Weekend Links

Last weekend, Mike and I went to Arches National Park - one of our favorite spots for hiking! The sun was shining, the weather was perfect, and we had a great time. Spring is easily my favorite season of all.


I love everything Kate Davies does, and these tea towels are no exception! Also, I'm loving this stitch pattern for a cowl, and the details on this sweater. So much to knit, so little time!


This is a great tutorial for a lavender linen spray. I wonder what other scents I could try with this?


My little veggie seedlings made it through the long weekend without drying out, and soon it will be time to harden them off and plant them outside. There's still time to start seeds for the spring planting season, and if you're wondering how to do it, here's a great tutorial. They've got everything covered!


This heavenly hummus wrap from the Pioneer Woman looks heavenly indeed! Anybody know of some good, gluten-free wraps that are also flexible enough to make a big wrap?

What caught your eye last week?

Our Italian Restaurant(s): Florence, Part One

Let's be real. The best part about Italy was the food. It seemed like we started the day with a big spread at our hotel (where there was always hot cappuccino, and gluten-free options for me), and then we spent the rest of the day figuring out what our next culinary indulgence would be. In between, we checked out some famous - and amazing - historical sites, museums, and churches, but it was really all about the food. In this series, I'll share the amazing meals we had, just in case you're planning a trip to Italy anytime soon ;)

We stepped off the train in Florence ready to dive into the sights, but famished, too. We set off in search of some good gluten-free food and happened across this sign for Ristorante il Paiolo. Pinned to the sign: We speak English! Pasta no glutine. We thought, why not give it a try?  

Well, they didn't speak much English, and in my broken Italian I had difficulty ordering. They didn't want to feed me anything other than gluten-free pasta, not even a salad! They had two sauces, and we chose the tomato.  Since we were splitting a portion, this is what my plate looked like before I dove in.  The pasta was a bit undercooked for my taste. I'm not sure if that's the way Italians like it, or if they just have a hard time cooking gluten-free pasta. Unfortunately, the sauce didn't have much going for it either - it tasted like it came out of a can. Womp, womp. 

After lunch, we went to the Uffizzi Gallery, where we saw just about every single work of art I ever learned about in Art History class. It was fun and overwhelming at the same time. Looking at all that art worked up an appetite, so we set off in search of a better meal than our first one.  We found it at a restaurant called The Chimera. They didn't advertise it on the menu, but they said they could do any pasta gluten-free.

Mike and I split the house red, and finally caught on that it's cheaper to order a liter of wine in a pitcher or carafe than to buy a bottle of wine at a restaurant. You can see how disappointed I was about having to drink all that wine:

We split an arugula salad that we dressed at the table with salt, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. I had this pasta with clams, a light butter-herb sauce, and lots of pepper:

This time the pasta was perfectly cooked (hey! maybe Italians do know how to cook gluten-free pasta!), and absolutely delicious. Mike had torellini stuffed with ricotta and dressed with oil, tomatoes, and zucchini (not gluten-free, but he said it was pretty tasty).

The next time we're in Florence, we'd love to stop by Chimera.

Next week: Our whirlwind day trip around Tuscany, complete with a stop at an organic farm for a wine tasting and gluten-free lunch!

Gluten-Free in Grand Junction, Colorado?

Last weekend Mike and I went to Grand Junction, Colorado. It's turning in to one of our favorite spots, since there are lots of wineries in nearby Palisades, and there are dog-friendly parks and trails galore.

The first time we visited, I packed all our meals in advance. This time, we planned to go to a nice restaurant, 626 on Rood, for my belated birthday dinner. We called in advance to make sure the restaurant could handle gluten-free, and they assured us they could make almost any dish gluten-free. We confirmed this with the waitress as we sat down, and she told us the same thing.

To start, we ordered the smoked duck salad, which normally comes with couscous (ie not gluten-free). I asked the waitress if they could make it without the couscous, and again emphasized that I needed to be gluten-free. We also ordered our dinner entrees, with the appropriate gluten-free substitutions. We never got to see them because....

