As A Parent of 5 Kids, I Am Thinking Outside The Box. For Colleges.

This article originally appeared on Ravishly

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As A Parent of 5 Kids, I Am Thinking Outside The Box. For Colleges.

If Disneyland is out of the picture for us, then paying for college 5 times over is well out of the picture.



As mama duck to my precious little ducklings, I have a lot on my plate.

3 meals a day for 7 mouths, 2 adults included, can start adding up fast. We have gone from 2 cups of dry rice to cook for dinner to 5 cups of dry rice, just to feed everyone. 1 loaf of bread a day. Apples are hardly a dime a dozen anymore…and don’t even begin on the amount of peanut butter and jelly we have gone through already.

Other questions of logistics come up, such as how do you keep everyone’s shoes in one place; particularly when the 3 year old keeps putting them on her teddy bears?  How long can we pass down clothes until we can’t remember who wore them first, in the first place? Will we ever see Disneyland, or is that going to be a vacation left for retirement?

These are all sorts of logistics and questions with a large family, to make sure everyone has what they need in order to feel loved and are all well provided for.

However, my mind goes to the not so distant future, well before I start pestering them for bundles of grandkids:  college.

If Disneyland is out of the picture for us, then paying for college 5 times over is well out of the picture.

Fortunately, these children have a mother who thinks outside the box: EUROPE.

Follow me on this idea.

5 Incredible European Colleges American Graduates Can Attend…For Free

I’m not even kidding, I love this idea so much.

1) Germany

Bist du von Deutschland?  Nein??  Good, then you are in a good place to apply for free college in good ol’ Deutschland.

DAAD: German Academic Exchange Service has all the resources you need to get yourself on a plane to enjoy your studies with a side of sauerkraut.

From the University of Duisburg-Essen to the Hamburg Institute of Technology…Germany has courses in German and English for your little expat.

2) Finland

Finland Scholarships for International Students
Would you like a little more Nordic in your life? Finland’s got’cha covered! They are lovely people, with the driest wit on earth. Do not underestimate their lack of smiling for ill humor. They are just biding their time until something genuinely strikes their fancy to dazzle you with their grin.  After homework, of course.


3) Scotland

Perhaps you are feeling a little more brave than frigid…Scotland is waiting for your budding college student to enroll!

Study in Scotland is where you begin your tartan travels into Bachelor degrees. And for goodness sake, invite your mother to come live with you. Because she loves you, and was in 20 hours of labor to give birth to you…she deserves some time in Scotland in her lifetime.  But, no pressure. Your education is more important.


4) Brazil

Talvez você gostaria de estudar no Brasil?

Maybe you need something completely different. Something you have never experienced before.  Maybe you aren’t the chilly-weather, independent, northern-European kind of student.

Maybe you need a university a little warmer, a little more flamboyant…a university with some South American pizazz.  Perhaps you need to be in a country where everyone is family, and many Acarajé and Moqueca meals await for you there.

Well, my friends, Science in Brazil is your new home.


5) Slovenia

Do not underestimate the idea of studying in Slovenia. Their tuition is free, their cost of living is reasonable and they have an incredible amount of programs available for American students…and it is a beautiful country.

In a country nestled in the Alps right next to Austria and a boat ride away from Italy, you will find a land…just smaller than New Jersey.  However, this small amount of historical land boasts both a coastal line on the Adriatic Sea, a mountain line of the Alps and valleys, farmland and delightfully charming towns in between.  This might be thinking out of the box in a big way…but…

Expand your educational horizons, and check out Studying in Slovenia.


There you have it, fellow parents!  5 different paths to college for your little, expatriate ducklings!


“Rowing Is The New Spinning”? Don’t Mind If I Do!

Apparently, I can’t just wish my body into excellent shape.

I know!! Trust me, I’ve been trying.

The truth of the matter is, I was starting to get in excellent (well, “good“) shape last year from roller skating.  I was on a schedule, and I skated a half-marathon a year ago. I was starting to look pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself.


oneyearOne year of roller skating.

Unfortunately, now that we have moved onto dirt roads, my days of just throwing on my skates and getting a good skate in is over.  We do have skating parks nearby, but those are for adventurous kids who don’t mind breaking something (see: ankles, legs, willpower).  What I need for skating is a long, smooth path to just make time on.

What to do, what to do.

Hugh Laurie is a smart guy.  He will have an answer for me, I’m sure.


Rowing!  That is a fantastic idea!

There are so many benefits to rowing.  According to Harper’s Bazzar:

” Die-hard spinners are jumping off their bikes and on to … rowing machines? Yes, it’s true. Call it the fitness trend that no one predicted, but suddenly boutique rowing studios are opening at a fast pace across the country and loads of converts are swearing off cycling classes. “I drank the Spin Kool-Aid like so many—but after a year I plateaued and no longer saw the results I wanted,” says Hilary Rainey, 26, a manager at a nonprofit. She’s a regular at New York’s CityRow studio, going twice a week, and has lost 11 pounds in just under two months. Jessica Luftig, 38, a project manager, has gone three to four times a week religiously since February in lieu of TRX Suspension Training and barre-toning classes and dropped 25 pounds. “I can’t get enough,” she says.”


