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Mondays are for Marathons

Next finishing May 6th #glutenfree #dairyfree #nolabelatthetable #fishersfarmersmarket #carmelfarmersmarket #carmelmarathon

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Something weird happen a couple of Mondays ago, before the markets opened for the summer. Something really weird. I was running a quick 3 miles, because I was tapering for a race in Carmel the next weekend with my sons. Honestly, it was 3 miles because I did not have time for anything else because No Label at the Table had to be ready for the farmers markets. The weird thing was it wasn’t any ordinary Monday. It was Patriot’s Day. I was doing my 3-mile taper run while the Boston Marathon was happening 936.2 miles (.2 miles are very important to marathoners) away. I had forgot all about it. Weird.

The Boston Marathon has defined spring for me for the last 2 decades. You just can’t sign up for Boston. You’ve got to not only run another marathon but do it fast enough to qualify. If you’ve made it to Boston you’re “for real”. You’re serious. It’s attainable goal but you have to be better than most people out there. It’s reachable for nonprofessional runners. It meant I wasn’t just a housewife running away from autism momma drama, I was a serious runner, a marathoner, an elite marathoner. Running was all mine. I started training to run away from my problems but quickly I began running to be someone. All the medals and PRs meant that I could do something that was all mine and had nothing to do with autism. 

But this year, I forgot all about Boston. Something happen. No Label at the Table happened. Since January starting this business has been my focus. My goals have not been inward but on getting my guys to work. Instead of tempo runs and speed work outs, I was focused on my guys skills set. How was I going to get them to their full potential? I feel so much healthier.

Missing Boston this year gave me the opportunity to run a race with sons. How lucky am I?  The Carmel Marathon was amazing. I’ve run plenty of small town races that have been a mess. The Carmel Marathon was professionally done.  Loved it and will register next year. Dorothy had it right there’s no place like home. Carmel Marathon organizers thanks for being inclusive and having the adaptive group. I got to share the day with my J man.  He had a PR!!!!

Next finishing May 6th #carmelfarmersmarket #fishersfarmersmarket #nolabelatthetable #dairyfree #glutenfree

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As I was pounding the pavement dragging J man’s little,but bigger brother through the course, I knew this is where I should be. I am lucky enough to live in a place that will embrace my guys and No Label at the Table. In years past when I wasn’t in Boston for the race, I’ve felt sad and down. I’d mope around thinking I was missing out. Not anymore, I’m where I should be, with my sons in a place that’s going to welcome No Label at the Table.  I may not have clicked ruby slippers, instead running shoes, but I had an epiphany like Dorothy. I realized all that I had been looking for can be found at home.

I don’t have to be in Boston to know I’m “for real”.  I’ve set a new goal and timeline with plenty of autism momma drama. I am going to stay focused and believe in us. Come see us at the markets as we cross my new finish line, a retail space.  Carb Load with us!!!!!! 

 

Here Comes the Bride and a Man Coming Into His Own

Every night I go to bed relieved that nobody’s figured I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never run a food business before. I am just figuring it all as I go, which has led to many 18-20 hour days. There have been many times that I’ve thought WHAT WAS I THINKING!?! But 6 weeks in and with 6 employees, I know I’m doing something right because I’ve been watching my son transform into the man I knew he could grow to be!

In the last 6 weeks, my son has matured in ways I never expected or imagined. J like many on the spectrum has rigid and ritualistic behavior. It’s always just been part of the package for us. Every morning for last 7-8 years J has the same routine to get ready in the morning. There’s a script we say the same thing every morning. We follow the exact steps every morning. If the steps are interrupted, he has to start again. My husband has his part in this routine. Last Friday, that’s the day in the kitchen, he sent my husband the following texts.

                                He then proceeded to just get dressed without the script. We never thought we’d live without the script. The rigid and ritualistic behavior that we thought was imbedded, just disappeared. He hasn’t needed the script since!

