On a recent trip to Boston for a conference, I didn't take any recreational reading with me. I did my presentation on Saturday, woke up way too early on Sunday, and decided to watch Ted Talks on my iphone to learn something and keep myself entertained until a suitable hour to get up. I happened across this Ted Talk by Michael Norton, "How to Buy Happiness."
The gist is that people are happier spending money on others than they are spending money on themselves. When you spell it out that way, it sounds like kind of a no-brainer. I just didn't realize how much
more happy the act of buying something for some else would be, regardless of the amount of money being spent.
While at the conference, I think we facilitated the happiness of Jenn's old college friend one day and her old high school friend the next day by letting them treat us to meals and such... the usual stuff, but the end result was that I still had a lot of my travel cash in my wallet when I got home. So I decided to buy some happiness in the form of four $5 gift cards to our local most excellent chain of Wawa convenience stores. Wawa is more than a convenience store though -- a person can get all means of prepared foods, coffee, basic groceries, or whatever.
I took a walk that afternoon with the four cards in my pocket. It was interesting to think about the criteria about how I would bestow the cards. In the end, I just decided I'd know when the time was right. My first one went to a subway busker that had a sign propped up in his guitar case that said, "Anything will help, even a smile." I smiled at him and he smiled at me, so I asked him if he liked Wawa. He said yes, so I put the card in his case and said, "$5." And he said, "It'll buy my dinner!" More smiles all around.
The next morning I was monologuing at my 7th grade son Corley as I took him to school early for orchestra practice. I told him about my little Wawa card game, and he said, "Give me one." I said, "Okay. You can either spend it on yourself or you can give it to someone else, but you have to tell me the story of what happens to it." With card number three, I invited my coworker TL to play. I'm still waiting on her story, but just by my giving it to her, I got happier. Corley reported having given his away already. It turns out that he had forgotten his lunch that day and asked his classmates if anyone had anything to share. One kid volunteered some Cheetos -- apparently the only one who offered anything. Cheetos boy got the gift card, which I thought was excellent. Corley asked for card #4, which he said he planned to hide in a library book to see if anyone would find it. He's still got it with him a day later though, so perhaps he's revising his plan. Can't wait for that story, if for no other reason it can turn my usual monologue with him into an actual conversation.
Now I'm carrying around two Dunkin Donuts gift cards and one Trader Joe's gift card and keeping an eye out for the right people to surprise them with. Jenn and I are also going to spot both boys $25 to go to www.donorschoose.org over the Thanksgiving weekend to pick a school project to donate some money to that resonates with them.
While you are out shopping for the holidays, pick up a spare gift card or two to give away just for the fun of it. You'll most certainly get your money's worth in warm feelings and the story that comes with it.
There's fairly significant marketing campaign out there about an on-line Gluten Summit
taking place the week of November 11 - 17th. There are some excellent speakers lined up, including Dr. Alessio Fasano and Prof. Yehuda Shoenfeld, MD. There are also some interesting and possibly controversial speakers on the line up, including Wheat Belly author William Davis, MD. Signing up is free, and the replays will be available for free during a 24-hour on-line replay period. The organzer of the event, Dr. Tom O'Brien, will package and sell the recording of the summit afterwards if you are interested. I participate in webinars like this with some regularity -- do know that they will have your email address and won't be afraid to use it! I have not had any trouble getting myself removed from lists after the fact, but just be aware. Click here
for more info and to register.
I am right on track in my recovery from surgery. I have another three weeks to heal before I can resume my former activity level. It has been interesting for me to discover how restless I can become in a fairly stress-free, exercise-free environment, so today I gave myself a list of low-key, 15-minute-or-less tasks to keep me energized and engaged. One of the tasks was to create something cool from a remarkable-looking leaf that my 9-year-old son Scott found yesterday. I had fun thinking about where to take the pic and imagining the possible sources of quotes that might fit how I'm feeling and that would work with the leaf. I settled on a brick background and a Richard Bach quote. He was a big favorite with my dad, and thus a big favorite of mine.
Below is my creation. I share it with you for a couple of reasons.
1) Why not? It's kinda fun and I offer the sentiment to you as you need to hear it. It's from Bach's book Illusions. I wrote a paper about it (and Jonathan Livingston Seagull and A Gift of Wings) for my high school AP English class, and I re-read it every couple of years.