Our salad came out sprinkled with farro. It looked delicious. It smelled amazing. I wish I had taken a picture, because it was covered in wheat! It took us several minutes to flag down the waitress to ask her exactly what that was all over the salad, but as soon as she confirmed my suspicions, I informed her that it was "straight up wheat." She apologized, told us that she had told the chef "no grains," and whisked it away.

Mike and I sat there for a minute, dumbfounded, glad that I did not dive into the salad the way I wanted to. I realized that if my order came out sprinkled with little balls of gluten when I had already emphasized the need to be gluten-free, that I simply did not feel safe dining in this restaurant.

We told the hostess at the bar the situation, and that we were leaving, and barely turned around to go when the manager came out to try to convince us to stay. She said she understood how serious this was, and offered to "make it right." In the moment, I couldn't see a way to make it right. Gluten-free dining is all about trust. We decided to trust this restaurant with my health, and they lost it in one fell swoop. Short of me supervising the proceedings in the kitchen (which would have defeated the purpose of dining out), nothing could make me trust this restaurant again.

I don't think the manager got it. She kept going on and on about how her best friend is celiac, and how they keep all the right gluten-free ingredients on hand so gluten-free diners can still eat all the foods they love, and how she hoped I'd give them a second chance. I've given second chances before - to restaurants, to bad boyfriends, to toxic friends. When it's as big of a mistake as this one was, the mistake usually repeats itself.

When we walked out of the restaurant, I was shaking. Happy that I'd stood up for myself, but exhausted by the experience and still starving. We went to another restaurant that had good gluten-free reviews on findmeglutenfree, but the wait was an hour. We tried another - it was closing. We ended up at the grocery store, trying to rustle up dinner. Standing in front of the freezer aisle, looking at food that I don't like eating on a good day, and thinking of that beautiful salad I couldn't eat, I burst into tears. I know. I was that freak crying in the freezer aisle. All over a salad.

We'll definitely be going back to Grand Junction. But I don't think I'll be returning to 626 on Rood.

If you're gluten-free and considering this restaurant, I'd strongly recommend against it. There are lots of other places that get stellar gluten-free reviews in Grand Junction. Your health is simply not worth the risk.

Weekend Links

Mike and I spent another weekend in Grand Junction and Palisades, Colorado. Odie had a blast, going to the puppy park both morning and night. And while Mike drove, I finally got a chance to get some knitting time in.


I'm loving this herringbone stitch for a cowl. Not sure I believe that it will only take one hour, even though I am a pretty fast knitter.


April Fool's Day is coming up soon. This is a mean joke to play on the kiddos, but it made me laugh.


Have you ever heard of bottle trees? Apparently they're linked to lots of history, but they're also gorgeous in the garden. I especially love the ones where flowering vines wrap up around them.


Shauna and Danny of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef were nominated for a James Beard Award. Both their cookbooks are wonderful, whether you're gluten-free or not. If you're into food, and you don't already own a copy of one or both of their cookbooks, I'd highly recommend picking up a copy.

What links caught your eye last week?

Our Italian Restaurant(s): Rome, Part Two

Let's be real. The best part about Italy was the food. It seemed like we started the day with a big spread at our hotel (where there was always hot cappuccino, and gluten-free options for me), and then we spent the rest of the day figuring out what our next culinary indulgence would be. In between, we checked out some famous - and amazing - historical sites, museums, and churches, but it was really all about the food. In this series, I'll share the amazing meals we had, just in case you're planning a trip to Italy anytime soon ;)

Lest you think all of Rome was a bust when it came to gluten-free food, I want to share the culinary bright spot of our trip to Rome: Mama! Eat. This place was so good, we went here twice: on our second night in Italy, and our last.

This restaurant has a whole menu of gluten-free food. (They also have a regular menu.) You can get just about anything gluten-free, from fried chicken to pasta to pizza.