 

Notice the time on the text. 7:27 am. J does not have to be to work until 10 am. The kitchen is a 10-minute drive from our house. He now wakes up with a purpose. Six weeks ago, I was bribing him to make it down the stairs for school work at 10:30 am. The other morning, I found him in the kitchen a 7:10 making a shopping list. He was dressed ready to go with no script. He was upset that Costco did not open until 10 am.

The other thing that’s happened, which chokes both my husband and I up is that up until 6 weeks ago my son lived a life of almost total social isolation. He spent most of his days with me. He hung out with his brother and dad on the weekends. If he wasn’t with us, we were paying someone to be with him. We even thought about hiring someone to be a friend. We’ve been lucky enough to be getting some press. A reporter asked him this week, “What do you want people to know about No Label at the Table?” I held my breath, because I didn’t know what was going to come out. He said, “I bake everything with my friends”  FRIENDS , he has friends.

It’s not only his team in the kitchen, but people in the community. Whether we are at the library or Whole Foods, people are recognizing him. They give a wave and tell him he makes the best snickerdoodles they’ve ever had. He walks taller and so proud of himself. Meaningful work gives him a greater sense of self-worth.

This week, he’s meeting with a bride for a wedding testing! My husband and I are astounded that he gets to be involved with someone’s special day. How cool? 6 weeks ago, on a Friday, he would’ve been watching you tube videos. It’s unbelievable to us that he going to be able to be a part of people’s special occasions.

So as we prepare for another market, I’ll keep pretending I know what I’m doing, Because I know what I am doing is helping my son become the man he was meant to be. Other parents don’t be afraid to do what I’m doing! In six weeks my son’s whole world has changed. He’s out in the world instead of being completely isolated. He walks taller. He has friends and is part of team.  I am so much less frightened about his future.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us. Thank you to everyone who has shared our news stories.  Come to the markets this weekend, we will be selling cupcakes made from the leftovers of the wedding sampling.   Coconut cremes, Hummingbird, Yellow and Lemon All Gluten & Dairy Free!

In Lieu of blog- new allergen posting at Markets

I’ve been very busy this week trying to expand to more markets, which means more employees and more work our team on the spectrum!!!

In Lieu of a blog I’m posting a new sign we will have displayed at the market about allergens

Allergens

We started Gluten/Dairyfree cooking because of our son’s needs

We started this business because of our son’s needs

Please make decisions when purchasing based on your needs!

We are currently renting kitchen space. We process using best practices in a facility that also process wheat, milk, tree nuts and peanuts.

 

Gluten     You are safe to eat anything!

Dairy        You are safe to eat anything!

Egg           Sorry, in an effort to be indistinguishable or better than gluten counterparts, all the baked goods contain eggs, Please ask for a card and we can arrange to bring an egg free version next week.

Fish/Shellfish     Sorry, in an effort to use whole foods in their most natural state, we use fine sea salt in our baked goods. Please make a decision based on your needs

Tree nuts No snickerdoodles

No Brownies (coconut only)

Peanuts   No cereal treats

If you are reactive to Lupine/legume

NO pizza crusts, white sandwich bread, or donuts

Soy           NO cornbread or chocolate cupcakes

 

Bad Luck comes in 3’s

My Grandma, Maggie Cavanaugh, was very superstitious.  I grew up believing something ominous was going to happen, if I didn’t salute a crow. When I hear an ambulance, I still grab a button and say a prayer. I don’t walk under ladders. For most of my childhood in an Irish-American household on the Southside of Chicago, I avoided sidewalk cracks, which is pretty tough, when you’re from my neighborhood. The list goes on and on of the superstitions I was raised on. One thing we all knew growing up in my Grandma’s house was that bad luck comes in threes. If you stopped by our stand in Carmel last week, I may have told you we had a few hiccups in the kitchen. They were pretty big hiccups/ bad luck.