2) Steal the idea! Keep an eye out for hidden treasures and photograph them. I pretty much guarantee that if you look for cool stuff, you will find it. (That's the "allowing" part.) Share your creations with others. It'll make you happy. Or at least, happier.
Okay, maybe it's cake without icing. I made this really good... ah... item this morning. I thought about doing it in muffin form. I like muffins. But we're out of the nice foil muffin cups that I prefer. I've found that gf baked items tend to stick to paper muffin cups (especially since I usually cut the amount of butter or oil in the recipes I borrow from.) I've been planning on buying some silicone muffin cup things, but I just haven't yet. Anyway, I decided to do it in a loaf pan. I don't really like the word loaf to describe something that was as light and fluffy and moist and sweet and tasty as this was. So I'm going with "bread." Truth be told, it's probably cake. Whatever. Totally delicious, whatever you call it.
Orange Cranberry Chocolate Chunk Bread
1 3/4 gluten-free flour blend (I'm still liking Arrowhead Mills the best -- it comes preloaded with xanthan gum)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (if your flour blend doesn't have it, like Bob's Red Mill)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup mandarin oranges, drained (save the juice)
1/4 of the juice from the mandarin oranges
3/4 cup almond milk (I used unsweetened vanilla flavored because we accidentally bought the wrong kind and it's what was in the fridge)
1 stick melted butter
1/4 cup fresh cranberries
6 Xocai Omega squares broken into pieces, or approx 1/3 cup dark chocolate in chip or chunk format (the Omega Squares, in addition to their dark chocolatey goodness, have an orangy thing going on, so they are the perfect pairing for this cake-bread. So good. No lie.)
Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 5 X 9 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Thoroughly combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a blender, combine the mandarin oranges and juice, almond milk, melted butter, eggs, and cranberries and blend until smooth and a little frothy, (my blender did it in about 5 short-to-medium pulse bursts.). The cranberries and oranges should fairly obliterated. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Don't over mix -- the batter is really sticky and will only get more so. Fold in the chocolate. Pour the mixture into the loaf pan (this bread was pretty puffy going into the pan and didn't rise much, so you could use any pan that could fit the batter, just keep an eye on it while baking.) Bake for 40 - 50 minutes, until the top is browned and springs back when lightly touched. Remove from the oven and let stand 15-20 minutes. Enjoy it warm. Then enjoy it again later at room temperature. Grudgingly share it with your loved ones, even the ones that don't have to eat gluten-free, because you love them so much. Wish you'd made more so that you could have it with your lunch the next day.
My LAVH surgery (hysterectomy) last week was by all appearances a success: My uterus and cervix are no longer with me, but my ovaries are, which means that menopause will come at its own sweet pace. I'm not in a rush for that!
I learned that morphine gives me a wanging headache and nausea. I have learned that I am not alone with these side effects. Why, oh why haven't they come up with some different pain med to start with?
I also learned that distraction, meditation and sleep are darned effective pain management techniques themselves. Whew!
The day after surgery, I felt pretty lousy. Abdominal pain, headache, nausea. I knew I'd feel better at home. The requirements for getting released? 1) Walk; 2) Pee; 3) Eat solid food and keep it down. I figured I could handle #1 and #2, but #3 was going to be a challenge, both from a physical point of view and a logistics point of view. From my pre-hospitalization research, I knew that most of my friends and acquaintances with celiac advised that I not trust the hospital food service to not cross contaminate. I learned from the dietitian at the hospital that they (think they) have pre-packaged gluten-free breads, chips, and cookies, plus they could steam vegetables, etc, and that they would be willing to go to great lengths to bring me whatever would be suitable. That sounded promising, but I decided to not trust them anyway, and I brought a pureed pumpkin soup and a pureed squash soup from Trader Joe's and a microwave-safe bowl so that if I wanted it, my partner Jenn or a nurse or aide on the floor could nuke it for me. I still felt pretty queasy, but I thought I could manage the soup long enough to get out of the hospital. By this time I had been off the morphine for about 12 hours, and I was loaded with anti-nausea medication, so I figured I had a 50-50 shot at success. Unfortunately the nurse ruled that pureed soup didn't count as solid food and that I'd need something more.
