Gluten-free Apple-Almond Crumble: My Husband’s Self-Quarantine Reward:

Since my husband has been voluntarily quarantining in the lower level of our house for the past four days (after being unmasked around four or five unmasked tree guys who came to remove old stumps from our yard), I thought he deserved a yummy treat. So I made him an apple-almond crumble (with a few cranberries I happened to have in the freezer). He says it’s actually pretty nice being downstairs. We text, of course. And during this little break, he’s been enjoying the fireplace, playing his guitar into the night, listening to music, reading, journaling, and cleaning out our storage room. Plus he gets his meals delivered to the stair landing on a tray. Not terrible at all! Plus, I doubt he’s going to get sick. Just to be on the safe side, though, he’ll be down there a few more days. Meanwhile, he just texted that the crumble is delicious!
Here’s how to make gluten-free Apple-Almond Crumble.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Adjust an oven rack to center position.
  • You will need about 6 medium-large apples, peeled, cored and sliced. I added 1/2 C whole cranberries, which I happened to have in my freezer – but these are optional. Transfer sliced apples to a large mixing bowl.
  • Squeeze juice from 1/2 lemon. Add 1/2 tsp. pure almond extract, and gently stir into the sliced apples.
  • Sprinkle 2 TBS brown rice flour (or other) over apples and stir to coat.
  • Combine 1/2 C brown sugar (or turbinado sugar), 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. powdered ginger, dash of nutmeg. Add to the sliced apples. Set aside.

To make the bottom crumb crust and topping:

Prepare an 8: x 8″ square Pyrex baking dish with a light coating of cooking spray.

In a separate mixing bowl, blend together:

  • 1 C almond flour
  • 1 C oat flour (make your own in the blender – it’s easy. Note: If you’re on a gluten free diet, make sure your oats are gluten free.)
  • Add 1/2 C turbinado sugar.
  • Stir in 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom (if desired)
  • Cut in 8 TBS (1/2 C) any of the following, or a combination: solid coconut oil, butter, or Earth Balance).
  • Set aside 1/2 of this mixture for the topping.
  • Press the other half of the mixture into an 8″ x 8″ square Pyrex baking dish.
  • Pour apple mixture into the crumb crust.
  • Distribute remaining mixture (topping) evenly over apples. Sprinkle with sliced almonds if desired.

Place on medium oven rack. Set timer for 40 min. (If your oven does not bake evenly, turn the dish 180 degrees midway through baking.

Your apple-almond crumble should be bubbling hot when done, and nicely brown. Remove to a cooling rack. Serve with whipped cream, if desired, or a little vanilla ice cream. Mmmm! FFG

Helping Kids Do Battle with Pandemic Disappointment

How well are you, as a parent, responding to the disappointment the pandemic keeps doling out to your kids? Are you able to help them deal with life’s lemons? Or are you diving into the pity-party with them?  Saying “no” to the fun things children have grown to expect, even though many activities have been put on hold, can be really difficult. They don’t understand. Plus, missing out on birthday parties at Pistol Pete’s, Saturday soccer games, and dance recitals is disappointing for parents, too. While the majority of households had children moved to online learning last fall, where they usually have contact with a teacher (, kids continue to miss out on valuable relationships with friends and family. And that can be very disappointing.


No one wants to be in charge of delivering bad news. Let’s just say it’s something parents signed up for when they had kids in the first place. Yet it’s important to know that how well adults deal with stress and adversity can impact how well their offspring handle it in the future, when everything most assuredly won’t go their way.


The ability to deal with stress begins in infancy. As babies do not have the ability to calm themselves, they rely on parents and caregivers to respond lovingly to their immediate needs for food, holding, smiles and love. The development of the stress-response system is based on these early interactions.


When my four children were at home, helping them deal with disappointment (considered manageable stress) meant not abandoning them to their grief or being dismissive about it, but just letting them be sad. Being dismissive means saying things like, “Get over it.” Or, “Don’t give me those crocodile tears.” That’s not the way to go.  The key to helping kids work through their grief is showing empathy: gently helping them to identify their feelings and being compassionate. You might say, “You’re disappointed that we couldn’t go to the zoo, and you’re sad about it.”


