Gretchen Schock shares her love of recipes, crafts and frugal living. She also speaks very opening about the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. After a breast cancer scare in 2012, she decided to say goodbye to her nightly glasses of Chardonnay. It was time to get sober and live life with eyes wide open! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.

1/31/2008

My Freecycle Bathroom

I call it my Freecycle bathroom since almost all of the items used in our remodel is from freecycle. Took a few months to acquire everything, the power of manifesting should not go unnoticed though. The light fixture was a house warming gift from my FIL and the shower curtain I picked up in the AS-IS section of Ikea. We still need to redo the floors but I'm waiting till I see something worthwhile on freecycle. And yes even the paint I got on freecycle. The wire shelf on the wall is actually a spice rack from Ikea that I picked up on freecycle, just to make things confusing. :) The overall cost of the remodel was less than 200 bucks and that includes the new shower walls that my FIL and hubby installed. The bathroom feels much more spacious and you actually want to spend time in there now.

1/30/2008

Each Coat Has A Home

I'm so happy with how our new entry way in functioning. Before the boys would take off their jackets and drop them on the floor because they couldn't reach the hangers in the coat closet and nor can my 2 1/2 year old put his jacket on a hanger. So I figured out this solution of hooks, but not just any ol' hooks, each hook is for a particular person. Kinda like assigned seating for our jackets. I framed a picture of each family member above their hook and the cork board above everything is perfect for catching important mail as we walk through the door.
For me the key to organizing and decorating is figuring out how you live in a space and work around that. Do I enjoy looking at our jackets on the wall from my living room? No, not really. But it's better than seeing a pile of little boy jackets right by the front door.

1/24/2008

Breakfast bars regular or gluten free?

The Kid-Friendly ADHD and Autism Cookbook: The Ultimate Guide to the Gluten-Free, Casein-Free Diet is the most wonderful book I've read in a while on the autism subject. The recipes are fantastic and the information in the beginning on how to start the diet and maintain it are just wonderful. They tackle many subjects that no one else has...like if you have a picky eater who won't eat any vegetables or fruit what you can do to incorporate healthy foods into their diets.
This was the best 20 bucks I've spent in a long time.

In the book there is a recipe for Crispy Breakfast Bars. I can not even tell you how excited I am about these. And they are delicious!!! I'm going to be caught eating the kids' bars. And the best part, besides being so easy to make and no baking is required is that they are safe for my son, Logan, to eat. I also feel really good about the fact that no longer will I be throwing away little bar wrappers everyday. My son typically goes through 2 bars a day for his snack at school. When you think about the waste that creates over time and it isn't recyclable....things like that get to me. So needless to say I am GIDDY over breakfast bars!! Who would have thought?!?!

Give the recipe a try. Keep in mind you can easily make them with any puffed cereal, it doesn't have to be gluten free if you don't want it to. Or real butter if you prefer. I also added 3/4 cup GFCF chocolate chips. :)


7 cups crispy GF puffed whole grain cereal
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 dried blueberries
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup brown rice syrup or honey
3/4 cup almond butter
2 Tablespoons butter substitute

Stir together cereal, dried berries and seeds (if using), and cinnamon in a large bowl. Place syrup/honey, almond butter and butter substitute in a large microwave safe measuring cup. Microwave on high for 1 1/2 mins or until the butter substitute has melted. Stir well and pour over cereal mixture. Stir to coat.
Dampen your hands with water and press firmly into a 9 inch square baking pan, rewetting hands if necessary to keep mixture from sticking. Freeze 30 minutes. Cut into 15 bars and store in the refrigerator.

1/22/2008

Fun Updates for Iphone

Last week Steve Jobs deemed it permissible for web applications to legally work on the iphone. Prior to that you had to hack the iphone and risk possibly turning your phone into the dreaded ibrick or in other words a non-functioning hunk of pricey plastic.

But finally with the latest update there are all kinds of friendly iphone widgets. My favorite is a very High-tech Cocktail Mom-esque shopping list program called One-trip.

With dozens of pre-existing items to choose from like milk, toilet paper, or cheese One Trip makes it a breeze to add items to a handy little to-buy list.