Argh! Should have brought some gluten-free crackers! The hospital's food service machine was invoked to see what might be on hand. I was actually quite surprised that in less than half an hour a gluten-free vegetarian tray of solid food appeared. The broccoli and green beans were WAY overcooked, so I'm guessing that they didn't boil 'em up special for me, increasing the possibility of cross-contamination. They did bring packaged and clearly marked potato chips and cookies, which turned out to be my ticket home.
So, my advice to you for your next hospitalization: Like me, you may not be interested in food at all, but take something just in case. I had a gf clear broth that Jenn brought for my liquid diet day, and comforting sounding soups for my solid food day. I wish I had packed some mild gf crackers, since hospitals and nurses seem to understand that crackers = solid food. I think that hospital food service will get more responsive over time, but the distance between the room and the kitchen is a very wide gulf and there is no real way to reassure a gluten-intolerant patient that food handling procedures are safe. I'd actually suggest to any hospital listening that they do like the airlines and get hermetically sealed microwavable gluten-free meals to increase the consumer's confidence in the product.
My surgery +5 day postscript is that I am amazingly uninterested in food. I'm not hungry and nothing sounds good. Coffee is gross. Sleep, meditation, distraction and pain meds are very popular with me right now. I know this is temporary, so I'm trying to appreciate the gift of enforced rest and all of the warm wishes from family and friends.
They got the gluten-free message, but not the vegetarian thing. I sent the chicken broth away but eventually ate the frozen ice treat.
Chips and cookies were my ticket home
My new car is giving my old car the once over.
There is some evidence
that the gluten-free diet reduces painful symptoms of endometriosis. Of course, I didn't know I had endometriosis or a big fibroid until a couple of months ago. I've been on the gluten-free diet for several years, and all I can say is, boy, I guess I would have been really
miserable now if I hadn't gotten the celiac diagnosis in 2010. There is also an indication that women with endometriosis are more likely to have celiac disease (here's a link to a good summary
I'll admit that I might have been one of the handful of women in the western world that didn't really know what fibroids or endometrial cysts were until recently, but my easy and highly technical explanation for those who are also unaware is that there is a bunch of extra goop and blobs of stuff that should have been reabsorbed into my body that have attached themselves to my uterus and ovaries, and maybe other internal organs or surfaces.
Doctors are fond of comparing these tumors to the sizes of various food items. So, to give you some scale, my fibroid, which has fully engaged the interior, wall and exterior of my uterus, is around the size of a tangelo. My right ovary, which should be the size of an almond, is more the size of an avocado. I recall that my mom had an ovarian cyst in 1973 (maybe they would call it an endometrial cyst now?) was the size of a grapefruit. Goodness! These things cause fertility problems, but for women like me who don't want to get pregnant, mostly the medical community suggests trying to wait these things out. Once menopause comes along, nature takes its course and the things shrink or go away. One big symptom is painful and heavy periods, and once a woman doesn't have a period anymore, then no big whoop. Women are supposed to be able to bear a great deal of discomfort and blood loss on a regular basis, right?
I do sort of agree with the "wait it out" approach. I'm not one to over-medicalize a situation if I don't need to. However, I have been anemic for the better part of 30 years. My anemia piqued my hematologist's suspicions that celiac might be the cause. Turns out he was right about celiac, but the anemia hasn't substantially improved as a result of the gluten-free diet. I still go for regular iron infusions through an IV drip, a process that takes more than two hours in a chemo ward overlooking Washington Square Park, usually once a month. I have continued to search for (and so far, rule out) other possible causes of blood loss. For example, I've had an endoscopy and colonoscopy to confirm that the lining of my small intestine has healed, and I don't have ulcerative colitis. Which brought me back to menses, the thing my doctors told me all along was the cause. But how does a person know if her period is unusually heavy? Sure, it seems heavy to me, but I've heard stories from other women that make my monthly tale a mere trifle.
Plus, for every visit to the gynecologist in my adult life, I have mentioned painful cramps and heavy bleeding. To a person, they've told me that if I would just get pregnant it would all get better. Or how about I go on the pill? I did try the pill once maybe 10 years ago, the kind that you just take and take all the time and never have another period (Yasmine, which I see on the class action commercials apparently caused some women A LOT of problems.) I took it for maybe 3 weeks, when I experienced "breakthrough bleeding" while wearing khaki pants on a light green cloth sofa (fortunately I hadn't left for work yet!). I decided I'd rather bleed when expected and I never liked the idea of jacking myself up on hormones anyway, so I stopped taking it. So as I closed in on "heavy monthly blood loss" as my cause of anemia, I was mentally debating whether I would be open to the hormone discussion again.