I have never Spun, so I have never seen any results from getting on a stationary bike. But rowing?  I am all over that. And I am loving these testimonies.

“Here’s why: Rowing just might be the most efficient exercise ever. “With each stroke, pretty much every part of the body is used,” says Stella Lucia Volpe, an exercise physiologist and professor of nutrition sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia and an avid rower. And it may let you skip crunches—for good. “A big part of rowing is core strength,” she adds. “People think it’s all arms, but rowing is much more legs and core.”


So there is only one thing to do in order to get back into shape.  Buy a rowing machine.


My own personal, exclusive Rockwood Gym Members:





So, let’s get started 🙂

Who Are You? – Shalt Thou Takest This Realm By Storm…Or By Grace?

Welcome to Monday.


It is time.

It is time to find out what you are really made of.

Princess. OR QUEEN.  Honestly, I haven’t taken the quiz yet, so I’ll probably get something aspirational and flashy.  Like “Wet Nurse.”


Are you ready to start this week off with some pizazz??  Of course you are.

Grab a cup of Monday coffee, and let’s go!



1) What Type Of Princess Are You?

After this weekend…I can’t exactly disagree.

The Adventurer
You are the Adventurer princess! You love it when things get dangerous, or when you overhear a secret being told. Again, like the Warrior princess, many people frown upon your possibly-improper behavior, but who cares? You’re too busy to think about that at the moment, what with riding to the rescue and all of that good stuff…You are smart and know what a plan looks like. Not only that, but once you have a plan in your head, you can actually complete it without too much of a problem. The surprising part is this: you never find adventures when you’re looking for them – they find you when you least expect it! But even when that happens, you’re always prepared. There are hardly any other princesses around who are as smart, sharp, loyal, and daring as you, so don’t stop adventuring, my friend!
So, basically I’m Merida.  Or Mulan.
Well…I could have called this. I think I am pretty ambitious with what I have in mind for myself, and I am certainly passionate about what I believe…without being a jerk about it. That claim might be a little prideful, but it’s my goal at least.
And, if I do say so myself, my taste in men is pretty fantastic.
You Are Passionate And Ambitious
Your inner-clock is always ticking and makes you strive toward specific goals. You’re a fighter, not afraid to confront challenges, setbacks, and disappointments. When you reach an objective, the next one is already in the works, and before long you’d begin the journey toward it.Above all, you’re extraordinarily creative, and a sensual, passionate lover. That is why People envy you!




3) Which Famous Seductress Are You Most Like?

I’m shooting for Bette Paige on this one…

I’m probably going to get Donna Reed.

Cleopatra!!  Oh, why not 😉


You are a real queen, just like the infamous Cleopatra! As one of the most irresistible and badass leaders in history, she was able to rule Ancient Egypt all while seducing men like Marc Antony and Julius Caesar! Like Cleopatra, you are a natural born leader who is cunning, resourceful and did we mention, GORGEOUS! You’re definitely going to make history, girl!
HA! Did not see that coming!! Well, what other ancient queen am I?

4) Which Ancient Queen Are You?

(I have no idea who this is…yet. But I like her style)

The Aramaic Queen!3 interesting facts about Zenobia:
1) Zenobia was known as the “warrior queen”.
2) Zenobia was described as the most beautiful and noble woman in the East.
3) Her feet were adorned with shackles of gold and her outfit embellished with so many gems that she could hardly bear the weight to walk.

5) Which Time Period Do YOU Belong In?

Hard work and equality are essential to you, and you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves to get the job done.”

That is absolutely the truth.

Medieval Ireland
You belong in Medieval Ireland (400–1400 AD). You value tradition, family, and honor. You are strong and resilient, and you believe in doing what’s right. There is a softness inside of you, but you reveal that only to those closest to you. Hard work and equality are essential to you, and you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves to get the job done.

6) What Is Your Strongest Mental Ability?

Pretty much the only thing I have goin’ on….

Your strongest mental ability is creativity. You’re a creative, entrepreneurial and ground breaking thinker. You’re problem solving skills are unique and you always find new and creative ways to approach old problems. You’re thinking is out of the box, making you an essential voice in any creative endeavour. You see the world through a rare lens and you beat to the sound of your own drum. You can’t be forced into any boxes and you’ll always strive to shake things up with you’re creativity!

7) Who Is Your Mask And The Person Behind it?

Final question!  Behind the social facades…who are you, really?

What many people do not see is the side of you without your mask. You crave to let go of control and not think so logically about things. When events reach a tipping point you rebel and can take a spontaneous trip some place you’ve never been, or do something wild and quite out of the ordinary. When that intimidating mask of strength comes off you are playful, carefree, and free-spirited!