1/21/2008

Corn Pancakes (Gluten Free)

I didn't feel like making separate meals tonight. A meal that my kids would eat, which also has to be gluten free, and a meal for my husband and I. So instead I whipped up a batch of corn pancakes. It's a lovely change of pace from regular pancakes. I serve the kids' pancakes with either maple syrup or applesauce. My husband and I enjoy them topped with creme fraiche and chopped chives.
This recipe could also be made not gluten free by just using all-purpose flour in place of the gluten free flour. Makes 10-12 pancakes.

2 cups corn kernels
1 cup soy milk
2 large eggs
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 cup gluten free flour
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp gluten free baking powder

Place corn kernels in a food processor and puree until it looks like creamed corn but chunkier.
Combine milk, eggs and butter in a large bowl and beat well. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; fold into egg mixture. Add corn. Mix well.
Heat skillet or griddle over medium high heat. Pour batter onto cooking surface in 1/4 cup increments. Cook until bottoms of pancakes are set and golden brown, flip over and cook the other side. Repeat until all your batter is used up.
Enjoy!

1/18/2008

I Wanna Be an Iron Girl

I'm doing it again, I'm competing in a sprint triathlon, it's the Iron Girl...I can hardly believe it. This will only be my 2nd. I blogged about my first one here, which was the Danskin in Seattle.

So the tri I'm doing is called a "Sprint" Triathlon. For this race I'll be starting off swimming .62 miles, biking 17.5 miles and finishing the race with a 3.4 mile run. My stomach has been a wreck all week and it's not happening till August 24th.

So I bought my new running shoes, I'm getting fitted for a bike on Saturday, and I pulled out my tri suit from the back of the drawer. That's about as ready as I am right now.
I'll keep you updated :)

1/17/2008

My reunion with Fruit Salad as a side dish

Has anyone else forgotten about Fruit Salad or Fruit Cocktail? I'm not talking about those plastic-packaged flavorless concoctions that you buy in the lunch-box aisle at the grocery store. I'm talking about cutting about an apple, an orange, and a banana putting it in a cute little cup and adding it to your dinner menu tonight!

I almost always have a fruit bowl with a couple of pieces of fruit near expiration. The other day when I was struggling to find a side to serve with the Moroccan Stew I was making for dinner, (we were out of seemingly everything) I spied a nearly too-brown banana, a starting-to-dry out orange and a few pieces of other fruit just hanging out in the fruit bowl. I chopped it all up put it in a couple of ramekins and felt like a magician for turning what was about to be wasted produce into the perfect side dish.

How could I have forgotten about such a tasty little dish? Throw one together the next time you need a little something on the side.

1/14/2008

Anti-locavore ???

Although I'm a firm believer in seeing both sides of an issue, sometimes the media, in search of a sensational story, seems a bit absurd when it hashes out the "other side" of the story. The most recent example of this is in this week's Time Magazine where author, Joel Stein, rebels against the Locavore movement in his essay, "Extreme Eating".

Stein states:

"I can get off on a local heirloom tomato as much as anyone else. Or a fresh California date, crispy with tart honey that I can get only for a few weeks in Southern California. Or breaded sautéed abalone when I'm in Monterey. But the idea that this is the best way to eat, that most of our food should really come from within 100 miles, that farm-to-table produces a superior diet, is antiglobalization idiocy."

Look, I'm not at a point where I am buying all of my groceries from within 100 miles of where I live but for goodness sake buying from my lovely local farm market is not anitglobalization! The article will make your blood boil if you are even vaguely familiar with the opinions of Michael Pollen or Elizabeth Kingslover; so go to the link above and read the article at your own risk. At least your blood pressure will be rising from something other than added salt and partial-hydrated oils.

1/13/2008

Salad Spinner

When last we spoke my current favorite kitchen gadget was the versatile and inexpensive microplane zester. And though there will always be room in my kitchen drawer for that valuable tool, I must admit a new gadget has move into the pole position of my kitchen. The Salad Spinner.
It's true. I thought I didn't need this large and single-use kitchen aid. I thought it would just be another self-space stealer. I was wrong. Salad spinners rock! Well actually, they spin and although I haven't found 25 different uses for it, the way I did for the zester, the one thing it does it does masterfully and effortlessly.

How it's used:
Tear up your lettuce, spinach, fresh herbs, kale, or other leafy veggie place them in the basket and run them under cool water. Place the basket in the outer bowl. Put on the lid. Press down the top plunger or turn a crank (all models are a little different) and watch as all the water flies to the outside and bottom of the basket. Leaving your fresh veggie clean and dry and ready for serving.