#1-  I thought things were going well, too well, until about 11:30 am or an hour and a half into production. We make huge batches of things in a mixer that’s as big as I am. We were completing the batter for the cupcakes when J man told me we were 4 teaspoons short of xanthum gum. That’s only about 10 % of the xanthum gum needed for the number of batches we were making. A ton of expensive ingredients were already in the mixer.  If you know anything about gluten free baking, you know the cupcakes were never going to turn out without the complete amount of xanthum gum. We needed more xanthum gum.

I couldn’t just run to store for it because my husband had dropped J man and I off that morning at the kitchen.  I called my husband and he was about an hour away but he could bring us some xanthum gum. J man and a lot of people on the spectrum do very well using an activity schedule. It’s basically a to do list. It makes things predictable and safe, especially in new environments or when learning new tasks.  In the kitchen, I call it the production schedule, because it sounds more professional and he is a professional. J man couldn’t cross off cupcakes from his list. So, J man could not move to the next thing on his list. All production halted in my pay by the hour rented commercial kitchen. We probably couldn’t have moved on anyway, because we would’ve needed the mixer.

We took a break for lunch and did some busy work. The busy work led us to #2. We didn’t have any brownie labels. When my husband got there with the xanthum gum, he said he’d turn around, go home and print the labels. We continued with the production schedule, finishing the cupcakes. Up next were the brownies or #3. Size matters. We use brownie pans that make single serve brownies. Getting a consistent portion of brownie batter into each tiny square, proved to be an incredibly difficult task for my team. But I felt relieved, I knew this was # 3, the end of our bad luck and it was smooth sailing ahead. We’d figure out a solution for consistent measuring. Next week, our brownies will all be perfectly sized.

There was no smooth sailing ahead. I said I grew up in an Irish-American household. Yeah, we got crazy superstitions. But we also came up with Murphy’s Law. If anything can go wrong, it will.  My husband brought back the brownie labels. Unfortunately, they were printed on the wrong side on the paper and not usable.  We burnt the marshmallows. After the brownie size battle, we had a cereal treat size issue too! If you were at the table, you saw the multiple sizes. We also ran hours over our time in the kitchen.

Regardless of all the hiccups and bad luck, we had a great time. I love being able to goof off in the kitchen with J man. He didn’t care how long we were there. He loved it. His brownies might not have been consistent but his mood was! It was great.    Yes, I may have grown up in a very warped environment, where if I didn’t throw salt over my shoulder doom would fall upon me. But belief in all that silly magic, prepared me for my life now. It was just faith in knowing that there’s something bigger. I feel very blessed to be working with J man and the rest of the team. I blessed with good humor that won’t allow me to discourage by a batch of hiccups/bad luck.  So that being said, I’ll end this blog with a much more positive Irish proverb than Murphy’s law.

My blessings out number my troubles. See you at the markets next with perfectly portioned cereal treats and brownies.


We Did It!!!

We Did It! My heart is bursting with pride and joy!

Our first goal in this enterprise was just getting our products to market. We did it!  Our booth was up, with products ready to sell. I was so proud of everyone involved. There were customers. We were so grateful for the customers who were out in 40 degree rain to the market. The challenge wasn’t my guys in the kitchen or people understanding our product. Our challenge was the WEATHER. Notice I said booth at the opening of this paragraph. One of the markets cancelled due to flooding.

With all my planning, recipe testing and spreadsheets, the only snag was something we couldn’t control, the weather. The universe keeps plopping this lesson in my lap, Man plans, God Laughs. I’ve said it before in earlier blogs, I’m a list maker. I order, organize, systemize, methodize and set the objectives. While I was running around doing that, it was flooding in central IN. I was planning and God was laughing.

About midway through our work/bake day on Friday, the Fishers market was cancelled. My very clever husband said let’s go to Carmel with what we have now. I would have kept the guys going, because that was on my list. Thank God, for my husband being the voice of reason. It was a blessing that one of the markets got cancelled. We got a chance for a soft opening. Both my husband and I got to run through a market day together, opening to close.