That's the gluten-free menu up there - so many options it was almost overwhelming! On our first trip, we split a liter of wine, an appetizer of prosciutto and mozzarella, spaghetti with half a lobster and tomato sauce, and panna cotta with chocolate sauce. All were delicious, and definitely gluten-free!

Our second trip to Mama! Eat was a late lunch/early dinner on our last day in Rome. We split a Besaola con rucola e scaglie di parmigiano (above - arugula salad with big slices of cured meat and parmesan), which could have been a meal all by itself.

But we didn't stop there. We ordered the gluten-free bread, which was tasty, and a pizza topped with ham and thin shavings of zucchini, which was also quite tasty. And then, because it was our last night in Italy, and because we weren't already stuffed after all that food, we split a panna cotta, this time drenched in caramel sauce.

Next week: Florence!

Pan-Fried Cod Stuffed with Feta and Spinach over a bed of Asparagus and Rice

Happy Spring! I can't tell you how happy I am that it's finally arrived. In honor of the season, here's a spring green meal.

I don't really have a recipe for this one. It's steamed rice, plunked on a plate. Asparagus, cooked on a grill pan and slathered with butter. Cod, sliced down the middle and stuffed with carmelized onions, spinach, and goat cheese, then salted and peppered and pan-fried. Topped with pesto (which it could have done without), and bacon bits, which were absolutely essential.

Have I mentioned I've been on an asparagus kick lately?

Weekend Links

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Pretty sure I don't own any green clothes, so feel free to go ahead and pinch me! Last weekend was another gorgeous weekend. Saturday was a bit frustrating, with my just-repaired sewing machine acting up so horribly that I ended up getting a brand-new sewing machine on Sunday. It was about time, but it's always sad to see an old tool bite the dust. We went hiking on Sunday, too, and didn't do much of anything else. The last few weeks have been so crazy, it was time for a bit of R&R.


It's about time to cast on another pair of socks if I'm to knit 12 pairs this year. How nifty are these socks? Also, how crazy awesome are these sweaters?


This project is pretty darn cool. I did a similar project for the science fair in high school, but this is way cooler by far, and the possibilities are endless.


I'm having a bit of difficulty planning out the garden - it's a mix of figuring out where the best lighting is, and practicing crop rotation to prevent the buildup of disease in the soil. I'm thinking of using bean poles for more than just beans to maximize the available space this year.


I love cooking, I really do, but my work schedule has kept me from cooking every night the way I used to. I'm eyeballing slow cooker recipes like this one to make it feel like I'm coming home to something that's been simmering all afternoon (because it has).

Getting Ready for the Season

I saw these dead sunflowers on an early morning walk last weekend. Most likely, they were left for the birds to munch on after the harvest. They're lovely as they are - like stars. But let's face it, I'm ready for real live flowers, right there in the garden, blooming their hearts out.

Last weekend, I finally put my soil blocker to use. I'm doing a combination of starting seeds indoors (tender lettuces, onions, marigolds, and peppers) and directly sowing seeds into the ground. I want to see if I can go a whole season without buying a plant (not likely), so I'm starting as much from seed as I can.

Before getting down to work, I had to map out my plan. To leaf through seed packets, and hold myself back from buying more than I have space to accommodate. And to figure out the layout of the garden.

There's a lot to consider. Crop rotation, to avoid buildup of diseases in the soil. Interplanting, to aid in symbiotic growth and to thwart pests. Working with the spaces I already have, and inching  out into the yard.  There's the almighty average last frost date, the garlic that will be taking up precious real estate until June, and on it goes.

With all that to do, maybe it's not surprising that I didn't manage to do it all last weekend. This weekend will hopefully be more of the same, digging in the dirt with my bare hands, taking a moment to admire the earthworms, and getting ready for another growing season.

$20 Restaurant-Style Caesar Salad ... for about $5

Does it drive you crazy how much restaurant food is marked up? Not me, usually. I'm paying for somebody else to be doin' the cooking, and more importantly, the dishes. But when it comes to salad...I usually just don't see the point.

