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The New Blog Is Here!!!

I promise that this is the last blog move. We PURCHASED the domain name, so I’ll be there indefinitely ūüôā

We also had to change the name. Instead of “slowfortheconezone”, we changed it to “ourconezone”. This was mainly because the state of California has already claimed the first one for CALTrans. Wouldn’t want them thinking I’m some terrorist group!

Oddly enough, I had the most traffic yesterday that I’ve EVER had on this blog. This is probably because I forgot that Facebook automatically published my post on Facebook. People probably saw the title, “Exciting Things” and assumed I’m pregnant (definitely not). Everyone pays attention with those sorts of announcements.

If you were a follower here, make sure to click on the new button on the top right!

Without further ado…

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Exciting Things!

Anthony's 1st Birthday 47

Exciting things are happening here in my tiny blogosphere. Exactly a month ago, we transferred all of my content from my old private site to this new, public site.

And now? My Trader Joe’s Meal Plan won the PINterest incentive blog hop over at It will go live tomorrow, with 31 different pinners putting it out to their hundreds of followers. I’m so beyond stoked!

Also, thanks to Pinterest, this little bloggy blog is getting around 200 hits a day! That’s also pretty rad. 200 is not much in the blog world, but it’s better than I ever expected after a month.

Lastly, Jesse and I  decided to purchase a domain name and a web hoster, rather than using the free-ness of wordpress. There were just too many limits to what we wanted to do, the least of which is that wordpress does not allow paid advertising (an eventual goal).

So…for any blogger or wordpress followers….the new site will launch tomorrow, hopefully! We still have a few more kinks to work out. I’ll be posting it here tomorrow morning, waiting a few days, then be setting this blog to automatically forward any visitors over to the new site.

Whew! It’s gonna be quite a week! I’ll also be posting a few paleo/gluten-free recipes that we’ve been testing/experimenting with, along with showing our new bathtub remodel!

Thank you all for reading. It really really really means a lot to me ūüôā

Under the Umbrella of: “This Conversation Really Happened”

Cayucous BBQ AJ and Gregory

Our recent foster care situation has forever opened my eyes to how many children are out there, waiting for a home. Through my research, I’ve also learned that the greatest need is for babies with ethnicity or disability. Even greater is the need for sibling placements– someone willing to take 2-3 kids from the same family in order to keep them together.

I truly cannot understand why there are more “minority” babies out there than “white”. Maybe people want a “cohesive” looking family, and it’s easier to pretend they are your biological kid if they look like you. But isn’t the beauty of adoption that it’s NOT biological? That it’s NOT cohesive, but it works anyways? That love breaks through the barrier that is blood and race?

As I’ve¬†we’ve¬†done more and more research, one thing has become clear– if we adopt someday, I WANT a baby of a different race than us. I will ignore all the white babies and go straight for the one with dark skin. Add some medical disabilities in there. I want THOSE babies. All of them.

The hubby has tried to gently inform me that my recent obsession with the less-wanted might, just maybe, just maybe, have to do with my grieving process over C, our last foster placement.

Whatever, I say. The heart wants what the heart wants.

We’d been talking about this for weeks when the topic came up at church, during coffee hour. With the hubby beside me, I was explaining to a fellow English teacher and our choir director that if the situation was right, we would love to adopt someday. I kept going, talking about how many babies are unwanted because of their race, and it was making me mad, just talking about it.

“I want an african american baby. Period.” I said firmly.

The English teacher smiled hesitantly, and said, “You mean, through ADOPTION?”

“Yes,” I said. “Of course.”

He smirked. “Because….” and he looked at the Hubby.

“Because there is a limit to what I can do for you” Jesse said.


“Well, I only make a specific breed of baby.”

And then I got it. They were making fun of me.  All 3 guys were howling with laughter.

“Yes, of COURSE, through adoption.” I said, irritated. “What else could I mean?”

Wrong question.

The English teacher smiled again. “Well, I just wouldn’t want you to go ‘looking’ for a different father….”

And then Jesse came in with the coup de grace.

“I mean, you do understand that I’m not a multi-ink pen? Click a different side and you get a different color?”

The analogy that took it too far. Forever mortified. Thanks, Hubby.