It was my primary doctor who told me that the anemia had really gone on too long and that I should consider a hysterectomy. I didn't think an insurance company would pay for an expensive intervention if they could just throw pills at me, but she assured me that the monthly iron infusions were enough evidence that the hysterectomy was a medically sound next step. First though, I'd need an ultrasound to see what was going on. Then I'd need to find a gyn (my Yasmine provider isn't practicing anymore), and not just any gyn, but one that specializes in women's bodies specifically and not in childbearing issues. The ultrasound indicated a fibroid and an enlarged ovary, so when I met with the doc, she said H word (hysterectomy) along with some other options, but that I needed to have an MRI to get a better idea of what would be required. Off to the MRI people (my first time for this procedure too. I don't get especially freaked out in small spaces for short durations, so no big deal, though I had no idea how loud
it would be.) Then back to the gyn, who confirmed that the fibroid's occupation of my uterus' interior, walls and exterior would indeed require a hysterectomy. And then there were these endometrial cysts. I'm not sure how much of that is going on, other that it's the cause of my enlarged ovary. I'm hoping to keep one ovary to postpone the onset of menopause for as long as possible.
So, in the months and weeks leading up to the surgery, which is now scheduled for next week, I've taken the following steps to prepare:
1. I had one last unpleasant period, for old time's sake.
2. I called my cousin the nurse to find out what a hospital stay would be like, since I haven't been hospitalized in almost 30 years.
3. I polled my celiac friends and acquaintances and discovered that I should, in no way, shape or form, trust the hospital food service to not serve me cross-contaminated food.
4. I discovered a great website, www.hystersisters.com
and learned what pre and post op life would be like from real women who've lived it.
5. I've learned that LOTS of women in my life have had some version of this done. They were all appropriately supportive and gave me an idea of what would hurt and for how long.
6. I did my best to get all my work projects in good shape, or in the hands of a team member or colleague who will guide them through until my return. There's a bit of guilt and worry associated with being out of the office for 6 weeks, but I work with some really great people who want what's best for me and who will help pick up the slack in my absence.
7. I bought a new (used) car. Okay, I was planning to do this anyway, but the research and test driving and all that were a fun distraction in the weeks leading from scheduling the surgery to going under the laproscopic knife. And there was a tiny bit of mid-life crisis rolled into it. Sure, I kept it practical and inexpensive by picking a 4-door hatchback Kia Soul! (31 MPG highway), but I was determined to have a stick shift, a sunroof and CD player. And not only that, but the one I found is orange with a black racing stripe AND a spoiler!
8. I want to mow the lawn and clean the bathrooms, since I don't think I'll be able to do that for awhile. I've also been imagining where I'd like to spend my time immediately after surgery when mobility is low. And I've been thinking about low energy activities and projects that I can work on so that I don't get blue. The list includes sitting in my new used car and reading the owners manual to figure out how to operate all the stuff I've never seen in a car before. Apparently I can just tell it to call people. What? Lots of people have suggested I watch their favorite TV series from the beginning of time. Maybe. But I picture myself scanning our wedding and other pre-digital photos, or working on my next e-cookbook with either HGTV or Xena reruns on in the background. And walking. Lots of walking. I'll keep you apprised.
According to a recent study
by the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, 43% of those of us with celiac disease are not at our ideal weight. Whether working to lose, gain, or maintain, many of us have to pay a lot of attention to what we eat and how much we exercise in order to get and stay healthy. It's especially hard to do when there are significant distractions that pull us off our A-game with our resolve to stick with a meal plan or exercise regimen. That's when I most need to go on autopilot -- that is, take the thinking out of the mix, and stick with the plan as scheduled.
The key, of course, is to have a plan in the first place. Frankly, I think most of us do have some sense of what will sufficiently nourish us to meet our goals. It's when we fail to plan or get distracted and pulled off track that we wake up one morning, pull on a pair of pants we haven't worn in a couple of months and discover that they don't fit anymore. I hate when that happens.