Another blessing was bringing a smaller menu to the market. I thought we needed to bring a full slate of items to the market, several breads, cookies and cakes. I realized on last Saturday I need to approach to approach our work/bake day like any skill set I teach the J man. Each recipe/item will be a target. When we successfully get each recipe/target to market we will add another item/target.  So we won’t be coming this weekend with 12 different items. We are just going to add one more thing. And It’s amazing!

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CRISPIE CEREAL TREATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   WARNING, they are addictive!

So, this Saturday, my guys will be bringing

Chocolate cupcakes

Snickerdoodles ( We sold out last week)

Chocolate chip Cookies ( we had 2 left at the end of the day)

Brownies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Treats

& Single Serve Soymilks

 

I am so proud of my guys. Not only did we get our products to market, everyone loved them! People couldn’t believe they were gluten & dairy free! Come see us! When you do come to the stand, if you see something new, know that means my guys are getting better. They are learning and growing!  

My guys will be busy baking tomorrow and I’ll be busy running around in circles planning. I’ll never learn my lesson. Keep the laughs coming God, because I truly devise my best plans when I’m forced to improvise!

 

How Do You Measure Success?

How do you measure success? In sports, there’s a winner and a loser. In a race, it’s whoever crosses the finish line first. For me and it’s always been this way, even before having a child with special needs, I set a goal, make a plan and complete it.  I make a lot of lists. I MEAN a lot of lists. There’s something so lovely about crossing things off. The reward center in my brain dings. When I’ve completed a list, and done things well, it’s like the I’ve hit the jack pot, lights flashing, sirens blaring and coins clinking. There’s a tangible reward or pay off. I can look at a crossed off completed list and go to bed at night knowing I accomplished something.

I don’t always get that same feeling with motherhood. Rewards keep you motivated and going. When you don’t have a particularly emotive son, it can be tough. Don’t get me wrong I adore my son!   I know the feeling is mutual. Smiles, giggles and novel speech are very special in our house. Our hearts break up when we hear novel speech. Don’t get me wrong my son can communicate and is verbal. A lot of his speech is very programmed. If you’re an educator or another special needs parent you can tell this guy had a lot of intervention and worked hard, but talking is still hard. Most of his spontaneous speech is still a couple words bunched together. We are fluent in J man so we get what he’s saying. It’s rare to get a full sentence or an actual question. Friends with teenage daughters say be thankful they never shut up. Friends with teenage sons say you get more than I do he just grunts.

Crispy, yet still raw cookies(FYI, we still ate them) Notice the J man’s smile

Last week we had our first real day in the kitchen. Of course, I had my list. We were testing times and temperatures for three recipes and checking on a few other things. I thought we’d be in and out in 2 hours of the rented kitchen space. We ended up spending close to three hours, FAIL. Here’s a list of the fails in the kitchen last Friday

Not quite figuring out, the 3 sink set up

Getting the 3 sink set up properly the first time– FAIL

Scooping cookies with an even and consistent size- FAIL

Getting a cooking time for cookies-FAIL (we produced crunchy on the outside, raw in the middle cookies)

Setting up a double boiler- FAIL– (we eventually got it, but took 20 minutes to turn on burner)

Cooking time for brownies- FAIL – (we produced muddy, more like fudge sorta, not suitable for sale)

Cooking time for Bread/BRICK- FAIL– (we produced a paving stone)

Inventory of pans needed-FAIL– (No Time, totally unrealistic timetable)

Inventory of packaging- FAIL– (NO Time)

Weighing brownie ingredients- FAIL– (could figure out where to plug in scale)

 

Jeff came to pick J up from the kitchen. He could tell I was totally discouraged. I was worried about what we got ourselves into! Not one recipe we tried came out well! Nothing was appropriate for resell. Jeff assured me that I wasn’t going to get everything perfect from the start. We were testing. That was the point of testing. I started to worry about the promises I made to the families of guys I hired. J and Jeff left for his next thing. I stayed waiting for the brick/bread to come out of the oven and thinking it was all an epic failure.