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Children and Disabilities

Gregory piano playing 11:12

Recently, I’ve doubled my piano student load in order to pay the bills around here. Don’t worry, 15 students= 7.5 hours of work a week, with hardly any drive time since they all live in my town. I’m not going crazy…yet.

One of my new students is on the autism spectrum, recently diagnosed. The mom has talked to me many times about his issues, constantly apologizing for the way he behaves.

But you know what? He is quickly becoming one of my favorite students. Granted, I don’t have to get him to finish his chores or homework. But a 30 minute piano lesson can be a surprising pressure-cooker for behavior.

One of the things I noticed right away is that when he does talk, it’s whatever is on his mind, right there in the moment, hurtful or not. This is one of the things his mom warned me about, saying that he has a very difficult time understanding social situations and having any sort of empathy for others. Most of his therapy has been suppling him with memorized phrases to say in different situations, like, “I’m very sorry I hurt your feelings, I won’t do it again.”

I find his honesty a breath of fresh air, quite honestly. When I asked if I could write finger numbers on his hands, he ¬†looked down at the floor and said, “That is the strangest question anyone has ever asked me.” Haha, right? How many kids have THOUGHT that, but never said it? He’s never pretending to be excited, he’s never pretending to understand. We need people like this in the world, people who cannot pretend, who cannot feign emotion.

But I leave his house every week, thinking about the emotions associated with childhood disabilities. Many times, I’ve tried to put myself in the place of the mother of a child with a severe disability. Would I feel like I had failed him in some way? This thought had never occurred to me until I had kids of my own. When I look at AJ’s little hands and feet, I think, “my body GREW those!” It’s the craziest realization that I think can only belong to a mother.¬†If he had a disability of some sort, would I grieve that somehow, my body had not supplied the needed ingredients to give him a normal life?

My kids have inherited many of my traits, both good and bad. I see this most clearly with Gregory. He has social anxiety issues, and watching him struggle at the library’s story time (he won’t sit within a mile and begs to go home) or shut down on a play date causes my heart to hurt. I was just like him growing up. Even once I learned to conquer my social anxiety, being around people was an absolute chore. In fact, it’s still a lot of work for me to attend social functions, parties and playdates. I am saddened because I know that Gregory will have a lot of the same work ahead of him. I am saddened that he didn’t get Jesse’s outgoing personality instead.

But I also know that this social anxiety as a child is what caused me to read all the time. While other kids were out making friends, I was reading every book I could get my hands on. I spent hours every day, locked in my room writing. It’s made me who I am today. So, perhaps my “disability” as a child one of my greatest assets. We need people in the world who are willing to lock themselves away and write, just as much as we need the ones who are always moving, conversing and getting stuff done.

From now on, I am determined to think of disabilities as opportunities instead.

Thai Quinoa Casserole– Gluten and Dairy Free

I promised it yesterday as part of my Trader Joe’s Shopping List for $100/week, and here it is!

Blog Thai 5

This recipe is a creation of a few separate recipes we’ve used before, fused into one. It’s AH-MAY-ZING. You will love it, I promise! This is our 2nd time making it, and we couldn’t love it any more than we do.

This dish has so many things to offer, including being:


*Gluten-Free (duh, but just thought I’d reiterate it!)

*CHEAP!! Depending on what you already have on hand, it will cost around $5 for 4 people

*Full of protein!

*Under 300 calories per serving


1.5 cups of quinoa

2 red bell peppers

3 small jalapeno peppers

2 minced cloves of garlic

1 15 oz. can of black beans

1 15. oz can of coconut milk

1 cup of raisins

2 tbsp of coconut oil

1/2 tsp of salt

1 1/2 tsp of curry powder

dash of cayenne powder

dash of chili powder

1 cup of chopped cilantro

1/2 cup of chopped green onions



1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly and boil for 7-10 minutes.

3. In a large skillet (cast iron, preferably), cook the garlic in the coconut oil on medium heat. After a minute, add the red bell and jalapeno peppers, cayenne, curry powder and chili powder. Cook for 6 minutes.

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4. Add the sauteed mixture to the quinoa in a separate mixing bowl.

5. Stir in the black beans, cilantro, raisins, coconut milk and salt.

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6. Transfer the mixture to an 8×11 dish and cook for 30-40 minutes.

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When it comes out of the oven, it will be ready to go!! Top with more garnishes if you prefer!

