Experimenting with Gluten-Free Baking

March 19, 2012

My neighbor mentioned to me that she would be hosting/attending a few events in the near future and she might want to order some cupcakes. Then she asked if I could make the cupcakes gluten-free (GF). Well…I’m sure I can, but I’ve never done any GF baking before and I honestly don’t know anything about it.

So I Googled around looking for recipes and trying to get a handle on the ingredients common in GF baking. Most regular cake recipes have the same basic ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, flavoring, flour, leavener, salt, liquid (like milk or water). Luckily, all of those ingredients are already GF except for the flour (and some leaveners are not GF, but many are). I found in my search for recipes that many GF recipes replaced the normal white or cake flour with a GF flour mixture plus xanthan gum as a binder.

I chose a really simple recipe to experiment with – it simply called for a GF flour instead of a normal flour and did not call for xanthan gum. After a tip from a friend on Facebook, Caelan and I headed to the organic section of our grocery store in search of an all-purpose GF flour. I was utterly overwhelmed when I saw all the options. They had every different kind of flour you could imagine. Or, more accurately, they had every different kind of flour I had never heard of: rice flour, potato flour, tapioca flour, bean flour, quinoa flour, spelt flour, etc. But I didn’t actually see an all-purpose flour (even though such a thing does exist and I’ve now learned that it is usually a mix of some of the aforementioned flours). Not wanting to buy 5 different bags of flour (and I would seriously have no idea which ones to choose anyway), I grabbed a bag of brown rice flour and was on my way.

I mixed up a 1/4 batch (6 cupcakes) of this recipe for GF chocolate cupcakes. They looked like regular cupcakes. The batter was similar to regular cake batter. They appeared to bake like regular cupcakes (though for a little bit longer). And when they were all done and I iced them with a chocolate buttercream, they tasted pretty much like regular cupcakes. They were slightly drier and crumbier but if someone just gave me this cupcake to eat and didn’t tell me it was GF, I wouldn’t know. So I call it a success 🙂

Next time, I am going to experiment with a vanilla cupcake recipe. The ones I found in my Google search pretty much always called for xanthan gum. Though that was available in my grocery store, I really didn’t want to spend $12 on an 8oz bag that would last me 500 years. I think I may try to find a smaller quantity from my BFF (Amazon).


Daycare Basics

March 16, 2012

**Disclaimer** This is certainly not the be-all and end-all guide to choosing a daycare provider! This info is based on my experience and is just an overview of a few of the options out there and how to get started on the process. **Disclaimer**

If you’re not a parent or parent-to-be and you don’t have friends with small children, you probably know nothing about daycare, and why would you? Selecting a daycare was the most stressful part of my pregnancy and that was with me being fairly informed going in. Here are some of the basics and some resources to get you going in your search.

What kind of care do you want/need?

I’m going to give some information on 2 basic types of childcare: a Daycare Center, and an In-Home Daycare Provider. There are other options such as nannies, au pairs, or having family or friends watch your children. We didn’t look into any of those options so I don’t have much to offer on those.

Centers (such as Celebree, The Goddard School, etc) usually take babies as young as 6 weeks old and the children are grouped into rooms according to age (and sometimes development). For example, your child might start out in the infant room (6 weeks – 9 months), then move to an older infant room (9 months – 18 months), then on to toddler rooms and pre-school rooms. These centers usually also offer before and after school care for school-aged children. There are usually set hours for a center (such as 6:30am-5:30pm).

In-Home Providers are people who care for children in their home. Home providers should be licensed by the state. The licensing requires a background check, some training, and routine inspections of the environment. Some providers aren’t licensed, so it’s a good thing to check on when you’re considering a provider. Usually an in-home provider will be 1-2 people caring for 6-8 children in their home. The ages of the children will vary by provider – some don’t take infants, some take babies as young as 6 weeks. In this setting, you usually have a small number of children of varying ages. In-home providers also usually have set hours, just like a center would.

Do you need full-time or part-time care?

Part-time infant care at a Center is pretty much not available. “Infants” are any children 2 and under. Maryland has a no crib-sharing law that means that if a daycare room has 6 cribs for infants and you only want to send your child to occupy that crib 3 days a week, they can’t put another baby in there on the days your baby isn’t there. So while you can send your baby only 3 days a week, you will still pay full price. Part-time care for toddlers and older children is usually available.

Part-time care for both infants and older children is more widely available for in-home care, though it will vary by provider.

How much does daycare cost?