Why it's important:
On the slight chance that your not using organic greens, washing these veggies of pesticides and chemicals is extremely important. But even if you are using the organic type, a fresh leafy green like spinach is notorious for being dirty and sandy. In the past I've avoided fresh spinach using instead the frozen type because of the difficulty of getting the leaves clean enough. Also, using the spinner eliminates the need to dry the greens in a paper towel or cloth towel. I used to use a cloth towel but I never really felt I got all the water off which sometimes made my salads a little wet. Finally, the dryer the veggies the better salad dressing will stick on the greens which means that you won't need as much dressing on the salad.

What to look for:
Salad spinners are usually made of plastic so make sure the one you are buying is sturdy. The one I chose has a rubber non-skid bottom which I appreciate. The spinning mechanism will vary so try it out in the store before you buy it to make sure that it effortlessly spins and stops in a manner that you find easy and convenient. Look to spend between $15.00 to $30.00.

A Word for the Year

I don't know where it began but I picked up this idea from Ali Edwards, to pick a word for the year and basically grow with it. Whether that's personally, spiritually...it's totally up to you. Use it as a mediation, a reminder of your goals, a creative spark...whatever the word is that you choose will influence all aspects of your life.

The word I have chosen is "EMBRACE". It has many meanings for me and to be honest it starts with my hair. After dyeing my hair for almost 20 years (keep in mind I'll only be 32 in April) I've decided to chop all my hair off and start from scratch, so to speak. I'm trying to embrace my natural color and the many gray hairs that come with it. My chosen word is also a constant reminder to embrace the small successes that my autistic son makes. Too often, as parents, we compare our kids to other kids we know. We don't do it in a keeping-up-with-the-Jones' kind of way, or at least I don't. But more of a informative way.

Oh Sally is 4 and she's doing the monkey bars by herself, maybe I should let my child try them.
Or Jacob is already reading, maybe we should focus more on teaching our son to read instead of reading to him.

More often than not the comparisons of my son, Logan, to other children we know his age depresses me.
So my word EMBRACE, is a reminder to do just that...EMBRACE this moment and move on.
Being autistic my son has this amazing ability of memorizing. He can watch a 30 minute show for the first time and within 5 minutes of watching it can re-enact the entire thing word for word. When he was 1 we thought he could read but in reality he just memorized all of the books we owned. So Sally who does the monkey bars flawlessly at 4 will be begging my son in high school for answers on their tests, since of course he will have the entire textbook memorized.

I am also using my chosen word as focus in my daily life, a reminder to embrace the moment I am in. As the Buddhist say : Live in the present.
I'm trying.
I encourage you to capture a word that truly speaks to you. Put it on your desktop at work, tape it to the bathroom mirror, make it a part of your everyday. You can then either journal about it or create art with the word in mind or simply to use it as a daily mediation to center yourself and focus on the goals you have chosen for yourself this year.

Feel free to share your word in the comments section. I would love to see what everyone comes up with.

1/12/2008

Ikea Hack - Billy Bookcase

I forgot to take a before picture but snagged this one from the Ikea website. I'm sure I've mentioned that we recently bought an old house in Greenbelt, MD and with old houses come space challenges. I've now, in less than a year, rearranged our living room/dining room 3 times and I think I finally got it right. I took a Billy Bookcase from Ikea and took it apart to use the wood as shelves. I also bought the brackets from Ikea. What is great about this new layout is that the boys' toys live under the shelves and out of the walkway of normal life. I am so over stepping on Spiderman and his accessories. I can now say that every square foot is functional, at least downstairs.

1/11/2008

Update on Dinner Party Questions

Recently my friend Nikki threw a holiday party and wanted to incorporate the party questions from an earlier post. So she wrote a question on each cup to help break the ice. A lot people enjoyed it but she said her only conflict was the people who were drinking beer.

Maybe writing a question along the rim of a paper plate, hoping everyone eats something. Or wrapping a question on paper around the pre-rolled forks, knives and spoons.

What are your ideas of how to incorporate the questions without forcing your guests to a game of 20-20 questions.

1/10/2008

Self-Publishing

Great article today in the New York Times about the possibilities of self-publishing in today's internet world. Several sites even give you the ability to allow other people to pay for an individual print of your unique book.

So get that cookbook written or novel or craft manifesto and get it out for the world to see.