That’s about it in a nutshell! Road trip…anyone?


Strong + In Control/Rebellious + Carefree
When you step out your door, the world knows you as strong, in control, and able to handle anything that comes your way. This is your dominant side, and you have been through enough challenges in life that you do have a strength about you that is inspiring to others.

Is This The Canada I Expected? Hardly.


[spon-tey-nee-uh s]
1.coming or resulting from a natural impulse or tendency; without effort or premeditation; natural and unconstrained; unplanned.


This is the word that summarizes yesterday.

We are an exploring family, by nature. I wouldn’t call us “adventurers,” since that gives the impression that we enjoy adventure.  And we don’t. You see, adventure means “a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.” We don’t want to take a risky, hazardous trip with uncertain outcome.  We want to explore! We want to see new lands, taste new foods, experience new cultures and, most importantly, learn new ideas.  That is what we crave in life. 

So yesterday morning, while Ben and I were laying like sunbathing seals on our giant bed, wondering what we were going to do that day…Ben said, “let’s go to Canada.”

And I replied: “YES.”  The thing is, my family is from Canada.  Kind of. Briefly. My family has been oddly-nomadic, so they have lived inNova Scotia, Minnesota, Saskatchewan, LosAngeles…and now Washington.  I have always been curious what Canada was like, trying to get back to my rather flimsy roots, so I was all over this idea.

This all took place at 10:50am.  We were in the showers and out the door with everybody to make the ferry at 11:30, and we just made it (only because the ferry was running a few minutes behind). Into Seattle, out of Seattle, and on to Canada!

It really was that quick.

We have been wanting to cross the border ever since we moved here…because it is right there.  The Canadian border is about 3 hours away from us, which is the equivalent to our previous house’s distance to Lake Tahoe; and we loved visiting Tahoe when we could, so visiting Canada would be a snap!

Okay, are you ready for a visual experience of Canada? Because I took pictures.  Lots, and lots of pictures.

We were decked out in Passports and a spirit of exploration, and we took a deep breath….and crossed the border.


I think this is the Peace Arch. The big white thing on the corner of the picture that I couldn’t get a decent picture of, even though it is a million feet tall and standing in the middle of an open field.


The end of the United States of America, as we know it.


Whaat??  METRIC.  Okay, fine.

Now, I want to explain something first.  I expected Canada to look like this:

It didn’t. Not even remotely.  Because it looked like this:


I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed.  And then it just kept getting weirder.


Every house was for sale for blocks and blocks.  Like…every house.  I have never seen the kind of exodus out of a large neighborhood like this.  What on earth happened here?!!


Lots of plains. Flat, flat plains.  Very lovely plains, but still…not exactly what the brochure says.


It was a little difficult getting a good picture of this, while driving, through 2 guard rails…but these are logs in the river. Call me old fashioned, but I loved seeing logs in the river for some reason.  I grew up in LA…where both “rivers” and “logs” were merely something I read about in history books, so this was a momentous occasion for me.  I saw a few of these in other rivers we had passed, and this was just finally the picture I was able to get.

Okay…this is where everything started going downhill for me.

This is what I could see while entering Vancouver.  The amount of giant apartment buildings stretched far beyond what my little camera could get.  What was weird for me was that it looked exactly like Hong Kong.  Exactly like Hong Kong.  This didn’t look like Canada, it looked like a tropical Asian island.  It was so bizarre….let me show you what I mean:
This is entering into Vancouver from the bridge:


This is what it looks like to enter Hong Kong from the bridge:

That is what I remember when I entered Hong Kong. It was tall apartment buildings everywhere, and especially on little stand-alone islands in the water.  So, entering Vancouver that looked like Hong Kong was extremely trippy.

Now, after that we kept driving through and were looking for the Gastown district, and so we went out and around the backside of Vancouver…and this is when things were starting to go to a bad place for me…and I don’t have any pictures from this part because it was depressing.  We went through the faux-Hong Kong, and it confirmed without a doubt that all the travel brochures photographers are definitely not from around these places, and into Hastings Corridor… where there were miles and miles of dilapidated buildings, empty houses, barred windows and doors and blocks and blocks and blocks of homeless communities.  To say that there is a homeless population in Vancouver is completely minimizing how widespread the community extended across the city.  I was shocked at how rampant, and especially how completely settled in, this was.

Looking on trip advisor sites reaffirmed my initial reaction to the darker side of Vancouver:

Vancouver is a beautiful and interesting city, but the Vancouver advertised by the tourism industry, is not the whole picture. It is a sad story, but like a lot of beautiful places, Vancouver has a dark side. The city has the highest population of drug addicts, and homeless people in Canada. During our visit to downtown, we encountered several homeless people, drug addicts, and beggars. Teenage girls younger than me, were standing at sky train stations, asking for money.”