In my world, summer is over, the kids are going back to school, and things at my Day Job are getting a bit hectic. It's more important than ever that I implement The Plan. For me, that means eating a diet that has a high nutrient-to-calorie ratio, a la Dr. Joel Fuhrman's Eat to Live
program. Essentially that means that I eat a lot of vegetables and legumes and sparingly eat refined carbs and animal products. I have to plan ahead, I need support, and I need accountability. Menu planning, shopping and cooking happen on the weekends, I have help from an online support program called PEERtrainer
, and I use a smart phone and web app called LoseIt! to track what I eat to provide the accountability, at least to myself. I also weigh myself every morning, but I track my progress for real on a weekly basis and dismiss daily fluctuations that don't jibe with my perception of my actual effort to stay on plan.
As for exercise, it's easy to let it fall by the wayside when times get busy. My tried and true method is to get up 45 minutes early every day and just get it done. I feel virtuous all day, and usually more relaxed and energetic. Lately I've been biking, but I also like running (okay, jogging). Sometimes I walk briskly. Sometimes I do high intensity interval training (HIIT), but I've found I don't stick with it very long, and the real key is finding something that's adequately entertaining so that I stay with it. When the weather turns bad, I turn on the TV... and do a workout video or a Wii Fit workout program like EA Sports Active. I also have a $10/month gym membership that I use just often enough to feel like I got my $10-worth. When I go to the gym, I do the 30-minute express weight/cardio interval circuit. I found that I understand all of those machines, it works every body part, and there's hardly ever anyone else in the corral of machines. Since I'm already there, if I have time I'll usually throw in some extra cardio on an elliptical machine or treadmill. I have to plan the night ahead what exercise I will be doing the next morning, so that I have the right clothes or gear handy. Mostly it depends on the weather and if I need to leave early for work. The key is having a plan so that when I wake up in the morning, I don't have to decide then. I've learned that it's VERY easy to hit the snooze alarm multiple times when I leave the decision-making up to my theta-wave brain. I know that real exercise experts would scoff at my workout regimen, and that's okay. I know that if I develop a real goal I'll have to make a plan that includes milestones and all that (I've been flirting with the idea of a run-bike-run sort of duathlon because my very cool friend Kia does them, but don't tell anyone.)
I help people develop meal plans and stay on track to meet their healthy weight goals. E-mail me
to set up a free half-hour consultation to discuss your goals.
My friend Kia on the NYC duathlon route.
My older son Corley recently described August as the Sunday night of the summer. I tend to agree, but I'm determined to stay low-key and content as long as I can. Even though I have had to go to my Day Job more days than not, I have arranged my time off in July and August to maximize good fun with my family. That in itself isn't unusual, but this year, I have "bonus" days off as a result of five furloughed Fridays. This last Friday we piled in the van and day-tripped to Island Beach State Park in New Jersey. No boardwalk. No arcade. No shops of beachwear or gifts. Just the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Barnegat Bay to the west. Plenty of gluten-free food because I packed it and put it in the cooler. It was a beautiful day and it had many parts: Boogie boarding, walking along the beach, spotting dolphins in the distance, and constructing sand castle engineering projects. We were treated to a gorgeous sunset on the bay on our way out of the park. I violated one small no-trespassing suggestion to find the amazing view in the pic below.
Some days I have to bring more intention to finding my happy place than others. As the Sunday night feeling of the nearing end of summer sneaks up on me a little more, I'm appreciating the low-key glide that I've had the last couple of months. I'm especially rejoicing that between now and Labor Day, I'm actually off from work more than I have to go. By a lot. I am definitely appreciating that. And I will do my best to be centered in the moment, be open to the gifts that present themselves, and will milk the end of the season for all it's worth.
“There will always be another Dunkin’ Donut.” That’s what I used to tell myself back in 1994 when I was tempted by sweet treats. but was not pleased with my weight. I worked at MANNA in Philadelphia and the volunteers that supported our incredibly fabulous hot-meals distribution program for people with HIV and AIDS would bring donuts to our kitchens and office. And since it was different sets of volunteers for each day of the week, it was a nice and loving thing for them to offer. Despite my indifference toward donuts, it was a wee bit of a problem for me because I would indulge just because they were there. So to help me set some limits, I reminded myself, as I walked past the box of high-calorie, high-fat circles of mediocre dessert food, that I could have those anytime. I resolved to save my indulgences for truly special dessert offerings.
