Can it really be true three years have swiftly passed since the birth of our darling daughter, Julia? Julia certainly has blessed our lives in so many ways.

On Saturday evening, we celebrated my husband Daniel and Julia's birthdays. Julia was excited about her party and even helped us sing "Happy Birthday" for her. Several weeks ago, Aunt Mary had shown Julia a bag with all kinds of goodies that were to be used at her party, such as balloons, a pink table cloth, colorful straws and flutes. Every now and then, Julia would go into the pantry and get the bag and show its contents off to the rest of us.

On the day of her party, she was delighted to be allowed to help Mary bake her birthday cake and put pretty sprinkles and candles on top. Of course, most of the decorations were a girlish pink, even though the party also was for Daniel. I informed him there are also some blue candles and sprinkles on the bright pink birthday cake so he wouldn't feel totally left out.

I always let Daniel choose what he wants for his birthday supper (The fun part is when my birthday arrives and he makes a meal of my choice for me.) This time, he chose a mashed-potato supper. We had mashed potatoes, gravy, and grilled chicken, along with apricot and pecan pies and homemade vanilla and mocha ice cream for dessert.

After our tummies were filled, it was time for Julia to open her birthday gifts. She barely knew how to respond to be receiving so many presents at once. She loves writing and coloring, so she got a nice variety of writing gear. She almost couldn't believe her eyes when she opened a pink gift bag with soft, furry gloves.

"I'm going to wear these next winter when it snows," she shrieked in delight. "Then I'm going to have a sled ride."

One of her favorite gifts was a mini-cupcake and decorating set from Aunt Mary. Yesterday, Mary helped her decorate pink little flowers on her mini-cupcakes. She was thoroughly impressed and proud to show them to Daddy when he came home from work.

I've been learning a new way of cooking that has been both challenging and interesting since we came to Danville, Ohio. Are you familiar with gluten-free cooking? I wasn't until several weeks ago. I have a brother-in-law who is allergic to corn and wheat. So we cook and bake accordingly, not only for him, but also for his entire family.

At first, gluten-free baking looked rather overwhelming, but with the tips from others with more experience, as well as gluten-free cookbooks. It's not as bad as I thought it might be. I've been amazed at the tasty baked goods that can be made without using any white or wheat flour.

We're eating lots of salads and other garden goodies which helps a lot. I've also learned to appreciate and enjoy dried beans such as great Northern, pinto or black beans. I'm especially impressed with their nutritional value. After being soaked and cooked, they are eaten hot or cold. I like eating them with sauted onions, cheese sauce or gravy. The boys prefer eating the beans with homemade barbecued sauce.

In case you might be interested in gluten-free cooking I'll share my favorite recipe with you. You might add or subtract any spices according to your taste buds. These taste somewhat like molasses cookies, yet have the tang of gingersnaps.


3قر4 cup butter

3قر4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1قر4 cup molasses

2 cups sorghum or brown rice flour

1قر4 cup tapioca starch

2 teaspoons baking soda

1قر2 teaspoon xantham gum

2 teaspoons cinnamon

11قر2 teaspoons ginger

1قر4 teaspoons ground cloves

1قر2 teaspoon salt

1قر2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1قر2 teaspoon Stevia (optional)

Granulated sugar for rolling (optional)

Beat shortening and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in egg and molasses and mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for eight to 10 minutes.