Posts Categorized: Happiness is…

5 things making me happy this week


Some are gluten free, some have nothing to do with gluten at all.

Mango hedgehog

Mango hedgehogs.


The fleeting flowers on the magnolia trees

Magnolia blossoms.


Our nutritional consultation with Sarah Maughan

Holistic nutritionist Sarah Maughan (Empower Your Body with Food). As someone living with a gluten allergy, she really gets it. At our consultation with her, Lily and I both learned so much more about healthy gluten-free eating. We’ve already started to incorporate some of Sarah’s nutritional tips (1/4 lemon in warm water each morning before eating to aid in digestion) and can’t wait to whip up some of her recipes. Happy gut = happy gluten-free girl!


My new books

3 new books by women I admire who are spreading the gluten-free gospel. One of them, Joy McCarthy, was a guest speaker at the last Gluten Free Garage and will hopefully inspire us again at our next event!


Bunners cookies homemade

Homemade chocolate chip cookies from Bunner’s Bakeshop‘s new cookbook AND the news that Bunner’s is opening a second gluten-free vegan bakery in Kensington Market!



she’s come a long way, baby

This is what 8 looks like.

This is what 8 looks like. My happy, healthy, vibrant girl, gluten free for more than four years now.


This is what 3 looked like.

This is what 3 looked like. Lily’s big bloated belly was a startling contrast to her skinny arms and legs.


We had asked her pediatrician about it at a few appointments. He said there were other children in his practice who had big bellies like this, it would go down. My mother-in-law said, “This is what Robbie’s body looked like when he was her age.” Lily was a super happy girl and rarely complained of tummy aches. Until Christmastime 2009, when for three nights in a row she awoke in the middle of the night, throwing up. Thinking it was the stomach flu, I took her to the doctor, who prescribed a medicine for acid reflux. That night she threw up again and I took her back to the doctor the next day. This is not acid reflux. Look at her belly. It’s getting bigger. He ran some blood tests and asked for my consent to test her for celiac disease. (It’s $60—OHIP doesn’t cover the cost of the celiac blood panel. Ontario is the last province not to cover the test. Shame!)

The call came a few days later. Lily’s test came back positive and her doctor said that her autoantibody levels were so high that he had no doubt she has celiac disease. He would refer us to a gastroenterologist. That night my husband and I took to our laptops and Googled celiac, gluten and gluten-free food into the wee hours.

What was this celiac disease? And what on earth was gluten? I soon learned that Lily was lucky to have been diagnosed at such a young age, before too much damage was done. She didn’t have to suffer the brutal symptoms of celiac for long, nor did her disease require a lifetime on meds. But the more my husband and I read about the gluten-free diet, the more overwhelmed we felt. Finally, we decided to turn our house into a full-on gluten-free zone so that eating could still be a positive, safe and joyful experience for Lily.

The next day we cleaned out our kitchen and Lily went gluten free (and so, by default, did we). In time I read about the importance of having an intestinal biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, but my gut told me to get this girl off gluten. (When we eventually met with Lily’s gastroenterologist, she said it was rare for her to not recommend the biopsy but she was convinced that Lily had celiac, based on her symptoms, blood test and how she was thriving off gluten.)


Lily, pre-diagnosis, eating big bowl of fettucine.

Lily, pre-diagnosis, eating a big bowl of fettuccine. When I look at this photo, I feel sick that we were inadvertently poisoning her.


In retrospect, there were other signs besides her big belly that indicated something might be up. Lily had dark circles under her eyes, even though she was getting enough sleep at night. And she was tired, oftentimes falling asleep on her teacher’s lap in the afternoon, so we switched her to morning nursery. It’s no wonder that she was so fatigued, she was on the verge of anemia, as her iron counts showed. She also didn’t seem to be growing at the same pace as her pals—”failure to thrive,” as it’s put.


Lily's face in this photo.

And then there was Lily’s face in this photo, taken months before her diagnosis. We had just left a restaurant where we celebrated my younger daughter’s birthday. Lily didn’t say anything about not feeling well but she looks so uncomfortable in this photo, like she’s in pain. It breaks my heart.



they’ve got the power

5 healthy ingredients and a whole lotta power

5 healthy ingredients and a whole lotta love


These Power Balls are  one of many easy cleanse-friendly recipes that come in Dr. Jodi Larry‘s handbook for her Cleanse for Life program, which I’ve participated in twice and wrote about here. With spring on its way (please), there’s no better time to consider kick-starting a new, healthy lifestyle.

Craving chocolate or something sweet? Pop one of these babies in your mouth! They are a breeze to make, with only 5 ingredients, and are so delicious you won’t believe they’re so good for you.

Dr. Jodi’s Power Balls
6 medjool dates (soak for a few minutes and remove pits)
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
2 tsp raw cacao powder
unsweetened shredded coconut

Blend all ingredients in a food processor. Roll mixture into balls. Roll the balls in shredded coconut. Refrigerate for about an hour, if you can wait that long.

(My friend Mia, who is a fantastic cook, recommends adding a pinch of sea salt before blending ingredients. I can see where she’s going with that.)

Canadian Celiac Association is on ECHOage!


My baby turned 6 last week.

My non-celiac girl turned 6.


One of my proudest moments as a mother happened a few weeks ago as Franny and I were planning her 6th birthday soirée.

After going over her guest list, I talked to her about having an ECHOage party. Truth is, she’s been having ECHOage parties ever since her 1st birthday, but this year I felt she was old enough to really understand what it means and get involved.

ECHOage is an online birthday party service where kids get the gifts they want AND give to a charity. It was created by two brilliant Toronto moms who wanted to make birthday parties more rewarding for the kids and less work for the parents. Who can argue with that?

Here’s how ECHOage works: Instead of your average paperless invite, after customizing their invitation the birthday child chooses a charity. Guests are then invited to make a contribution. Half of the funds raised go to the charity of the child’s choice and the other half goes toward birthday gifts that the child wants—combining the good feelings of giving with the good feelings of receiving. But that’s not all…

ECHOage is also convenient and environmentally friendly! Everything you need—RSVPs, contributions, birthday messages, thank you notes—is included in the online guest tracker. There’s also a feature that allows parents to indicate any food allergies their child has, which I appreciate as the mom of a gluten-free girl. No paper invites, no piles of discarded wrapping paper, no running around returning unwanted or duplicate gifts. But, by far, the best part about ECHOage is the feeling your child will have from helping others; getting an awesome gift definitely sweetens the deal!

So Franny and I went on the charity page of the ECHOage website. We scrolled through the 200-plus (!) local and national charities that have partnered with ECHOage. There is a charity for every imaginable cause, from health to animals to the environment. We read the names and looked at the logos and we talked about what the various charities do. Then we came upon a familiar logo—the Canadian Celiac Association—and without a moment of hesitation, Franny said, “That’s the charity I want because Lily has celiac!” There it was, my proudest moment as a mother.

CCA logo

With her charity chosen and her invitations emailed, we planned the party. Franny wanted to have a “mock-over”—a mock sleepover, that is—with 10 friends and cousins coming dressed in their pajamas. They would do a craft (inspired by the Children’s Art Studio), then we’d order pizza, have cake, watch a movie and eat popcorn. And then their parents would pick them up. Franny requested her favourite appetizer, picked out the flick (Epic) and got the loot for her bags.

Franny ended up raising $152.50 for the Canadian Celiac Association and she got $152.50 for her birthday present—an underwater camera. But I think the best gift of all is the ECHOage award proudly taped to the wall in her room…and her big sister’s gratitude.

ECHOage awardThe next time you’re planning your child’s birthday party, go ahead and ECHOage it!