Yes, Downtown Eastside (DTES) is an eyesore, an embarrassment, and a ghetto. But that’s what it is, a ghetto, meaning that the junkies, dealers, and prostitutes are all congregated into several blocks on East Hastings, east of say Abbott street. If you don’t wanna witness this, then just don’t go there.”


“While Vancouver is undeniably pretty from a distance, up close it has become an appalling stew of junkies, beggars and scavengers that is unrivalled in the developed world. It is easily the most annoying and depressing city I know to walk around in. You will be hounded for money from one end of the city centre to the other, you will see countless drug deals taking place under the incompetent eyes of the local police, and you will see the full effects of failed drug policies. This city has the highest crime rate in North America, so don’t ever, ever leave anything in your car or it will most certainly be broken into or stolen. I suggest you delay any planned visits until the city gets its act together, or you will be truly astonished by what you see.

The Huffington Post might have a permanent residence there, with the amount of articles they have written on this subject.  I had to laugh at how ridiculous the mayor’s statements were:

VANCOUVER (link)– The goal by Vancouver’s mayor to eliminate street homelessness by 2015 hasn’t been reached, but Gregor Robertson says progress has been made.While the final numbers for the annual, 24-hour homeless count won’t be in for a few weeks, there are indications that the problem has spiked.Robertson says he counted 10 people who spent the night on the street as he walked several city blocks while taking part in the homeless census.”

10 people!?!!!  10!!!!  I counted hundreds.  Hundreds of people sleeping on the street and selling garbage in order to fend for themselves.  It was unbelievable to see.  I have never seen homelessness on this scale before.  Not in LosAngeles. Not in SanFrancisco. Not in NewYork. Not in Beijing. Not in Seattle.  This was just….heartbreaking, and sickening, and sad.  This was not the clean-shaven Canada that makes it to the front pages of newspapers in the States, that’s for sure.


At this point all of my aspirations to maybe find “my people” were gone.  Absolutely gone.  This wasn’t the Canada I expected.


We finally found Gastown, which still has gas lamps in the streetlights. Ben had spent some time in an office here a few years ago, so it was familiar territory and he swore it was “much nicer” than Hastings Corridor.  And it was. Brick streets, tourist shops, Pubs, restaurants…the train from the airport took you straight to Gastown, and you don’t see the rest of Vancouver on that line.  Which is probably the best if you want to get tourists into Vancouver.  There really were a ton of people in this area, and everyone was very clean-shaven, pleasant and friendly. Although, at this point all I can think is, “it’s all a lie.”  But we had to keep going…we came all the way up here to explore new ideas. New cultures. New experiences.  So, in a way, we were certainly getting our money’s worth.




Keep Calm and Play Dead. Kind of sums up Vancouver for me, at this point.

So, we walked around Gastown for a while. We went into a designer dress shop that was selling a coat for $900, and had hand-embroidery from some design shop in Ukraine.  Of course, my head instantly thought about the turmoil in the Ukraine right now…but I was just in a dark place at this point.


Ben tried to take us to Gotham for dinner, but they were booked up…so I mentioned the rotating UFO restaurant that I had seen on the way in, and we went there. I can’t believe we got a table, but we did….and the city started to redeem itself.


From up here, we could see the whole city, not just Hastings Corridor.

We were in a rotating restaurant, and from up here we saw the neighborhood of homes, the schools, the areas of industry.  We saw how beautiful the ports were, and watched the boats sail in.  I saw the other side which had homes nestled into the amazing mountains.  I saw how much bigger Vancouver was than this little part I had visited, and it was actually very beautiful.  In the time it took to have a full view of the city, I was able to see what would draw people to this place.  Our server was Ivan, and although he was born in ElSalvador, his family moved when the civil war began and they went through the Canadian embassy in Mexico to move to Vancouver and raise their children.  He said he has traveled to Scotland, England, Costa Rica, Guatemala…but to him, nothing compares to the beauty of Vancouver.

And this is when I could really appreciate the beauty of Canada.













After dinner, we grabbed some doughnuts at Tim Hortons, and headed home.




A little stop off at Duty Free to gaze upon $5000 bottles of Camu.


A very interesting sculpture as we passed through immigration…


And we’re home.


Poetry: Esther

I wrote this last week…it is going to be a series, so this isn’t the end.

But I thought I’d throw it out there. I’m kind of afraid to start writing the second part, because this turned out pretty well. I’m worried my mojo is tapped out 😉




As queen who was grafted in.

Branches of myrtle, curved and embraced

into the mighty tree;

A rooted shelter from the bitter, continental elements.

The Queen

who had hid behind the harem,

as the fellow wife in the colony,

clinging to the roof of stones

which carried the names of previous wilderness queens.

Vashti, Hadassah, Sarah, Rachel.

A queen, grafted into marriage,

who sat on her imported wicker chair on her front porch

and allowed herself to be approached

by the wheat farmers’ next door. Blessed on a Friday

before shabbat; while she still worked;

while she still wore the crown.