Then a few years ago came my celiac diagnosis, and, despite what I had told myself about there always being another Dunkin’ Donut, that became an untruth for me.* It wasn’t such a hardship though, because I just wasn’t that interested in donuts. But still, it was one of those “Wah
, poor me” things when our family would stop for a treat and I’d order black coffee, and smell the sweetness while glowering inside.
As I progressed in my skill at navigating the gluten-free diet, I began my quests for “The Bests,” such as the best gluten-free, locally-made pizza, bread, soft pretzel (still looking!), and sweets. And since I’m from Philadelphia, a town sandwiched between New York and Washington with a deeply rooted inferiority complex, I didn’t expect much. I heard about Babycakes in New York and Helmut Newcake in Paris and I wanted to go there
. Oh, and until then, I should check out what we’ve got nearby. And I discovered Sweet Freedom near the intersection of Broad and South streets. The short-ish version:
Sweet Freedom Bakery creates sumptuous baked goods that are gluten-free, vegan, kosher, corn-free, soy-free, peanut-free, and free of refined sugars (though a non-allergy or sensitivity-plagued-ovore could enjoy these treats as well). There are none of these allergens on premises at all, so there is no worry about cross-contamination. Their pastry case is filled with a wide assortment of temptations, and the menu on their website notes seven kinds of cookies, six kinds of cupcakes, five kinds of quick-bread loaves, and six kinds of muffins, plus seasonal offerings, crumbles, brownies, blondies, magic bars, cinnamon buns, cake balls, tomato pie (their only non-sweet offering), and yes, donuts. Lots
of kinds of donuts. And they are all
that. Not lying. The donuts are amazing. You must go there and have one.
Better, since Philadelphia is conveniently nestled between New York and Washington DC and 40 million people (no joke!) live within 150 miles of Philadelphia, it is definitely road-trip-worthy, especially if you’ve been pining for gluten-free donuts. Maybe get tickets to a Phillies game while you are here. Since Sweet Freedom is just half a block from the Broad Street subway line, it’s a quick trip to the stadium. You can sit at one of Sweet Freedom’s tables or at the counter, enjoy a good cup of coffee with So Delicious coffee creamer, have some tomato pie and a delectable treat, then go to the game, or you can take your allergen-free fare into the ballpark with you.
Who’s the mastermind behind all these culinary confections? Her name is Allison Lubert, and she’s the owner of Sweet Freedom. Allison had been plagued by unexplained health problems, then diagnosed with unspecified autoimmune disease, and was eventually, in her mid-twenties, identified to have allergies to wheat, dairy, yeast and cane sugar. She is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and her recipes feature chickpea and fava bean flours, flaxseed (a common egg-replacement ingredient), and naturally low-glycemic coconut sugar. The use of higher protein flours and heart-healthy omega3-rich flaxseed can also help tamp down that nagging little voice that pipes up every time you eat something that might stray from your picture of the ideal diet. At least it does for me. The long version:
Located on South Street near Broad in an up-and-coming neighborhood next to the rather flamboyant Jamaican Jerk Hut, Sweet Freedom has a fairly unassuming storefront presence. Inside, it looks like pretty much any other bakery, perhaps with the exception of the absence of bread. I recently sat down with Jen Kremer, the busy manager of Sweet Freedom, to get a sense of what it takes to run an allergen-free bakery.
Jen is a classically trained French chef and has worked in the restaurant industry for 19 years. She left the restaurant biz a few years ago, feeling she lacked good balance in her life. When pregnant with her now 2-year-old daughter, she developed gestational diabetes and adopted (and still maintains) a vegan diet for health and well-being. In 2012 she completed the health counseling and holistic nutrition program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. When I asked about other food sensitivities she’s familiar with, she told me that her mom is “allergic to everything
.” She’s quite accustomed to making accommodations for special diets. She told me she had no real interest in returning to the restaurant business after her daughter was born, but a friend introduced her to Allison, and the rest, as they say, is history. Jen’s been a part of the Sweet Freedom team May 2012. When I asked her what she likes best about working there, she said it’s the “Oh my gosh, I can have anything
in here!” reaction she gets from new customers, and the knowing that she’s sometimes making someone’s first birthday cake ever. It truly satisfies her desire to help people. She is excited by the possibilities for the future of this unique bakery.