I always felt sad inside when my kids were sad. I couldn’t help it. As a result, I sometimes tried to fix things for them. In time, however, I found they were better at fixing their own problems: best-friend crises, finding items they’d lost (sometimes). And handling disappointment. I discovered it didn’t kill them.  It’s easy to see why parents would choose alternative celebrations during coronavirus: standing at a distance and wearing a mask isn’t easy to enforce with young ones. They just don’t get the fine print.  That’s because young children operate more on emotion than rational thought. It’s hard for them to grasp that someone who visited Aunt Mary yesterday could be contagious and not have known it. Or that cousins visiting Grandma and Grandpa from out-of-state could have been exposed on their flight. It happens all the time. It’s how the virus spreads.


What matters is that parents act sensibly, but also show empathy for their children’s disappointment. It’s not necessary to make it up to them all the time. But it might help to act as a buffer when possible. For example, you might say, “I can tell you’re disappointed, but we really can’t visit Grandpa yet. How about we play a game of Monopoly (or whatever) this afternoon?”


I would be willing to bet that in the post-pandemic years, young adults who experienced the COVID-19 pandemic as children will be more resilient than those who did not. Someone really needs to do a study. But scientists will also have to study their parents’ attitudes. The child whose parents spent the pandemic griping about Dr. Fauci’s prevention protocols and blaming the Chinese might not grow up more resilient. They might, however, grow up to be a Republican. FFG

Five Tips for Helping Teens Follow COVID-19 Protocols

It’s easy for parents to think their teenagers know what they’re doing. They sure act like they do. For instance, do you assume your super-responsible (or not so responsible) kiddos are taking COVID-19 precautions seriously, always wearing a face mask, using hand sanitizer and social distancing at school, work, or with friends?

Well, maybe you shouldn’t.

I know, because I’m guilty of not sharing some really important information with my kids. When our younger daughter was in her late teens, she brought a parental failing to my attention. One that I shouldn’t have missed.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me not to drink and drive?” she said, popping into our bedroom one night to let us know she was home safe

“Because I thought you knew better,” I said, shocked by the question and stunned at my dereliction of duty. I had thought this was common knowledge, that you don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking. We knew of people who’d died in DUI accidents. If she hadn’t picked up the message from her parents’ example, surely, she’d have gotten it from a school health class, driver’s ed, or on TV. But she was right. I never had “the talk” with her. Or with our three other children. I suspected that one of her friends had been drinking and driving, because our daughter didn’t have a car. The thought of it scared me to death.

During these times of unchecked community spread of COVID-19, parents need to make sure they’re having “the talk.” And repeating it until their teens “get it.”

After COVID-19 was recognized in Taiwan in early 2020, health authorities stepped up prevention and intervention activities to help stop the spread in schools and universities. “At the individual level, suggested preventative behaviors included: i) maintaining good personal hygiene, ii) developing a healthy lifestyle with proper diet, regular exercise, and adequate rest, iii) ensuring adequate ventilation at home and in the office, and iv) wearing masks, especially for those with preexisting respiratory tract infections.” (

The CDC’s Parent Resource Kit for the Social, Emotional, and Mental Well-being of Adolescents during COVID-19 offers ideas for helping teens through the hard-hitting challenges they’re facing: The loss of a breadwinner’s job, for instance, the loss of school classes, teachers and activities,  changes in their daily routine, and the loss of special events that mark important milestones, like prom and graduation. (

Not sure if your teen is complying with your family protocols? Here are five ideas to help them accept reality, and to keep everyone safe.