I made the mistake once. Mike and I ordered a Caesar Salad that cost about $12-$15. We were going to split it. When it came out, there were three pieces of lettuce smeared with dressing. I relished every last bite (and it was good), but ever since then, we've joked about expensive salads in fancy restaurants.

The thing is, salads are easy. Even when you've made the dressing from scratch. And the cleanup is pretty simple, too. So go out to eat. Pay top dollar for somebody else to shuck your oysters, and do the cleanup, but skip the salad. It's overpriced, and you can do a better job at home!

Caesar Salad

Don't let the multiple parts of this recipe daunt you. If you already have crutons, you can use those, or leave them off entirely. If you have pre-shredded parmesan cheese, you can use that. Just try the dressing. Just once. The whole recipe, including the homemade crutons, takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. 


  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • Pinch ancho chile powder (Optional - you could also use just a dash of cayenne)
  • Pinch salt and freshly ground pepper

Use a blender or an immersion blender to combine all ingredients until they come together in a thick dressing. Taste, and adjust seasonings if desired.

Makes enough dressing for about 4 salads.


  • Crusty bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (I used this bread)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

Heat the butter in a skillet. When it is just beginning to brown, toss in the paprika, then the bread. Saute, stirring gently, until the bread just begins to brown. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.


  • Dressing
  • Crutons
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Parmesan Cheese

Tear and wash the lettuce. Drain and pat dry, or use a salad spinner to remove excess water. Toss with the dressing. Shave the parmesan cheese onto the salad using a vegetable peeler (you can also use a cheese grater for smaller shavings). Top with crutons. Enjoy!

Our Italian Restaurant(s) - Rome, Part One

Let's be real. The best part about Italy was the food. It seemed like we started the day with a big spread at our hotel (where there was always hot cappuccino, and gluten-free options for me), and then we spent the rest of the day figuring out what our next culinary indulgence would be. In between, we checked out some famous - and amazing - historical sites, museums, and churches, but it was really all about the food. In this series, I'll share the amazing meals we had, just in case you're planning a trip to Italy anytime soon ;)

 We stepped of the plane, and my first thought was COFFEE! Unfortunately, we arrived at the hotel just after they stopped serving breakfast, so our very first mission in Rome was to find coffee. We landed on this spot, the Caffe' delle Arance (Orange Cafe) in the Santa Maria Trastevere Square. An itty bitty cup of coffee was €4,50, but it had caffeine, and we had a lovely view of the square.

After going back to the hotel and showering, it was time for lunch. We wandered around looking for restaurants with gluten-free options, and ended up here, at the Ristorante Carlo Menta.

They had one gluten-free pasta dish - penne in a creamy tomato sauce, with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. The pasta was a little on the al dente side for me, but it was my first hot meal since our wedding reception. Here's how I felt about it, and the jet lag:

After lunch, Mike proceeded to drag me around Rome - to the Colosseum, to the Roman Forum, to the Trevi Fountain, to the Pantheon. (All gorgeous. And all a blur, between the amount of time we spent at each - not much - and the jet lag.)

Somewhere in there it was time for dinner. We went to a restaurant called Il Miraggio, which is near the Trevi Fountain. There we had gluten-free pizza and a fantastic bottle of wine, but I somehow failed to take a picture of either.

When it was time to head back to the hotel, we got lost. One wrong turn and everything looked like we were almost at our hotel, but we were walking in circles. And then, I started to feel icky. Like I had been glutened, but I'm not sure if it was something I ate or the jet lag. Yikes!

Anyways, I don't think I'd go back to either of these restaurants. The food wasn't great, and I'm not sure whether they kept the food truly gluten-free.

Stay tuned for next week's installment, where Rome redeems itself with good truly-gluten-free food!


Tulips are starting to pop up, and they hold the most gorgeous little beads of water between their leaves!

I know that we have a few more weeks to go until it is spring, but it's finally starting to feel like spring!