Heaven help the man who knew

her first. They bent his arm too far, and he watched his farm

seized by a mightier, hungrier form;

The form of new money and wild,

Egyptian hands.

Our poor queen who walked down the long, transcontinental roads,

which divided the lands first staked down by

Benjamite apologists, roaming the dusty trails with their

women and herds of sheep across the earth,

illuminated by seasons of old moons and old loves,

waxing into movements of waning grief.

Not all the women had drawn close to

the mightier idea of walking into untamed and uncharted

plots, fraught with the vile and repugnant ravenous wolves,

seeking, in a pack, to seize and divide.

Hungry wolves, bitter of too many winters

with modest shrews to fill their bellies.

So this new woman, this grafted Queen,

who had her saddle packed to her boots with spices

she smuggled like Rachel out of her last caravan;

this new woman was our Queen.

On the plains, we had nothing more to give her, than our gaping,  Protestant stare.

The Mighty Conflict for Celiacs: Beer


I see you sitting there, just waiting for a conversation. With me.


There are many things I cannot eat.

Doughnuts. Pizza. Sandwiches. Scones. Crumpets. Eclaires.

My journey into Celiac territory has always been interesting. Not only do I get to enjoy foods that are naturally gluten free, such as steak, sushi, ice cream and wine, but I also get to explore new ways of cooking in order to still enjoy recipes that traditionally use flour.

I’m lookin’ at you, gravy.


However, I have always enjoyed beer.

Whaaattt….beer?? But…beer is made from wheat, rye and barley?! You can’t drink beer.

What if I told you I have never had even the smallest reaction to beer.  Ever. Because beer is gluten free.


 mind. blown.



Here’s the deal: there is science to back this up.  I am going to be quoting many places which have the results of what the question is, what it means, how it compares to other products…and then we can all continue to enjoy Irish Death in peaceful harmony.


Thank you.

1) What is gluten, and why do beer companies claim their products are gluten free, if they are using rye, wheat and barley? “There have been numerous claims that traditional barley-based beers are gluten free or that all beers are gluten free. Unfortunately, the area is very grey and substantiated on technicalities. The purpose of this post is to eliminate the confusion about gluten as it relates to beer.

Gluten is an umbrella term used to describe a mixture of individual proteins found in many grains. Celiac disease (celiac sprue or gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity) is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by the ingestion of some of these glutens. People with classic celiac disease are intolerant to the gluten proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and a couple other lesser known grains. All these grains have a relative of the gluten protein. Interestingly, corn, rice and sorghum also have gluten proteins but are not toxic to celiacs. Herein lies one of the fundamental problems; the use of the term gluten intolerance to cover only certain gluten containing grains is confusing for consumers and food manufacturers alike. Unfortunately, it seems that the inertia for using celiac disease and gluten intolerance as synonyms is unstoppable. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of both consumers and manufacturers to make sure the terms being discussed are defined and understood.

As this relates to beer, there is a gluten protein found in barley. This protein is known as hordein. Wheat gluten is known as gliadin. Rye gluten is known as secalin. Presently, assay tests (or lab tests) are only commercially available for the testing of gliadin. We are unaware of any tests for hordein or any manufacturer that presently tests for hordein (Note: If you know of anyone that does in fact test specifically for hordein, please let us know). Therefore the idea that a barley based beer can be considered gluten free based upon the lack of testing is very difficult to fathom. It should be understood that a company using an assay test for gliadin to test for hordein will not return accurate results.

There has been widespread speculation that the brewing process eliminates these hordein proteins making all beers gluten-free. Although commercial assay tests for hordein are not available there is conclusive evidence that the brewing process does not degrade hordein to non-toxic levels. A research study in Australia on improving beer haze shows that hordein is still present in beer after the brewing process ( Therefore, claims that hordein or gluten is destroyed in the brewing process is unsubstantiated and clearly, based upon the Australian research, is highly questionable.

Based upon the continuous claims by beer companies that beers are gluten free, it is clear that the issue is misunderstood and, as always, it is up to the consumer to educate them on the facts. Hopefully, the information provided here will give consumers and manufacturers alike the ability to discuss these gluten issues intelligently and effectively.”



2) So, why can people with Celiac have 20ppm of gluten, if gluten is technically a toxic entity in their bodies?

Gluten Free Dietician: “In 2007 Catassi and colleagues assessed the effects of consuming capsules containing 0, 10, and 50 milligrams of gluten on the intestinal morphology of persons with celiac disease who reportedly were compliant with a gluten-free diet (Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:160-166). During the study participants maintained a strict gluten-free diet  and were only allowed to consume specially marked gluten-free cereal foods containing less than 20 parts per million gluten. Gluten intake from the diet was estimated to be less than 5 milligrams. Researchers found a significant decrease in the villous height to crypt depth ratio in the group taking the 50 milligram capsule. No significant change was found in the vh/cd ratio in the group taking the 10 milligram capsule.”

So, we can have up to 20ppm of gluten in one serving of food before there are any adverse affects to our bodies.