  1. Buy or make different mask styles for your teenager to try out. Supply them with several of the type they agree to wear. Demonstrate (yes – demonstrate!) how you want them washed. (Masks should be double-thickness if possible, one layer should be made of high-quality quilter’s cotton, the other layer a synthetic.) Make sure to have an “in” and “out” mask basket for use by the door.
  2. Create a family protocol list for exiting and entering the house. Post it on the door. Daily protocols should include hand washing upon coming home. Also, disinfecting cell phones. (Unplug and turn off. Then wipe with 70% alcohol and a cotton ball or a clean microfiber cloth sprayed with disinfectant.) Leave shoes at the door.
  3. Set up a protocol table, a card table for instance, near an entrance or in the garage. This can serve as a place for your mask in-and-out baskets, disinfectant wipes, and extra hand sanitizer for on-the-go. Teens can deposit any items they’re bringing into the house on the protocol table, as a reminder that they have a responsibility to wipe things down with disinfectant wipes. Hang coats instead of tossing them on the couch or bed. Provide a place where they can air out.
  4. If their school, sports or group activities have been cancelled, make sure you are empathetic about their loss. Talk to them about it. Dealing with COVID-19 is mentally exhausting and the isolation can cause depression in teens. It’s devastating at that age to have to give up what you love. Help them realize that it will end. And make sure they’re still getting physical activity. (YouTube channels offer a plethora of options, including dance and yoga.) Do fun family activities together. Take a hike. Roast hot dogs on a grill. Make food for an elderly relative. Watch a favorite old movie or TV series together. Play a trivia game. Hang a world map and learn foreign countries together. Help them stay connected!
  5. If you don’t feel comfortable with your teenager riding in their friends’ cars, due to possible COVID spread, just say no. You will need to arrange transportation that you feel is safe. If you do allow them to share rides, make mask wearing mandatory. And following the family protocol. The same goes for eating with friends. Say “no” to sharing food. As much as they may like splitting a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos with their best friend, eating with people outside the family is another way the virus can spread.

Your teen may not appreciate that he or she is living through a once-in-a-lifetime event. You can help them understand the severity of COVID-19 by watching videos about the 1918 Spanish flu, listening to the words of hospital nurses, or people who’ve lost loved ones. Accepting the reality of the situation is the first step to taking action. It going to end, tell them. And we are all looking forward to that day. FFG

Fighting Miller Moths: A Symbolic Occupation in the Time of Coronavirus

Just when I’ve gotten used to masking up when I go out – which is not often – and dousing myself with hand sanitizer in an attempt to keep COVID-19 at bay, Nature has thrown my area of the country a strange and wild curve ball: miller moths. Not just a few, fluttering through backyards like butterflies. This is a huge number I’m talking about. Enough to keep you housebound. Or at least shielding your head when you go outside. They’re not dangerous. But daunting. Blinding if you stumble into a cloud of them and have to shake them off. And thoroughly disgusting if you find one under your pillow, as I did last night.


They’re so profuse, in fact, that my husband can’t tend his garden. I suggested that he wear the orange emergency poncho that I keep in the car trunk. It has a protective hood, zips to the neck, and practically falls to the floor. The moths would then bounce off him as he waters his green beans and zucchini, instead flying into his hair Continue reading

One Mom’s Tribute to Cokie Roberts

I never knew Cokie Roberts personally. But I felt like I did. As a young mother back when National Public Radio was just a fledgling network, Cokie’s reporting fed my mind, which in those days was usually preoccupied with diapers, keeping track of a preschooler, and getting meals on the table. The pioneer broadcaster died on Sept. 16 at age 75.

With a steady, rational voice – which is more than I often had – she brought me news of events that I had no idea were happening in this country. After becoming a mother, I pledged allegiance to fuzzy blankets, digger trucks, afternoon naps, and Tommee Tippee cups of apple juice.

I first heard Cokie’s voice in the 1970s, while living in an old adobe house in the wilds of New Mexico. I would tune our G.E. table radio to KUNM, our NPR affiliate, and the world came tumbling in. News of Washington – light years from the tiny hamlet where we chose to live, combined with the smell of piñon logs crackling in the wood stove. I was in heaven.

Cokie and her NPR colleagues lit up the connections in my mommy brain. The country was just getting over the war in Vietnam and President Nixon’s resignation. Then came Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. We all needed hope. “All Things Considered” gave us an in-depth look at reality. Not hyperbole. But calmly presented news. More importantly, the reporting made me feel less isolated. It was news as I’d never heard it before. And I was hungry for it.

Across my entire writing career, which was at times sporadic and other times intense, I raised four children, often homeschooling some or all of them, and later on, became a remedial reading teacher. As a features writer, Continue reading