After about 20 minutes, I got a call from Jeff. He said your guy was all smiles. I asked him if he liked the kitchen, he said IT WAS AWESOME.  Not a programmed response! Totally his! And a full sentence!

SUCESSS!!!!! Bells were ringing and sirens were going off!! He loved it. I’d forgot about my big goal to make a place in the world for J as an adult. I did it. He was smiling and talking. He was happy. It was no failure. Failures do not move forward. We are going to learn from our mistakes. We are going to investigate and innovate! We’ll figure out the ovens and where everything is in the kitchen.

Big smile and super proud of himself! Happy to be in a real kitchen!

From J’s mouth to God’s ears! It was awesome. We are going to be awesome. We are awesome.

 

But it looked so easy on You Tube

The other day I came across a story of an abused mom of 4, who built her home by watching you tube videos! If she could make a home with walls, plumbing and electrical than J and I could learn to frost a cupcake. After watching a half dozen or so you tube videos, J and I drove off and picked up some pastry bags and frosting tips envisioning the wedding cakes we’d be able to pull off now that we were experts on cake decorating.

Things in highly produced 4 minute 36 second videos on you tube look much easier than they are in real life. Our first challenge was the frosting itself. We are not frosting people. You know which plates are ours after a birthday party. We scrape the frosting off and eat the cake! That’s the good stuff. I’ve heard buttercream frosting is so easy over and over! But right there in the name is our first problem, BUTTER.  No Dairy for us. After a half dozen attempts of concoctions of coconut oil, corn syrup, shortening and powdered coconut milk, we got something that would hold together. The process of coming up with the frosting had left us a little worse for the wear. All that sugar while we were tasting and testing had made us a nauseous and gave us a head ache.

Before we even began, we were crashing fast! After all that frosting, we had to sit down for a while.  We watched some more videos during our break and got reinvigorated. How could we not be awesome at this!?! So up we got and faced our second challenge. How do you get the frosting in the bag without make a huge mess? Frosting is some icky sticky stuff. It was all over our hands, the front of us and I may have had some in my hair. The ladies in the you tube videos all had perfect hair and manicured hands with upbeat pop music playing. I was starting to hear the requiem in my head.

Once we got the frosting in the bag, I thought we were ready. Magazine cover worthy cupcakes were on the way. Boy humor and air were our next obstacle. In between the glob of frosting and the tip was a large pocket of air. When we tried to push the frosting out, out came a bodily function noise. I lost J! He collapsed in giggles. Me, being a boy mum for so long, also collapse into the giggles!

We preserved and produced a few cupcakes.

 

 

They look nothing like anything in the videos.

 

We got better by the eighteenth. 

 

What took 4 minutes and 36 in most of the videos, took us about 4 and half hours.  I probably gained 4 and a half pounds.

I don’t see wedding cakes in the immediate future, but we will get there. That mom could not have built her home in days. It had to be months or even years. With practice, hard work and giggle collapses we will have magazine cover worthy cakes. Martha Stewart look out. How could that not be in our future? It looks so easy on YouTube.

Confirmed Items on the Gluten and Dairy Free Menu

We’ve been hard at work tasting and testing our recipes

Here’s a list of confirmed Items for the markets thus far

GF/ DF White Sandwich Bread

GF/DF Pumpernickel Rolls

GF/DF Irish Brown Bread

GF/DF Brownies

GF/DF Chocolate Cupcakes

GF/DF Corn Bread

GF/DF Snicker doodles

GF/DF Chocolate buzz cookies

&

GF/DF Chocolate Chip cookies

More testing and tasting is happening this week

We’ll have more to come

Please let us know if there are any special requests!