The article lists these three specific sites as the best self publishing places currently on the web:

www.Lulu.com

www.Blurb.com

www.createspace.com

1/09/2008

Buy Handmade: Plays With Mud

My goal each year is to make all of my gifts. This year business (AuntArt.com) has been very successful so I haven't had the time to devote to making gifts. So the next best thing, in my opinion, is to buy handmade. I got this wonderful bread tray from Plays With Mud. The word "Share" is hand stamped in the center. I was so tempted to keep this for myself...I kept coming up with ideas of where to put it in the house to function on a daily basis...but instead I gave it to my Mother-In-Law who absolutely adores it. Check out Paula's website she has a wonderful collection of pottery and headbands and many more crafty cool items.

1/08/2008

Kashi at Target

I'm not sure what corporate marriage took place to bring about Kashi products being sold at Target stores (and I probably don't want to know) but the discount prices on these well-known organic convenience foods cannot be beat. In fact right, on sale now you can get two boxes of their granola bars for $5.00 - which is a steal considering that across the street at Whole Foods the Kashi's TLC (Tasty Little Chewies) are $4.39 a box.

Target's regular prices on all Kashi products including my favorite wheat crackers range anywhere from $1.00 - $1.20 cheaper than the products at my regular grocery store (Safeway).
Also, if you go to Kashi online you can print coupons for different products at different times. Right now it is for Kashi TLC Party crackers.

And yes, since these are manufacturer's they should work on the already reduced prices at Target.

A small note about Kashi. I like Kashi because they do not use High Fructose Corn Syrup or Partial Hydrated Oils in their products. Of course, if my diet was perfect I would be eating absolutely no packaged-processed food what-so-ever. But since I am not perfect, I try to find some of the convenience foods I crave in their most unharmful forms. Kashi does a great job of making tasty little treats that aren't as bad for you as the often genetically modified counterparts. Now, if I could only keep my portion size down.

1/05/2008

Cheesy Comfort Food

My cheese-hating boyfriend is on winter break from graduate school and is visiting his family for some Oregon skiing. You read the description correctly: Cheese-hating! I know what you are thinking - "How do you hate cheese?" My answer is, I have no idea, I love cheese! So, I have taken these fews days to make the ultimate cheesy dish: Baked Macaroni and Cheese.

Warning this is not the healthliest recipe that I have ever posted. It might however, be the easiest. This dish is pure comfort. I froze 3/4 of the dish in single size portions so that I wouldn't over indulge and eat the whole thing. (I'd eat this mac an' cheese over candy any day - it's one of my weaknesses.)

RECIPE

2 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 cups milk (I use 2% milk)
8 0z. shredded cheese
3 Tablespoons butter - melted
Fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Pour melted butter into 9 x 13 baking dish. Tilt pan to cover bottom with butter.
Pour uncooked macaroni in pan
Scatter cheese evenly on top of macaroni
Gently pour milk over cheese and macaroni
DO NOT STIR
Ground pepper to taste

Bake for 1 hour.

Top will be crusty baked cheese. Bottom will be warm tender buttery macaroni.

After I ate this dish for lunch and dinner for two days., I realized how lucky I am that my boyfriend hates cheese. It would be too tempting to make this dish more often than the once or twice of year when he is out of town.

1/03/2008

Project 365 + 1 2008

I'm not a big fan on New Years resolutions but this year I'm putting myself up to a challenge. Taking a picture everyday and sharing it on a Flickr group, I've included a link on the right hand side bar so you can enjoy this journey with me.

I've been teaching myself how to be a better photographer. I love scrapbooking and I also take my own product pictures for AuntArt.com, so it's something that is really close to my heart. And with the idea that is you do something everyday (ie: practice) you will become better at it. Sorta reminds me of my youth and sitting at the piano with the egg timer ticking away my 30 minutes of required daily practice.
So here's my challenge for you...think about all the things you've been meaning to do or learn and practice it everyday. Whether it be learning an instrument, a new language or knitting stitches. Take it day by day, a new Spanish word each day for example.
We're bound to be better at it than when we started by 2009.

1/02/2008

It's no garbage strike - man keeps a year's worth of trash

Check out this story in the San Fransisco Chronicle about a man who kept all of his trash for all of 2007.

Here's a link to his blog.

He was serious. He composted food waste and other compostable items, but saved everything from his plastic straws and used tissues.

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