Blog Thai 6


So YUMM. Now, you know what to do. Make this tonight and thank me later!

$100/week Gluten Free Shopping at Trader Joe’s

TJS header 2

As you all know, I found out a few weeks ago that I cannot eat anything with gluten or soybean oil (although cooked tofu doesn’t seem to bother me).¬†To find out you can no longer eat 70% of the supermarket is quite daunting, especially on a budget and feeding a family of 4. The two boys eat almost as much as grown men, most times!

There are many who have been doing this a lot longer than I have, and they are probably quite used to making everything from scratch. I, however, am only 3 weeks into it, and still find that a few conveniences are much appreciated. I especially love that when I buy everything at ONE store, ONCE a week, I have more time to spend with my babies!

Trader Joe’s is my new boyfriend, I must say. He gives me everything I want, and for super cheap, haha! No, seriously, the store has a million and one different gluten-free options, all clearly marked and still cheaper than most normal things at the supermarket. How does he do it? How does he?

Things to Note:

* The total actually came to $101.70…hope you don’t mind!

* You could probably save even MORE $ per week if you found your meat somewhere else at a bulk rate. But this list is all about one-stop convenience for $100/week!

* I am the only member of the family who is gluten and soybean intolerant, but 90% of our meals avoid carbs as the main base anyways

* The hubbie does not eat lunch with us since he is at work. Usually, he takes leftovers from dinner or makes a sandwich.

* Only the boys eat breakfast on Sundays, as the hubbie and I are fasting before church

* We eat vegan on Wednesdays and Fridays, hence the vegan gluten-free dinner option

* There are only 6 dinners/week planned, because we usually eat out one night a week.

* You can get lots of free fresh produce from friends, especially during the Fall! Most people with gardens or fruit trees have it coming out their ears and can’t wait to give it away to someone who will use it. Ask around!

* We make our own gluten-free bread for sandwiches, using Trader Joe’s gluten free flour (truthfully, I make my own flour to save even more money). This way we can spend $4/week for bread instead of $10 on two of Udi’s small loaves. This isn’t convenient, but it saves us $20-30/month.

*This list assumes that one already has things like spices, oil and butter! Mustn’t forget those!

TJS Breakfast


4x/week Gluten-Free Oats w/ blueberries== $2+ $3.99= $5.99

2x/week Protein Pancakes (using 6 eggs, 6 bananas, blueberries and gluten free flour)== $2.25+ $1.20+ $0.99= $4.44

1x/week Gluten-Free Waffles with PB and organic sliced strawberries== $1.99+ $1.75+ $0.59= $4.33

Coffee== $2.50 ¬†(we buy the $4.99 can every other week– it’s not amazing, but it’s good and budget friendly!)

Organic Half and Half Creamer== $.90/week (I buy a small carton for $1.79 every other week)

Organic Whole Milk== $5.99


TJS Lunch


4x/week Gluten Free PBJ Sandwiches (for the boys): Home-made bread, using Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour== $4+ $0.59+ $0.56= $5.12

2x/week Rice Mac and Cheese 2x/week== $3.98

4x/week Egg/Nuts/Cranberries with olive oil salad (for me): $1.99+ $2.25+ $1.99+ $2.50= $8.73

Extra lunchmeat and cheese (for the hubbie) : $3.69+ $2.99= $6.68


TJS Snacks


Plain Greek Yogurt with berries or jam– $2.50 (half a container/week)

Bananas Sliced with PB– $1.60 for 8 bananas (we go through a TON of them!)

String Cheese== $3.49

Almonds== $2.50 (we go through a $4.99 bag every other week)

Organic Unsweetened Applesauce== $2.49

Raw Carrots== $1


TJS dinner


1x/week Tilapia with Organic Foursome and White Organic Quinoa== $6.44+ $1.69 + $1.16= $9.29

1x/week All-natural Chicken with sweet potato mash== $1.38+ $6.08= $7.46

1x/week Organic Gluten-Free Rice Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Organic Grass-fed Beef== $2.50 (1/2lb.)+ $1.99+ $1.29= $5.78

1x/week Organic Thai Quinoa Casserole (recipe coming tomorrow!)== $1.16+ $.089+ $0.89+ $1.29+ 2.00 = $6.23

1x/week Organic Veggie Tofu-Stir Fry with Quinoa== $1.16+ $1.49+ $1.99= $4.64

1x/week Sweet Potato Organic Grass-fed Beef Chili== $2.50 (1/2lb.)+ $.89+ $1.38+ $1.29= $6.06



Our family doesn’t eat dessert, 9 times out of 10, but when we do it’s usually a banana/greek yogurt based smoothie, adding whatever else we have on hand (cocoa powder, berries, almond butter). We used to use protein powder as an added ingredient, but this was before I became gluten intolerant. Even if the protein powder uses egg whites or soy as a protein base, I am very sensitive to soybean or any derivative, so we’ve stopped using it.