3) How much is 20ppm, for those of us who are not science-inclined?

Gluten Free Dietician: “To break it down, 20 parts per million is the equivalent to 20ppm per kilogram of food. An average slice of gluten-free bread containing 20ppm of gluten (which is all of them- link to results) would contain 0.57 milligrams of gluten. Even if you ate ten ounces of foods containing 20ppm gluten, that would be just 5.70 mg of gluten. This level is just over half of the 10mg found by Catassi’s study to be a safe level so you would need to eat a whole lot of 20ppm food each day to surpass the “safe” level.

We must also consider that 20ppm is the highest level of gluten that foods can contain to be considered gluten free so most of the products you are eating will contain less than this amount.”


The Chameleon’s Tongue: “Fasano’s study tells us that 50mg of gluten per day damages the bowel of coeliacs, even though it doesn’t cause symptoms or show up in blood tests. That’s about as much gluten as 1/100th of a slice of standard wheat bread contains. A normal western diet contains 10–20g of gluten each day, which is 200–400 times the minimum amount of gluten that damages the small intestine of a coeliac patient. Fasano’s work also showed that there is a lot of variation between coeliac patients, and some experienced symptoms with as little as 10mg of gluten daily.”

My tolerance to gluten is definitely going down, the older I get and the longer I have been on a gluten free diet.  My tolerance level, at this point, is at about 40ppm until I start feeling anything, so it is roughly the equivalent of 32 slices of Udi’s bread. But I figure I’ll be having a lot more problems than gluten reactions, if I go that route.


4) So, how much gluten is in beer?



“My impression is that many beers (including craft, of course) have pretty darn low levels of gluten, say around 10-15 ppm. Many obviously have a lot more (stronger, fuller-bodied, wheat beer etc.).”


  • 10-15ppm of gluten is 0.01mg of gluten.
  • A 1oz slice of white bread contains about 3.5g of gluten.
  • 10-15ppm of gluten is equal to half of 1/100th of a piece of bread.



“You also have issues with how much a person can tolerate, under 20ppm is typically considered safe for someone with celiacs, however there are people who still react even at those low levels.”


5) Finally, just be careful. No matter what science says.

Food Republic: “If you have a food allergy that isn’t life-threatening, try carefully fiddling with it like one lactard friend of mine does with aged cheese — cream cheese would bring her right down, but a little grated parmesan on her pasta is fine. Another friend who’s allergic to most fish discovered that salmon doesn’t affect him the way shrimp would, due to its lower iodine content. Now his hair is super shiny from all the salmon he’s been eating. You’re stuck this way for life, friends, and allergies have their quirks, so find a silver lining. Or in my case, a silver bullet or six.”




So there you have it folks.

Beer has the same amount of gluten, if not less, as the average gluten free product.

Which is why beer is gluten free, in the same manner that Udi’s Gluten Free Bread is gluten free.


I don’t always spend all Friday looking up scientific research,

but when I do,

it is so I can drink beer.


Why Parenting Is (Too Much) Like A Silicon Valley Start-Up

This article originally appeared on Ravishly.

Featured on:Ravishly-300x102

Why Parenting Is Like A Silicon Valley Startup

silicon-valley-castJared has diaper duty. Forever.

I am going all nerdy on y’all tonight.

We have been watching Silicon Valley from the very beginning of the show.

Naturally, at first with dubious and skeptical expectations, since geeks are naturally dubious and skeptical of other geeks, particularly actor nerds passing themselves off as geeks.  I will gladly admit that this show actually does an accurate representation of what living through a Start Up is like.  From the subtle in-fighting, to the khaki pants, to the sloppy button-up shirts, they look like Start Up geeks. Plus, the emotional ups and downs of software vs. hardware, hitting project goals and yet still making $0, if you’re lucky.  The endless hours spent at the keyboards, 20 hour workdays, dealing with odd landlords and nosy neighbors.  Plus: Ever wonder how these guys have health insurance?  lol…health insurance in a Start Up.  

The thing is, the more I watch this show, and the more I think back to the endless years in Start Up culture that we experienced, the more I keep thinking: “This is way too similar to parenting.”


Endless nights working? check.

Emotional toil? check.

Your clothes don’t match/fit anymore? check.

Everyone has a completely unhelpful, and most likely arbitrary piece of advice for you at the worst times: check.

You set the living room on fire by overloading the servers that had the worst cabling on the face of the earth? well, no.

But I have set the oven on fire by trying to reheat biscuits.  #fireextinguishers #everythingisokay


Follow me on this nerdy venture:



5 Ways Parenting Is Like Surviving a Silicon Valley Start Up:


1. Inexperience does not negate your position as the CEO 

If you have never had experience as a parent before, but read about it in a book once, then congratulations! You are perfect parenting material!

And you have the job.

Start Ups were notorious for putting the one person who couldn’t code as the head of the company, just to give them something to do.  Sometimes it worked out and they did actually rise to the occasion to lead their company to something great…like being acquired.  Probably by Oracle.