Weekend Links

This weekend was gorgeous. I got up before dawn both days, and hopped on over to a local park to practice my photography skills. And there was lots of cooking for the upcoming week, a massage, and digging in the dirt. A fantastic weekend, all around.


If you're a fan of Sherlock like I am, then you'll love this pillow. And, about this time of year, I get visions of knitting hundreds of tiny things like this and this, and decorating my house with them. (Maybe someday...) Lastly, I don't understand this at all, but it is cool.


If you're into photography, you probably know that backlit photos are all the rage right now. Here are some great tips on how to make that happen.


I finally got my gardening mojo back! Last weekend was about clearing out weeds, prepping the soil with mulch and compost, and getting a few seeds started. I love this website for everything - the seed-starting calculator, her monthly list of garden chores, her stories. Everything.


It's been ages since I've had pasta shells. These look amazing. Anyone know of some good gluten-free pasta shells?

...and just because we're never quite sure, here's the best time to book a plane ticket.

What links caught your eye last weekend?

A Little Pick-Me-Up: Low Carb Tiramisu

Tiramisu. A little boozy, a little chocolatey, a little creamy...basically it was the only dessert I craved the whole time Mike and I were in Italy. And we found it twice, in ten days, in two different restaurants in Venice. (I promise, I will share our gluten-free Italian adventures...soon!)

As welcome and delicious as they were, they were just prepackaged frozen desserts the restaurants carried for their gluten-free diners. 

Since it's been more than a year since I've made tiramisu, and since I've had a hankering for it lately, I made some last weekend. 

 The starting point for the crumb cake was this recipe, but I used a whole stick of butter, four eggs, and coconut flour, so not this recipe at all. Also, I used about 2 tablespoons of real-honest-to-God-sugar because I'm convinced that whatever the evils sugar holds, chemical sugar replacements (even the "healthy" ones) are ten times more evil than sugar. And they taste bad. So light on the sugar, heavy on the applesauce, lots of fat, and twenty minutes spent picking off the skins of the chickpeas to make it nice and smooth, and I have a new, untested cake recipe that maybe I'll make again and share here. Maybe.

The rest is your classic tiramisu, but with about half the sugar added into the cream mixture. Pure bliss.

Also, I'm super-proud of myself for getting the cocoa sprinkled evenly across the top. I used this, which I use for just about everything, but never powdered sugar. Just because.

Knitting Goals 2014: March Update

This year I resolved to do something fun. You can check out my knitting goals for 2014 here.

February was a busy month, and there were only 28 days to get it all done. I'm sorry to say, my knitting in February wasn't nearly as productive as it was in January, but there's still plenty of time to get back on track!

I made 10 full squares and an honest start at an eleventh, and the cuff of a sock that's destined to be ripped back and made into something else. I just wasn't that into it...

Anyways, since I did no knitting at all for the first three days of March, I'm off to knit myself silly to make up for all that lost time!

Weekend Links

I did absolutely NO knitting this weekend ... what a bummer. Instead, I put in eight-hour days on both Saturday and Sunday in order to wrap up a work project.  On the bright side, Mike took me to a fancy dinner Saturday night. We went to Fleming's, which had excellent service, a good gluten-free menu, and a fantastic wine list. Of course, I managed to leave both my phone and my camera at home, and Mike's phone camera is broken, so we don't have any proof that it really happened, but it did, I swear!


Ravelry's hit 4 million members, and they've posted this cute infographic to celebrate. Are you on Ravelry? Let's be friends!


Not that I'm planning on moving anytime soon, but this moving box packing list is pretty awesome.


My tulips are starting to poke up out of the ground and I couldn't be more excited. Only...now it's time to get the veggie garden fence back up because Odie likes to dig in my garden. (What can I say, he's Mommy's boy) How about fencing made out of pallets?


I am on an asparagus streak. It doesn't hurt that it's been on sale in the grocery store, even though it's not quite in season yet. These would take some tinkering to make them gluten-free and nut-free, but I'd love to try them.

What caught your eye over the weekend?