But…in case you like your gluten-free dessert handy, here are two I love!

Gluten-free Ginger Snaps- $2.29

Gluten-free Brownie Mix- $3.99

The Scariest Thing of All Is…..

AJ sad face

AJ, my youngest child has a sensitive side a mile wide.

If someone yells in the room, he cries. If the vacuum turns on, he cries. If someone tries to let go and make him walk on his own (he’s 17 months old), he cries. If someone tries to play a game that he doesn’t like, he cries. If Gregory looks at him the wrong way, he cries. He’s scared of being within 40 feet of ocean waves, he’s scared of swings, he’s scared of dogs. He’s scared of shoes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my son just as he is. His sensitivity makes for a very unique little personality. He wants to engage with anyone and everyone and thrives on being held and talked to. He’s the cuddliest of the cuddly.

I point this out to demonstrate that it’s been a lot of work for me to get to know his personality. I’ve been determined that I WILL NOT parent him the same way I do my firstborn. Just because they are both boys does not mean that they are going to do things together.

I’m about to embark on a taboo subject— TV WATCHING. Gasp. Yes, I let my kids watch about 30 minutes of TV a day. We never used to– I think Gregory didn’t watch a single show until he was 2. He didn’t show any interest, so I didn’t try.

Side Note: Why do moms get all up in each other’s business about the TV? Because they’re worried that someone else’s kids will be dumb because they watched too much? Actually, if you think about it, if “so and so’s” kids are dumb, yours will have less competition in 16 years and a better chance of getting into college. The lesson is, we should encourage TV watching with everyone else’s kids except our own. Hand out mind numbing DVDs to all the kids. It’s the only way to get into Princeton.

Gregory very much enjoys a few shows right now, Thomas the Train and Winnie the Pooh, especially. I’ve noticed that his language skills have tripled, thanks to these shows. He has all sorts of polite pithy phrases, like, “Oh deary deary dear dear!”, “Bravo!”, and, “Oh, thank you mother, how very kind of you!”

So, naturally, AJ watches them too. He usually gets up after about 10 minutes, bored, but sometimes he sits next to his brother, trying to cuddle with a sibling who couldn’t care less that he’s there.

But I’ve noticed something very odd. You know how some kids get scared when the bad guy cackles? I’d anticipated this, so we skip all the pooh episodes with “heffalumps and woozles”, because I always found them scary as a much older child. But even Thomas the Tank Engine has a villain– Diesel 10, the jealous engine with a claw.

AJ, my super sensitive child, is never scared at these parts. He never seems sad– it actually makes him bored. Sometimes, he even laughs.

So, what gives? Super sensitive child, unaffected by anything on the TV? For a while, I thought he might be super smart and, at the ripe old age of 1.5, had already figured out that the TV was just a box with pictures.

In the past few weeks, I’ve figured out what scares him. And it scares him like nothing else.




Whenever there’s a rock, rolling down a hill or getting pushed down a hill, he whimpers and cries and until I hold him. There’s actually one part of the Tigger Movie where the animals are all caught up with a boulder as it tumbles down into a pond. Gregory laughs hysterically, as it’s supposed to be funny.

AJ? He sobs and sobs, shaking with fear until I come pick him up. The moment the 2 minute segment is over, he’s perfectly okay, as though it never happened.

I thought it was just that part, but now I’ve started to notice that he whimpers and cries whenever there’s a rock! Someone throws a rock in a pond? Crying. A train sees rocks across a railway? Crying.

If this keeps up, it’s going to make for an interesting childhood. I can just imagine dropping him off at school: “Here’s his lunch, oh, and by the way, make sure he doesn’t see any rocks.”

Do they have a rating system for rocks in movies? It could be Rated SO for “sand only”, and Rated RE-13 for “rocks everywhere– wait until age 13”.