But as a parent, you have no out.  You are in this ship for the long haul, and you better make the most out of naptimes by either actually relaxing for an hour…or you make a game plan for your new position.

“Today, you may take the bottle, my son. But tomorrow, you take the world.” check.


2. Complete lack of “domain knowledge.”

If you have ever had the pleasure of getting conflicting information on key components to raising your infant “correctly,” then you have “lack of domain knowledge.”

“In software engineering domain knowledge is knowledge about the environment in which the target system operates…” Basically, it’s when you know your stuff with what you’re doing.

For example. Let’s say you and your spouse have a baby who gets fussy in the afternoon.  You guys can’t figure out what on earth is going on, because the baby is fine for the rest of the day, but right around 2pm she just loses her little mind. And you guys are just at your wit’s end about this…until you realize that around 2pm, you have been feeding her mashed peas, and those peas were giving her gas!  Problem solved!! *high 5s*

You have now acquired domain knowledge.

3. Everyone else wants to give you their domain knowledge too.

What works for one Start Up will probably not work for the next. What worked for Facebook and Twitter will absolutely, totally not work for an app that remotely checks your tire pressure.

In the same way, what works for one baby will probably not work for another. I have 5…I have had to change the game so many times, I don’t even remember where I started.

But try bringing up your ideas about cloth diapers, breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding, when to start them on solids, or bigger topics like circumsicion and vaccinations.

You will find a circus of domain knowledge which somehow finds its way to you, tout de suite.

4. Companies who ignore revenues in order to keep striving for the “Perfect Product.”

This just is a recipe for failure in any company.

When the ideal of the product overshadows the realities of finance/growth/customers/lack of customers, then the only thing that will survive in the company is the ideal.

I know the image of Norman Rockwell’s paintings of happy, quiet children reading 500 page classical novels in front of a fireplace somewhere in Connecticut is the ideal we have been given for parenting…but it is a big load of idealized hogwash.

Real start ups are messy, in an uninsulated garage, underfunded, overworked and definitely hitting the wine bar after dinner.  Before going back to fix code that you just realized was buggy during your hamburger.

Similarly, real parenting is long, arduous, emotionally taxing, euphoric, defeated and….worth it.  Completely.

We can’t strive for the “ideal parenting” or the “ideal child,” and expect it to turn out the way we think. What we have is a beautiful child, who is ours to love, and the time available to create a relationship with them to last a lifetime.

5. “The Team Behind It”

Bill Gross, the founder of “Idealab,” has had many brilliant things to say about how companies live or die.

One thing he said about the teams that make up companies was fantastic:

“Gross said, “I never thought I’d be quoting boxer Mike Tyson on the TED stage, but he once said, “Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face.” And I think that’s so true about business as well. “So much about a team’s execution is its ability to adapt to getting punched in the face by the customer.”

If this doesn’t summarize parenting, I don’t know what does.

Things are going to come out of the blue and hit you in the face before you know it even existed, and your ability to adapt to those punches to the face is going to determine how you adapt to parenting.

When our first daughter was 3 months old, our pediatrician said she was a little “concerned” about a clicking in her hips.  So off we went to xrays and experts, only to find out that she didn’t even have a hipjoint on her right side, and the left was a little meager as well.  Hip dysplasia took us to doctors, harness fittings and xray technicians for years. But we took each doctor’s visit as another bold step in making sure our beautiful daughter had a fully functioning hip socket that would never give her trouble, ever again.

Parenting is never like it says in the pamphlets and books people give you while you’re pregnant.

Parenting is a wild roller coaster of emotions and experiences.

But parenting has been the biggest thing I will ever do, and I look forward to every defeat and every euphoric moment, because I will be spending those moments with the only team I have ever wanted. And if that isn’t succeeding in life, I don’t know what is.

Greatest Red Wine Pairings…Of All Time

This article originally appeared on Ravishly.

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The Greatest Red Wine Pairings Of All Time


In a breakthrough research study, that no one has ever tested before in the history of science, drunk scientists in Washington have declared that “red wine can help you lose weight.”

Yes, you heard that right. Your favorite beverage is the key to weight loss.

Goodbye Weight Watchers!  So long Jenny Craig. We have a new BFF in the house.


“…Lead researcher Professor Min Du, from Washington State University explaining how it works.

He says: ‘Polyphenols in fruit, including resveratrol, increase gene expression that enhances the oxidation of dietary fats so the body won’t be overloaded.

‘They convert white fat into beige fat which burns lipids (fats) off as heat, helping to keep the body in balance and prevent obesity and metabolic dysfunction.’”



This is fantastic news!!


My new hobby: Pinterest, here I come.


“New research has found that an ingredient in grapes and berries turns your fat into calorie-burning ‘brown’ fat.

Of course this ingredient, known as resveratrol, can also be found in blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and apples.”


I have a theory.