In this area (Baltimore-Washington metro), daycare is EXPENSIVE. Like mortgage payment expensive. Well…maybe not quite that much but certainly more than a car payment. Daycare fees are usually charged weekly. The cost is higher for infants and generally goes down as the child gets older.

The centers we looked at ranged in cost from about $325-$360/week (and there were more expensive options, but we didn’t even look at them). So that’s about $1,500/month or $18,000/year. I know, it’s painful.

The in-home providers we looked at ranged in cost from about $165-$250/week with $200/week being pretty average. So that’s about $850/month or $10,000/year (I’m rounding and averaging here). It’s a price break over centers for sure, but still expensive.

If your child is sick or out of daycare for some reason, usually you still have to pay. Bill hated this concept, but you have to think of it like tuition. If you pay tuition to attend a class, you don’t get a refund for being out sick one day.

When should we start looking for daycare?

ASAP. While you’re still pregnant would be ideal. We started looking when I was about 20 weeks pregnant (7 months before we would actually need him to start) and most of the centers already had a wait list. We ended up reserving a spot for him with an in-home provider about 6 months ahead of when we’d need the spot. As for reserving a spot, there is usually a deposit involved. At some centers, it’s 1 month’s fee. Some in-home providers don’t allow spots to be reserved that far in advance and you may have to wait until it gets closer if you decide to go that route.

Where should my daycare be located?

We were not sure about this when we began our search. Bill and I both work in the same city about 40 minutes away from our home. Would it be convenient to have Caelan in daycare near where we work? Near our home? Somewhere along our commute? We looked at providers in all 3 areas and ended up deciding to go with one near our home. It’s true that when they call us and tell us he’s sick and we have to go get him that it will be at least 45 minutes until we get there. But because our provider is so close to our home, Caelan’s “commute” and the time he spends in the car amounts to about 4 minutes per day. Lucky boy 🙂

How do I find a daycare?

As I said at the beginning of this post, selecting a daycare was a very stressful experience for me. I did a lot of research into centers (searching websites and making phone calls – and I HATE making phone calls!) to find out about hours, prices, and availability. I also got recommendations from friends and scheduled tours/visits of these places (which were usually mid-day so they required us to take off work). Bill and I disagreed on what price we thought was reasonable and we ended up looking into in-home providers as a result. We are very happy with our choice and it was a huge relief to get Caelan’s spot reserved and out of the way when he was still a fetus!


Maryland Family Network


A great site where you can search for centers or in-home providers by location. There is often information about each provider’s hours, policies, and sometimes prices. Though it’s not always 100% accurate on the prices, so a phone call to confirm would be wise.

Maryland State Department of Education’s List of Licensed Childcare Providers


This list provides the address and contact information as well as the provider’s license number.

Maryland State Department of Education’s Compliance Records Search


to search for a provider’s licensing inspection records.


So…are you panicked yet?? Searching for someone to care for your child (and possibly spend more time with them than you do during the week) is a big undertaking. Aside from the obvious safety and logistical concerns, I think the biggest thing is feeling comfortable with the provider you choose. We did 7 visits/interviews and I knew pretty much right away whether or not I’d feel comfortable leaving my child with each one of them. Knowing that I felt really comfortable with our provider made it a little less traumatic to drop of my teeny tiny 11 week old on my first day back to work!

Caelan Vaughn – Months 6-9

March 1, 2012

Every phase of Caelan’s life so far has been easy, hard, exciting, and fun in its own way. But these past 3 months have been SO eventful that this may have been the most exciting phase so far. I’ve heard that 7-10 months is a great age, and I definitely agree! Of course, no phase is without its challenges.

It was right around 6 months when I felt for the first time “I need a break”. We had gone out with out Caelan many times for dinner or a movie or whatever, but those times we went out because we wanted to go to dinner, not so much because we needed a baby break – at least, that was my view of it. Nighttime sleep was still a mess and we were pretty stressed out.

We decided to give sleep training another try. We had tried it when Caelan was about 4.5 months old but we had to cut our efforts short due to illness. We tried the Ferber method again, and what do you know, it worked. What used to be 3+ hours of rocking and shushing and carefully transferring a sleeping baby into the crib only to have him wake up immediately was now a much, MUCH simpler process. We laid him down in the crib awake and by the 2nd night, he was crying/fussing less than 5 minutes and then sleeping an average of 10 hours straight. By the 4th week, he stopped crying/fussing altogether and now he just falls asleep and regularly sleeps 11+ hours straight.