And what does the future hold? A cookbook, for one. In June 2013, Sweet Freedom successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign
to raise $15,000 to publish a cookbook that will share their coveted secret recipes for delicious allergen-free sweets. Jen tells me that Allison compiled the recipes and worked out the publishing details, all the while juggling family responsibilities with one small one at home and twins on the way. I supported it at the Kickstarter $30 level so Sweet Freedom will send me the print copy of the cookbook as a thank-you. Can’t wait!
Another is the possibility of a second location in the area (South Jersey, maybe?), with the idea that it might include bread. Jen told me that one thing people ask for is bread, and though they don’t promote it as such, the current Sweet Freedom location is also a yeast-free operation.
Jen’s favorite items are also the donuts, especially the apple cider donuts and the cookie crunch donuts. (Gotta get the donuts, I’m telling ya.) Allison’s favorites are the blueberry oat bars and the magic bars. I’ve had both of those too – also delicious. They ship all over the country, and they do at least 50 special orders a week. And by now I have tried Babycakes NYC and Helmut Newcake in Paris. The three are definitely different experiences, but Philadelphia need not have an inferiority complex about its premiere gluten-free allergen-free bakery.
*I note that Dunkin’ Donuts is testing a packaged gluten-free blueberry muffin and cinnamon sugar donut in several US markets. If/when they come to Philadelphia, I still won’t need to have them, because now I have a far superior option.
Sweet Freedom Bakerywww.sweetfreedombakery.com
1424 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146
In the science of happiness, it has been demonstrated that creating enjoyable and memorable experiences keeps us happy into our old age way better than spending money on stuff. I'm all about creating excellent experiences. Jenn and I went to Paris last October and the boys stayed with their aunt and uncle at home. Summer is our time for all of us, and when it's a family vacation, we gear activities toward what we think our 9 and 11 year old sons will enjoy. That leaves out a lot of stuff -- most museums, lots of walking in hot cities. Come to think of it, my tastes tend to skew the same way. They also aren't keen on taking many hours to get there, wherever there is.
To maximize everyone's potential for a good time, we decided to stay sort-of local for our vacation this year. We are less than 2 hours from home, but other than the travel time being brief, we might as well be a thousand miles away from our suburban Philadelphia home. Our vacation strategy? Go far enough away that we don't have to call it a "stay-cation," skip the plane fare for a family of four, go during the week to avoid the crowds, and stay away from checking work email at least 90% of the time.
Our destination? Jim Thorpe, PA, population 4,774. Why? Rafting, biking on converted railways, excellent state parks, caverns an hour away (in case it rains), and a waterpark not too far to cap off the trip.
As always, we are staying at a place with at least minimal food storage and prep facilities. We nearly rented a house through VRBO.com, but because of an iffy forecast, we decided instead on a Hampton Suites because of the indoor pool in case we get rained in. I packed accordingly and, at least until the refrigerator got overly excited and froze all my vegetables, I was in pretty good shape. Breakfast is included with the hotel, so when I don't want to have my protein shake in the blender I brought, I am enjoying fruit and individually packaged yogurts. I packed lunches for our two day-long outings so far: Salad during our rafting lunch stop, PB&J on an Udi's bagel for our 15 mile bike ride. I have plenty of snacks on hand too -- homemade oaty protein bars, granola circles, gf Oreos from Trader Joe's, Xocai healthy dark chocolate, veggies and hummus, raisins, trail mix, etc. A couple of shops in town have boasted gluten-free ice cream and desserts. We have spotted a couple of places in town through Urban Spoon that sound like they can accommodate a gluten free dinner, but so far we've not had a big dinner out. Jenn and the boys have been happy with pizza or sandwiches by the pool while I have eaten provisions I brought. Maybe we'll venture out for dinner tomorrow. Maybe not. Doesn't matter really.
It doesn't matter because I didn't come to Jim Thorpe for the food. My main goal is to stay healthy and unglutened so that I can enjoy the journey of making happy memories. We chose to stay in this small town in Pennsylvania for the opportunities for family fun and adventure. So far, so good. I know that the memories of our excursions together will far outlast any recollection of meals eaten or not eaten, as the case may be.