husband and I started piecing together that our then 8-year old son reacted negatively to gluten. After weighing the options of having him run through a slew of non-exact testing or eliminate gluten from his diet, we decided on the latter.

For over two years, my oldest was on a gluten-free diet. At the start of this year, my husband and I decided that it was time for our son to go through testing for Celiac’s Disease. Next year, he’ll start middle school, and he’s now old enough to understand the purpose of the tests. In the fall, we started taking a monthly drive to see a pediatric gastroenterologist whose practice is about two hours away. Due to the progression of the tests, and, finally his endoscopy, we made the trip three times this month alone! It’s been a lot to say the least.

Well, long story short little did we know that all this investigating for our son would lead to my husband’s gluten issues surfacing. My husband has had to eliminate gluten from his diet too, because it looks like he probably has Celiac’s Disease.

Well, this wife’s heart aches, because he takes such good care of himself. He watches what he eats, he works out, and he even takes supplements. It was a total shock to find out that he could be sick too. Armed with this newfound knowledge, he didn’t waste any time “going” gluten free. As I mentioned before, our home has been predominately gluten free for over two years now, so making the switch was as easy as deciding to do it.

However, the timing couldn’t be worse, as he found out this information two weeks before his birthday. This man, who takes uber care of himself only eats cake once a year–on his birthday, of course. This wouldn’t be such a hard adjustment, if he would eat normal cake, but no, he loves carrot cake.

All of my baker friends out there know that this is a particularly challenging cake to replicate, since there are so many elements that build its flavor.

Honestly, I felt defeated before I even got started, because I was sure this was going to end badly (as so many of my first time GF recipes do). I took a look at my go-to recipe for Carrot Cake from the 2004 Gourmet Cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichl. Could I just substitute Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour in place of the recipes flour? I took a couple of days to ponder this, because honestly: I HATE WASTING FOOD and MONEY. When I fail at a recipe, I really beat myself up. (My chickens are usually happy, but, quite honestly, I’d rather the humans in the house enjoy the treats over them.)

As I thought about the recipe, I wondered what could go wrong with the cake if I just substituted the flour. As my GF Tribe knows, it could be too grainy, it could fall apart, it could taste kind weird, and the list goes on… With carrot cake, there are so many flavors to pull from, that I wasn’t too concerned about the cake tasting blah. I was concerned that it would be dry and grainy though. Recently, I have figured out how to make moist cupcakes that are impossible to keep in my house, because they get devoured so quickly. The trick is super simple… I use a banana and cut down on the other sugar in the recipe. So far, no one has noticed the banana. They are too busy inhaling the goodies. So, I figured it was worth a shot in this recipe too. I also used another moistening trick that my father-in-law figured out by accident, use sesame oil. Now, because of the depth of the flavor and the price, I only use a fraction of this oil and supplement with vegetable oil (from Wegmans) to make up the difference.

Well, I took a chance on these substitutions and something amazing happened! I was able to convert my traditional carrot cake recipe, with a few modifications, to this new Ultimate Gluten Free version. 😊😍😊😍 I’m tooting my horn here, friends, it tastes amazing!

Last week we had a dinner party for my husband, and everyone loved the cake, even the non-gluten freers wanted seconds. My heart is full that I was able to replicate one of my hubby’s favorites and still give him a ton of birthday love. #glutenfree #gffamily #gfrecipes 🎂💕🎂

So, here’s what I did. Please remember to check all of your labels to ensure the ingredients are gluten free. Most of these items are naturally gluten free, but it is worth a double check . If you are cooking this for someone who has Celiac Disease, they might need you to use separate cookware, utensils, and prep areas to ensure that there is no cross contamination. Good luck and please let me know in the comments below how it turns out for you.

Ultimate Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Moist and delicious cake choke full of extras makes this gluten free treat a stand out among others. With cream cheese frosting and pecan crumbles,  this cake is a must try. 
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Cooling Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes


For Cake

  • 2 cups Bob’s GF 1-to-1 Baking Flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 banana ripe
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots (~3/4 pound)
  • 1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple drained
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

For Frosting & Finishing

  • 2 pkgs (8 oz) cream cheese softened
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar sifted
  • 3/4 cup pecans


