Panda

March 13th, 2011

A little over two weeks ago, I packed an eat-in-the-car picnic, bundled into the car with Christian, picked up my dad, and headed to the snowy, beautiful Eastern Townships. We were on a mission to meet a very special someone. Someone very furry. And hopefully, very friendly.

My friend Caroline had tipped me off. Caroline is an amazing woman who actively supports animal shelters and saves doggie lives on a regular basis. Last Christmas, due to the holidays, thirteen dogs were going to be put down at a high-kill pound just outside of Montreal. Thanks to her and Paws for Life Rescue, all the dogs were relocated to other shelters. Over her holidays, she drove an hour and a half in a snowstorm to personally deliver three big dogs to a shelter in the country that had room for them. One of them was a dog named Lupa. Caroline told me about her – sweet, friendly, gentle. Oh, and adorable. Did I mention she was adorable? Caroline sent me a few pictures and my heart melted. We had to meet her.

We had lost our sweet dog Chelsea to cancer a year and a half ago. She got ill very quickly and it was over before we even knew it was happening. We and our families were gutted. I still can’t look at her picture without welling up a bit – but part of owning a pet is accepting that you will outlive them: loving them to bits, being loved in return, making each others’ lives better, and then saying goodbye. I had been slowly warming to the idea of becoming friends with another doggie. Our two cats would be furious, of course, but…

The Eastern Townships

So there we were, taking in the charming scenery of the Eastern Townships on a crisp, sunny, snowy February afternoon, nibbling on cheddar and cornichons and wondering how the day would end. Would we be returning home with a fourth family member in the car? The GPS sent us on a dirt road shortcut, and as we wound past old barns and beautiful farmhouses I thanked goodness for all-wheel drive and thought of Lupa the dog.

When we arrived at the Frontier Animal Society we were met by the wonderful Joyce Dekker, who runs the place; she brought us in to meet Lupa. A big, fluffy, smiling Lupa. She was bigger than we expected, as overstuffed as your favourite teddy-bear. We bent down to say hello and she welcomed us with kisses. We took her for a walk in the woods and she didn’t leave our side. She ran up to our car and put her paws up to the window. It was a done deal.

Heading Home

Heading Home

The first few nights were a little bumpy – Slinky and Blue were woefully unimpressed. We set up a doggie pen in the hallway to let the cats have “recess” and enjoy moments to themselves, while also permitting Lupa to have her own quiet time with her food, toys and blanket. She has been nothing but a sweetie – although she has a hard time listening when she’s distracted, she wants to be good and tries hard to leave the cats alone. She’s quite confused as to why they don’t like her, because everyone else seems to love her so much. She’s a snow dog through and through, and the past couple of weeks have been one winter frolic after another. Last week we made it official: we got her a city license and rechristened her Panda (Caroline’s husband’s suggestion, which we loved).

Panda

It’s painful to imagine someone dumping her just a few days before Christmas, knowing full well the fate she would face. It’s even worse to know that this happens all the time, to all kinds of animals. Thank-you Caroline and thank-you Joyce, for working tirelessly to save animals that otherwise wouldn’t stand a chance. The Frontier Animal Society is a no-kill shelter and is always looking for clean old blankets and towels, animal treats, and any number of other donations. This lovely video about them really just says it all.

One last thing: Caroline entered Panda in a contest! The grand prize is 10,000$ cash for a shelter. I can’t even imagine the good that the Frontier Animal Society could do with that money. Please, if you have a moment, register and vote every day – so that more deserving animals like Panda find loving forever homes. Panda thanks you. Aroooo! :)

Panda

Panda

Did you know that all Girlfriday designs are gluten-free? They are! And so am I. I’m not celiac, but I have IBD. Both IBD and celiac disease are autoimmune disorders that each come with their own set of challenges. Celiac makes no bones about it: you can’t eat gluten. Ever. Or anything that’s been touched by gluten. It makes you sick. With IBD, things can also get awful in a snap; sometimes you get sick and you have no idea why. After a lot of thought, research and advice, four years ago I decided to go gluten-free. This was a personal choice – if you have IBD or any other chronic condition, you know from experience that you just have to do what works for you in order to stay healthy.

On the one hand, it’s easier than being celiac because it doesn’t matter if my food has been contaminated or if I eat a bit of gluten by accident. On the other hand, I wish IBD was as “black and white” as celiac is: don’t eat this stuff, and you’ll be healthy. IBD has so many triggers and unpredictable behaviours, you never know how you’re going to feel, no matter how valiant your efforts. Needless to say, I have a lot of strategies in my daily arsenal to help keep me healthy – but that’s for another post.

Gluten-Free Lemon Layer Cake

For my mom's birthday - recipe on Epicurious

Back to being gluten-free. At first I just didn’t eat anything with gluten in it and didn’t try too hard to figure out how to replace it. It wasn’t so bad, but I missed some of the amazing foods I used to enjoy. Being a Montrealer made it even harder – a city full of good eats!! Once I wrapped my head around keeping my fridge and pantry stocked with a variety of flours and other ingredients, the rest came relatively easily. Armed with the amazing power of the internet, I discovered an entire world of gluten-free bloggers that not only saw the joy in baking gluten-free, they posted recipes, advice, personal stories, and gorgeous photographs. I learned that perseverance was key: it took me no less than six disappointing attempts before discovering the perfect pancake recipe I now make almost every weekend. Trying, and sometimes-to-often succeeding, was better than just dreaming and longing.

Gluten-Free Pancakes

No, I can’t indulge in a slice of pizza when I’m out (some cities are incredibly gluten-free-friendly, sadly Montreal is not), but I can go home and make the most gorgeous homemade pizza you’ve ever eaten. Ditto for cookies, cakes and any number of other foods. I seek out and adore naturally gluten-free dishes even more now. It’s amazing really, the power you feel once you know that you are in control of what you eat and that you are now, in fact, eating way better than you ever thought you could. It costs more and it takes more time, but my body thanks me every day. Going gluten-free has helped me maintain my remissions for longer periods of time, and has also helped me identify other foods that don’t work for me – and that’s worth a lot.

So one day on Twitter I was reading Gluten-Free Girl’s tweets about a new initiative she was working on with other gluten-free bloggers. Do you know Gluten-Free Girl? She’s amazing. She writes with a joy that is contagious. She makes me long even more to go to Italy. And to live on an island (oh wait! Montreal IS an island. Done! ;) I was curious. So I wrote to her. And she wrote back. And we hatched a plan. For a name. And a logo. And oh, how much fun it was, knowing that I was collaborating with one of my favourite bloggers – the days were filled with fangirl moments.

The Gluten-Free Ratio Rally

So here is the result. The logo for The Gluten-Free Ratio Rally. Go read about it. It’s about baking by ratios, and weight, and collaborating with others. Try a recipe or three, even if you don’t have to eat gluten-free. Your tastebuds will thank you. The best part? The inaugural Rally is for my favourite – pancakes!!