My theory is, if you had a feast of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples and red wine…you would magically grow a scarlet toga with an 18 inch golden belt, and be renamed “Aphrodite.” Which is a pretty sweet deal, if you think about it.

But we can’t all be Aphrodite. That would just be silly.  For one, it is very difficult to pronounce “Aphrodite” while drunk (#experience).

The only way we can control this mass transformation of all women on earth becoming Aphrodite is to pace ourselves.  We must have a devoted discipline with this newfound power of transfigurating metamorphosis.

The best way we can solve this problem is to pair our wine with our meals throughout the day.


Step 1: Fruit and wine. Step 2: World Domination…I mean, “weight loss.”

Starter Meal Plan:


A light cabernet sauvignon with our morning strawberry poptart/s.

Perhaps a pint of saucy pinot noir with your tuna salad lunch.

A bottle of petite sirah with goldfish crackers you stole from the kids’ snack cupboard in the afternoon.

Another bottle of merlot, while you finish watching “Jake and the Neverland Pirates.” Ugh. Captain Hook is not sexy in this version, at all. What happened to the sexy Captain Hook. What if Michael Fassbender wore that jacket…yes!! Hollywood needs to get on this, pronto. I need to text someone this great idea. 

A jug of “red wine blend” with to finish the evening as you rock out to your hidden Taylor Swift albumbs on ur iphone, and she is so cool. How can she be so cool. Talor is THE BEST. SHE HAS THE BEST HAIR. OMG I love her hair. And her shoes. I should find her shoes on Amazon. And buy them all.


I don’t even need food at this point. Just me and this song. That’s all I need.

At this point in the night, you are so in love with your jams, you don’t even remember that you are supposed to eat more than goldfish and poptarts.

But it doesn’t even matter. You are just happy and in love…and on the road to weight loss!



But, Does It Cost More Than Disneyland?

This article originally appeared on Ravishly.

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Disneyland: The Expensive-ist Place On Earth

Once in a while I will be around families who are talking about their upcoming summer vacations.

Destinations like camping, Mexico, Hawaii, visiting family in New York, or Disneyland might come up.

I am definitely more of the camping-oriented vacationer. I want to find a flat place to pitch my tent in the middle of the woods, preferably next to a stream, wake up in the morning and get coffee going in my Coleman percolator, and then stoke the morning fire in my double-lined flannel jacket while my brew percolates.  Quiet. Some birds in the distance. Trees towering above you in a canopy of nature. The brink of dawn creeping through the pines. The smell of a firepit happily flaming away. How can you not absolutely love everything about that??

But it seems some people prefer a hotel. Which just boggles my mind. Don’t you want to wash yourself in the morning with biodegradable, nature-friendly soap in the deep part of a stream flowing with snowpack run-off?? You would seriously prefer to sleep in a bed, rather than find the one comfortable spot on the hard earth in between rocks and twigs?!  Unfathomable.  But, it is what it is.

Now, I am a frugal miser who enjoys canned tamales heated over the wild flames of a pit, so it is difficult for me to see the joy in having to go to a restaurant when you are on vacation. From my eyes, a vacation is getting away from it all, which includes restaurants. They take soo looong. It takes an hour or longer to get in and get out of a restaurant. That is an hour I could have spent staring at the billions of stars while resting in front of a campfire curled up in my army-green fold-up camping chair.

Be that as it may, I have to admit that with a family of 7…maybe a few days enjoying Disneyland’s firework show could be more enjoyable than throwing pinecones onto the fire. Maybe. Although it certainly claims to be the happiest place on earth, it is also a pretty chunk of change. Especially for a family our size.

We also haven’t been on a proper vacation for 2 years, and it certainly isn’t happening this year after our huge move out of state…so maybe I am just more sensitive to hearing where people are going, these days.  It seems to me like Disneyland is definitely the crème de la crème of vacation destinations.

I cross-reference and cross-check prices on everything. From canned beans to trips to Disneyland…there is a budget spreadsheet just waiting to be created.

So, I ask myself: “Self, how much would you spend at Disneyland for a 3 day trip?” and then I would counter that with, “Self, how much could that money get you…anywhere else?”

Let’s go!


Fortunately, Priceline cannot calculate a trip to Mordor.

Your Vacation…

3 Days@


1 Week@

Scottish Highlands/Islay

7-9 Days@

Cruise Ship


Tickets 4 adults, 3 kids= $1612 7 seats= $2,597 round trip $899/person is the cheapest…so we’ll say $6,300 $25/campsite, $200/total gas to get there
Cost of 3 meals/3 days $280/meal...= ~$2,520 $120/meal = ~$1,080 I think it is included… Hot Dogs, marshmallows = ~$10
Hotel &379×3= $1,137 300×7= $2,100 Included $0
Socialization Economy 0-10 (a scale for vacationing introverts) 10 7 10  0
 Total =  $5,269 $5,777 $6,300 $235


This is why Staycations were invented.

And camping!