  • 2 9X2 inch round cake pans


To Make the Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Put a rack in the center of the oven.  Grease and flour two 9-inch pans. 
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk together to make sure everything is incorporated. Set aside.
  • On low level, using a stand mixer or hand mixer cream together the ripe banana (yes, use a brown one) and the sugar until it is a smooth, gooey liquid.
  • Keeping the mixer level on low, add the eggs, sesame oil, vegetable oil, vanilla, carrots, pecans, coconut, and pineapple and mix well.
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients while the mixer continues to mix. Push down the sides as the batter creeps up the edges to make sure all of the ingredients are mixed together.
  • Take the bowl containing the batter off of the mixer and fold it a few times. Then divide the batter evenly and pour it into the 9-inch pans.
  • Bake on the center rack for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes in the pans. Run a knife around the edge of the pans and invert on a wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting and Finishing the Cake:

  • Using a stand mixer or hand mixer set on medium-high, beat together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until it’s a fluffy consistency similar to whipped cream.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar.
  • Place cake layer bottom-side up on the cake plate. Spread some frosting on top of this layer. Make sure to cover the whole layer. Then place the remaining layer right-side up on top and spread the rest of the frosting all over the cake.
  • Taking small handfuls of the pecans set aside for frosting, press them into the frosting around the sides of the cake.


NOTE on Pan Greasing: I use shortening, complete cover the pan with it using a paper towel and then sprinkle Bob’s GF 1-to-1 to flour in the pan. Once I make sure that the pan is completely covered in flour I discard the excess in my sink. This step make it easier for the cake to pop out of the pan when it has cooled.)
NOTE on Creaming Bananas and Sugar:  I usually run the mixer while I sift the dry ingredients. You can’t over mix it at this point.
NOTE on Adding Confectioner’s Sugar to Frosting:  Make sure to add the Confectioner’s sugar to the mixture slowly.  Otherwise, your kitchen will look like a sugar bomb was set off in it!  🙂
NOTE on Prepping Ahead:  This cake keeps well on the counter and fridge, if covered, so feel free to make it a day or so ahead of your event.
Keyword cake, carrot cake, dessert, gluten free

It’s “Glögg” Time!

Much like most blogs, this blog contains affiliate links. I do not mention products that I don’t personally consume (or give to my family).  For more information, please visit my Privacy Policy & Disclaimer page. Thanks for reading! 

The Swedish Man That He Is!

Since I met him many years ago, my husband has been a glögg fanatic!  Each year when the weather starts to chill, we start the Glögg-making process.  As a man of Swedish decent, this warm winter beverage has been a staple in his holiday life.  While I’m not a sweet alcohol person OR a warm drink person, I have been known to drink a small glass of this stuff each year.  Good for him, because he LOVES it and so do his family and friends.
This is the recipe that he has used, since I met him.  In his words…


1.5 liters of Port Wine
1.5 liters of Merlot
750 milliliters of Brandy
750 milliliters of Vodka
1/4 (or less) cup of clove
1/4 (or less) cup of cardamom pods
10-15 blanched almonds (skin removed)
1/3 cup of dark raisins
Fresh orange peel from 1 full-sized orange
2 cups of sugar


Step 1: 
Pour all 1.5 liters of Port wine and Merlot into a large saucepan.  Add all the spices to a strainer or colander, cover and insert into the saucepan containing the Port Wine/Merlot mixture (make sure to break open cardamom pods before adding).  Turn heat to medium or medium-low to get a nice slow simmer going.  
Step 2: 
Pour 2 cups of sugar in a medium sauce pan and cover with half the bottle of brandy.  Turn on to medium to medium-high heat.  Bring to light boil, then turn down to simmer.  Stir occasionally.  Once all the sugar is dissolved, let simmer for about 10 minutes to caramelize.
Step 3: 
After the Brandy has had time to caramelize, add to the simmering Port Wine/Merlot/spice mixture.  This will add flavor and sweetness to the mixture.  At this point, also add the remaining bottled Brandy to the mixture.  Allow the Brandy/Port Wine/Merlot/spice mixture to simmer for about 30 minutes. 
Step 4: 
After the 30 minute simmering, add Vodka to preferred taste.  I generally add half the bottle of Vodka, then let everything simmer for another 30 minutes.  After the 30 final minutes of simmering, I add the remaining Vodka, stir it up, and bottle immediately. 
Don’t forget to warm it up to serve it.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

More Information

  • You can strain it if you’d like, because there will be some spices that settle at the bottom of each bottle.  I’ve never strained my batches and have always left the spices, as I have found them to be minimal. 
  • This whole process usually makes about 3 liters total (maybe a little more).  I’ve always just reused the 1.5 liter bottle of Port Wine and the 750 ml bottles of Brandy and Vodka to store.  If I hand any out, I transfer to 250-500 ml mason jars.
  • Its always best to keep the bottles refrigerated so it stays fresh, and, when serving, heat to hot coffee type levels.
  • The leftover spices make a great fruit-cake.

Follow by Email