A huge weight was lifted off us when Caelan started sleeping so much better. I didn’t even realize how stressed I was about it. I still needed that break though and I managed to arrange a Friday off of work right before Christmas when Caelan would be going to daycare. It was my first free day since he was born and even though I spent it doing lots of last minute stuff for Christmas, it was wonderful. A friend suggested that I try to arrange a free day like this every few months and I think I will try to take her advice.

Caelan’s first Christmas was a lot of fun and it was around this time that he mastered sitting up by himself.

We left Caelan overnight for the first time on New Years Eve when he was 7 months old. It worked out really well. I wasn’t anxious at all about leaving him and it wasn’t until the end of the night and the next morning that I felt anxious to get back to him. He did wonderfully at his Nana and Pop’s house and I’m relieved that it went so well.

In January, around 7.5 months, we started finger foods with Caelan. It was really slow going at first and of course Bill and I were afraid he’d choke on anything we gave him, but he’s really getting the hang of it now. He went on several puree-strikes where he refused to eat anything we gave him – even his favorites. Maybe it’s because we introduced finger foods and he’s over the purees? Either way, we’re going to be moving away from purees altogether as he eats more real table foods. He’s still taking 4 bottles of formula a day and though we’ve given him a sippy cup to try, he’s not got the hang of that yet.

After cutting his first 2 bottom teeth way back in October, he cut 3 top teeth back to back near the end of January (7.5-8 months old). At the moment, he has another one that should be breaking through any day now for a total of 6 teeth!

Also in January, we packed away the swing and bouncy seat (which he has outgrown) and lowered his crib in anticipation of him standing up. Turns out it wasn’t a moment too soon!

Between 7.5 and 8.5 months, Caelan went from being a if-I-leave-him-on-the-blanket-he’ll-stay-there baby to being an ack-he’s-standing-up-on-the-other-side-of-the-room baby. Mobility changes the game. All the sudden, in a matter of just 2 weeks or so, he could get into a sitting position by himself, he switched to hands-and-knees crawling, and he started pulling up on anything he could reach (stable or not!). He is everywhere all the time and it is definitely exhausting but exciting too.

Somehow, we never got into the habit of taking Caelan out places with us. We probably should have taken advantage of his portability and constant sleeping when he was a tiny newborn, but that was when we were brand new parents and too nervous to take him out! We took him to restaurants sometimes and to our parents’ and friends’ houses, but we never just took him with us on errands. There wasn’t really much need because errands could usually be planned for a time when one of us could stay home with Caelan. But now I’m trying to make an effort to take him out more. He loves people-watching and has been very well behaved so far. He went on his first real grocery shopping trip with me at 8 months. It’s so much easier now that he can sit in the cart and I don’t have to bring in the infant seat!

Up until recently, I thought I had a handle on being a working parent. Caelan has been sick occasionally and I’ve had to take a couple days off work to stay home with him, but that’s no big deal. But then in mid-February he came down with a cold virus, followed immediately by a stomach virus and we had to keep him out of daycare for a week. I felt guilty leaving work early, I felt guilty calling out of work, I felt guilty going to work when he was sick – it was a no win situation for me. Thankfully, Bill’s parents were able to cover a couple days at the end so Bill and I weren’t out of work for too long, but ugh. It was a really rough week that had me wondering what it would be like to be a stay-at-home mom, or at least a mom with only a part-time job. And did I mention that Bill had food poisoning this same week??

Back on the up side, he’s so expressive lately and his language is really developing. He laughs much more often now and even has a couple different kinds of laughs (a machine-gun-like “heh heh heh” and a real belly laugh). We hear strings of babble like “dadadada” but nothing directed at Bill yet. A lot of his other sounds are starting to sound more like words and less like just ooh-ing and ahh-ing. Just in the past week, he’s started waving. Often it’s random, but occasionally he will wave at us or in response to our waves. We’re dying for him to actually SAY something we understand, but the waving is really cute and pretty much like a “hi” 🙂 He is also starting to object (sob) if we take a toy away or move him away from something he’s trying to get into. I thought we had a few more months until the tantrums started, but I guess not!

If my friends’ older kids are any indication, I know what’s on the horizon for us: walking and talking (not necessarily before his 1st birthday, but soon anyway). I’m sure there will be many times after he’s reached those milestones that I will wish that he would sit still and shut up for just a minute, but right now, I can’t wait 🙂

Now that we’re headed into the last 3 months of his first year, time to start (continue) planning that first birthday party 😀