Whatever we’re supposed to do until he grows out of it, I’ll continue to love and comfort this little guy whenever he sees a rock. I mean, how could you NOT want to cuddle with this little munchkin?

AJ in booster seat

And for lonely days when I need extra cuddles from my baby, I’ll keep a copy of “Bob the Builder” on hand. Just in case.

Momiform– The Sock Bun with Braids

Blog Sock Bun 1

If you haven’t tried the sock bun yet, you really have to. has a great tutorial here. It takes less than FIVE minutes, and you can change it up in various ways.

For today, I tried braids. Basically, after spreading the hair (step #5, if you’re following the chart on the link above) and before rolling it around the sock, you pick out 4-6 strands and braid them. THEN you roll it under and under, until it all stays put. I don’t even need bobby pins for mine, most of the time!

Blog Sock Bun 3 Blog Sock Bun 4

This picture is proof that I sometimes wear something other than jeans. Sheesh, what a Californian…

Pants: Gap’s Hepburn Pant, Top: Banana Republic, Shoes: American Eagle, Earrings: lost and found (as in, someone left them at my house– are they yours?).

Blog Sock Bun 5

Happenings and Realizations

As far as weekends go, this was a pretty good one. For me, the weekend also includes Friday, okay?

Realization #1: I LOVE teaching Latin, almost as much as I love teaching English. I teach two separate Latin classes at different schools on Fridays, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I have a diabolical love for diagramming sentences, but now I know that I also love coming up with random analogies to explain complicated things to teens, like the 4 principal parts of a verb (2 arms and 2 legs on a body), different tense endings on the stem of a verb (putting a different hat on your head, depending on the weather), differences between conjugations being just like the differences between families (1st conjugation is that perfect white suburbia family with stepford wives), etc. LOVE it. Teaching Latin makes me want to go back and get another BA in classics.

My old Latin Book from Junior High-- I created a treasure hunt for myself!

My old Latin Book from Junior High– I created a treasure hunt for myself!

Realization #2: Most Thai food is gluten free!

Realization #3: I’m also allergic to soybean oil. I found this out when we made gluten free chocolate chip cookies after eating Thai food and I was sick to the point of throwing up for HOURS. I kept thinking it had to be the Thai food (maybe how they fried the tofu?), but Jesse pointed out that the timing wasn’t typical (3 hours after eating dinner), and that it had to be the cookies somehow. Then, a gluten-free friend told me she has the same reaction whenever she eats anything with soybean oil….there ya go. It makes sense of other things that have happened as well.

Realization #4: Soybean oil and hydrogenated soybeans are in EVERYTHING. The coffee creamer at church. Salad dressing. Chocolate. Most types of bread and crackers. How many Americans know that they are eating buckets of soy products every day? They say that just a bottle of baby soy-formula has more hormones than a month’s worth of birth control pills. C’mon, America, let’s get our food supply under control!!!

Realization #5: I am going to try an elimination diet soon, as it seems it’s the only way I can pinpoint the specific things that are making me sick. That should be….fun? I already feel like I don’t get to eat anything, so only eating 1 or 2 food groups for a month sounds devastating. But I hate the feeling that my food is poisoning me, especially when I am incapacitated by nausea. So, there’s that.

Realization #6: Jesse is going to have to make us some salsa soon. Our garden is producing tomatoes and spinach leaves like CRAZY. This is how many tomatoes we harvest on a DAILY basis!

Garden September 2013

Happening #1: I went on a women’s retreat with my mom’s church this weekend. I only went for Saturday, but it was so much fun! Just a whole day of sitting in a room, eating chicken salad, playing board games, drinking coffee and chatting….I am so glad I broke out of my introversion and went. I was worried how the boys would fare without me home, but I came home to the babies in bed and the kitchen clean. Success!!!

Janelle likes to point out that my face looks funny here. I was CHEWING. Ahem.

Janelle likes to point out that my face looks funny here. I was CHEWING. Ahem.

Happening #2: I bought some am-AHZ-ing boots at TJ Maxx yesterday with some more eBay money. I’ve made $250 in the last 10 days!

Happening #3: A busy week ahead of us! I have a full schedule for the first time, with both of my Latin classes and 15 piano students, half of whom are new!

Happy Monday everyone!